Our Daughter’s Diagnosis

Our Little Girl

I’ve had that burning need-to-cry feeling in the tip of my nose for 3 days now and it won’t go away. There just isn’t a time or place that I can have a good cry and so I’m struggling emotionally to spite that fact that I really have no cause. There’s been no tragedy and our daughter’s diagnosis was expected, long awaited even. It’s a relief to have the label of Autism so that I can get her school to offer appropriate services and start therapy. Yet… I’m feeling bummed out and hermit-y. I don’t really want to talk to anybody for fear of a crying jag and also because it hurts to talk about my baby girl and be forced to really think about what Autism means for her. I can’t be bothered to get dressed. Jeans and a bra, how dare you? I just need sweatpants, to snuggle with my dogs and avoid the outside world for a while. It would be so nice to stop being a grownup for a few days.

We’ve been on this road since Stella was a toddler who seemed a bit more temperamental than one would expect. Over the past 4 years we’ve become more and more certain that there was something going on with our little one and have visited the Family Doctor or Pediatrician periodically to ask for help. Real progress came about a year ago when Stella was 5 and I told the Pediatrician point blank: “There has to be something diagnosable going on here. We need to start the process of evaluation whatever that is.” I got a referral to the Seattle Children’s Autism Center but no help immediately because they had a 9 month waiting list. I was already at the end of my rope and now they wanted me to hold? I had no choice so that’s what we did.

7 months later, 2 months before the start of Kindergarten, I was still waiting and becoming more and more nervous about how she would fair when I’d have to send her out into the fray without me, her advocate and the only person who knew how to handle her. So I visited the Pediatrician again, expressing my concern. She referred us to Occupational Therapy while we waited for the evaluation. Even without a diagnosis we could go to therapy and work on her sensory and social issues. I was amazed at how well she responded. They knew how to reach Stella in ways that made sense to her. It was an emotional experience to watch her understand concepts we had struggled with and to see immediate results. This helped my nerves immensely.

I also met with the counselor at her elementary school prior to the first day to let her know that I had a special kid who was, as yet, undiagnosed but who may have trouble in school. I tried to prepare our girl and to smooth the way as much as possible. By the start of school, she was super psyched and I felt as ready as I’d ever be. We’d already waited a year until she was 6 to start school which allowed her more time to mature and was hugely beneficial. What a difference a year makes!

Now, 3 weeks after the start of Kindergarten, we finally have our Autism Evaluation and have been given a provisional diagnosis in just one visit: Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say she has what was previously been referred to as Asperger Syndrome. The diagnosis is provisional because we still have to follow up with a Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician to do further physical tests. So far I’m told that she’s high functioning and that her physical symptoms seem mild.

Diagnosis is a relief in some ways because my husband & I now have credentials to hold up for the people who shake their heads at our concerns. Many believe that the “antics” of difficult or troubled children to be natural childhood behavior and that fussy parents like us just aren’t handling them correctly. This opinion has mostly come from our elders who perhaps take the differences in recent generations’ child-rearing methods as a personal affront. We have the benefit of science and research that simply wasn’t available to them 30, 40 and 50 years ago. So naturally there’s been a little fine-tuning to the task of raising young’ns.

It must seem smug and condescending when today’s new parents hold up our newfangled rules and standards in contrast to the way we were raised. I can only imagine how annoying that must be.  Some naysayers try to tell us that many of these mental disorders didn’t exist 50 years ago (or today for that matter) and that somehow we’ve caused Autism or are just making it up. It’s nice to be able to say, “See? We weren’t kidding and we’re not the lazy, over-indulgent parents you thought.” My Mom calls it vindication, and I’m trying not to see it that way. Diagnosis really isn’t about (well for the most part anyway) saying told ya so and I don’t want to be that person. Advocating for our daughter isn’t about me but today I’m feeling a little self pity. I really need some time to shake off the sudden depression so that I can move ahead with all the energy and enthusiasm needed to keep fighting for her future.

6 Reasons Moms Dread the First Day of School Too

I love when our kids are on summer break. We can play and explore while not having to watch the clock or stick to a rigid schedule. Another perk: casual dress and messy hair are totally fine. For them I mean. I’m a mess on the daily so more of the same here. Also I don’t have to be strict on bedtime which is nice because… laziness. Yep, summer is legit. Let’s itemize the reasons back to school sucks shall we?

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1. No more sleeping in I like the quiet summer mornings when my kids are sleeping in an hour later. I watch tv or do dishes, while slupring my mocha in peace. Me time, ya dig? And then when they do wake up all they want is to watch a show and stay in their pajamas for a while. This is the polar opposite of mornings during the school year.

2. Handing Them Off to Total Strangers We’re asked to blindly trust the public servants who will have our children at their mercy. Trust that they are competent in their job as educator and not at all abusive or creepy in any way. That’s a tough one to swallow.

3. Breaking the Bank Our school has a uniform policy which will be sorely missed when our daughters start middle school. It’s affordable and it’s an equalizer. But for two years we were in a different district that did not have uniforms and so I can speak from experience here: Having to keep our daughters stylish in order to give the mean kids less fodder isn’t cheap. However we still buy nice new backpacks, shiny light-up shoes, hair accessories that they’re sure to lose… It all adds up so bend over and kiss your cash goodbye.

4. From Playing to Sitting Still All summer long I push the kids outside to run and play and be fit. To get their wiggles out and to breathe fresh air. Recesses today are much shorter than they were when I was in elementary school in the ’80s and, in some places, have been cut out altogether. Educational demands are higher and so things like recess and music are being squeezed out to meet those standards which means our kids are asked to sit still for far longer than is natural and healthy. And with the amount of classwork they bring home there isn’t time to play after school either.

5. Sickness My kids get sick more during the school year than any other time. There are two things which parents who defend sending their sick kids to school like to say that really makes my ass hurt:

“Don’t be a germaphobe! You can’t keep kids from getting sick, they’re all going to get it no matter what you do so why try?” and “If I kept my kids home every time they were sick they’d miss the whole year which is just unrealistic.” 

If this is you, rethink your stance on hand washing and contagion and stuff because you’re doing it wrong. How about I wipe a booger on every one of you awesome people for making my kids miss weeks of school and costing us hundreds in Doctor’s visits & prescriptions each year? Huh? And (And!) for compromising the child that has a suppressed immune system or weak heart who has to swim in that petry dish alongside your snotting, coughing, non-handwashing kid? I would gladly be the finger of justice if it weren’t completely gross to do so. Okay, stepping down off the soap box and moving on…

6. Fundraisers I’m a boxtop clipping FIEND and am more than happy to support the PTA but loathe having to hit up friends & family to shell out money for some cheap (expensive! $12 for wrapping paper? You must be trippin’) stuff that nobody needs just to raise money for I-don’t-know-what. Run-on sentences are my thing, okay? Also, I resent the school using my kids as little salespeople blatantly exploiting their cuteness to make a buck. Sure, for a good cause but still…

My list of complaints is multi-tiered and ultra whiny so I’ve summed it up for you.  No doubt you, The Reader, could add a few to this list or give me a good upbraiding for my crappy attitude. To each his own and all that. Yesterday I saw our girls off on their first day and it went well. They were both so excited to get to school- especially the Kindergartner. I took about 30 or 40 pictures to remember the day by and then followed the bus to school to get more pictures. I keep scrap books as momentos to remember their school years and therefore have to acknowledge that it isn’t all bad. In fact, I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be the Mom who celebrates at the bus stop and chugs mimosas with the neighbor ladies out of sheer relief that the kids are finally back to school. Not quite there yet but I’m sure I will be. Someday?

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Butter Wrappers, Cereal Bags & the Income of a Homemaker

use-it-upAs a homemaker, my “income” can be how much money I save by “making do”. I’m inspired by past generations of resourceful homemakers when it comes to making do. In WWII folks were encouraged to plant “victory” gardens and make do on rations to support the troops. We could learn a lot from those women who could feed and clothe a family with very little.

Look, I may not be cashing a pay check anymore but I’m also not spending anywhere near as much as I did back then. I can’t walk and chew bubblegum, that’s to say I kind of suck at multitasking anymore than necessary… so if I was working, we’d spend more money just buying the convenience items that allow many a busy Mom to take care of her family as well as bring home the bacon. Yes that was a major run-on sentence because I also suck at writing. We’d be spending more on gas, my wardrobe, makeup, my hair (gotta look good in the office) not to mention childcare, and still take care of the home. Working Moms are amazing.

So, spend less money. That’s the goal. In order for me to stay at home with the kids, I didn’t just quit working; we didn’t just lose an income, we had to change the way we live or else it wouldn’t work. And for a while there it damn near didn’t… There are a million & one things to buy when you’re shopping for a household, especially one with kids in it. Those supplies add up and become a huge chunk of the budget because there is just so much everyone needs. So, cutting costs is the goal.

I make money by saving money and one way to achieve that is to really get your money’s worth from the items you buy; squeezing every last drop out of things and being a total cheapskate. I admit though, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone and if you don’t do as I do, that’s super! High-five! You’re doing everything you can to make a home for your family and you’re rocking it your own way. Get it girl. This is just my way. You’re all awesome. I mean it.

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In earlier posts I mentioned cutting costs by not buying cleanerspaper towels & plastic baggies. That is my mindset- what can we do without?  How can we make do? Do we really need to buy that or can we use something we already have to get the same result? In that vein, do you remember Home Ec. class? Do they still have that? I took Home Economics in the 9th grade and still remember many of the lessons from that class because I actually use those lessons in real life. One trick our teacher taught us was to use your butter wrappers to grease baking pans or griddles and I practice that to this day. I keep butter & margarine wrappers in a plastic container in the freezer to use as needed. Keep in mind that butter is a perishable and will go bad on you. So I store the wrappers in the freezer and then when I need to rub down a pan the heat of my hand thaws it immediately. Nifty, huh? After reusing a wrapper once, I finally do throw it away.

Another thing I save is the plastic bag that cereal comes in. Someone once told me they make great piping bags for frosting & stuff but that turned out to be a bust- literally. The seams on the side of the cereal bag won’t hold up to the pressure of piping which, if you think about it, makes sense. Those seams are designed to open easily so you can get the cereal out.

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So, no, to piping bags but YES to freezer bags! When I open a bag of frozen vegetables and only use part of it, a handy cereal bag is a great way to store what’s left without having frozen corn rolling all over the inside of your freezer. I seal it with a twist tie or just fold it over. Also, I use freezer bags- excuse me, cereal bags- to wrap baked goods like banana bread, meatballs, what-have-you, and freeze. If you’re a little paranoid about freezer burn (I am) then wrap the food in plastic wrap, aluminum foil  or both, first. How much money did you save this week? Well what if I told you that’s an income? Nice, huh?

Lactation Cookies to Boost a Mother’s Milk Supply

 

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March 2006

To be honest, if baby formula had been within our budget (or free) when we had our first child, I’d have gone that route. I found breastfeeding to be miserable and very, very difficult. My poor baby didn’t gain weight for the first 6 weeks and even after that she wasn’t chubby. She nursed every 30 minutes to an hour because my output was so low. But I had to stick with it to save money and ultimately am so glad I did. I found that a Lactation Consultant is worth their weight in gold and that any breastfeeding problem, no matter how hopeless it may seem, can be fixed with their help.

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June 2008- tandem nursing

I continued to nurse that first baby through a pregnancy, her 2nd birthday and alongside her baby sister to spite the fact that I promised myself I’d quit after 5 months. I went from hating it & counting the months until I could quit to loving it and wanting to help other moms succeed like I had.  With our second baby I was suddenly a high producer and it. was. AWESOME!

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May 2012- Struggling to make milk again

Then… with our 3rd, I barely made enough to sustain a flea and sought help from a Lactation consultant again. I was given a supplemental nursing system to feed my little one his formula while getting the stimulation I needed and avoiding getting him hooked on bottles.

That combined with taking a lot of fenugreek had me exclusively breastfeeding by the time baby was 2 months old.  I would not have been able to do it without the help of professionals and now I’ve nursed 3 babies through toddlerhood. Can you tell I’m proud? 🙂

Medela's "starter" SNS
Medela’s “starter” SNS

I enjoy these cookies with a hot cup of Mother’s Milk tea and some Jane Austen. Don’t fret if your husband and children want some, they won’t suddenly start lactating as a result and this recipe makes more than enough to share. I like to make up a batch and deliver along with a box of tea to anyone who has just had a baby. You can type up the recipe and put it in a card for a baby shower. I don’t need much of an excuse to make cookies though. Happy baking & milk making!


 

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Lactation Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

Preheat your oven to 325° and grease your cookie sheet.

Combine then set aside to soak :

  • 4 T water
  • 2 T flax meal

In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine then set aside:

  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 12 fenugreek capsules, open, sprinkle powder & discard capsule (optional)

With a stand or hand mixer, combine:

  • 1 C softened butter
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 C brown sugar

Once those are creamed, mix in:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 T brewer’s yeast
  • pre-soaked flax meal

 

Add dry mixture, stir (mix gently). Then add:

  • 3 C oatmeal
  • 1 C chocolate chips

Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto a lightly greased (or use parchment paper) cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. After removing from oven, allow to set for a minute before moving to a cooling rack.


Tips

Oven Temp: You can bake these cookies anywhere from 325° – 375° depending on how crispy you want them to be. Keep in mind they’ll cook more quickly at the higher temp. My family likes them soft so I cook them at a lower temp. If you consistently burn or under-cook foods, use a thermometer to test the true temp of your oven and then adjust accordingly.

Chocolate: It’s not a good idea to omit the chocolate chips from this recipe. They mask the flavor of the brewer’s yeast which is sharp and somewhat bitter. You won’t taste it at all with the chocolate in there, though!

Special ingredients: I find flax meal in all my local grocery stores either in the cereal or baking aisle. Brewers Yeast and fenugreek can be found in organic/natural food sections. Kroger, Safeway & Albertsons stores all have these special sections or you can go to a vitamin supplement store. As an added bonus, the fenugreek adds a pleasant maple flavor to your cookies.

Oats: Whole grain oats are great for helping stimulate milk production. That may be where the idea that beer is good for milk supply comes from! In addition to these cookies I eat a ton of granola bars when nursing an infant.

Banana Bread

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So tired of dry, bland banana brick!!! Excuse me, had to get that off my chest. Here is my tried and true recipe, modified many times until I was satisfied with the result. Eat it warm from the oven, butter melting on a slice, or cold from the fridge with a cuppa joe. This bread is so irresistible that I need to make 3 at a time just to have it last more than a day. In fact the loaf in this photo was pulled out of the oven a little too early and didn’t get the usual high crown on top. It just smelled too good and we couldn’t wait any longer to drop the hammer on the warm, cakey goodness. With ice cream. Mercy.


Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf

Preheat your oven to 350° and grease your bread pan.

With a stand or hand mixer, combine:
1/2 C softened butter
1 C white sugar

Once those are creamed, add:
2 eggs
4 bananas, smooshed (a good task for the rugrat hanging from your apron strings)
1/2 t coconut extract (if you don’t have just double the vanilla- no sweat)
1 t vanilla extract

In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine:
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg (if you don’t have, or don’t want, these spices, feel free to substitute apple pie spice, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, whatever you like)
1/2 C chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. A dry spaghetti noodle stuck into the center should come out clean, not gooey. Cool for about 20 minutes before running a knife around the bread and gently loosening from pan. I like to shake the pan back and forth and feel for the bottom to release before inverting.


Tips

Baking powder: It causes your banana bread to rise and gives you that nice crown on top. If the powder has been open more than 6 months you will not have as good of a rise so if you don’t know how old it is, use a new can. Also, it’s not a good idea to buy baking powder in the bulk dry goods section because there is no way to know how long it has been sitting there.

Flour: When measuring flour you want it to be light and airy, not heavy and packed. Before measuring, I use my scoop to toss the flour about in it’s container. Some bakers swear by using a spoon to gently measure it out or to sift it. Keep this in mind if you end up with a dense or dry baked good.

My Kitchen’s Makeup-Free Selfie

I had to cut back on Facebook. The constant whiny updates, bragging and drama were kinda bringing me down. I don’t need to be that involved in every random thought that comes into a person’s head… times 180 persons. First I went down my friends list and unfollowed everyone except family and close friends. I only want to be involved with people I actually see in real life. That helped. It was like unplugging a bit. And the nice thing about unfollowing is you don’t have to unfriend the annoying people in your life. Offended annoying people can be awful. Awfully annoying. This way, they’ll be none the wiser.

It was time for a reality check. I had to stop comparing  myself to the constant boast-posts. I had to back off and get perspective. Get real. Us Mommas shouldn’t be ashamed of the natural state of our homes. Unless you’re a Hindu Goddess with 8 arms I don’t see how a person could keep all those balls in the air without a break. This morning, I walked into my kitchen and looked at my mountain of dishes and all the things stashed behind the sink, out of the precocious toddler’s reach, and thought This is how my house always looks. I should share this. So these pictures are like my makeup-free selfie to the world. Not a quick spruce up followed by Instagram editing to make things look magazine ready.

So look everybody! Here’s my messy kitchen. It’s clean, yet messy. I won’t be ashamed as long as we can eat out of it- and eat we do. Lots of good homecookin’ takes place here and if you stop by to find the dishes piled high that means I haven’t done them yet. I cook & bake a lot. We go through a buttload of dishes.

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This doesn’t make me a slob and if your kitchen looks like this I hope you don’t feel like one either. I didn’t put that coat on the floor or that one on the counter, or those toys.  But I’ll pick them up, at some point. Probably after I step on one and hurt myself. Maybe one day I’ll even show you my bathrooms in which the surfaces are covered in toothpaste, dirt smears and toys.

Another thing that makes a girl feel inadequate is watching Giada de Laurentiis on TV. I don’t cook like her. I just don’t have the time. Or the budget. For lunch today, I didn’t feed my kids any whole grains, or perfectly measured out portions according to MyPlate.Gov’s guidelines. They got a heated up can of generic Spaghetti Os, a can of green beans and some toasted cheese sandwiches. Nothing trendy, no bento boxes or dates stuffed with goat cheese. Just plain old kid food, and I served it up hot.  ‘Aint no shame in my game!

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If Better Homes & Gardens ever stops by I’ll probably get out the pledge and start polishing… but not today. Today we’re doing schoolwork. I hope this inspires some of you to feel proud of the job you’re doing too. A good woman doesn’t need to be weighted-down by doubt and needless guilt. Your doing a great job and your family is very blessed to have a Momma like you!

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