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Yummy Gluten-Free Birthday Cake!

I’ve experienced run of rather dry gluten-free cupcakes of late, so I decided to try Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free cake mix for Sue’s 5th birthday.

(I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but Sue was recently diagnosed with a gluten intolerance so we are forging ahead now with two gluten-free children!)

The cake turned out quite well, and was a bit dense but not at all dry like the Betty Crocker.  Sue and Edward thrilled to the gluten-free confection after suffering through a ridiculously large batch of gf cupcakes I made a few months ago and froze.  (Maybe the freezing dried them out further…)

Even Joseph ate a large slice of cake and he is the biggest gluten-free snob I know.

I’ll be using this mix again!

Disclaimer:  I bought this mix myself and was in no way compensated for this review!

Posted on 16 July '10 by , under GF/CF Diet/Food Reviews. 6 Comments.

Autism and Confusing Faces

One of the most frustrating aspects of parenting a child on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum (whatever that means these days) is the incredible disparity in behavior.  Since we recently moved to a new town, we have had so many situations where Edward attends an event, behaves in a rather typical way, and things go rather smoothly.

Other times his behavior is so outside-the-box that both parents and children are looking at all of us oddly.  Sometimes I have to give an explanation to the parents.

It’s this roulette wheel of behavior and expectations that absolutely exhausts me.  Despite my best efforts at maintaining a great sensory diet prior to the event, making sure he is well-rested and well-fed, often times my best-laid plans just fall into an abyss of tantrums, incessant questions or just abject hyperactivity.

We’ve had great experiences, however, at our neighborhood pool during the past several weeks.  The combination of the water and activity coupled with frequent snack breaks makes for a relatively calm outing.  I have even allowed him to run off with his brother to the other end of the pool for short periods to play hide-and-go seek with the other children their age.  And he has stayed with his brother!  This is a big milestone for us, because before, he would run away the first chance he felt any taste of freedom.

Yesterday, however, I learned an important lesson about how Edward sees the world.  He had been playing with Joseph and two other boys we met through baseball.  The older boy wears glasses, so about half the time he wears them at the pool and the other half he takes them off.  All four boys were playing hide-and-go-seek peacefully, giving me a chance to help Sue with her own swimming endeavors.

When we got in the car, however, Edward started talking about there being two boys named “Joshua.”  Joseph said something like, “Well, I don’t know who you are talking about.  We only played with Joshua Smith.  There weren’t any other boys around.”  And Edward said, “Well, there was the Joshua with the glasses who is eleven and pretty tall, and then the Joshua without glasses who is also eleven and pretty tall.  We played with both boys, right?”

At that moment I realized that Edward could not read the boy’s face well enough to tell that he was the same person, glasses on or off.  I suddenly felt this great rush of empathy for him, and how confusing the world must be for him at times.  I started to feel so bad for the frustration I feel toward him when he doesn’t recognize a friend’s parent or a teacher he’s seen many, many times.

It was a good learning experience for Joseph, too.  I believe it is incredibly difficult for Joseph to have any concept regarding what the world looks like from Edward’s perspective.  Because he doesn’t understand these differences, he has little patience.  This event, however, gave Joseph a little taste of how Edward sees the world.

It’s a taste we all need more of…

Posted on 13 July '10 by , under Autism Spectrum/Sensory Processing. 11 Comments.

Why Boxing Gloves, Boys and Teeth Don’t Mix

I decided today was the day to try to do something about the troublingly stained champagne-colored carpet in my dining room.

Yes, dining room.

Who puts carpet in a dining room, you ask?  Well, the person who owned this house before I did.  She had three young children, too, so I’m not sure what she was thinking but this carpet is nasty.

I even thought about pulling it up and painting the subfloor a distressed white but I took a gander at the subfloor and it is far to splintery for my household.

So I settled in this morning with a fresh white cloth and a brand new bottle of carpet cleaner.  It was actually quite peaceful.  I listened to talk radio and tried to catch up on current events, as relaxing as that could be in this day and age.

I was well into my project, faithfully scrubbing away at a deeply set-in spaghetti sauce stain when Edward shot past me at record pace, a panicked look on his face as he screamed,“Ohhhh noooooo!  And it was a permanent tooth, too!”

I actually kept spraying and blotting.  I think I was giving myself a moment to compose my thoughts and prepare to meet a ten-year-old missing one of his two front teeth.

I mentally calculated how much some sort of dental implant might cost, along with the knowledge that most dental insurance plans don’t cover cosmetic dentistry.

I could hear Edward in the background wailing from his self-imposed exile:  “A permanent tooth!  A permanent one.  They don’t grow back!  Aghhhhhh!”

Then I remembered some rule about putting knocked-out teeth in milk to preserve them for a possible re-implantation and realized I had to face the truth.  I hurried over to the playroom where I found Joseph and Sue on their hands and knees searching through carpet and wailing, “It’s got to be here somewhere!”

Sound familiar?

Joseph stood up, clutching his mouth, and delivered the news with a hopeful look, “Only part of it is gone.  It was a permanent tooth, but part of it is still here, and the other part is in the carpet somewhere.  I think.”

He jumped back down and dutifully continued to sift through the shag.  I knelt down next to him, steeled myself to the possible blow, and asked him to open his mouth.  To my utter relief, only a half-moon shaped chunk was missing from one of his lower middle teeth.

A sharp shard poked forward to be sure, but it was nothing like the horror I had imagined.

I smiled.  He looked afraid.

“If I find the piece, do you think they can graft it back on?” he asked, hopefully.

“I’d just like to hear the story, if you please,” I said calmly, fully expecting the dreaded word “wrestling” to be front and center.

Joseph began sheepishly, “Well, I was just sort of wearing these boxing gloves…”

“I don’t need to hear any more.” I countered, my confidence building as I imagined the scenario.

“Well, it was his head that knocked into my mouth.”

Isn’t it always?

We’ll be visiting the pediatric dentist in the morning to find out what can be done.  In the meantime, the dentist warned us that further wrestling, roughhousing or consumption of crunchy foods could make the situation worse, or cause the jagged tooth shard to impale the lip.

A few hours after the event, everyone was eerily quiet.  I hunted them as I typically do in these situations and found them piled on Edward’s bed…reading the Bible together.

They are good.

Too good.

Posted on 7 July '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 6 Comments.

Authenticity: What I Learned from the Smockity Frock Affair

I tend to be fearful of jumping into the fray when controversies such as the one with Smockity arise.  Part of it has to do with my unhealthy desire to please everyone and not make anyone uncomfortable, and the other part has to do with concern that I will write something so ridiculous it will drive everyone away.

So a few months after nearly everyone in the autism blogosphere has weighed in on this painful, and at times divisive, situation, I still find myself still wanting to enter the dialogue.  Perhaps it will seem like I am stirring the ashes of a finally dwindling conflagration, but every month ought to be autism awareness month, so I will press on.

I have some complex thoughts about Smockity because I can totally see myself naively writing something like she did without being aware of the harm it would eventually cause.  Yet I also felt angry toward Smockity because she hurt my feelings by making fun of a small child’s behavior–a child whose behavior sounds eerily like my own child’s.  I do appreciate her apology as well as the flurry of unplanned autism awareness that her gaffe unwittingly caused.

As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum whose behavior can be the subject of much wailing and gnashing, at times I feel earnestly jealous of people who never know what it is like to have others roll their eyes when their physically typical darling throws down in the grocery aisle or accidentally whaps someone in the face during some excited flapping.

Yet let me dig a bit deeper and prove to be even more vulnerable.  I also felt bitterness toward Smockity because she has eight children, creates delectable crock pot dishes, homeschools successfully, makes homemade country gravy and sews, and because she does all these things and still has time to video herself making homemade Pop Up books with her children.


All of this must mean she is a much more organized, talented, hardworking Christian blogger and mother than I will ever hope to be.

She must be successful.  Why, she’s the Proverbs 31 woman!


Here’s where it gets even further complicated between Smockity and me.  A few years ago a writer-friend was doing profiles on various types of mothers and asked to write about me.  The article would be complete with glossy photographs in a magazine fairly well known in my town.  At first I was horrified, but later I thought it might be fun and I would be able to share a portrait of a former public and private school family choosing to homeschool.

My friend described me as a “homeschool mom with a thriving online business and popular blog.”


When I first looked through the flawless pages featuring our family jumping gleefully on a trampoline, Sue with her bow perfectly in place and me with sunglasses perched jauntily atop my head, I felt good.

I looked and sounded like I had my stuff together.

(Ever heard of pride?)

And then I immediately felt sick.  I’m not any of those things, and that magazine piece was not an authentic portrait of any kind of motherhood.

I struggled to homeschool (during the years that I did) and it was rare for me to complete a day’s lessons and still prepare a mildly nutritious dinner meal, much less something homemade.  If selling a few books online every now and then is a “successful” business, then any college student who pawns off old textbooks on Amazon is an online whiz.

Yet women who read that article about me might easily see my apparent “success” and allow themselves to feel potentially inadequate.  Sort of like I could let Smockity’s achievements make me feel today if I let the world’s twisted definition of success dictate my feelings.

After perusing Smockity’s blog, I have to say that I honestly like her.  I don’t think she would tell any of us that she is anywhere close to the perfect Proverbs 31 woman, yet.  She is called to live her life and I am called to live mine.

The blogs I return to day after day are written by unabashedly authentic and at times transparent women reaching out to other people while at the same time sharing their own joy, pain and wisdom.

I have struggled lately to find that balance in my own writing, and to find out why God has called me to write in the first place.  I find it so painful and difficult to write when I am struggling mightily, as I have lately with my son’s behavior.  Yet isn’t that the time I should be reaching out, sharing, being authentic?

I guess I am holding my own feet to the fire and admitting that I’ve become a blogging wimp.

Posted on 2 July '10 by , under Autism Spectrum/Sensory Processing. 18 Comments.

The Rotted Potato Mouse

This odd stench casually began to emanate from Sue’s room last week.  I figured it was some food morsel left behind, searched halfheartedly a few times, and came away confused but not overly concerned.

This week, however, the smell grew to such proportions, I couldn’t stand to even walk by her room.  I sniffed and sniffed to no avail.  I took 345 babies, stuffed animals, Barbies and Polly Pockets out of countless baskets and nooks.  I found nothing, and still the smell was horrifying, might I say, other-worldly!

And then, while sniffing along her bookshelf, I whiffed something that almost caused me to lose my pancakes:

Harmlessly cute, eh?  A simple mouse crafted out of a rather unusually-shaped red potato as part of a preschool craft.

A craft that was created in March, and has sat on a child’s bookshelf since then…slowly rotting and festering until rheumy potato juices dripped down the shelf into a pool of microscopic Polly Pocket shoes and jewelry.

Yes, it attracted some small whitish worms.

I just can’t talk about it any more.

Posted on 30 June '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 6 Comments.

A Chihuahua Named Ezra

Our new next-door-neighbor has a wonderful elderly Chihuahua named “Ezra,” and a delightful ten-month-old named Mary Grace.  It’s sad to admit, but my children are absolutely wild over the dog and a big tepid toward the baby since she can’t walk yet and just gently waves and drools.

The children are all like, “Here Ezra!  Come get a treat!  It’s my turn to see Ezra!  See how Ezra loves me better!  Isn’t Ezra the cutest dog you’ve ever seen besides our Sophie? Come over here Ezra and see the bug house I just built,” and similar dog-focused prattle.

Never mind the cherubic baby gurgling pleasantly in the neighbor’s arms…

I figured Mary Grace was about the right age for Little People, though, and casually asked the neighbor if she had any of those grand toys yet, since her baby is an only child and probably had no cast-offs from anyone else.  My neighbor was naturally thrilled at the prospect of one day owning a veritable menagerie of Little People zoos, villages, farms, train tracks, family homes, etc.

(Wait’ll she starts vacuuming them up, or Ezra chews on them creating sharp pointy spikers or they get inadvertently placed in the dishwasher where they fall below near the coils and melt, filling her kitchen with that pleasant burnt plastic smell.)

With all of their canine-focused activity I never dreamed that my children heard me offer the Little People toys to our neighbor.  I was curious, however, the next day when Sue had pulled out the before-ignored bins of Little People regalia and peppered her room with animals and people.

“My you’ve got so much going on here!” I exclaimed upon seeing her room.

“Yes, Mama, see I do still play with these toys.  I love them, and that baby next door will probably choke on the small parts.”

So lo and behold am I floored today when the boys begin racing the Little People school bus up home-made ramps…for like an hour!

Maybe I should offer their Latin books and handwriting practice tablets to the baby, too?

Posted on 16 June '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 10 Comments.

TSA Workers Panicked by Keychain at Reagan National and More Terrapin Updates

My husband almost never travels, therefore when he does, exciting events transpire such as the loss of a rather large terrapin in our home.

Below you see the exact spot where the terrapin was finally found, a mere 18 hours after he “went missing.”

Note the joyful facial expression:

Here you see him tempted by the wilted lettuce Edward had scattered about the home in hopes of sustaining the creature through the night:

And here the sweet taste of freedom as the dear terrapin is reluctantly released into the wild of our yard:

Lest you think that the good times only occur in our actual home, let me share a recent tale that occurred while H was traveling last week.

He was only in DC for one night so he didn’t have a gracious amount of time for souvenir-seeking, yet he spotted a Smithsonian Institute kiosk in the airport, and carefully chose crystal grow-kits for Sue and Edward, a nifty gyroscope for Joseph, and rather striking key chain for me that flashes my name every second or so.  He popped it all in the Smithsonian bag and headed for the gate.

He hurried through the scanning machine and began putting on his shoes.  His belongings, however, remained in the scanning area.  All of a sudden the scenario turned a bit frantic when a TSA worker shouted,

“Come here!  I ain’t ever seen anything like this?  What’s that?”

Shoeless folk began slowly backing up from the scanning area.

“It look like it’s pulsing!”

Several TSA workers are summoned, the conveyor built is abruptly halted, and H’s Smithsonian Institution bag is carefully prodded by a professional probe that H said looked remarkably like a car antenna.

I suppose the juxtaposition of the gyroscope next to the flashing keychain proved menacing to say the least.

Almost immediately the situation eased when the TSA professional drew her probe away from the bag and said with a loud, relieved laugh, “Awww!  That ain’t nothin’ but a solar key chain!”

Crisis averted!

Posted on 9 June '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 18 Comments.

Terrapin Station or “We lost a ten-inch turtle somewhere in our home.”

I blame my sister-in-law.

She showed up this morning with a smug look and a promise that there was an attractively large turtle languishing in our driveway.

Never mind the fact that she let Sue spend the night with the two nieces so we could take the boys to eat Mexican food since Sue cannot abide by Mexican food for some odd reason.

Why I didn’t take a photograph at the time, I will never know but we Googled the turtle, and just about definitively determined the creature to be a box turtle, although his or her feet appeared slightly webbed.

Let’s just pray s/he is not some sort of snapper.

How does such a thing happen?

Well, in the interest of science, I agreed to allow the creature come inside so the boys could embark upon some “research.” A bit later we find ourselves an hour into a great pool visit when I casually remark, “I’m sure one of you took the turtle outside, right?”


The boys look at one another.

“Well, he’s such a slow creature, I’m sure he’s still under the trampoline in the playroom where we left him,” assured Joseph.

I feel such comfort.

Several hours later, I assume the creature will still be huddled quietly in the playroom, potentially trying to siphon water from one of the dog’s slobbery chew toys or render a nest from the revolting shag carpet that graces this particular room.

Such is not the case.

Friends, we have looked everywhere for this terrapin to no avail.  The children are fearful of waking in the night and encountering the beast.

I’ve spread plastic plates of water, blueberries and an occasional errant lettuce leaf around the house in an effort to sustain the creature.

Joseph suggested we catch several crickets and beetles and let them loose since they are the turtle’s natural “prey.”

Let’s hope it does not come that.  Few things are worse than a deceased terrapin languishing in the home.


Posted on 4 June '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 11 Comments.

Clashing Worlds: Southern Homemaker in New York

I’ve been back from New York for several days now, and the abject disparity between the two places still finds me reeling.

Just like I described last year, this trip is like living someone else’s life, and in doing so I always gain a greater perspective on who I am, who I am not and who I would like to be, not necessarily in that order.

As I land in La Guardia, I always feel so small and anonymous while at the same time feeling a part of some important, whirling world.  It is sort of like stepping off the quiet sidewalk of my life into rushing traffic of people, sounds and smells so unfamiliar, yet so intoxicating.

My own life has its “busy-ness,” to be certain, but it is filled with a frenzy of food prep, hunting backpacks, calming the screaming, wiping noses, measuring supplements, juggling therapy schedules and shuttling van-loads of children back and forth between sporting activities and social skills groups.

In contrast, my week in New York is spent trying to hold down frighteningly rich lobster bisque in a rocketing taxicab after drinking one two many glasses of exceptionally nice cabernet.

And learning not to order giant prawns.

It is also spent attempting to tape large vinyl signs to concrete block, loading trade show furniture into a panel van and driving that from NJ to Manhattan, and trying to assemble said furniture without directions or proper tools.

This is my friend riding in the back of the van with multiple boxes.

Yes, we got stopped by New York’s finest, and yes we cried but got out of the ticket, miraculously.  Sadly, I have no photographs if that event but you can use your imagination, I’m sure.

Don’t you love how we employed the broom to mash down the double-sided tape?

The fun part of the week is spent chatting with stationery store owners, explaining trends in bridal and baby invitations, and encouraging buyers to try my friend’s line.

This was my fourth year to take this trip, and I have achieved a few minor milestones.  I no longer feel self-conscious hailing a cab, and I have perfected the proper, casual way to hold my hand while doing so.

I am no longer driven to don heels as I walk around the city in a vain attempt at disguising myself as a tourist.

I finally realized that most of the people wearing heels with jeans as they traipse about the city were the tourists.  Everyone else enjoys sensible flats, boots or flip flops.

I can walk purposefully down a busy sidewalk while clutching a Starbucks and talking on my phone.

I never make eye contact with anyone.  Never take a flier about an upcoming band or play performance from anyone, and never, ever acknowledge someone who furtively approaches with the promise of “Purses, Dolce, Rolex, Cartier, you buy!”

I still can’t stop myself, however, from lunging out toward the tiny toddlers running along the sidewalk parallel to whizzing taxis and buses.  I suppose these children grow up with this second sense of permanently remaining on the sidewalk no matter what, but if I ever took my three to this city, I’d have to strap them all to my body to keep them alive–especially Edward.

While I’m in New York I see myself as a sort of a lone catcher in the rye.

This was particularly hard for me this year because our apartment was located right next to Bleecker park!

The tiniest of tots would whiz by on their scooters or even tricycles and then abruptly stop right before the cross walk, their parents leisurely strolling several feet behind, often pushing a smart perambulator stuffed with an even tinier sibling.

Yet today, back in the South, as the screams and shrill whines of three walkie talkies in unison fill my brain and I watch dripping children streak about the house clutching over-filled water balloons and tracking up my once-clean floors, I am thankful to be home.

I think.

Posted on 1 June '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 7 Comments.

I did decide to go!

OK, I’m off to New York!  See you in a week!  And thanks so much for all the encouragement.  I promise to come back with many stories!

Have a blessed week!


Posted on 14 May '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 12 Comments.