Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jack: An 85 year old man trapped in a five year old's body.....but not in a creepy way. In other words, five year old snapshot

Egads Jack you are almost 5 and a half. This concept confuses you and you have told me on multiple occasions that you are, "just five, no half." Things like dates, and increments of any measurement can be a confusing concept for you. Sometimes you look at something, measure it with your hands and succinctly inform me that its 5 pounds long. I go with it. I go with it mostly because you have informed me that I weigh 36 inches. Sounds good to me. Oh and you guys should probably start shopping now because Christmas is a short "300 pounds" away.

School: You love school. I mean I think you love school. You come home all glowing and full of life but you can't exactly relay what it is you have done there. I ask you how your day was or what you did and you usually tell me that you're "very busy," at school. I believe it. You come home covered in ink, paint, glue and markers. Maybe your teacher just swipes all students with art materials as you leave to give the illusion of intense work but I tend to think you are hard at work making art projects, learning to spell, and hopefully learning the difference between pounds and inches. Wait a minute, maybe don't work on that one, I kind of like weighing 36 inches.

You take the bus and feel quite proud that you get to do this. You insist on sitting by the window so you can wave goodbye to me and Wes and blow us kisses. The problem with this, is that every other kindergartner on the bus insists on the same method. Seeing a pile of kindergartners battle it out for the coveted window spot is both hilarious and frustrating as the poor bus driver waits patiently as upwards of five children attempt to cram into one seat, flailing their arms and knocking heads. Never mind that there are forty plus seats mere feet from you. Those seats don't exist....JEESH don't make me explain bus real estate to you, Mom.

You are quite taken with school spirit, and when I failed to send in money for your jogathon, you were incensed. You ran 8 whole laps and I couldn't even give you a five dollar bill. Sorry. To be fair though you got a grape flavored Otter Pop after your run so I think you still came out ahead.

You are learning sight words, spelling every word you see, and I can see how you absorb information like a sponge. Its a pretty cool thing to bear witness to. Also your teacher thinks you are a hoot and she got a real taste of your personality when you had your first fire drill at school the other day. Evidently you could be heard loudly proclaiming for all to hear, "THIS is not a good idea. Not a good idea!"

Play/friends: On your second day of school you announced you had made a best new friend. I was thrilled! I asked who your new friend was and you told me his name was Seven. Hmmmmm. Could we perhaps be confusing names in the same manner we do measurements?

"Devon you mean?"
"No mom, SEVEN." Gah. Get it straight.

Then I met another parent while waiting for you to come back from your first field trip and guess what? It was Sevin's mom. So your best new friend is Sevin and you guys get along like a barn on fire. You have a mutual love of all things angry birds and love meeting up at the local park to run around like lunatics.

So lets review: Your best friend is a number, I weigh 36 inches, and window seats are the most important thing ever. EVER. Don't get it twisted.

Here are my latest favorite Jack-isms.

Mess with the bull and you might get the horns.

Can you please keep it down in there?.......Just kidding I'm being obnoxious.

Me: Jack can we please talk about something other than Angry Birds?
Jack: Mom, Angry Birds is in our life. Its in our life.

I don't like pizza jam (Pizza jam AKA pizza sauce)

I don't think you are making a good choice right now Mom. (for the record he was sort of right.)

Never change little man!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Blackberry Lemon Muffins (egg free, dairy free, nut free)

Have you picked up an allergy cookbook lately? The problem with most of them is that they are honest and sincere efforts to put forth recipes for all allergy sufferers. The problem with this is that you end up with gluten free, egg free, dairy free, nut free, sugar free, raw, free range, organic type recipes that are trying to mimic your old favorites. For instance you might find what sounds like a tantalizing recipe for peach muffins only to realize its peaches mixed with couscous and honey. Or how about a delightful grain free cookie that is really just pulverized chick peas mixed with molasses? Ummmmmm yeahhhhhhhh. That ain't gonna fly in this house. I do not point this out to mock anyone who has to follow a diet free from the top allergens but simply to point out that I have developed a certain fear of "allergy" type recipes.

 My most successful recipes were those that only eliminated the things we could no longer eat and kept all the other ingredients. For the most part this meant finding substitutions for eggs since we rarely baked with peanut butter anyway.

My favorite substitution for eggs have far and way been chia seeds. This marvelous little seed, when ground up, and mixed with water turns into this gelatinous blob of goo that resembles the consistency of an egg white. At first my children were skeptical about why their waffles had little black flecks in them but after explaining it was chocolate all was forgotten. Why, yes, lying to your children is perfectly acceptable, preferable, in fact to explaining to them that there are weird seeds in their food. "No, Jack, seriously its ok, the Aztec people were really into this ancient super food called chia seeds. Its been cool for eons. ALL the cool kids are eating chia seeds." I might remind you that I am the mother to the child who would not consume ice cream until he was three because it was too cold. Case closed. Lying forever about everything.

This recipe is both low calorie and incredibly moist. Those two things don't usually co exist but this recipe delivers. I have always shied away from light muffin recipes because quite frankly I don't want a dry muffin. Nothing worse than feeling like you can't swallow your muffin because its choking you out. The quick oats add incredibly density and moistness to the muffin and because the base doesn't lend its own flavor to the recipe it can be incredibly versatile. Add blueberries instead of blackberries, or even apples! Mix it up! I have two every morning for breakfast and I feel like I'm cheating at life. Also the muffins freeze very well so we always make a double batch and then pull a couple of them out from the freezer each night for breakfast the next day.

Lets review:

1: Anything questionable is chocolate
2: Lie forever about everything
3: Dry muffins should be thrown away or kept in a basket by the door to chuck at door to door solicitors.

                                                              The cast of characters

      Blackberry Lemon Muffins      


  • 1 1/2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup skim milk (soy or almond milk for dairy free muffins) 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 TBSP ground chia seeds plus 3 TBSP warm water
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1 cup blackberries or blueberries
              Recipe adapted from

1: Preheat oven to 400
2: Pulse/blend oats for several seconds in either a blender or food processor and leave to soak in the milk/soy milk for 30 minutes. I rarely wait this long....I'm an impatient muffin woman 
3: Combine sugar, chia seeds, warm water, applesauce, vanilla and oil and stir to combine. 
4: Zest one lemon and add to the sugar mixture. 
5: Once the oat and milk mixture has soaked for a bit add to the sugar mixture and stir to combine. 
6: Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the sugar mixture and stir just until combined. 
7: Fold in the blackberries. Fresh OR frozen work just fine. 
8: Portion into muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray or have muffin liners and bake for 22-24 minutes. I like to sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar because I am a health rebel like that. 
Nutrition Information:
Calories: 135
Fat: 2.2
Carbohydrates: 27.5
Protein: 2.7
Fiber: 1.4

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Food, glorious food

I have a love hate relationship with food. I love food. I love food far too much. Food loves me back. I am in a sincere and constant balancing act of trying to enjoy my love of food but not pile on weight. Like everyone else out there it's a balancing act and some days I am better at it than others. Add to that the fact that I have two children who can eat endless amounts of food and not gain an ounce and you have a recipe for disaster. If you want to get really nuts, add to that a child who is clinically severely underweight, and needs to follow a diet intensely high in both calories and fat. 

Wes gets to eat all the foods our inner fat child screams out for. Hagen Daz. Mac and cheese with heavy whipping cream and full sticks of butter. Toast with both cream cheese and butter. Heck, Wes used to drink cream instead of whole milk. At one point his Occupational Therapist and Pediatrician felt his need to gain weight was so urgent they advised me to offer him dessert after every meal. Every meal, peoples! I was offering my kid cookies after his breakfast. Now before you get all high and mighty with me about how you only feed your children a diet based solely on what you can grow in your back yard and your children think beets are a dessert, I must remind you that more than likely you haven't been the mother of a child whose thigh is the same size as his ankle. Or maybe you have. If so, you know the sheer desperation you feel at times when you need to get them to gain weight. You will also know the agony of finding pants that fit and you find yourself wondering if they sell suspenders for toddlers or if boys can just wear leggings instead of pants. I digress. Every lick of Wes's leftovers, every taste of his dessert and every hastily snuck "sample" of his meals adds up. 

So imagine my horror when Wes was diagnosed with allergies to eggs and peanuts. I mean crap. Really?! Do we REALLY need another layer of complication? Nothing felt safe anymore and even though I spent time methodically clearing out the cupboards and reading every single ingredients label I was even more worried about what to feed my family and how to get Wes to gain weight in the process. 

This diagnosis lead to a lot of baking experimentation as we decided to put the entire family on Wes's allergen diet. It didn't seem to make sense to cook separate meals and baked goods for one part of the family and it also meant a lot more work.There were some tremendous flops. I made a billion batches of waffles before we found the right one. Every time Jack would sample a batch he would remark with disgust, "this is not the right one mom." He was horrified and didn't understand why I couldn't get it straight. I didn't really either. I mean a waffle should be pretty straight forward. 

As any parent of a child with an allergy can tell you the first weeks are completely daunting. You find yourself on a roller coaster of emotion. One minute I was crying because I worried Wes would always feel left out at birthday parties because I would have to bring his own separate cupcake. I wanted more than anything for Wes to just do normal kid things and not have to think about whether they were going to be life threatening. On the other side of that fearful place was a sort of resolve to make things normal. I can't change the fact that we still have allergies but I can sure try and make the kid a waffle he can enjoy.

 I want to share some of the recipes I have collected and tweaked to be allergy safe because I know how difficult it can be to find recipes that are both healthy, kid friendly, allergen free AND tasty. The recipes I will tend to share here will veer towards the healthier lower calorie side of things. After all, Wes can always add butter to his portion. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sometimes life just gets in the way

Sometimes life just gets in the way. Sometimes I just get in my own way. Its been a long time since I've written anything. Truthfully I stopped writing the more I discovered that both my children were in their own ways coping with a sensory processing disorder. Simply put, children with Sensory Processing Disorder interpret sensory information from the environment in a very different way. Noises might be too loud, tastes might be too intense, lights are too bright, clothes might feel too scratchy and eating chips might cause physical pain both because they are crunchy and too loud. These are just some examples of what a child experiencing S.P.D might experience. Like many disorders it is on a spectrum and we have been lucky to be on the milder end of that spectrum.

 As I sat in a room hearing Wes's new Occupational Therapist announce he was on a spectrum I immediately started to internally seize.....OK scratch that, I freaked out. Any time I had heard the word spectrum, it was always in conjunction with autism, and my mom anxiety went through the roof and I almost couldn't wait to barrel roll out of the room to get back home and Google excessively. Is it polite to stop a therapy session prematurely to announce you need to comb the Internet to find out whats really wrong with your kid even though you are feet from a licensed professional? Probably not, but I'm no Emily Post.

 Dr. Google is a harsh master. Mere keystrokes away, us moms have the answers to any question we might have ever dreamed up. The real trouble is that when you start a search you find stuff you weren't even worried about to begin with but now are. You emerge from your googling session bleary eyed, twitching and convinced you both have the bubonic plague and that all plastic in the house is slowly emitting some sort of gas that will slowly erode all your dental enamel. Also, you clearly don't love your kid, because you have knowingly fed them food additives, let them watch television, fed them sugar, and let them climb alone up to the tippy top of the play structure at the playground. Clearly put? You suck. That little niggling voice in the back of your head that questions your ability to successfully parent becomes a loud fog horn in your living room and shouts for all to hear that you have somehow failed.

 When I was over my little pity party and returned to the OT's office the next week for our next session, I brought my all together too reasonable husband along. He asked all the questions I should of, but couldn't bring myself too, and I was told all the right things. No your son isn't autistic. No this isn't something you did. Yes this is something he will out grow with a lot of hard work. So, I have grappled with where to draw the line. What is funny in my life versus what is disordered in my life. What do I share what do I hold for myself? What do I chronicle what do I wish to forget? Truthfully I started to write here because I wanted a spot to put all the little milestones and stories, but what if some of those stories and milestones are downright ugly? Do I want to remember the tears, the struggles, the painful stuff? I guess I didn't realize until today that I want to remember it all. The heartache. The struggle no one else will know or see. The thrill of seeing your child master something that has been months in the making.

 On its simplest day Wes's Sensory Processing Disorder typically involved only his oral sense. For months after his first birthday he rejected all foods and would in fact vomit or gag if we tried to get him to taste something. He didn't swallow his first baby food until 14 months.On a good day he would eat three cheerios and two bites of yogurt. He wouldn't drink out of a sippy cup, an open cup, or a bottle. Thankfully he never had any issues with nursing, but the strain of being someones sole source of nutrition is a bit daunting.

 We struggled. Lord how we struggled. Last winter Wes's immune system took such a beating and whatever weight he had been able to gain was completely wiped out by an awful flu bug. We saw months of meticulous work completely wiped out in a week. He lost a pound and a half. For an 19 pound kid that's almost 10% of your body weight. He didn't eat for four days. He barely nursed. He was lethargic and the skinniest of the skinny. I will never forget calling his pediatricians office tearfully asking them if we needed to take him to the hospital. The nurse told me to try getting him hydrated. I explained I couldn't get him to ever drink more than an ounce a day from his cup when he was at his healthiest.

"Well you might just have to work with him on that," chirped the patently unhelpful nurse at the pediatricians office.

WORK WITH HIM?! This kid works so hard for things most kids master in mere moments. I was so furious. I felt such a grave sense of injustice for Wes. Why where things so hard for him? Why was this his life? Why did the very people who were there to help us not even understand what he struggled with?

 Wes worked hard though and with every new food he tried, every shred of cheese he got down his gullet, and with every aversion he overcame he progressed. He used to gag when we even brought out food and now he was chowing down regularly on avocados, spinach, balsamic chicken and spaghetti sauce. He tried everything we put in front of him and even if he didn't like it he tried it at least twice without even being prompted. He drank out of a sippy cup and a straw.

It took a year and a half of OT appointments and feeding clinic visits but we got there. Though still under weight he has now graduated OT and is on the weight charts. Simple pleasures I would have given anything for when he was younger.

 Weeks before Wes graduated from his OT program he was diagnosed with multiple food allergies as well as a motor planning disorder which prevents him from speaking most of the time. He still grapples with a yet unnamed gastro intestinal disorder. It is hard to not feel like my child hasn't been dealt a bum hand. He has. Do others have it far worse? Absolutely. I have struggled with how to handle these different challenges and while I would like to say I have handled them with grace and humor I am quite sure I haven't. In grappling with how to best cope with the above diagnoses I keep coming back to what I want Wes to take away from these challenges. I want him to know that hard work never goes unrewarded. More than that though, I think I want him to remember that humor can heal. Looking at the bright side or light side of any challenging situation has been key to maintaining sanity around this house. If you don't laugh you will cry has never been more true. How you face adversity can define the outcome. It's how you rise to the challenge that matters. 

Tonight as Wes devoured string cheese, mac and cheese, rice with bacon and peas, balsamic chicken with shallots, and a dessert of raspberries I could not have been happier. It can be so easy to get lost in all the work that is yet to be done, instead of celebrating the obstacles you have already cleared. So my dear Wes, you are brave, you are strong, you are tenacious and you have never once let anything stand in your way. I'll try my best to never let life get in the way of celebrating your successes. Knock 'em dead kiddo!