Thursday, March 28, 2013

He Asked For Milk

Today Acorn had surgery - tonsils out, new tubes in his ears, and a sedated hearing test for good measure.

We always knew that surgery would eventually be harder as he got bigger and older and more aware and more able to communicate....and apparently we're there.

The morning started with him asking for milk - not such a big deal anymore, because he can do that easily in sign language. Only this time, I had to say no. No, I'm sorry, no milk this morning. 

Which he followed with "milk please. "

Again, "No, I'm sorry, no milk this morning."

"Hungry. Milk please." as he led me into the bathroom, where we keep the cooler that usually has his special high calorie "milk" for the morning.

And so I said, "no milk this morning, but we can go watch a movie...."

He remembers everything he sees.  The toys in the surgical waiting area were great....but walking back to pre-op, the complaints started. And yet for all the complaining....he willingly went back with the anesthesiologist without any Versed. Stickers were enough of a bribe for him to go.

Everything went well. His hearing is fine (which means that the issues we see really are processing issues, not physical issues). In the recovery room, though, his sats dropped into the 70s as he started to rouse, in part because he wasn't swallowing secretions....and in part because he's always needed a little more O2 after surgery, and having been sick all winter, he really wasn't starting out at baseline.

So, we're hanging out in a room on the floor for now, waiting to see if we can get him off the O2 before the doc leaves at 4:30, arguing with people who want to make him more comfortable...but want to check his vitals first, which just sets him off in a tizzy again. As long as he can drink his "milk" and watch his favorite movies, he's in a decent mood.

But still....this has been both more and less difficult than any of us anticipated......

Monday, March 25, 2013

Meal Planning

Repost #4


For the last couple of years, we've had random boxes of fruits and veggies - first, a summer with a CSA, and then a local company that delivered a box of stuff to the door every week.

It was a beautiful thing - cut my shopping time dramatically, mostly saved us money (the CSA not so much, but the service had great prices and we split our box with a friend), and it encouraged eating things that weren't typical staples around here.

Unfortunately, the delivery service is going out of business, which means that I have to figure out what to buy again, and buy the things we're going to eat for the week, rather than planning what to eat based on what shows up on the doorstep.

Which, given my limited shopping availability, means I really need to plan things out ahead of time.

And that's not a bad thing - we're debating kindergarten or a young 5's program for my son next year, and kindergarten here is an all day event. Since he is a really picky eater, I'll be packing his lunches daily I suspect, so getting on the planning bandwagon now is good practice.

One of our plans last year was a bigger freezer. It didn't happen (too much to do, not enough time), but it will have to be done soon to make this manageable in any reasonable sense.

So...every weekend I'll be writing up our meal plan for the week. I'm subscribed to a meal planning service, 5 Dinners in 1 Hour, and I'm going to be looking at how to use her system, which is sort of a once-a-week prep setup. I got the "clean eating" version, which is ideal for us, but not everything on her meal plans each week is something we'll eat, so I'm thinking I'll take some meals from a couple different weeks. Also, she depends a lot on frozen veggies, and that's going to be a hard switch for us, given our history recently of eating almost exclusively fresh veggies (not all - we got overloaded on corn on the cob, so we threw those in the freezer, and can now have lovely roasted corn year round).'s to a new future of better planning (I hope).


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Monday, March 18, 2013

Birthday Cake

Repost #3

Interesting fact: neither of my kids has ever actually eaten birthday cake, though they've tasted it.


This weekend was my birthday, and I like red velvet cake. 

But I'm also terribly picky about cakes and frostings, so I'm making my own cake, using a fairly old recipe that my grandmother gave me. This is the kind of thing that bugs my in-laws, because you're not supposed to cook for yourself, but I find I'm more satisfied if I do, so it's just better this way.

Besides....I mean, really, what kind of cake has vinegar in it? But this is tasty.

This is, however, the kind of recipe that makes me wish I'd taken an apron when I moved out of my parents' house. Or that I'd gotten around to buying myself one in the 18 years since I left...

I assume she got this recipe from somewhere, but the card in her recipe box yielded no clues.

Red Velvet Cake
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 oz red food coloring
2 tsp cocoa powder (not hot chocolate powder)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cup flour

Heat oven to 350. Traditionally, this is made as a layer cake, so grease and flour 2 round cake pans, or one 9x13 pan.

Mix vinegar and baking soda in a small cup and set aside.

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs.

Make a paste of cocoa and 1 oz of food coloring (this is a really messy step; I never do it). Add to creamed mixture. Add remaining food coloring to mixture and mix.

Add vanilla and salt.

Add buttermilk and flour a little at a time, alternating. Mix well.

Pour into pan(s) and bake 30 minutes.  Be really watchful - this dries out quickly if you over bake.

The traditional frosting for this cake is listed below - usually, you split each of those round cakes into 2 layers, so you get 4 layers. The frosting recipe is designed for that number of layers, so I'm including alternate measurements to make a smaller amount more appropriate for 2 layers if you're so inclined.

For what it's worth, I'm not a fan of this and usually use decorator icing or a can of plain vanilla frosting.

1 1/2 cup milk (1 cup)
1/2 cup flour (1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cup sugar (1 cup)
1 1/2 cup margarine (or shortening or butter) (1 cup)
1 tablespoon vanilla (1 1/2 teaspoons)

Mix milk and flour in saucepan. cook and stir over medium heat until thick. Cool completely (this is important).

Cream sugar, margarine, and vanilla. When fluffy add room temperature cooked milk mix slowly, beating as you go. Beat until fully incorporated and fluffy.

And there you have it. Bright red, not too sweet, and just the right texture.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tough Conversations

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


In some respects, every conversation with my children is tough. Acorn, who will turn 5 this summer and start kindergarten in the fall, says less than 2 dozen words. While we believe he understands everything we say, it’s hard to tell if he gets the finer points of things, because he can’t ask questions or tell us when it’s not clear. Leaf will be 2 this May, and again, says very little. We’re hopeful that her road to speech will be less challenging than Acorn’s, but no one can predict that right now.
We anticipate that there will be many tough conversations over the next few years, as Acorn and Leaf begin to realize that they *are* different from other kids – that most kids don’t have the scars they have, that their baby pictures don’t include incubators and wires and tubes, that most kids don’t have nurses who are their best friends. And I suspect that the best thing for them when we reach that point will be to talk about how strong they are – how much they’ve already overcome, and how much more they can do if they set their minds to it. Our feeling here is that honesty is the best option – if we are not honest with them about their history, about things that are documented in photos and blog posts and medical notes, how can they trust us?
I hope that it will help them to be living in the very diverse area we live in – so many different people, from different cultures and backgrounds, and attending an elementary school where all differences are celebrated. But only time will tell, as each of my children processes these things in their own way.
Another set of tough conversations in our future will likely revolve around death. Because of my kids’ medical history, we know a lot of kids with complicated medical problems. And unfortunately that means we know a lot of kids who will never grow up to be adults. I think that we need to find a way to build a meaningful memorial of our friends into our Samhain celebrations, but we have been so busy just surviving the last few winters that not much has gotten done. Having that celebration as a central way to talk about death will help them through the years, as we add more friends to our list of those who have passed.
I’d like to think that getting through those big things now will make other tough conversations less challenging as the kids get older – we’ll already have built a foundation where open communication and trust are a normal part of our conversations. In the grand scheme of things, talking about injustice and sex and so many other things seem less difficult to me compared to what we’ve already faced.
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn't Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she's explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she's learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren't so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she's had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller's Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter's horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges--when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who'd want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn't have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I don't like quiche

Repost #2

Tonight's dinner was a tossed salad (leaf lettuce, spinach, tomato, cheese,  croutons,  pecans,  plus a few cucumber slices for the husband - I think cukes are just gross) and quiche.

It started out as quiche lorraine, but QL doesn't have garlic. Or cheddar. Or parmesan. Or nearly as much bacon as I added, because this was a, "huh. I have leftover bacon. That's unheard of..." kind of a meal. And really, cooking didn't go too badly, once my spouse realized that keeping an eye on the kids was a full contact sport.

I've gotten good at handling grandma's pie crust recipe, and had quite a bit of dough left over, so I made this turnover type thing, stuffed with cherry preserves. Of course, the cherries bubbled out all over the pan, which will be a huge pain to clean....but that's why I have a housekeeper, because we can't keep up with the dishes as it is. (Elaine, if you're reading this, we love you, and we love having you back!)

It turns out that I forgot that I don't really like quiche. Every time I make it I think, "with that list of ingredients it has to be tasty" and then I'm disappointed. Oh well. The husband can have it for his lunch this week.

Meanwhile, I took the other half of the onion that went into the quiche (it was a *big* onion), and put that and some chicken breasts and about 4 heads of garlic (3 fresh that needed to be used up, peeled and sliced, and some pre-chopped-ina-jar) in the crock pot for tomorrow. Tonight I'll chop some root veggies, and tomorrow during my 40 minutes for lunch between appointments I'll throw them in the crockpot with the garlic chicken so that dinner will be ready when we get back from speech therapy. Multi-tasking is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Do Pagan Kids Want, Anyway?

Just a couple weeks ago was Convocation. I didn't go. I miss going - though honestly, most years I've gone, I've spent most of my time vending, but I still got to talk with people.

I stopped by the merchant room there on that Friday on my way home from work. Having run a fairly large metaphysical wholesale company, it's no longer the amazing wonderland of goodies I used to think it was, but there's still a lot of good stuff there.

Lately I wander through events like this, thinking not about what I might find for myself (though I do usually hope to see something that will catch my eye), but about what I might bring home to enchant the children. And usually, there's not much that they might find intriguing - a few little stone carvings maybe, though I usually then envision them flying across the room and shattering....maybe those would be better when they're a little older.

So then I have to wonder. What Pagan-themed things would smaller children actually like?

Christian book stores have things related to Bible stories - like Noah's Ark toys. And they have lots of songs and DVDs with Christian themes. It's easy to find Christian themed coloring books and craft kits and lots of other random normal toys with crosses on them.

But we don't really have anything as ubiquitous as a cross, or nearly as many sayings to put on things. And I often wonder if kids really play with all those things, or if they just get them from well meaning family members.

So...what do you think? What sorts of toys or accessories do you think kids would like?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Food and the Medically Complex Child

Many of us with complicated kids spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out how to feed them. For a while I thought I was going to do a separate blog just about food and a family with complicated kids. But it occurred to me that that was a silly idea all around - I might as well put it all right here.

So...I have 5 posts from that little attempt to re-post, and will then be trying to post at least a couple posts a month about feeding this family amidst all our issues, and I'll also be trying to post a little about kitchen witchery while I'm at it.

Repost #1 is below


As I've mentioned, my kids have food issues.

My daughter, Leaf, who is a year and a half old, largely eats pureed foods - crunchy things have taken months of therapy, and we haven't even begun things that don't dissolve when you drool on them enough. She also has a feeding tube, and it's still a significant source of calories most days.

My son, Acorn, (age 4 1/2) used to have a feeding tube, and is not fond of pureed foods. He eats some fruits and veggies, flat breads, mac and cheese (but only Kraft and similar types), and a handful of other things. Apparently he eats better at daycare than at home, but we have to plan for what he will eat with every meal we make. We offer some of what we're eating most nights, but he's far more likely to ignore it than to eat it.

Needless to say, finding something everyone will eat is nearly impossible.

Because of my kids' medical issues, they are eligible for medicaid....which makes them eligible for WIC until age 5. WIC only offers baby foods up to a year old, because after that they should be eating table food. Needless to say, neither of my kids met that mark.  WIC was a huge help last year when I took a leave of absence from work to handle some of their medical issues, and learning to cook around the offerings of WIC has been an interesting challenge. Plus, WIC pays for the outrageously expensive prescription formulas that we use to supplement both children's diets, and without that alone, we'd go broke.

We stocked up on jars of baby food when we could get them through WIC, but we've now run through the stock, so we need to blend our own, or buy more (and since we've had an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies, blending our own makes far more sense.

Additionally, I need to thank Vitamix - they have a wonderful program that gives a discount to families doing a blenderized diet. For those not familiar with the term, it means blending table food to feed via a feeding tube. We got a substantial discount off the retail price of a blender - and then about the time we got started blending things for her tube, little miss decided eating was far more entertaining. So we haven't blenderized as much as expected for her tube feedings, but we are blending things for her to eat by mouth....and this puppy makes the smoothest baby food ever, far nicer than my hand crank food mill.

Ours is one of these:

I'm trying, every few days, to make something different. This way she gets a variety of foods, and if I make 4-6 servings of 3 things a week, I'll stay ahead of her (and if not, I'll have a crazy cooking fest on a weekend). Plus she eats yogurt (mostly home made, from whole milk) and avocado, which are high in calories and make a good base for the rest of her meals.

This past week, I made a sweet potato, pears, and squash. Before that, I took home made applesauce, cooked a few blueberries, added it all together, and threw it in the blender.

My next challenge: meat. Because protein is important for growing children, and she's not going to get enough from other sources at the rate we're going.

....which makes me wonder whether my son would eat beans if they were cooked with some spices. Not my thing, but he's weird in his own ways.


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Friday, March 1, 2013

Babies Don't Keep

Mother, O' Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth.
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek - peekaboo.

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew,
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo.
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

~ Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

I find myself remembering this poem more and more often these days.

We're discussing Acorn going to kindergarten this fall (though his IEP will be later this month, and it's not a done deal until then).  He's more than half my height (he's 3 feet 6 inches tall - pretty good for a kiddo who started out only a foot long). He's swimming, and very serious about it - and he looks so much older these days, with the thin but strong body of a little boy who plays hard, instead of the somewhat rounder look of a toddler:

And Leaf took her first step (just the one though) this week - we're hoping her new SMOs will help with that, but they're dwarfed by the velcro that holds them in place:

Even so, she's getting big too. In a year we'll be talking about transitioning from early intervention into special ed preschool. With any luck, we'll be trach free or nearly so by then, and probably talking about swimming lessons or dance class or something like that for her too.

Definitely not babies anymore...which always catches me by surprise.