Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Egg Nest Cupcakes

I wanted to quickly share some Easter cupcakes that we had a chance to make during our crazy stay at Tremblant. Logan picked this recipe out of the Bulk Barn flyer a few weeks ago.  Like mother, like son, I guess ;)

Before I get to the recipe though, I just wanted to thank everyone for the outpouring of love I have received since my last post.  I have received many supportive phone calls and e-mails.  None of which I believe I have returned yet (though I will!).  I also wanted to give special thanks to Antonia, who was sweet enough to surprise me with a beautiful arrangement of flowers delivered to my door this afternoon:

Nothing better to brighten my day :)  Your kindness is more touching than I can put into words.

Also, I wanted to give a shout out to Anonymous, whose encouraging comment, "Sometimes, the achievement is not that you got anything done, but that you simply keep going" has been graved into my mind forever.  This is going to be my mantra when the going gets tough, as it has been this past little while.

I just wanted to touch base and say that, despite the desperation in my last post, we are managing.  I am intensely frustrated with our system that provides no help to families until things are so crucial that they are almost unsalvageable.  I do not at all feel that we are at that point.  But I also don't want to get there.  And as time goes on, I can see that our ability to cope with the everyday stressors of raising our little monkeys is diminishing.  I want help before I get to the place of being a mom who screams at her kids all day long, no matter what they do.  That is not who I am as a person and it is not the relationship I want to have with my little guys.  And I just want help to manage everything so that I do not turn into that type of a mom for them.

We are surviving and we do what we need to do to get by.  As my close friend, who dropped by unannounced the other day, saw, our house is often a complete disaster.  We eat hot dogs or plain pasta when we need to.  I barely post any recipes anymore (mostly because I don't even have time to cook) and I blog more to deal with the stress of what we are living these days.  So things are still somewhat manageable, even if they are intensely stressful.  I felt I needed to comment on this because I was surprised at how many people contacted me after my last post - I don't think anyone needs to be particularly worried about us.  Though thank you for your love, concern and support.

Now let's get on to some delicious Easter cupcakes.  Made from a box, of course, because my life these days leaves no time to make homemade gf cupcakes.  If you have a bit more time than I do, and aren't gf, I highly recommend my chocolate sour cream bundt cake instead.  Or for those who are gf and want a healthy option, my chocolate black bean cupcakes.

3/4 C unsalted butter (Earth balance for a dairy-free alternative)
4-6 C icing sugar, sifted
6 tbsp. milk (almond milk for a dairy-free alternative)
1 /2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 /2 C sweetened coconut flakes
Easter coloured jelly beans or Mini-Eggs
food colouring

1.  Using a mixer, beat the butter until creamy.  Add 2 C of icing sugar and beat at low speed until mixed.  Gradually increase the speed of the mixer until the mixture reaches a creamy consistency.

2.  Add the milk and the vanilla and beat.  Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until the icing is creamy and has a thick enough consistency to pipe, adding more icing sugar or milk, if necessary.  Add food colouring to the icing, if desired.

3.  Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes using a star shaped decorating tip

Mine totally flattened... I'm having such a hard time figuring out the right icing
consistency with this dairy-free butter!!  Good thing the coconut hid the icing ;)

4.  In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut flakes and food colouring (separate into several batches if you want to do different colours). 

5.  Sprinkle the coconut on top of the icing on the cupcakes.

6.  Place jelly beans or Mini eggs on the coconut flakes and enjoy.

Someone was more than dying to get into these as soon as they were ready.

After a first bite, he wasn't all too sure about the texture of the coconut.

But I guess the sweetness of the icing was enough to convince him to take a tentative second bite.

And from that point on, he was sold :)

Difficulty level: easy

Happy Easter everyone!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Daycare Update

I wanted to share a quick update on the kids and the transition to their new daycare while I had a few minutes.

Overall, things have been going really, really well.  You can check out some photos of their first two weeks at daycare here.

I have to admit that I was nervous about this transition.  My kids just don't do well with transitions.  Period.  I mean, even transitions from the park to home.  So this big of a transition left me a little bit anxious.  

The kids went from a small family daycare to a large, bright, noisy daycare centre with 2-3 times more kids per class than where they were previously.  Not terribly SPD friendly.  I feared that Logan would become super aggressive and that Chloé would want to be held all day long.

But my little guys showed me that I should have given them a bit more credit. 

Overall, the feedback from daycare so far has been that they can't even tell they are not just "normal" kids.  Chloé is apparently the first one asleep a room full of crying babies and is typically the last to wake up (who is this kid???).  Logan joined into the daily routines seamlessly.  Every time I go to pick him up, he's somehow quietly sitting at a table, doing whatever activity they are in the midst of.  Though he didn't nap his first day, he laid on his mattress for 2 hours WITHOUT MOVING!! (and who is this kid???).

I had spoken to the kids' OTs prior to us choosing the larger centre.  They acknowledged that there would be more sensory stimuli to deal with in a centre.  But they said that the extremely consistent routines and constant structured activities of a centre would help the kids manage better.  They also added that, regardless, they will need to learn to function in this type of an environment for when they start school.  That was all that it took to convince me that this was the right setting for them. 

We couldn't have lucked out more.  All of the educators are absolutely fantastic.  One of Logan's educators used to be a resource teacher and was the person who was called to pull kids out of the regular classroom and into the sensory room, to calm them down when things were getting challenging.  She can read the signs that Logan's engine is starting to get a bit fast better than anyone other than his own parents.  She uses his weighted vest, his earphones, gives him squishes on his body and his feet and encourages him to take a break alone as needed. 

His other educator doesn't have any particular knowledge about SPD, but is super interested in learning.  She also feels very comfortable approaching me with any concerns they have about himI feel confident that issues will be addressed as they come up, rather than ignored until they are too big to manage.

Chloé's educators are also all very willing to learn and do whatever they can to help.  I met with all three of them on Friday and not a single one of them made me feel that the discrepancy in her behaviour at daycare versus at home was because we weren't handling things properly (sadly, this is often the reaction we get).  One of them even asked if she could come to our house after daycare one evening to see how difficult it is for Chloé to manage by the end of the day, saying she wanted to understand the impact of the sensory input on Chloé

I feel that we couldn't be in better hands.  Logan talks about his "new friends" all of the time.  And although I know that he liked his old daycare, he has only once brought up the names of anyone from there since he left.  He seems fully adjusted.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Slow Cooker Cacciatore-Style Chicken

My sister picked this recipe out for us to make when she was down visiting last weekend.  I've already posted a recipe for chicken cacciatore in the past.  And though I love my old recipe and find it a bit more flavourful than this one, the one I am posting today fits much more with my hectic lifestyle these days. 

You basically just chop up the vegetables, throw them into the crockpot with the chicken and other ingredients and plug it in.  And if you happen to buy your mushrooms pre-sliced like I did, this really only takes minutes to put together.  You also get a good portion of yummy cooked veggies out of it.  This is so quick to put together than I've already made it a second time in the past week.

2 C sliced fresh mushrooms
1 C sliced celery
1 C chopped carrot
2 medium onions, cut into wedges
1 green, yellow, or red sweet pepper, cut into strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 chicken drumsticks, skinned (about 3 1/2 lbs)
1/2 C chicken broth
1/4 C dry white wine
2 tbsp. quick cooking tapioca
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 14-1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/3 C tomato paste

1.  In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker combine mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, sweet pepper and garlic.  Cover vegetables with the chicken.  Add broth, wine, tapioca, bay leaves, oregano, sugar, salt and black pepper.  

2.  Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

3.  Remove chicken and keep warm (place in 200 degree Farenheit oven).  Remove bay leaves and discard.  If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting.  Cover and cook 15 minutes longer on high-heat setting.  

4.  Serve with hot cooked pasta or rice.  To serve, spoon vegetable mixture over chicken and pasta.

Makes 6 servings.   

Difficulty level: easy 

Taken from: Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stress Squared

This past week has been the week to end all weeks.

It all started off when my kids got kicked out of daycare on Monday.  No warning that they were too difficult to manage.  Just a note left in Logan's bag that we were to find daycare within two weeks.  REALLY???? 

Let the panic begin.

A few phone calls later and I started to realize that this was a bigger problem than I had initially realized.  Firstly, the minute I uttered the word "special needs" on the phone, people scrambled to hang up as quickly as they could, muttering whatever excuse they could think of.

I eventually got directed to the daycares who typically accept the kids with special needs.  I was told that they only have a permit for a certain number of kids with special needs at one time.  For instance, one daycare I called that has over 100 children only has a permit for 10 kids with special needs.  And there were no spaces for any additional special needs children.

And suddenly, I began to understand that our challenge finding daycare was going to be much greater than I had initially anticipated.  Not only did I need to find a daycare that was willing to take my challenging children... I also needed to find one that had two spots available for children with special needs. 

Uh... yeah.

Thankfully, after mountains and mountains of disappointment and stress, we managed to find a daycare that I am hoping will be a perfect fit for my little guys.  And it seems that it might well be.  So far, they are super interested in hearing what they can do to meet my kids' needs.  They are willing to let therapists come into the daycare to do therapy and give suggestions.  They're even willing to make my kids' specialized meals (I surely didn't ask for that one, but we'll take it!).  

The whole experience of having Logan kicked out of daycare was a very big wake-up call for us.  Until this time, we had been informed a little bit of his challenges in daycare, but we had basically been told that he was doing ok.  However, him being kicked out made us realize that things were much more difficult than we had been told.

This, coupled with the significant challenges we've been having at home lately made both my husband and I independently conclude that we are pretty convinced that there is something else going on with our little Logan that has yet to be diagnosed.  I've always sort of suspected that he may be diagnosed with ADHD one day down the line.  But this past week has made us both start wondering about other possible diagnoses.

Being an S-LP, I know full well than many diagnoses aren't given until the child is 6 or 7 years old.  Which is mostly why we haven't yet investigated anything further.  However, given these recent events, I spoke with a psychologist this week just to question whether or not there was anything further we could do with him.  We're desperate for help.

I'm not so much searching for a label or a specific answer.  I'm searching for help.  Suggestions and guidance on what we can do to make our lives easier.  Because it certainly ain't working the way things are going now.  And sadly, in our society, the label is often what gets you the help.  Right now, we qualify for nothing in the public sector.  No label.  Not severe enough.  Despite the fact that we struggle to make it through almost each and every day.

After 45 minutes of discussion, the psychologist responded that she suspected that Logan might have a non-verbal learning disorder.  She also recommended that we do a screening for Autism spectrum disorder.  My response was that, I couldn't be sure, but I was pretty certain that his social interactions and communication skills were too strong for him to have ASD.  I evaluate these skills in my clients day in and day out.  She suggested that I ask Logan's other therapists their opinion to be safe. 

And boy was I shocked at their answer...

Logan's OT told me that she and Chloé's OT had discussed this possibility several times before.

And I restrained my jaw from dropping.

Although I briefly entertained the possibility that Logan might have ASD further to this conversation, I was still pretty convinced that this didn't fit his profile.  

Earlier today, I read this blog post here, by a friend of my sister's and realized that I completely identified with her description of her son.  Which is making me re-evaluate whether or not I truly know how high-functioning autism presents these days.

I'm now so utterly confused as to whether or not I even know what high-functioning autism looks like - despite having worked with these kids for 10+ years.  In any case, we have an evaluation booked for the end of the month, which I hope will provide us with answers and guidance.  I don't have high hopes that we will get a specific diagnosis for anything at his age.  However, I do hope that we will learn how to better manage the daily struggles we have.

Then only two short days after I had this conversation with Logan's OT, I had a similar conversation with Chloé's osteopath.  At the end of our session, he let me know that he feels that there is something bigger going on with Chloé than just her sensory processing disorder.  He feels that this doesn't quite explain the extent of difficulties she is experiencing in her gross motor skills.  But he said he can't quite put his finger on what could be going on.  So yet another mystery... God this whole thing is complicated!!  

However, he also said that, regardless, he felt that we are doing all that we can right now, between OT and PT and having her on waiting lists for gastroenterology, neurology and physiatry.  Nonetheless, I am starting to realize that her delays may also be much more longer term that we had initially anticipated.

Trying out a new hair-do for our new daycare.

Thankfully, my sister came down for the weekend and helped purge some of the stress from this past week.  We drank wine, watched tv, went to the pool, and just chilled.  She watched the kids while I bumbled around trying to gather various information that the new daycare had requested - lists of what they can't eat, where to buy what they can, lists of what bothers each of them and what to do to calm them, etc.  It was a blessing not having to do all of this while also looking after the kids, particularly since Jérôme was a bit sick.

Here's hoping that tomorrow we will turn a new page and that the worries of this past, extremely stressful week will be behind us.  Fingers and toes crossed that everything goes relatively well at the new daycare this week.  I can't handle another week like the last!