Posted in autism spectrum disorder, Mental Health, sensory processing disorder

Pursuing Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis

When you realize that coping has not improved beyond a certain point for your child, and meltdowns that stress the whole family exhaustingly occur daily, it is heartbreaking not to have an immediate solution.  I’ve read book upon book hoping to find the key to ease my son’s struggle with spectrum and SPD/OCD behaviors.  There has been amazing growth in my understanding of how his brain works, which helps immensely in parenting, but I’ve realized that isn’t enough.  He needs more help than I can give him. 

So several months ago I decided to pursue a diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder.  We did the intake process for Kennedy-Krieger Institute for Autism Research and resources.  They called to say the wait list was 11 months out.  I don’t feel like our family has 11 months.  We’re struggling too much.  The constant stress is causing marital friction because we have no energy left for each other anymore.

A few months ago I called about 15 practitioners’ offices to see if they could help us reach a diagnosis.  I got ahold of a live person for about two of those calls.  They couldn’t help.  Maybe three called me back.  That’s when I got him signed up for Kennedy Krieger.   Waited to find out when we could have him assessed there.  After I heard about the wait time, I kept calling other places.  Thought I had a good option lined up, but they double booked, and I felt like that may not be a good sign, and called another 15 places.  Most called back and said they do not do diagnostics for children.

The ones who do work with kids and called back said the wait list is a few months out.  Because there are that many families struggling with spectrum disorders.  And it’s a hard journey.  It’s lonely.  The main caretaker gets burnt out.  The spouse gets burnt out because the one who stays at home is burnt out.

Not everyone understands.  You feel unsupported by those you would like support from but who question your intuition and the whole idea of autism.  If your kid does not present like Rain Man, your kid surely does not have autism, they think!  I want to tell them, “Guys, it’s a processing difference, and it’s a spectrum.  They can need little support and appear like other kids in classroom on the surface, but come home and have no more energy to hold it all together, and then let their frustration out where they feel safest.  Or they can need a lot of support and be nonverbal.  But both kinds of kids and their families can be in a lot of emotional distress because life is so hard with this disorder.”

But I don’t really have to be understood or to explain it at all to them. My job is to advocate for my child and get him and our family the care we need to do more than just survive.  And right now, it stinks big time, but I guess it’s just waiting for the nearest appointment date even if it feels too far away.  

 

 

Posted in Edible Awesome, Featured Inspiration, Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

5-minute DIY Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe! (using TJ’s Umami seasoning)

I LOVE mushrooms.  Chunky or not, they’re right up there with olives for me on my list of top flavor pops.  But I understand that not everybody is a fan of their texture, which is why I am super excited about Trader Joe’s Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend.  First of all, I can have all their ingredients, which in seasoning blends is becoming more and more rare for me (they usually have MSG or soy mixed in, or tomato, or something like that on my intolerance/list of no-no’s).  It’s just porcini and white button mushroom powder, salt, dried onion powder, ground mustard seed, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and dried thyme.

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I’ve heard umami described as that “something something” that just makes a dish taste more enjoyable.  For my sensational kids  and husband (others might call them picky, but sensory processing disorder is a thing), texture with food is a biggie, and now I can use this mushroom-packed powder in recipes without them detecting squishy little chunks of “yuck” yum. ( Please note it does have the crushed red pepper in it, so if you are sensitive to spiciness, go easy on it.  I’m not a lover of too much spice, but I do like the level in the recipe below. )

We got the flu, and it was not fun.  I made a bunch of chicken broth that week to try to speed the recovery process, and after chicken noodle soup, I wanted to make GF stuffed manicotti.  My mom’s no-bake recipe for manicotti growing up used a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup.  As I have to read food labels for gluten, MSG, soy, etc., I find it rather challenging at least and expensive for sure to buy considering those parameters. 

When I went GF and dairy free, I knew there were ways to make your own.  But previously, when I used pre-cut mushrooms, it came out gritty when the ones I got turned out to have dirt in them.  Now that’s disgusting! So this time I wasn’t going to mess with actual mushrooms, plus I was sick and wanted something easy, and considering the aforementioned sensory issues, was delighted that I’d recently bought 3 of the mushroom seasoning mix jars at TJ’s the week before.  (A risky move, since I’d never tried it before.  But as I said–mushrooms=love.  So that was enough for me. )

Below is the Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe I came up with in order to use it in the Instant Pot Manicotti recipe I attempted!  (Son asked for seconds of the manicotti, so since he’s generally the pickiest of them all, I consider that a win!)  I used the organic chicken stock (a little thicker than broth because it uses the bones, too) I’d made, which was already flavorful, but I am sure you could use store-bought as well.  I also used my GF flour blend mix.  This recipe only takes about 5 minutes to make!
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Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe

6 TBSP gluten-free flour

2 TBSP dairy-free butter (or coconut oil, ghee or regular butter if you can tolerate those.              I used nitrite-free bacon grease since I am not opposed to some fat in the diet for                good hormone synthesis.)

2 Cups organic chicken stock

2 TBSP TJ’s Umami Mushroom seasoning

1 cup dairy-free milk (or regular works too)

Directions:  (You could choose to saute’ some onions prior to step one…but I was tired and didn’t).

1. Melt dairy-free butter (or whatever fat/oil fits your diet) and mix the 6 TBSP GF flour in to make a roux.

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2.  Pour chicken stock and stir with a whisk/fork until the roux has dissolved.

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3. While stirring, mix in the Umami seasoning.

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4.  Keep stirring occasionally until you see bubbles and thickening occurring.
(At this point I kind of wanted to eat it all like that, condensed-soup style, but I needed it for my next recipe.  If you want to freeze this recipe, stop here before adding the dairy-free milk, which you can add after thawing).

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5.  If you want it to be like soup and not condensed cream of mushroom soup, add 1/4 to 1 cup dairy-free or regular milk and stir until incorporated.Easy pleasey!  (Not peasy…there are no peas in this recipe.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

How Being Intentionally Involved Moms Invites Joy Into our Lives

Finding joy as a mother has been a long journey for me.  Yes, there was the instant joy and love during the bonding phase with each of my children as newborns.  After that, however, I really struggled with the realities of life as a mother…

Mainly, the lack of sleep.  Lots of anxiety.  The postpartum depression.  The moving (we lived in 5 different homes since my now-preK aged son was born).  Probably a lot of hormonal stuff after the first that I didn’t catch onto, but definitely after my second child to a degree we couldn’t ignore anymore.

I was surviving, fueled by love and God’s mercies, but I was hanging on by a thread.  I am honestly amazed my marriage survived the past 4 years, because it was so tough on not only me but also my husband.  Looking back, I see there were the many, many heartwarming, good times.  But the overall feeling of the last 4 years for me has often been sheer exhaustion.  I say this a little hesitantly because I don’t want people considering having kids to have fear, or to avoid it because of the possibility of struggles.  I do, however, think it’s important for those who are willing to share to be open about that sort of thing, because awareness is key to navigating issues.  I would not have realized what postpartum depression looked like (and how it can look so different for so many people) if women did not publicly share their stories, and it could have turned out much more seriously than it did, because I finally realized what was going on when my youngest was over a year old through random articles about PPD online.

I really had to fight through daily and weekly struggles, mainly my health struggles (mental/emotional, chronic fatigue, hormone/cycle related PMDD) and then my son’s sensory-processing issues (now my daughter as well), which made for intense times almost nonstop throughout the day.  One of the light spots I remember during the darkest parts of this time was that I took a ton of photos and videos of the cutest moments whenever I was able that, later on at the end of each week, I’d review late at night after the kids finally went to bed, that made me smile.

(I am so thankful for how our neurochemistry works.  That activity may be one of the key positive habits helping me make it through the darker periods of postpartum. If you like neurochemistry/psychology type stuff, check out http://www.pnas.org/content/114/9/2361.abstract .  Basically, the amygdala, or the part of the brain responsible for social behavior, motivation and emotions, of mothers produces dopamine, which creates pleasure or rewarding sensations, when they view images of their children.  Although they wore me out, my kids existence also motivated me to keep going.)

All that to say, my youngest is almost 4 now, and it’s only really been in the past year that life has been on the sunny side most of the time.  My husband and I have grown in so many ways and changed how we do things, finding healthier ways to cope with stress.  We’ve in general altered our lifestyle, especially food-wise, to promote our familial well-being.

So, to get to the main theme I was aiming at when I began typing…Finding joy in motherhood has been a long journey for me.  On the days when I did not, or occasionally still, do not have the natural energetic enthusiasm to actively engage positively with my kids, sometimes choosing to do so regardless of how I feel is the best thing to create an environment of contentment and delight.  Not just for them, either.  Intentionally involving myself in my busy little people’s worlds can be difficult when my mind is preoccupied by you-name-it…But it’s the BEST way to spark joy.  Because I was MADE for this.

(Let me clarify:  I have a ton of potential I could invest anywhere I want.  Got the degrees, got a lot of interests, talents and dreams.  I am not limited to my home.  [Hello, women’s rights movement?  All things are permissible for me…But I don’t personally find them all beneficial.]  Yet right now, I am mainly focused at home.  This is the work I want to do, building my kids’ safe haven and our family’s HQ.  I am choosing my family to invest into during this season of my life, when the foundations of my kids’ lives are being laid.  And I find I am most fulfilled and healthy when I am whole-heartedly committed to my calling.  I’ve known what I want to do since I was little, pretending to be a wife and mommy as early as I can remember, putting on my mom’s high heels, and directing the neighborhood kids in activities.  [Some may call me bossy…I like to say I just have the skills of an administrator.])

Joy shows up when I am an active, caring participant in the lives of my family members.  You know what I despise?  Frigid temperatures.  A cold nose and fingers and toes.  (Also, being hot makes me feel grumpy, but that’s a bunny trail…).  Know what else stresses me out like mad?  The fact that getting winter gear on my daughter is a long battle filled with howling in pain (at least, her senses are telling her that she’s in pain) over “bumpy stuff” in her gloves, endless pairs of socks and boots. (We turn the socks inside out and have some other coping strategies, but I’m so emotionally exhausted after each session).

But you know what my son in particular loves?  Playing in the snow.  So I had to ask, what was more important?  Me feeling comfortable, inside and warm folding laundry?  Lack of stress interacting with my daughter (who, generally speaking, is the more cuddly, happy child)?  Or my son’s heart?  Him feeling valued, too, even though his temperament is often intense, needing lots of direction and correction to keep him calm rather than reacting with eruptions of anger or other meltdowns.

So I had a choice.  I could base my success as a homemaker on my productivity–getting the laundry done (finally off the couch!).  Or I could find meaning in my calling, using my gifts of creativity and sensitivity to care for and encourage those in my life as I am strengthened by the unconditional love of my Creator. 

It’s not easy to choose what doesn’t always feel easy.  I’m thankful for snowboarding pants to keep me from turning into a popsicle, and a seriously poofy winter coat and sturdy boots to hold me over for a good 45 minutes of outdoor winter playtime.  I steeled my jaw to face the cold, hopped into the car with a couple of ladles, and we went on a mission for fun.

“Mom!  What are you doing with the soup thingies?” My three year old asked me.  I chuckled mischievously and said mysteriously, “You’ll see, babe…Wait and see.”  And in a few minutes, my kids’ eyes sparkled.  You see, intentional moms are magical creatures in the eyes of their children.  You know what really makes us magical, though?  Seeing that sparkle in their eyes and knowing we put it there.

Turns out ladles make some pretty spectacular snowball-scoopers and are just right for carving out snow-caves in snow mounds the plows made out of a parking lot of a mere 1.5″ snowfall.

#winningatmomlife #choosingjoy