Sunday, November 6, 2011

State Fair of Texas 2011

If you are a regular reader then you know it is a tradition for the three of us to go to the State Fair every year. We consider ourselves professional fair goers. We have it down to a science. We see almost every side-show. They are the most entertaining aspects of the fair. Some change from year to year and others stay the same. We saw quite a few new acts this year. But, the best part of the trip was that we were joined by my family. My parents, my sister, and her son joined us on our whirl wind tour!

Our first stop was the arts and crafts building. The amazing craftsmanship is a marvel to anyone, even the men of our group who are not the least bit crafty.

I crochet so I am always especially in awe of the crocheted items. Of special interest this year were two award winners pictured below. All handcrafted and crocheted. The artisans are truly worthy of their prizes.

The Butter Sculpture! A true work of art made of a common baking ingredient. The sculpture is entirely made of butter. The artist(s) are not given credit for the sculpture but in my opinion should be as they are true artists. I could never imagine working with a baking ingredient while in a giant refrigerator. This year sculpture was especially wonderful with many small details and hidden items that engaged the observers in a game of "I Spy."

The original Ronald McDonald! He did a hilarious comedy/magic routine. He is the original person who appeared on the McDonald's commercials. Rumor has it that he is still involved in the writing of today's McDonald's commercials.

My dad the consummate evangelist used the moment that he met Ronald to present the gospel. That's my dad! Get within ten feet, and he'll find out if you know his savior Jesus Christ, and if not, you'll hear about him before he lets you go.

Cirque Shanghai--A traveling Cirque du Soleil Act...They were breathtaking!

Snugglebug was mesmerized by the acrobats.

The World of Birds is a family favorite. Even as kids showing goats, we would find time in the schedule to see the birds. My sister, Leah, had a particular love and fascination for birds. We lost this precious member of our family this year, and as we sat watching her beloved creatures take to the sky, we remembered her. Not a single one of us in our little troupe overlooked the fact that the one who loved birds the most was no longer with us to enjoy them.

Billy Roy has been performing his One Man Band at the Fair for 20 years. Last year was his first year back after a three-year absence. This year he was given a prized position to perform and sponsored by the State Fair because so many fair-goers had called wanting to know where Billy Roy was.

Billy Roy plays twelve instruments at once and is a delightful performer. He is very entertaining with great songs that make you laugh as well as an impersonation of Willie Nelson that will crack you up as well.

After his performance, we welcomed him back and told him were among those who had missed him and looked for him every year.

An act we had not seen in several years turned out to be Snugglebug's other favorite. Our boy has quite the fascination for horses and stood as close to the fence as he could get. My husband had to watch him closely to make sure he did not get too close for comfort.

The Spirit of the Horse was fascinating as the trainer explained the mind of the horse and his training techniques. He even related some of his techniques to parenting children. It gave me a lot to think about. He left me with one phrase stuck in my head, "Ignore the bad behavior and reward the good behavior." I'm not saying punishment is not sometimes needed, but I have found that maybe it is not needed every time.

Notice how Snugglebug is pressed against the fence. He did have his arms stuck through the fence trying to reach the horse, but I made him put his hands and arms back on his side of the fence.

This is our traveling band of merry makers!

My youngest sister and her sweet baby boy (not so much a baby as he will soon be two!) Snugglebug's Baby Cousin is a great pal and playmate. He was so thrilled that he was able to join us!

My parents! I was thrilled that they joined us. They got the tour of a lifetime of the State Fair. Even though our family had been going to the fair for literally decades, we were always showing animals and never had time to really tour the fair. This was a new experience for them!

And of course, us!

Snugglebug passed out around mid-afternoon. It was all just too much fun. His little buddy and cousin also passed out. Good thing those strollers are so comfy!

As always, the treat of the day is a Fletcher's Corn Dog and ice cream and don't forget the fresh squeezed lemonade. I was on my cleanse and did not eat any of those! I munched on spinach and broccoli while everyone else ate heartily!

Snugglebug and his Baby Cousin, playing a game of racing each other up and down the Cotton Bowl steps.

It was a great day, full of memories! My dad hinted that he would like to be invited next year. I said absolutely! I then explained that anyone who would like to attend with us is welcome and that last year, we even had a Chinese girl who barely spoke English and whom we called Mei Mei, which is "Little Sister" in Chinese. I said everyone is welcome regardless of age, race, or language.

The countdown has begun to next year's State Fair!!

The Quest to Multitask...OR NOT!

I've never been very good at multitasking. Every place of employment I've ever had has complained that I don't multitask enough. It's not that I can't multitask at all. It's just that society today expects us to accomplish so much in a given day that you must multitask on a very high level. One can't do just two things at a time. One must be able to accomplish three or four things at once. And perfectly at that!

I can do one thing very, very well and efficiently. When you add multitasking with two things, I can get the two tasks accomplished but there will probably be mistakes, and it won't be completed in an efficient manner. Make it three or four things to multitask and disaster awaits. Just sit back and watch the show. This is the area where my previous bosses had issue (all except one that is). I just can't balance three or four tasks at once and not cause a great mess, which of course means even more time to clean up the mess.

Case in point, one night a few weeks ago, we were out till past Snugglebug's bedtime. I was in a hurry to get him to bed before he crashed on the sofa or gained a second wind. The latter is the greatest danger. Not to mention the fact that I was tired and just wanted to sit back and relax.

Snugglebug desperately needed a bath, so I started his bath water. While his bath ran, I thought I would make my shake for the next day's breakfast. It usually just takes a couple of minutes. (Note: two activities at once)

Snugglebug interrupted my shake making with a desire to take his medicine and get his post-med treat of mini M&M's. I never refuse him that request because otherwise I might forget later. (this is activity #3)I drew up his meds and gave him his mini M&M's. Then returned to activity #2, making my shake.

I threw the last ingredient into my shake, put the lid on and pressed the button, giving it a quick whirl before giving it a taste to make sure it was right.

In the midst of taking the lid off to take a taste, I remembered that task #1 was still running. I dropped my spoon and raced into the bathroom.

You may know where this story is going, but think again!

The bathtub had indeed run over! Half the bathroom was flooded with water racing to the carpeted hallway. There was probably about a half inch of water near the bathtub and around the toilet.

I yelled for Snugglebug to bring mommy a towel but received no response. He is usually right on my heals so I was surprised. I raced around the corner where two baskets of unfolded laundry sat, one of which was a load of towels. The entire load of towels were launched into the bathroom floor to create a dam.

About the time the dam was created, I hear an ominous whir coming from the kitchen. I stood up from my dam and yelled, "Noooooooooooooo! Nooooooooooo!" while running at mach speed to the kitchen!

Snugglebug had decided that he was going to help me by finishing my shake. With the lid off, he pressed the mix button. In my mind, I was imagining the worst mess in the history of all motherhood! But, to my surprise, the mess was contained to the counter and the machine with a few splatters each. I honestly don't know how a gargantuan mess was avoided.

I unplugged the blender and hauled Snugglebug to the flooded bathroom. After ensconcing him safely in the bathtub, I proceeded to clean up the floor.

When it was all cleaned up, I sat on the toilet lid and wished I had just focused on one thing at a time. Why is multitasking important anyway? And, WHO, for goodness sakes, overflows a bathtub!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cleanse: Post-Cleanse Day 1 and Final Thoughts

I successfully completed the Standard Process Cleanse!! (You can find it on Amazon. Just type in Standard Process Purification Kit)

It was a hard program to stick with but well worth it! I lost seven pounds overall, but remember my goal wasn't to lose a great deal of weight. Most people who wish to lose weight will average 15-20 pounds over the course of the 20 day cleanse. But, don't just go by what the scale says. Measure yourself before your start and when you finish the cleanse. The tape measure will give you a more honest reflection of how you are doing. The program recommends light exercise such as walking or yoga or a little weight lifting for three or four days a week. If you are exercising, you will be exchanging fat for muscle. I was hit and miss with the exercise. I decided today that I need to write a post about why it is difficult for a mom to work out.

I'm a firm believer in the tape measure. Seven pounds doesn't like a lot but in inches it amounts to:
2 1/2 inches lost in the waist
1 1/2 inches lost in the hips
2 inches lost in the mid-section (belly button--the widest part of the belly)

Those inches meant I didn't have to go buy new clothes. Our budget certainly couldn't afford me growing out of my clothes.

I feel much, much better! I am sleeping better and more soundly. I have more energy overall but especially in the mornings due to getting better sleep. I was taking medication in morning and evening for acid reflux and am no longer taking it. The reflux is completely gone! My body PH has stabilized around a somewhat normal level. It is still slightly lower than it should be, but I am getting there. Before the cleanse my body PH was so low that it equated to being slightly higher than stomach acid. No wonder I had reflux!

I am still taking my anti-depressant but that is as much emotional as it is physical. I hope to be off those by the New Year.

My blood sugar has also stabilized. I am pre-diabetic because of bad genes. But, I am hoping to avoid any need for insulin later on by combating the diabetes before it becomes diabetes. I'll be sticking as close to sugar free as I can from now on. I'll also be eating a lot more vegetables than I did before.

I'm still having some asthma issues but certainly nothing like before. I can take a deep breath without issue and don't need my inhalers during the day unless we are near a horse arena (we were at the fair and I needed my inhaler then.) Overall, I think the cleanse has helped my immune system and my breathing quality.

Post cleanse Day one, I find that I really want to keep eating healthy. I ate a chip, and it didn't taste good to me. I also tasted a piece of candy and found it was wayyy too sweet. I hope this keeps up because I likely won't go back to sodas and chocolate. (Well, sodas anyway and candy at least.) I am going to keep drinking a shake for breakfast but I am changing the recipe to a not-so cleanse approved drink. It looks like this:

Ingredients (Makes 1 serving)

4oz V8 Splash Strawberry Banana

1 serving Bluebonnet 100% Whey Protein Powder

1/2 cup, thawed Strawberries

1/2 Banana

4 oz Water

1 tbsp Psyllium Husks (500 mg or 5 g)

1 tbsp Great Value Peanut Butter

1.Place all ingredients in a blender.

2.Blend till smooth.

The nutrition facts look like this:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (451.9 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 349
Calories from Fat 73
Total Fat 8.1g
Saturated Fat 1.5g
Cholesterol 1mg
Sodium 149mg
Total Carbohydrates 43.1g
Dietary Fiber 9.8g
Sugars 26.0g
Protein 30.5g

Vitamin A 51% • Vitamin C 148%
Calcium 3% • Iron 9%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

This is not a light shake. It sticks with you courtesy of the peanut butter. The peanut butter also gives me more carbohydrates and protein. I was able to work-out after breakfast and wasn't hungry till noon. No morning snacks were needed. According to Calorie Count, the recipe gets a grade of "B." Of course, my preference is all "A's" but an occasional "B" is okay. I can live with it. It makes for a very hearty and mostly healthy breakfast. I am going to toy with different recipes for breakfast shakes. I like making my breakfast the night before and not having to worry about cooking my breakfast the next morning.

For lunch today, I had a salad that wasn't any different than during the last ten days of the cleanse. I also made an entire bottle of the homemade dressing mix. It is half olive oil and half Bragg's Apple Cider vinegar with some garlic and Italian seasoning. I then poured it into a spritz bottle that I found in the travel section. I can spritz my salad with my own dressing, and I don't have to worry about sodium or chemicals. It is also cheaper!

For dinners, I am not worrying about sticking to the cleanse approved diet. We will still occasionally eat enchiladas and tacos. I am going to try to cut down on the less healthy foods and eat them less often. Afterall, you can't totally cut tacos out of your diet. They are just too yummy! But, you can limit them to once a month or every other month. We will still have menus that include meatloaf and beef stew but the plate will feature three vegetables in large portions leaving less room for the main dish that is not so healthy. My thought is the two will even out in the end. My nutritionist may see it differently so don't quote me. I am not giving advice, merely stating this is what I am going to try.

I'm taking a ton of vitamins now. I am taking pretty much any and all vitamins and even a disgusting colloidal mineral supplement. I am also taking Co-Q 10 which is good for rebuilding and nourishing the cells themselves. Vitamin C is a regular part of my meals. I take 1000 mg with each meal. It is more than the recommended amount but then I have been more sick than is recommended.

The biggest thing I learned is that your should do the cleanse in a month with no special outings, like fairs, no family get together, and no holidays. It is just too hard to do a cleanse while watching everyone else eat delectable dishes. I also think spring or summer is a better time because you can grow your own veggies if you have a porch with some sun or a garden, but you can also find them easier and cheaper at Farmer's Markets and even in the grocery store.

I highly recommend this cleanse. It is pricey! If you can't do this cleanse, then there are other options you can try and get results. I won't say they are the same results since I have no comparison. But I would recommend trying to eat just fruits and veggies for the first ten days and introduce chicken and fish on day eleven. Take lots and lots of fiber supplements and drink a shake for breakfast, making sure your protein powder has a LOT of vitamins and nutrients and no excess fillers, flavors, or chemicals. The goals is to get rid of the chemicals from your body and part of that is not introducing more chemicals.

If you are attempting to get healthy, please let me know. If you found these posts helpful in any way, I would love to hear your story. If you are a Snugglbug fan and wondering where he is in all this. I'll be updating with pictures from the State Fair, Pumpkin Patch, and best of all Occupational Therapy Graduation! I'll post those by next weekend!

Thanks for joining me on my quest! Now, it is your turn! Go get healthy!!

Cleanse: Days 17-20!!!

As difficult as it was to get through the State Fair, the last four days were even more difficult. I was craving carbs like crazy. It wasn't because I wasn't getting the carbs in my veggies, I think it was just because I wasn't supposed to eat breads, and so forth. It was driving me crazy!

Each meal and each day was a complete battle to stick with it. I kept asking myself if it was worth it or if I really needed three weeks of this. I can honestly say yes, it was worth it and yes, I need three weeks.

I tried to diversify my meals but found that salads made a quick and easy lunch and then dinner I would cook my veggies.

Day twenty presented another very difficult day to stay on task. You would think that by Day twenty it would be easy and a part of me. But, we attended a birthday party (actually two that day) and they were serving BBQ pulled pork and hot dogs. I could smell the BBQ down the block where I had to park. I knew when I stepped out of the car that this wasn't an ordinary party. There were mounds and mounds of pork. And there is nothing I enjoy more than BBQ, unless it is pizza or pie (any kind of pie)! I almost through in the towel right then and there and said what's a few hours! I had only about six more hours left on the cleanse. But, I summoned the will power from somewhere. I honestly think the will power came from knowing I would have to confess my failure to my readers. I did promise to blog about what I ate and to be honest! So, in all honesty, I did not eat any BBQ! I will however be calling the mom today to see if she had any leftovers!

Cleanse: Day 15-16

Day 15 took us to the Land of Fried Milk and Fried Honey...Otherwise known as the Great State Fair of Texas!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you know the State Fair is an event for our family and is rarely missed. In our eight years of marriage, we have only missed one fair and one of our first dates was to the State Fair. We gather as many people who want to go with us, and give them a grand tour of the fair. If you find you don't like the state fair, then you need to go with us. We know all the places to have some free fun and cheap food. We know how to travel the fair and have fun every minute of the day.

The problem with doing a cleanse and attending the fair is that there is literally NOTHING you can eat at the fair and stay on the cleanse. I had a choice. I could either abandon the cleanse for the day and potentially undo everything I had accomplished in the previous fourteen days or I could take all my own food and summon every ounce of will power.

I chose the latter. I am that determined to get healthy! I'll give you the final stats on health, weight, etc in another post.

So, how does one go to the fair and take all their own food? I wish I had an answer for you. Because even though I went to the fair, I found that there is not enough space to carry six cups of vegetables and four ounces of meat and a gallon of water to suffice two meals. Basically, I carried enough for one meal and stored the other meal in an ice chest in the car. While you are allowed to go to and from the fair, it is a very, very long walk from the picnic tables to the parking lot and we parked close.

I managed to choke down my salad and chicken while everyone else pigged out on Fletcher's delectable Corn Dogs!! But, dinner was more difficult. I honestly didn't think we would stay for dinner, but we did. So, I munched on my two ounces of chicken and a couple of apples just to bide my appetite till we got to the car where I ate a salad on the way home.

My will power was waning by evening. My husband and son ate Jimmy Dean sausage sandwiches which are far from healthy but the healthiest thing at the fair and also the cheapest. I tried not to smell the air while they ate. I just munched my cold chicken. I almost lost the day when it was time for ice cream. It is an annual treat to have a nutty bar before leaving for the day. Once again, my husband and son ate their ice cream and I had to help Snugglebug with his. It's tough to maneuver a nutty bar at three. (I'll post State Fair pictures in another post.)While helping him eat his ice cream, I snuck a little chocolate tidbit. It was so good and a big mistake! I just laid my head in my hands and said to my husband who offered very sweetly to go get me one, "that I had made it this far, surely I could muster the will power for a couple more hours." He didn't get me an ice cream and I didn't cheat. I stuck to my cleanse diet! I am very proud of myself for doing that, but I can't say that I will do it again.

Day sixteen and the first day after the fair, I woke starving! I hadn't consumed near enough calories the day before and my body was screaming to make them up today. I ate my shake for breakfast and debated lunch. I was out of spinach so I decided to pop into my favorite and only grocery store in town, Brookshires, after dropping Snugglebug off at school.

I went straight to the veggie section and wound up picking up prepared veggie stir fry mixes. There was a broccoli stir fry, and an Asian stir fry. I also grabbed a package of pre-sliced mushrooms. Typically, I don't waste my money on having someone else prep my food for me. You can buy broccoli for half the price if you shred it yourself. But, I was hungry and not in the mood to prep the amount of food I was wanting to eat.

The final item landing in my basket was a package of Wholy Guacamole. Again, I had never had prepared guacamole. I always made it myself. But, this was ready to eat and so was I.

I came home and tossed it all into skillets with some coconut oil. I spent the entire two hours Snugglebug was at school cooking and eating. In the end, I had eaten almost 500 calories just for lunch and it was all healthy. That is the equivalent to a quarter-pound burger at a fast food place. If I hadn't been so hungry, I would have taken a picture because the plate was piled high. And I cleaned it off!

Dinner that day was leftovers! Leftovers are so nice! Pop them in the microwave and you're ready to eat!

I had grapes for a snack and another shake after dinner. I ate a little less than 1500 calories. I went to bed full and happy! Only Four More Days to Go!!

Cleanse: Days 10-14

My apologies to my readers. I knew I was behind but didn't realize just how behind! We'll try to catch up in several posts today! (Hopefully!)

For the first ten days, you are pretty much a vegan. You only eats fruits and vegetables and your protein is from rice and lentils. I ate a lot of lentils as I found I needed more protein than what the rice would offer. Sometimes, I would mix the rice and lentils which gave them both a new flavor and texture. I also mixed rice and lentils with veggies into a stir-fry.

I made lots of veggie stir fries during the entire length of the cleanse. I also used a lot of coconut oil for the stir fry. Coconut oil is very, very healthy and great for your hair and skin.

On Day eleven, I could add chicken and fish to my meals! I was more than thrilled. I didn't do anything fancy with it since I am still limited on my ingredients. I made salmon on days eleven and twelve. I bought packages of four frozen salmon patties from Wal-Mart. They are from deep sea but not organic. My budget can only stretch so far. They are about 3-4 ounces and quick and easy to thaw out. I then put a tablespoon of coconut oil in a skillet and browned the fish on each side. If you wait for you oil to get hot, the fish will brown on the outside before cooking in the center. The secret to fish is not to overcook it, but you still want a nice browning on the outside.

I thoroughly enjoyed my fish. The first day, I cut the four-ounce portion in half and also at rice with it. So, I ate two ounces of fish and about a third of a cup of rice. It worked out to a nice amount of protein for the meal. I wasn't hungry all afternoon!

When I cooked chicken, I cooked it in olive oil with a little bit of seasoning and some salt. I ate it either with three servings of vegetables or as a salad topper. I tried to stick to 2 ounces of meat because any more than that and you don't get enough vegetables. On average I ate three cups of vegetables at each meal. I literally piled my plate high with food! My husband found it quite amusing that I was eating as much as I was and still losing weight. The effect of vegetables on the body is absolutely amazing!!

Day fifteen presented some interesting challenges so I'll leave it as it's own blog post...

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cleanse: Days 6-9

I have successfully made it a full week on my cleanse. To be honest, I am craving pizza and steak. This surprises me since I don't really eat that much pizza and steak. It is an ever once in a long while thing for me. On the other hand, we eat a lot of hamburgers and not once have I craved a burger. I don't know what that means about my current diet, but I expected all cravings to fade by this point.

Days six and seven fell on the weekend. I have a rule about not cooking on Sundays. In fact, I try not to do anything or go anywhere other than church on Sunday. Sundays are meant to rest and rejuvenate. So, that's exactly what I strive to do. with all the leftovers eaten, I ate salads for both lunch and dinner with my vinegar and olive oil dressing. Eating raw was a nice break from all the cooked vegies. I thoroughly enjoyed eating raw broccoli.

Saturday, I did cook. I steamed mostly: cauliflower, green beans, and broccoli. I am having trouble finding recipes for cauliflower and broccoli that aren't full of non-cleanse ingredients like cheese or canned soups. So, I just eat them plain or with a pat of butter. The green beans I tossed in a skillet with a tablespoon of oil from a can of sun dried tomatoes. Then added a couple of tablespoons of sliced sun dried tomatoes. I tossed them a few times till they started brown. This is my favorite way to eat green beans! The combination of the sweet green beans and the tart tomatoes is such a perfect combo.

Both days, I consumed 1200-1300 calories. I have lost a total of five pounds over the course of the first week and lost an inch and a half at the small of my waist and an inch at the belly button. I'm pleased with that. I feel I have detoxed all the extra water weight from all those breathing treatments over the summer. But, I still have two more weeks to go!

Monday was day eight and the beginning of week two. I have less fiber and cleanse pills to take, and I have gotten used to them, so I can swallow them two capsules at a time.

My sweet hubby was down in his back so I spent the afternoon taking him to the chiropractor. So, no time to cook today. I am noticing an interesting trend. Without my crock pots to aid my meals, I am completely hopeless in the kitchen.

Day nine was better. Tuesday, I steamed cauliflower, cooked some more lentils, baked a sweet potato, and washed some broccoli. I ate the latter raw. I like having something in the meal with a different texture. The sweet potato is such a sweet treat. It needs nothing more than butter.

Day ten brought out a crock pot. Yes, my friend helped me cook dinner on the busiest day of our week. I cooked lentil soup with sweet potato and carrots. It also had a lot of chili powder in it. I am not a huge fan of quite so much spice courtesy of acid reflux. Overall, the soup was good and nourishing, just spicy. I also polished off the steamed cauliflower and had some more raw broccoli.

Only twelve more days to go! If you have any good recipes for lentils, broccoli or cauliflower, please share them in the comments section. I'll be happy to give them a try!

Book Review: How To Write a Book Proposal

I put off writing this review because I was more than a little bit disappointed. As I got passed the first chapter, I was thinking, I've read this book before. And the truth is, I have. This is a 3rd edition. I didn't catch that before.

In the preface, the author lists 14 additions. None of them stand out as worthy of buying another edition if you already have an older edition.

If you are an aspiring writer and have never read this book before, you should read it at least once. I don't know that it matters which edition you read. The first one I read was on the local library's shelves. I'm quite sure this one will be too.

If you have already read this book or purchased a previous edition, don't worry about getting the newest version. It won't help you that much.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cleanse--Days 3-5

Wednesday and Thursday were crazy busy days. I barely had time to eat let alone blog. Such is typical. I raced from one appointment to another and from one item on the to-do list to another.

Thursday, I did take some time to sit for a few hours and visit with a good friend. There's nothing like nourishing conversation!

My meals on Wednesday were basically whatever veggies were leftover from previous days. It was pretty much a dab of this and a dab of that with some rice on the side. I wolfed down a few veggies before heading out the door to church on Wednesday night and was hungry when I got home. So, while making a shake for the next morning, I made one for the evening.

Thursday was a dose of salads all day. Not that I mind. I do love a good mixture of veggies! I used the previously mentioned dressing mixture of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar and Olive Oil. I used pretty much all the veggies I had on my salad including a whole avocado, a whole tomato, carrots, broccoli, and spinach.

Friday, I tried Lentils. I have been putting off lentils because I just don't like them. Or at least the one time I tried them, I didn't like them. I boiled them according to package directions, but then mashed them and added a little bit of butter. They tasted almost like refried beans. I also ate some roasted cauliflower, and a delicious asparagus stir fry.

Stir fries are another thing I do a lot because you can toss so many veggies into one pan. Here's the recipe for the Asparagus Stir Fry:

Ingredients (Makes 3 servings)
1 tbsp Coconut Oil, Refined, Organic

2 cups Asparagus, chopped.

2 medium whole (2-3/5" dia) Tomatoes, Red, Ripe, diced

2 tbsp chopped Onions

0.5 medium raw Bell Pepper Red

2 cloves, raw Garlic

1.Heat coconut oil.

2.Mince garlic and add to oil. Saute garlic for two minutes.

3.Add onions and bell peppers. Cook for 5 minutes.

4.Add asparagus. Place a lid on the skillet and cook until desired tenderness.

5.Add tomatoes. Thoroughly distribute the tomatoes but don't allow them to cook. They may be a bit warm but still raw and firm.

6.Remove from stove and serve.

You can toss pretty much anything you want into a pan for a stir fry. If it sounds good, toss it in.

I snacked on grapes and an apple during the day, bringing my calorie total to 1300 calories. I've already lost a 1/2 inch in my waste which was gained largely from breathing treatments, steroid shots, and antibiotics. I've also lost about 3 pounds.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cleanse--Day 2

The fiber in my new diet caught up to me on day two. If you aren't used to eating a lot of fiber, then you switch to double the amount of recommended fiber, you are going to spend a little extra time in the bathroom. In addition, to the 55 grams of fiber I ate over the course of the day (recommended daily allowance is 25), I am also taking fiber and green veggie supplements as part of the cleanse. If you order the entire package from Standard Process or Amazon, you'll get the capsules in your package. They amount to 10-15 per meal. That's a lot of capsules! I drank at least half my water during the day taking the pills. It is recommended that you take them away from meals. I didn't the first day, but did on day two, and it makes a big difference. My meals were simple but a little more diverse. I hope to get better at this vegetable plate planning as the weeks go on. I had a strawberry-banana-blueberry shake for breakfast with protein powder. I like this much better than the previous day's blackberry. In fact, I like eating a shake for breakfast. It saves time having to actually cook breakfast, and it is ready as soon as I get up. Lunch was a spinach salad. One of my favorites! I eat salads a lot because of the veggie mixture and the ability to get the perfect bite! (see the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces) My salad had cucumber, carrots, tomato and of course spinach. I had avocado but decided to save it for later. My dressing was a tablespoon of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar and a a tablespoon of olive oil and a dash or garlic. Mix and pour over the salad. It gives it a nice flavor and makes for a great light dressing. Bragg's is also supposed to raise the body's PH, helping it to re-balance intestinal flora. For a snack and to help wash down my pills, I had a small sweet potato early in the afternoon before we headed out to our weekly therapy appointments. The sweet potato stuck with me all afternoon. I didn't get hungry till around 6:00 which is our drive home. I was quite thrilled about that. Dinner was another sweet potato, left over spaghetti squash (no tomatoes today), rice, and avocado. I wasn't able to clean my plate but was completely full! According to Calorie Count I ate 1600 calories but 400 of that was the olive oil from my salad and the butter from my potatoes. Weight loss isn't my goal so fat isn't a bad thing at this time. If you are looking to lose weight, watch those fat grams and make sure your fat comes from good food like avocados and not butter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cleanse--Day 1

Day 1 of my cleanse was uneventful. And, except for the lack of protein, my diet wasn't too much different than what it has been for the past few weeks. It turns out protein is a big part of my diet so I supplemented with other foods. I ate a massive amount of vegetables! I had no idea one could eat so many veggies...And I like veggies but there was a LOT of green on my plate! For breakfast, you start out the day with a shake with protein powder. I made my shake with berries: strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. The latter was a HUGE mistake! Unless you have a blender that will juice the blackberry seeds then your shake will taste like it has a handful of dirt in it. I was barely able to choke it down. I won't make that mistake again! Lunch was less inventive. Steamed green beans were simple with nothing added to them. I stir fried zucchini with mushrooms in coconut oil. Surprisingly, the coconut oil does not taste at all coconutty. Rice made my protein portion and corn on the cob rounded out my plate. The last one is an unapproved veggie for the cleanse. But left over from Sunday, it was so good I couldn't just throw it out! Dinner was delectable! Roasted tomatoes with garlic and sea salt topped spaghetti squash for a vegan spaghetti and sauce. I smashed the tomatoes with a fork and mixed them into the squash. Butternut squash, rice, and green beans, all with nothing fancy, finished off the meal. A few hours later I was hungry again so after making my shake for the next morning, I snuck about a half cup of the delicious strawberry-banana mixture. I also ate an avocado which was not fully ripe and not very good. But, I assume the nutrients are there nonetheless. Overall, I consumed a little over 1200 calories. I read that a headache was normal on day but other than a low blood sugar headache before lunch, I was fine all day. No issues and nothing unusual. I am using Calorie Count to keep track of nutrients as well as calories. It is fairly easy to use and doesn't take long to log a meal. It then gives you an easy to read graph with your nutrient goals and where you are for the day, giving you an idea of what you need to eat and what you don't.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I love Anne of Green Gables. She is always so dramatic and her words resonate with the reader. One phrase she often used was "I am in the depths of despair." While she was upset over the circumstance, I don't think she was really at the very depth of despair for that is the very definition of depression. The despair wreaks like a pair of gym socks but it is so deep you don't even notice the reason for the despair. Sometimes, you don't even realize that you are at the depths of despair. Depression sneaks up on you and overtakes you like a bad head cold.

I didn't know I was depressed til my doctor told me a low dose of anti-depressant would help me get over a constant battle with various infections and viruses.  I thought she was crazy but I trust her instincts. I have had a long summer and battled asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and an upper respiratory infection caused by strep. My stress level is off the charts! I have one sister going through a very bad divorce, and I've stood by her side all summer long. Then, another sister, who is younger than me died suddenly! She left a gaping whole in my heart. . . and more questions than answers in regards to her death.

I've been on the wonder drug of anti-depressants for three weeks, and I feel like I can actually come out of my cave. I reached a point where all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head. The very thought of leaving the house left me tranquilized with fear. Fear of what I don't know. But, fear gripped me never the less.

I've spent the last 6 weeks since my sister's death on my knees before God. I've pleaded to be healthy again, pleaded for my family to be healthy again, and pleaded to see my son grow into a man of God. I've learned that to truly worship God is to truly appreciate every moment he has given you and everything he has given you no matter how small or insignificant. Worship doesn't mean you have to sing a praise song. I can't sing! But, I can thank him for every breath that I or my family is allowed to take.

After many hours in prayer, God directed me to a nutritionist. Her brilliant deduction summed up my condition as being tired, worn down, and depleted on a cellular level. Yep! That pretty much nailed it.

I've been gradually changing my diet over the last several weeks and now eat so many vegetables and take so many vitamins that it is unbelievable even to me who loves vegies! She has advised me to do a fruit and vegetable cleanse by Standard Process.

I'll start the cleanse today, and for 7 days will only eat vegies and fruits, vitamins, and lots and lots of water. On the 8th day, I can add protein like organic chicken and fish like Salmon. The Quest is to be healthy! So, like all my other quests of motherhood, I'll take you along for the ride. While I am not a recipe blogger, I will try to give you an idea of what I am eating. It'll keep me honest as well!

My posts will be a day behind so I can completely sum up the day.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why, Yes, Doctor, You are right.

On a good day, my days are 13 1/2 hours long. They start at 6 am with a banshee howl. While I would like to hit the snooze and get five more minutes, they call that child abuse. The banshee is my child, either in the crib or standing at the end of the hall, screaming a blood curdling scream like he has woke up in the twilight zone. He's done it since birth, so I am somewhat used to it, but it still wakes me with a start.

I crawl out of bed in hopes that the banshee hasn't woke my poor night-shift-working husband. Nope, too late. The banshee woke him, too. I stumble to the bedroom and rescue the screaming banshee who is now chanting, "Oto, Oto, Oto." For those of you who don't have three-year old Secret Agent Oso is all the rage right now. I have about 15 on our DVR.

After squinting at the TV, I finally manage to get "Oto" turned on, and the chant then becomes, "Oa'meal. Oa'meal. Oa'meal." While generally, I am glad that my child can now communicate, the chanting gets a little old at 6 or 6:30 am.

On a good day, I turn in my mommy badge in favor of the housekeeping apron after about 13 1/2 hours of chanting, games, giggles, therapy trips, doctor's appointments, and time-out sessions, etc.

Today, wasn't necessarily a good day. It began almost 15 hours ago at 5:30 am with the banshee howl, and is ending with a bad case of heartburn. I didn't think it was acid reflux till I went to the pulmonologist to find out why I couldn't breathe in the evenings. It seems that reflux triggers asthma which is the diagnosis and the problem.

"Do you have reflux?" The doctor asked.
"No, I don't."
The doctor frowned and furrowed his brows, and now that I know what reflux is and that what I am really feeling is heartburn, I have to tell him he was right. It is heartburn.

My heartburn is triggered by an obstinate three-year old who insists on wreaking havoc on the last three to four hours of the day. It begins while I am cooking dinner, and he is asking to eat anything and everything.

"No, you can't have cookies. We are eating in a little bit."
"No, you can't have crackers. We are eating in a little bit."
"No, you can't have chocolate. We are eating in a little bit."
"No, No, No."

Once, dinner is on the table. The next round begins. He refuses to sit at the table. At first he pretends to ignore me. Then he proceeds to indicate in his non-verbal way that he wants to eat in front of the TV.

"No, you can't eat in the living room. The rule is: we eat dinner at the table."

Followed by round three: On a good evening, he will sit at the table without eating staring out the window, never even tasting the food. On a bad evening, he will throw a fit and try to toss his plate, leading to an all out battle to sit at the table. My meal ends up being eaten cold and between time-out sessions for throwing his plate or climbing out of his chair. If he ever tastes, the food, he finds he likes it and eats dinner. But, sometimes, his preference is chocolate and crackers for dinner and never relents to eating what I've cooked.

Round four is the bedtime routine. If there is a bath involved it brings the night routine to a whole new level as he HATES baths. If not a bath, then we battle over putting on the pajamas which usually means chasing him down and taking away privileges like reading a bed time book if he doesn't change. Teeth brushing is just as much a battle. If he has by chance kept the book reading privilege, then that is threatened once again. If he loses that, then we move on to losing rights to play with certain toys the next day. We rarely have to move beyond the loss of his train set.

Once teeth are brushed, jammies are on, we read a few books, assuming he still has that privilege. Then, it is lights out. And since, we are transitioning to the twin bed, we have the next battle. Staying in bed. If he doesn't stay in bed, then he is moved back to the crib across the room from his twin bed. At least three or four nights a week, within fifteen minutes of lights out, the lights are back on, and he is playing in the floor. So back to the crib for him.

By 8PM, I have heartburn, a headache, and can barely breathe. Why, yes, doctor, you are right. I do have heartburn. I was just too unplugged to realize what it was. I was more plugged into the havoc my three-year old is creating during the last three or four hours of the day.

God bless the creator of antacids and asthma inhalers.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Crib to Toddler Bed, part 1

Milestones are giant mountains for us. Dragging Snugglebug to and over a milestone can be a frustrating process. The advice of so many to not worry about a milestone is completely false when you have a neuro-atypical child.

If I had waited for my son to speak and never enrolled him in speech therapy, he would still be squealing, and certainly, not talking and putting two words together. I could go down the list just like this for each and every milestone between birth and now, but that would be monotonous. You can just read past blog postings.

The current milestones are no less mountainous. Moving from a crib to toddler bed has been more than a little frustrating. Potty training has been disastrous thus far. And the transition to summer school was a complete failure.

We attempted moving from crib to toddler bed in the spring. We have one of those awesome convertible cribs and took apart the front portion to turn it into a toddler bed. It was a momentous occasion. I was nervous with his sleep issues, but with him crawling out of the crib, I knew it was time.

I spent every night for the next three weeks battling him to keep him in bed. For three hours every night from 7pm to 10 pm. He would crawl out of bed and come down the hall. I would pick him up and put him back in bed. I followed all of Supernanny's rules. I didn't say a word. No kisses. No hugs. Just back to bed. At 10pm, he would finally fall asleep. And, so would I . . . from complete exhaustion. We would repeat this process at 2 or 3 am for an hour or so.

I was not a happy camper. When my alarm went off at 6am, I had no desire to see dawn break. In fact, I wanted to sleep all day.

I would stumble out of my room, half asleep, and literally trip over my son who would be sleeping somewhere in the floor. We found him sleeping in the kitchen, using the step stool as a pillow, in the hallway outside his room, in the walkway between our room and the kitchen, in the floor of his room next to his bed, and leaning against his doorway of his room (yes, standing but sound asleep).

My Facebook friends found it quite entertaining to see where I would find him each day. I wasn't quite so entertained.

A little research later and I found a store that carried a Crib Tent and new plan was born. After three weeks, I threw in the towel, put the crib back together, and put a crib tent over the top. He was trapped, and I could get some sleep.

This story would be continued but at a later date...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blessings In Disguise, Part 1

We all know the adage about viewing a glass as either half full or half empty. The jest of the adage is that we can see what is front of us as a blessing or as curse.

A recent glass half full blessing was presented to me as I suffered from a horrible asthma attack. My floors took revenge on me and after scrubbing every nook and cranny, the fumes overwhelmed me and I couldn't breathe. My husband took me to the doctor where I was given a steroid shot, a breathing treatment and a chest x-ray. The doctor scratched his head not really understanding why I had such a sudden reaction when I've never had such a reaction.

Later, I saw my primary car physician and discussed it all at length with her. I had 24 hours to think about it. Being a holiday, the first doctor was at the fantastic CareNow facility. As I sat with my doctor, I outlined breathing issues that I have had my entire life and that as a rule I stay away from strong chemicals. She concluded that I have had asthma my entire life but never had an issue because I learned my triggers and stayed away from them.

She sent me home with a nebulizer and breathing treatments. And I spent the rest of the week and part of the next laying around the house, watching TV and napping when Snugglebug napped.

I could easily view this is a glass half empty and moan and groan about my new diagnosis of asthma, but instead I see it as a blessing in disguise. I would have never known that I had asthma and needed to be especially careful in certain situations if I had not had this asthma attack. I, now, have an inhaler in my purse and know the symptoms of an asthma attack and when to use the inhaler. Interestingly enough, I have had these symptoms in the past, especially around cigarette smoke but the situation always corrected itself after I removed myself from the carcinogen.

I've also never been able to run or jog because I would start wheezing and coughing. This was always so disappointing because I was told this was my fault for not breathing correctly. Really! I didn't realize one needed to take a class to learn how to breathe. I thought it was automatic. Either you did or you didn't! Nevertheless, I took the blame. Now, I know the problem wasn't my lack of understanding of breathing but asthma. And, now, I can treat it.

On my bucket list is a half marathon. With this new diagnosis, I believe I actually have a shot at being able to breathe for the entire 13 miles, not to mention all the miles involved in training.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

One of Many Differences Between Boys and Girls

Snugglebug snuck out of bed after I tucked him in and loaded his bed up with his favorite Matchbox cars. I believe I would not be wrong in saying that girls sleep with their stuffed animals and baby dolls, but boys sleep with their cars and trucks.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Economy: A Layman's Perspective

While the news media, politicians, and the President are telling us the economy is improving, I'm having a difficult time seeing it from where I am sitting in the great state of Texas. Allow me to explain from my position as an untrained economist.

Every week someone from my friends list on Facebook announces a job loss. Sometimes, the spouse is able to pick up extra hours and make up the difference. Other times, they have a trade that allows them to quickly find a new job. But, many remain out of work. It has almost become an unspoken rule that if you run across a job (that you will not be applying for) that you share it with your friends on Facebook. Unfortunately, the job posts are as rare as the job loss announcements are common.

With each out of work person, the family must cut the budget to meet the new income level. Contrary to the news media's analysis, this doesn't make for a recovering economy. How do I know this? I am by no means a trained economist. But, experience can be a great teacher.

We learned yesterday that my husband lost one of his jobs. Yes, he works more than one. When you have a special needs child, the medical bills are insurmountable. I'm not at liberty to go into the amount of bills my son accumulates each year but to give you a hint he is three years old and just had his fourth major surgery. He will have his fifth surgery by year's end.

With the loss of one job means the loss of a third of our income. We must cut our household budget by one third. We were not living extravagantly but definitely did not have a tight budget. With the loss of salary, there will be no more eating out, no more movies, no more lattes, no books, no crafting supplies, no more driving that is not absolutely necessary, no more cookies and ice cream in the grocery cart, and I will return to the use of coupons to save every penny possible. My trusted travel companion, my SUV, will remain parked in the driveway. We can't afford to fill the tank with today's gas prices approaching $4 a gallon. Instead, my husband and I will share the economy car.

Now, here's your challenge: How many retailers will be hit by our job loss? How much money will no longer be added to the local economy? And to add to your numbers, my husband wasn't the only one laid off his job. There were others. So, add their income, budget cuts, and the retailers affected to the list.

We know numerous teachers have lost their jobs due to school districts cutting their budgets. We also know that Blockbuster (a distributor is in our area) laid off a lot of employees recently. We were enjoying Chili's burgers recently when half the restaurant was filled with employees who lost their jobs that very day. They were "celebrating" life one last time before going home to cut their budgets to their new income level. How many retailers were affected by the jobs lost at Blockbuster alone?

Despite the push to blame the business owner, large or small, for not hiring workers and for laying them off. The true blame should be placed on government as a whole. Budget talks are going on right now on Capital Hill and to no avail. My husband and I cut all non-essentials from our budgets when income drops. Capital Hill must do the same. I can name numerous budget items in the city that employs my husband that should have been cut from the budget as non-essential items. I mean, really, do we need a brand new bridge that runs parallel to an existing bridge with no problems whatsoever. According to the city, we do. Why? Because the old bridge isn't pretty and the new one will be. I could go on and on just about this one city. In the end, they cut my husband's salary and all the other city employees' salaries by five percent and gave them unpaid days off. I rather doubt one bridge will add as much stimulus to the economy as thousands of employees in the city.

I'm sure there are many more examples nationwide and on Capital Hill. When government cuts the non-essentials out of their budgets, then maybe we can add the non-essentials back into our budget thus boosting the economy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Irony of Life

I appreciate the irony of life. It is what makes the world turn. Without it, everything would be completely and totally boring.

But, in this case, irony has me beating my head against the wall and kicking myself. To fully understand the irony, let's backtrack to last year and my wonderful adoration of all the hummingbirds visiting my feeders. I had three different types of hummingbirds visiting my feeders on a regular basis. I identified two of the varieties but the third I couldn't identify. I took pictures and compared them to website photos and databases. I spent all winter researching hummingbirds and looking for this incredibly small species. This hummingbird was about half the size of the black-chinned and ruby-throated varieties that I had already identified. And there were no hummingbirds of that size in our region. The only one even remotely matching the description resides in Montana and never leaves the mountains. I found it impossible to believe that a mountainous species would survive the 100 degree plus temperatures of Texas.

With the advent of spring, I no longer had time to research the hummingbird, so waited for it to make its appearance this year for a better look. For the record, I have not yet seen this tiny species this year.

Fast forward to today, I had not been to my garden in several days. Due to all that has been going on, my garden was in great need of attention. After dinner, Snugglebug and I ventured out to the garden so I could see what all needed to be done after he went to bed. I immediately noticed my tall, lush tomato plants were mere stems. This disturbed me, but being a life-long farm-girl, I knew the work of a hornworm when I saw it. It didn't take me but a moment to find the fat culprit lounging on a naked stem. Then, I found a second and a third hornworm.

After putting Snugglebug to bed, I went straight out to my garden (baby monitor in hand) to search for any more tomato eating fiends. What began with three worms became ten then twenty. At twenty-five hornworms, I called my friend, Liz, and said, "You're not going to believe this!" She did and hung up so she could go check her tomato plants. The final count was 28 hornworms on three tomato plants! I would have taken a picture but the sight of them turned my stomach, and I would hate to run off my readers with such a sight.

After plucking the worms and depositing them in a large (very large) pickle jar, I turned on the sprinklers and came inside to do some research.

I first wanted to know what type of moth the hornworm became so I could make sure to spray it with Raid the next time I saw one. I also wanted to know what the pupae looked like and what ate it so I could prevent the hornworm ever reaching my tomato plants.

I learned that the hornworm becomes a moth that when in flight looks like a hummingbird. It eats nectar just like a hummingbird, feeds on flowers just like a hummingbird, has the same long tongue, and from a distance looks like an extremely small hummingbird. The photos and the description on all the websites matched the unknown hummingbird from last year. I sat in complete astonishment. Last year, I had been feeding and marveling at a moth, not a bird. Last year, I had been feeding the moth that would lay the eggs and become a hideous larvae known as the hornworm that was now eating my tomato plants.

The irony is too much to bear. And while I typically admire irony and say, "My hat's off to you for pulling that one off," today, I say, "cussword, cussword, cussword."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Take a close look...No, closer

So, this lovely lady has taken up residence in our backyard, beyond my garden.

She is a Killdeer. She is ground nesting bird who has a very sad sounding chirp. She makes an even more distressing broke wing limp when you get too close to her nest. The idea is that the ground dweller will be led away by the enticing thought that the injured bird will be easily caught. She will lead the prey quite a ways away before taking flight. She then makes sure the prey is far from her nest before she returns.

Here's a picture of the nest.
Oh, you don't see it. Well, that's the way it's meant to be. I searched at least an hour this afternoon and could not find her nest. This evening while working in my garden, I kept a close eye on the little bird and followed her visually back to her nest. Even with a reference point, I had a tough time finding the nest. It blends in with the ground so well that one could literally step right over it and never see it.

Here's another photo of the nest. Take a close look at this photo then go back and take a closer look at the photo above.

Now, do you see it.

Here's one last, even closer, look at the nest and eggs. Can you see how they would be lost even though they sit right out in the open? Amazing! Simply Amazing!

PS For those who would like to see a better view of the little bird (I don't have a long camera lens.) click this link to a Wikipedia photo.

Friday, June 10, 2011

We Have Sentences, People!

We had our first sentences, today! They were only two word sentences but subject verb just the same. Prior to this we have had a lot of two word combos but more like adjective noun or a please attached to a noun or a name attached to a request.

What were the sentences you ask? I'm so glad you did!

Wot dis! (interpreted: Watch This!) While climbing over the sofa (that's another post)

i bo. (interpreted: It Broke) Referring to a nickel yo-yo he received from a recent birthday party as a party favor.

Only 6 months ago, we had our first verbal words. He still signs and most of the time will sign one word and say the other word. Other times he signs and says the word both. Most of the time the word is only the first consonant which renders the spoken word useless without the sign. His verbal speech has surpassed his signs though, so at times there is frustration when he can't get across what he is talking about. We are working on that! My husband and I are taking a class in sign language with the goal of being able to communicate with him via sign and teach him the same way verbal communication is taught. We are well on our way with an excellent teacher!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Quest for Encouragement: The Church's Part

A friend on Facebook, recently, posted a link to an article, titled "How to Find a Good Church". It is less about how to find a church and more about what a good church looks like. It is a fantastic article, and I chose to share it with my friend's list.

There was one line in the article that drew particular interest to me and has sparked a bit of conversation. Conversation is always good, especially when it involves children with special needs and their families.

Half-way into the article, the author states, "The tragedy of modern Christianity is that when members of the body hurt, too often we relegate them to finding resources outside the walls of the church. " The article is not necessarily referring to families who have special needs children but to hurts in general. But, the statement still holds true. Within my own county in Texas, I can name only one church that has teachers who are trained to work with children who are deaf, autistic, or who have various delays. There are a few churches who provide interpreters for the deaf but that's a whole other blog post.

The question of starting a ministry in this area arose in our conversation, but I think it is more about attitude and education than ministry. I'm not sure what type of ministry would be specifically set-up outside of the typical support groups. It is more about an overall attitude of both the membership and the church's leadership of acceptance, encouragement, and education. It may not be cancer but 7q11.23 duplication can be very trying, frustrating, and even heart breaking.

I know the same is true for families who have down syndrome, autism, and other genetic disorders. One person told me recently, "Raising a child with special needs is a lonely job." It shouldn't be. The church should be surrounding them with encouragement and prayer. Members of the church should be the one of the first to educate themselves on the disorder, not to mention be there with constant encouragement.

This is not to say I, personally, don't have educated and encouraging friends. I do. But sadly, I can count on one hand those who have personal knowledge of my trials and are willing to be a shoulder to cry on and a voice of encouragement when I need it most.

But, so you don't feel like I am singling out the church, the same is true even within family. It is hard for family members to accept that a child does not meet the same norms as their other nieces, nephews, cousins, or grandchildren. It is easier to just ignore the issues. It is also hard for some within family to listen because they feel it is more about attention-getting than anything else. Acceptance within family is difficult on so many levels, and I am not the one to even begin unraveling the psychology behind that. There are others much more qualified.

The purpose of this post is to merely say that families with special needs children need more encouragement than the typical family. You don't have to provide answers. You don't even need to fully comprehend the issues at hand. You don't need a special degree or a ministry leader. All you need is a merciful and caring heart and a listening ear. Sometimes all we need is someone to hear our story or let us talk through our emotions without those emotions being dismissed. Our children may not be dying but it is an emotional journey all the same.

*Note: If you want a better glimpse into the emotions of a parent with special needs, I invite you to read Amsterdam International. Written by Dana Nieder, the mother of a child with an undiagnosed genetic disorder, she explains what it is like to land where you least expect it and just how frustrating and lonely it can become.

You can also read my article, The Quest for Encouragement: Are You in the Airport or Not?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Story Engineering

I loved this book! If you are a fiction writer of any type, then this book is for you. Larry Brooks an author himself writes about more than just the basics of a good character or conflict. He delves into the deeper aspects of what it takes to create a good character and a good conflict. He tells you what the reader expects, the editor expects, and what you should expect from your writing. He uses examples from well-known books, TV shows, and movies. He doesn't stick with just one genre of movie or book to prove his point.He pulls from all genres to show just how important the information is.

Divided into eight parts, the author details what he calls "Six Core Competencies" as well as an opening chapter explaining why this book is different than all the others you have previously read on writing(And yes, it is!), and the final chapter which talks about the development process and pulls everything all together.

As I read this book, I began to see the holes in my own writing. I haven't been able to figure out why I wasn't happy with my characters and my stories but now it is plain as day as though a doctor sat down and diagnosed my problems.

I give this book 5 stars. It will be one that I read more than once.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We've Come A Long Way, Baby!

We have past yet another milestone. This one won't be on your growth charts. And, really, it shouldn't be called a milestone but a mile marker.

We have just finished surgery #4 on our little Snugglebug. This particular surgery wasn't anything serious. It was just tubes in the ears and adenoids out. I say "just" but no surgery is "just" a surgery. Every surgery is a big deal as it requires IV's and anesthesia and knives and exposure to dozens of different types of 'cocuses. Surgery is a scary thing for anyone of any age. For a mommy to send her little one away with a bunch of strangers to be cut on and exposed to 'cocuses this is no easy thing. Stress abounds!

But, this surgery was a milestone in that after four surgeries you know pretty well what to expect, how to handle it, and how to deal with the stress. The stress is still there but you learn how to handle it.

Snugglebug's first surgery was at seven months of age. He had to have surgery on a lazy eye. His lid was literally sown open so he could see. The procedure is way more complicated than that. It's called Ptosis. You can google it if you are really interested, but I won't bore you with the details. I was a nervous wreck the day of the surgery. I had no idea what to bring to the hospital and even though I was told it would take less than half an hour, I packed to stay at the hospital for days.

The worst part of that first surgery was afterwards. Not knowing what was happening or why he was feeling so out-of-it, Snugglebug cried inconsolably for well over an hour. We were at a loss as to how to help him.

Surgery #4 was different than the first in so many ways. We've come a long way in three years! I was calm as could be. I prepared Snugglebug the night before by telling him he had an early morning doctor's appointment and that we would leave before he could eat breakfast. I left out the part about the hospital. Once we were at the hospital, he knew exactly what he was there for and wasn't happy about it at all. I wasn't worried at all about this. Even at three, he has a right to express his opinion on the subject.

After the surgery, my little man seemed to know exactly what he was feeling and why. The anesthetic was wearing off and he was waking up. He cried and fussed but not much. He was woozy but seemed to be focusing internally to gather his wits about him. Knowing my child as I do, I just stayed close to his bed. (My child doesn't like to be held when he is sick. That's a whole other post.) As he became more aware of his surroundings, he finally decided he wanted his Daddy. Once he was in his daddy's arms, he relaxed and drifted in and out of sleep.

There was no inconsolable crying. Snugglebug has traveled this road as well. Despite his young age, he has learned so much about surgeries and how to handle them. It is at times like this that I wish I could crawl into his brain and hear his thoughts. I would like to know what he has learned.

I could go on and on about what I have learned about surgeries, hospitals, the bills that go along with both, and so on. Surgery #4 is a milestone because we have learned that for us this is part of life. We have learned how to handle the stress, the frustration, and the bills. And that's not just my husband and I, that goes for Snugglebug as well. He has learned so much!

By evening, my child was back to normal. You would never know he had had surgery eight hours earlier. He was running and playing like always.

I am so full of emotion that I can't even begin to put it into words. We have past such an incredible mile marker. It is not one that I would hope everyone would achieve, but for us it registers a long list of invaluable lessons that we have collected over the course of four surgeries. Words don't convey how proud I am of Snugglebug who has learned all this on his own. Words don't convey how proud I am of my husband and myself for learning how to lean on one another and work as a team in times like this. Words do not convey the lessons we have learned and will rely on even when we are not walking into a surgery.

It is odd that at the end of the day, as I reflect, I consider this to be normal for us. It is not a big deal, and it is just another surgery. The milestone we have crossed is called acceptance. Acceptance is a huge milestone for special needs parents.

We've come a long way, and it has only been three years! What could possibly be waiting for us over the next fifteen!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Stories

Recently, I wrote a very long post on Snugglebug's anxiety. We have started two things that I hope to impact his anxiety. Only time will tell if they work.

The first thing we started was the use of social stories. Social stories are short, descriptive stories with pictures to help the child visualize an event and explain what is going to happen. For Easter, I made a social story using scrapbook graphics. I love digital scrapbooking so I used the same concept for the social story.

We then read the story about hunting Easter eggs, what to do with the eggs, and what to do when we saw our friends. Snugglebug loved it and even asked me to read it after the egg hunt.

Once at the egg hunt, he was excited. There was no visit from the evil anxiety until the kids began to crowd into the starting area before the egg hunt. I could feel the tension increasing as the kids crowded around him and began invading his personal space (personal space is a whole other post). I whispered the words from the story in his ear, "We are happy to see our friends." He began to relax and seconds later the whistle signaling the craziness sounded. Snugglebug took his time gathering eggs and enjoyed every minute of the ten minute egg hunt. He walked away with a dozen and a half eggs. I walked away with a smile on my face. I don't know if we can attribute the social story to helping him to deal with his anxiety but it was enough that I am now making social stories for other upcoming events.

(For those interested in social stories, there are several websites that were very helpful. I'll post them at the end of this article.)

The second addition to our anxiety fighting battle is a visual scheduling system for each day and week. Using Picture Exhange Cards with velcro on the back, we attach the cards to a laminated piece of cardstock. We list the events of the next day with the PECS, and walk through those events the night before and again the next morning. We have just started this system so I hope it works as well as I have imagined.

We also have a laminated weekly calendar with the days of the week. We check off each day of the week and if there is a special event we mark it on the calendar so he can see it coming. He seems to like it.

I'll let you know if all this works to help curb his anxiety. I have no doubts that anxiety will still stage an unwarranted attack, but hopefully those attacks will be less in number.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety is a horrible and invisible enemy. It sneaks up on the victim when they least expect it. It's even worse when the victim is a child who can't comprehend or explain their feelings.

Along with 7q11.23 duplication comes a horrible level of anxiety. For some children, the anxiety is so high that it interferes with their social life and behavior, thus leading to past misdiagnosis of autism.

Snugglebug has this anxiety. On the scale of anxiety connected to 7q11.23 duplication, it is on the lesser end. But, on the scale of a nuero-typical three-year old, it is on the high end.

I cannot predict when the anxiety attacks will occur. I don't even know what to do when they do occur except reassure him that we will get through the situation together.

We had two incidents recently that seem to be similar in circumstance.

First, I took my train enthusiast to see Thomas the Train and ride a life-size train. Upon seeing the train, he squealed in delight and took off running toward the train. He was excited beyond belief. We arrived earlier than our boarding pass time so we had time to kill in the bounce house, etc. But, he wasn't interested! He only wanted to ride the train.

Finally, boarding time arrived, and we stood in line to board the train. But, as we approached the train's entrance, panic set in. I could feel him becoming tense but when the panic set in full force, he took off. He left my side and ran down the gang plank, away from me and the train. Fortunately, we were surrounded by understanding parents who cleared a path for me as I chased after him. I caught him pretty quick and hoisted his thrashing body up and back to our spot in line. The anxiety was just too much for him. When fight or flight overtook him, he chose flight.

Once on the train, he calmed down as I talked him through what was about to happen. He was still tense but seemed a little more composed. He made it through the train ride with flying colors. No more attempts at escape. He even climbed off the train by himself. I have no idea if he enjoyed the train ride. The downside of a non-verbal child is not knowing what they are feeling--Good or Bad.

The second incident was similar to the train. His little pre-school class took their first field trip. The eight students and two teachers were to ride the bus to the local library where they would read stories and sing songs. While we talked about it all weekend, the whole thing was new to Snugglebug and anxiety set in again.

The bus rolled up and the other students boarded gleefully, but Snugglebug had a complete meltdown. He was thrashing and crying. I carried him onto the bus and tried to talk to him, but he wasn't hearing me. I sat with him for a little while till he calmed down and was at least breathing again. I explained over and over again what needed to happen and that they were going to have a lot of fun. I finally slid him into the seat but he began crying once again. As I buckled his seat belt, he cried harder and louder. I fought back the tears that were forming and continued to reassure him.

His anxiety had not subsided when I left the bus and the teacher took my place next to him. I smiled and waved as the bus pulled out of the parking lot, but once it was out of site. I fell apart. Big, nasty, crocodile tears poured down my cheeks as I stood there all alone in the parking lot.

I prayed to God to look after my little boy and comfort him because I couldn't. Climbing into my car, I wiped the tears and cried some more. Moments later, I received a text from his teacher with a not-crying photo of Snugglebug. Before they were around the block, he had stopped crying and was enjoying the view from the bus window. I couldn't tell from the photo if he was happy or not, but at least I knew the anxiety had subsided enough that the tears had stopped.

I was extremely grateful to his teacher for letting me know that he was okay. Thoughtful teachers are a great gift to parents as well as students.

Upon returning from the library, Snugglebug had no issues boarding the bus and was excited to see it pull into the parking lot (all relayed to my by his teacher). Since then, he has asked about riding the bus almost everyday. We may actually consider the bus for summer school. It looks like this fear may be well conquered.

A Lesson in Humility

I learned a lesson in humility the hard way. A friend of mine even pointed it out so that I sure not to miss the lesson.

Recently, I posted about my son's good health despite all his internal health issues that are completely unrelated to his immune system. I bragged that while I caught everything, he didn't. No sooner than that was posted than my lesson began.

Snugglebug had been in school for an entire week. At the end of the week, we celebrated with a trip to the park. That evening I noticed a cough but attributed it to allergies. The next morning we were headed to the pediatrician, and he was diagnosed with croup. Just as croup should it lasted three or four days with a couple of bad nights of sleep and a really nasty sounding cough. Since, his school week is Tuesday through Thursday. I wasn't even expecting him to miss school. But, on Monday night his fever spiked the highest it had been all weekend and his cough was back and worse than ever.

I learned the next morning that we should have made a trip to the ER. Our pediatrician was kind and non-judgmental about it. She simply said, "Let's talk about what to do next time." And having a seat walked me through the symptoms, the steps in making a decision to go to the ER, and where to take him should I decide it was necessary. It was all a learning experience and I was grateful for an understanding doctor who was willing to educate me.

Unfortunately for Snugglebug, his croup had turned into pneumonia. He was given some fairly stout antibiotics and sent home with a note that he would be out of school all week. All week he was ill with his fever going up and down. I was worried sick!

Ten days later, my sweet little boy was finally feeling like himself again, and I learned a lesson in humility.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: Thank You, God, for Mommy

Thank you, God, for Mommy is written by Amy Parker and published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. This adorable board book has a lovely text talking about all the reasons that a child loves mommy. The text is rhythmic and reads smoothly and easily. The illustrations, drawn by Frank Endersby, are just as pleasant as the text and tell an even deeper story than the words itself. A mommy panda and a baby panda are illustrated throughout the book demonstrating the deep love between a mother and child. They are very well done and for the adult who will be reading the book ten thousand times, they will see new things each time the book is read. The illustrations are just that good. They are almost a story within a story.

I give this book 5-stars. It is a great book for children from birth to 4-years. The text is short enough even for the shortest attention span. The illustrations are interesting enough to keep in the older readers interested.