Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thomas the Tank Engine and lots of Friends

Eli has been having a good time lately watching "Thomas and Friends" on YouTube. He can do this pretty independently once I set him up. I just make sure I am in the room and that I can hear it, to make sure all the things he watches are appropriate. Believe it or not, there are people who think it is funny to post videos of the toy trains bursting into flames. Most of the videos we find are made by children and are completely child friendly. Watching other children play with and make up stories for their trains on YouTube has inspired lots of train playing in our house lately.

This has made me realize that we sure do have lots of the suckers in our home. There are 4 of the plastic battery operated trains, (Skarloey, Molly, Emily, Duck.) They have their own plastic track. There are also wooden trains, which include his first train, a Thomas that he got on his 2nd birthday. They have two tracks, (generic brands,) with more pieces than I care to count. There is also one small plastic track for the die cast trains. There are about twice as many die cast trains as there are wooden trains. That makes a lot of friends.

These toys really are not that cheap, and we were at the time trying to get through college while raising our boy with autism. Recently when I was trying to put my head around why we have so many, I realized that for awhile there, those trains were all Eli really cared about. He did not care a great deal about playing games with us or getting hugs. He did not care about Daddy coming home from work. He didn't really get excited over anything like that, but he sure got excited about looking at trains at the toy store and picking out one to take home. If the new train was not electric, it would also have a bath with him that night and go to bed with him. Although he was not equipped at the time to understand social things, Thomas trains made sense to him and gave him comfort. His play with them has evolved as he has grown in understanding of the world. Now as a five year old, he makes up simple conversations and stories to play out with his trains. He asks me, "Play with me, mom?" And my job is to "be" a train and play out his script with him. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Singing Baby to Sleep

When my little red head boy with autism was just a baby, I didn't know what challenges he would face in the next following years. I would try to sing him to sleep just like my mom did with me. I enjoyed singing. I had a rocking chair and I thought that rocking my baby and singing him to sleep was the very picture of happy home life. The trouble was, he never did fall asleep when I did this. It never worked. When he got big enough, about 8 months, he started reaching up and whacking me in the mouth when I sat and rocked and sang to him. I didn't sing around the house much after that.

Fast forward about 2 years later, my son is now newly diagnosed with autism and in an early intervention program with the local school district. They were offering a series of lectures put on by a local woman who is a DIR autism therapy specialist. She explained the nervous system abnormalities that lead to serious sensitivities to stimuli. Her example she used was of her own son who has autism. When he was very young, he was always insisting on wearing hats. He also wanted to wear sunglasses everywhere. This was a big frustration to her, and eventually she just took away all his hats and sunglasses because her son had no language to tell her why he needed them, and she was at wits end and didn't know what else to do.

Fast forward five years later, her son is having a hard time in the class he spends part of the day in for inclusion time. (Although he had an IEP, he still spent acouple of hours each day in a regular classroom.) While they sat at breakfast at a local restaurant, she asked him what was troubling him about the class. He said, (and I wish you could have seen how cute it was how she mimicked her son's unique voice patterns,) "Yeah, I have an allergy to light." She asked him what kind of light, and he pointed straight to a florescent light bulb on the sign of a neighboring shop. She later went to the classroom to discover that a bright florescent bulb was right above his desk. She also discovered why he had his attachment to hats and sunglasses as a tot; her son was sensitive to light to the point where too much was painful to him.

This was a huge eye opener to me. What I discovered is that Eli's sensitivity is sound. Shaking a new garbage bag open around him as a baby led to the saddest display of tears; as well as hearing other children cry. It was not sympathy, it was just that their cries pained him so much to hear. The vacuum always caused an unheard of display of fits, even when he was in the opposite end of the apartment, shut in a room with his father. And this is why he would whack my mouth as an 8 month old.

Although I have been mostly out of the habit of singing for years now, I decided to give it another go. Tonight I sat on the foot of Eli's bed and sang him to sleep. It was the sweetest thing in the world, just as if I were rocking a newborn. There was a bustle going on in the apartment upstairs while he was trying to go to sleep. In such cases he usually listens to a quiet CD, but the CD player was having troubles. Eli's autism symptoms are not what they once were, so I tried singing. I sang him a song from "Signing Time," "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus," and "Little One." And off he drifted to sleep. I could not be a happier mom tonight! Singing my five year old to sleep is like filling in a gap that has long wanted to be filled.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kitchen Gadgets

Here are some recently acquired kitchen gadgets of mine:

manual grain grinder

I bought the hand grinder at the Provo Macey's for $50. Quite a steal, really. Orem Macey's in Utah Valley charges $69 and I heard the Pleasant Grove charges $79. The whole idea was to save .70 cents on white rice flour and 1 dollar on brown rice flour per pound. Quite a significant savings when taking into consideration the price I can buy the rice for in bulk on a good sale. This does take time and some arm, but for the money it is a great grinder. One day I will be getting a good electric model and using this manual one for emergency/back-up purposes.

apple corer/peeler/slicer

I also got this apple/corer/peeler/slicer gadget at the Provo Macey's grocery store. It was just under $20. I am really really hoping to make some apple sauce this year. I used one of these gadgets to make applesauce with a friend years ago, and have wanted one of my own ever since. Homemade applesauce is so very heavenly! Both gadgets are Victorio brand.

It seems as though I blog quite alot about food or related topics. What can I say? I am always thinking about food. I am always planning, cooking, and cleaning, all because of food. It really is the whole aspect of cutting gluten and other common foods, and then trying to eat this way on a shoe string budget. (Or at least as cheaply as possible, while doing my best to get good nutrition down my family. Trouble is, gluten free/dairy free can be an expensive way to eat.) I am always looking for ways to cut down on the grocery budget without compromising fresh fruits/veggies and without making us bored to death of our food. I have looked into several strategies.

Generally, couponing to save money on groceries does not work really well for me. Usually, coupons put out by manufacturers are not for food that we would normally eat, or for what we should on our diet. However, my husband does get sent to work with lunch food that I used coupons on. (He does not have the diet issues of our son and myself and it helps him resist the urge to buy extra snacks while on the road.)

GF/CF mixes are a no go for me. They are convenient, they save tons of time, but really, they are horrid for my budget, (very expensive,) and usually contain one or more of our "eat seldom and with care" list. (Corn, soy, and sugar are among the "eat with care" list.) I do not even buy flour mixes. I mix my own flours. If rice, I grid it myself, too.

Canning is something I have taken to this season. When you know people who can hook you up with free fruit for the picking, that is a great way to fill the pantry. True, it is not the same as eating fresh, but there are many wonderful, tasty, and nutritious things that can be made from my stockpile.

My ultimate solution for our diet/budget situation: eat simple food, and make everything from scratch. Eating simple is for my sanity, our health, and our budget. Making it all myself insures that I know what is in it, and that I am spending even less.