Thursday, December 9, 2010

Life inside the fishbowl

So much has happened in last 4 months since school started. My son Ethan has taken a turn for the worse. As of Tuesday, December 7th, I placed Ethan back in Loma Linda's Behavioral Medicine Center. We are at a breaking point. With no respite, I am at a loss as to what to do with him. My other children and I are the victims of his rages. Most telling, was an incident that occurred yesterday on my way from Inland Regional Center to the hospital, Ethan was punching my 3 year old as he screamed, "I said I'm sorry." He was angry because my son, Aeron,  told him he was naughty because he had hit him. Of course, this set him off. It's a cycle with no end. It's so sad and destructive. His need for help is beyond what I am capable of providing.

The reason I went to Regional Center was to get the paperwork to apply again for services. I met with 3 women employed there. I am completely disgusted with the Regional Center. Even though they are tasked with helping handicapped children, I understand their criteria, they are heartless. What happened, conveys an utter lack of human decency. I brought my two youngest, Ethan and Aeron (3) into the building with me. I figured I would cut out the mail carrier and pick up the paperwork in person. Plus I would have a face to face opportunity with the staff. While waiting for a representative from the intake dept., I took the boys to the bathroom. Ethan and I used the restroom. And when it came time to wash our hands, Ethan wanted to continue to play in the water, and had a meltdown. He ran out into the lobby and hid while the IRC representative watched. I was unable to have the most basic conversation with her. So, we went to some kind of room outfitted with toys to the side of lobby. Ethan continually tried to escape, and was screaming, kicking and yelling. I explained the situation to the staff member and she went to go get some of the paperwork to file an appeal. I also had with me a note our psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Gordon had written. The note attests to the fact that Ethan has autism, appealing directly to the fact that they strictly address DSM 299.1's definition of autism. When the staff member came back, once again, she brought with her one of the IRC's psychologists and the case manager who compiled Ethan's evaluation.  The case manager explained they have a very comprehensive report that solidly supports the fact that Ethan's problems are behavioral not the result of autism. She took a copy of Ethan's Dr. note, but stressed that their report was conclusive and little could be done to change their decision, even 1 Dr's opinion. They handed me the appeal packet placed in an evelope, and another two sheets of paper with "resources" for behavioral help. By this time, Ethan had kicked off his shoes and socks. He continued kicking and screaming. They tied together Ethan's shoes and tucked his socks in his shoes, and handed all this to me and escorted me to the door without even an offer of help to my car. I carried my son, kicking and screaming from the building over my shoulder, all the while he was beating my back with his fists. My littlest one followed me in the rear as I struggled, juggling all the items to the car. 

I am disgusted by their lack of human decency. I had no expectations, at least I try not to. But most professionals I have met with, when faced with my son having one of his outburts, at least offer an escort to the car. They made sure to escort me to the door, see that the lock engaged, and returned to their desks.

I went directly from IRC to Loma Linda. As I drove, I spoke with their intake rep. I was relieved to hear they had room for him. 

Monday was also an eventful day. Ethan had a noon appt. with our psychiatrist for a med check. From there we stopped in at a friend's flowershop. She and I used to attend the same support network when it used to meet at the CBC, where I met you. She gave me the info of another person who might help us in our efforts to get the district to help. She also had to hire the services of an attorney. When I finished up with her, it was time for Ethan's therapy appt. at 2:15 at Hope Inc., with Jamie Juarez. This therapist is a marvelous woman. She has helped us in so many ways. She gave us the $ for our consult with Valerie Vanaman. She referred us to our advocate, Sandra Marzullo. And, she is paying for a cleaning crew to come into our house on Friday. We had our 45 minute therapy session in which I filled her in on all the developments. And Ethan, after tiring of the toys in Jamie's office, decided it was time we move into the motor room. We had a few minutes to play. When it was time to leave, he went into a rage again. 

At that point, Jamie came back and asked what I wanted to do. I said I did not know. She offered to call the police, and have him taken in on a 5150 or they could just help me to the car. I haven't been all that impressed with the caliber of Loma Linda's help. The Dr. only served to  put Ethan on meds that made him more psychotic and then sent him home for us to deal with. When I later called with some follow ?'s. He doesn't return calls. Once you leave the hospital, you are done. You receive no more help or services. 

I asked Jamie to have her therapist and other staff member to help me get Ethan to the car. He refused to sit in the car. A struggle ensued in which he hit his head several times, once on the door as we left the motor room and a second time in the car as he struggled and refused to be seated. At that point, I was so tired by all this struggle, I consented to calling the police. I face these meltdowns 7-9 times daily. There is no respite, except when I go to work. And even with that, that is no respite. I am tired- physically and mentally. I am having troubles sleeping, as evidenced by the late hour I am finishing up this email. My house looks like it threw up on itself. To be honest, I don't want him back home. If we had help, I would want him home. But we don't and I am at my wit's end. We struggle in silence, I'm a prisoner in my own home. I am a prisoner to my son's rages and violence, as are my children. I'm basically suffering form PTSD. I"m done.

It took 2 men and my therapist to restrain Ethan. He kicked and screamed and acted like he was possessed of a demon. I sent my youngest back into the motor room to be supervised by a staff member. Ethan repeatedly knocked his head on the asphalt as a result of his flailing attempted to bite, kick and punch the staff, so we moved him to the front lawn to await the police. The police officer came. What a specimen of uselessness! He saw the situation, witnessed my son's violence and refused to take him in  on a 5150. Instead he elected to have the paramedics come and check out Ethan's head. It was fine, of course. The Fire Dept. came accompanying the ambulance. He was cleared by the paramedics. Of course, he was quite the spectacle. One of the firemen, felt the need to comment, that it appeared that my son lacked discipline. My husband, whom I had promptly called, had arrived. By this time, he had managed to calm Ethan down a bit. At this remark my husband calmly defended himself and then our therapist lit into the fireman. 

I had to leave for work by this time. You see, as soon as I realized the situation, I called Winco and let them know that my son was probably going to be taken in my police or ambulance to Loma Linda. The receptionist/office manager/mngmt person replied that even though this was a grave situation, I would still be given 3 points against my record if I missed my shift. I had been late twice prior to that. Each time it results in points against me. I had 4 points at that time. The first time I was late, was entirely my fault. I was ignorant and inexperienced with the posting of the schedule. ALL the other times I have been late have been a result of either a meeting in which it was decided that we would sue the school district or the latest occurence or Monday's episode. But, of course, yesterday I was 5 minutes late again, because of traffic and logistics. There is not enough of me to spread around. I had to drop off my 3 year old son at my friend, Tracee's house, travel the 30 minutes to Loma Linda, visit with Ethan, talk with the staff, and travel back and pick up my son, wait for my husband get home and speed to work. Monday, I lost it at work and ended up crying for 20 minutes as I talked with one of the shift leaders. I told her of our situation. She was horrified. But she was somone I could talk to, it helped a little. I have asked for leniency. I have explained that I want and need a job. My hope is that eventually I will be able to get benefits (which are available to employees who work a min. of 20 hours a week). But, there are only so many points you are allowed during your 6 month probation period. That's it. I may be fired.

So, yes, I decided to flee the scene and go to work. I was 10 minutes late, I had to wait for the fire dept's huge truck to leave. Of course they had to bring the biggest one. It is also the most difficult to navigate. I did show up for my shift. I left my husband to deal with the situation. The officer refused to take my son in to Loma Linda even though 3 witnesses attested to the seriousness and violence of the situation. Peter had adequately calmed Ethan. He took him home, a ticking time bomb which erupted the next day.

Tuesday I took him down and and admitted him myself. I don't know what to do. We don't qualify for services. I have talked with therapists and social workers at Loma Linda. I am asking them for an MRI. I still can't get my insurance to give me a referral for an MRI with sedation. I have a temporary respite from Ethan, with him at Loma Linda. But now I am fielding all the calls- calls from  the hospital therapists, nurses and insurance. The insurance will cover temporary residential care. But will not cover indefinite residential care. We have to wait 'til the first of the year for Valerie to file the suit. I agree and understand the insurance's point of view. I have become friends with the insurance case worker woman/therapist on the other end of the line as I have explained all our efforts. She wants to help, but there is only so much the insurance can do. She admire all that I have done and continue to do to help Ethan.

So, that's where I am. I get a little respite from Ethan while he is in the hospital. But that opens another can of worms. I can visit him once a day. And at that time I can get a report and a visual of how things are going. We have also asked the hospital to help us with his blood work. We want Ethan's blood karyotyped to see if he has Kleinfelter's syndrome (XXY) which would help explain his lack of executive functioning. The Dr. on staff, disagreed with my husband's request saying it was ethically questionable. Wouldn't it be a good idea to check and see? If Ethan does have this genetic condition, it would explain his difficulties. 

I am tired and frustrated and feel defeated. I feel like these obstacles are insurmountable. Every door I turn to for help is locked or shut in my face. Insurance won't deliver the MRI. The hospital, a poor bandage, is useless except for providing safe respite. But even that is questionable because of all the questions and forms to be filled out and answered. Because, of course, the first conclusion is of family dysfunction. Not of a true sickness in the child. I spend hours answering the same ?'s over and over again, with no results. In the end, the worker sympathizes with me and says they will "help." No help ends up coming. It's all words, no action.

Tomorrow my husband, who has taken the day off from work, and I will go see the county's school programs. They are ED programs. I have heard "great" things about them already. They will not help Ethan. They are based on the school model of instruction not a therapeutic model of instruction. Our therapist has gone to the schools we are to visit. She went to look at one of the students who wanted to be placed at her site. In addition to counseling services, she runs a NPS. She observed the kid and rejected him. My thoughts are that Ethan will only add more bad behaviors to his already lengthy repertoire of bad behaviors. Additionally, he will not have access to the daily therapy he so desperately needs. My husband only has so many sick days and then they will deduct from his salary. He cannot be home full time to mange Ethan.

Our lawyer Valerie Vanaman has instructed us to go see the school. We will. I have my checklist of requirements, as sent to me by our advocate. I'll forward them after sending this email. They are all backed up by educational code references. Of course, the school won't be able to provide all of them. 

Ethan will be released home again in a few days. And we will start the prison sentence all over. 

I can't tell you the # of times people tell me my son and our family is in their prayers. Please don't misunderstand me. I am a woman of faith. I know God lives and loves us. There is a plan in all this. I KNOW it.
But in my perspective, faith without works is DEAD! Prayers are great, but we NEED help. Prayers will help, but it is not an all encompassing bandaid. I am tired. I don't want my son back at home. He is abusing his siblings. I am being abused by him. It takes all my self control not to beat the tar out of him. Some days I have to sedate him just to get through the day. My life feels as close to what purgatory might be like. We have no quality of family life, except in that revolves around my son. I am doing him no favors by keeping him at home, placing no demands on him. I walk around on egg shells dreading the next meltdown. I can't educate him. We are in this cycle of destruction.

I am to the point that when Ethan melts down after he comes home, I am either going to bring him back to the hospital or call the police to take him back on a 5150.

I can't even begin to think of Christmas. What a joke! I don't want to put up a Christmas tree. I don't want to buy presents. All I see is a filthy house, a destructive, demanding child who requires 24/7 supervision with no help in sight. I told my husband the other night that I want to have the Grinch's Christmas tree this year. I would love to cancel it. Additionally, what pains me is that my other children need Christmas. They need that normality and deserve those healthy, typical experiences. So, I will dig down inside myself and find the energy to put all that stuff up. But, my heart is not in it. Just like it was not in Thanksgiving. I didn't want to cook dinner. All I saw was all the work required. Try to clean the house, buy the food, prepare the food, eat the food, clean up the food and work. Where's the joy? When do we have fun? When can we get some down time?

In all of this mess, a big blessing that came our way recently. An Orthodox Catholic Sunday school is adopting our family for Christmas. Two of my friends are members of their congregation. They will help with Christmas for the kids. And, our therapist, whom we owe hundred of dollars to, is paying for a cleaning crew to come in and help me Friday. These a two big blessings. It will help us a great deal. 

It may sound like I am having quite the pity party, I try not to. I am a strong individual. Lesser women would have already given up. I am trying to faithfully bear my burdens. I am trying to do my part. But, I am done. I don't want this burden anymore. When can I say enough without sounding and feeling like I am giving up and failing my child? That is my daily struggle, besides my struggles to maintain my grip on my own sanity. 

I am to the point of writing talk show hosts like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres to plead for help. I don't know what else to do.

If you have any suggestions or know of any sources for help, feel free to comment and leave a message.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Love me, hate me, but spare me your indifference!

Tonight was the aforementioned Girl's Night Out get together at my house. I have been working solidly the last few days and the last few weeks, trying to get my various home improvements accomplished. We have been putting up picture frames that have been inhabiting the darker corners in the closets of my house, cleaning, organizing and giving our home the extra TLC it so desperately needs. It's been a success, not amazing, but we have progress. Yeah for me!

I have not been blessed with the gift of home fashion know-how. This specialized skill is generally not taught when you are raised by a Grandfather. I struggle in that area, but I just do my best.

Moreover, I am not the best housekeeper. It is difficult when there are 5 very energetic young bodies in the home, all with different agendas. But, hey, I do my best. That's all I can do!

So, with all the efforts I have made the last few days, I was very disappointed at the turnout tonight. People who had previously committed, didn't show.

My whole goal for tonight was an opportunity to reach out and visit with people. Yes, I had the BEAD IT! class and I had my Pampered Chef available, but purchase was not required. In fact, half of my friends who showed up didn't purchase a thing. They stopped by to visit and eat. I was so happy and grateful to those that came. It made my day. THANK YOU!!

I sent out over 100+ Evites. I received a RSVP of 6 people attending (that includes the 2 women who do BEAD IT!), 1 maybe, and 16 declines. I'm ok people not being able to attend, thank you for your honesty.

I have a huge problem with indifference. I think it is rude to ignore someone who is reaching out. I know that I take it more personally, but I am very sensitive to the act of being rejected. The stats listed above do not include the people who verbally committed to attend, and blew me off. This was just the Evites.

Tonight's lack of response blends right in and cements my feelings of being overlooked and judged (I'll get into that later). I am not your typical LDS woman and mother. I grew up outside the LDS church, I grew up in an environment of HORRIBLE abuse, and to top that off, I think you could call it the death blow- is the fact that I have children with special needs. These needs cannot be treated with a pill and BAM you get better. My children's needs will take a lifetime of attention and medication in order for them to grow into healthy, functional adults.

With all this activity going on, it is understandable that we really don't entertain. We have hosted a dinner when a child gets baptized, and I have offered up the use of our swimming pool for our Primary children to use during the summer, but I don't really entertain. It is difficult.

It is difficult to stay on top of my housework, it is difficult to find ways to beautify my home especially when I have 2 children who take great delight in the destruction of objects that I cherish. I have stopped buying nice things. I am trying to make do with what we have. I am trying to wait out the early years and hope that things will improve as my boys mature. I can only pray! I can barely stay on top of the day to day chores because my children require so much more of my energy and attention. I'm ok with that. That's life. But, don't judge me.

Now to add a layer of complexity-
I have increasingly felt over the last few years like an onlooker. Like a person peering through a window seeing the fun people are having on the inside but finding the entrance door locked. We have lived in our house 10 years now. And I feel we are regarded as a family that is unreliable and unstable.

We are very active in our church. We are LDS. There is almost a closed culture among LDS church members, maybe it is a misperception on my part. But, my family is largely ignored and tolerated. I am one of those strong, silent workers. I am always volunteering to help out in any way for service where I am able.

But, I'll tell you this. We are NOT one of those favored families among our fellow LDS church members. Some would deny this occurence. But, it is true. Just ask those of us on the outside, those who do not hold the higher social status. There are many on the outside. They are silent. They long for approval, attention, and fellowship.

I don't want to tolerate this hypocrisy anymore. This is where the title, "Love me, hate me, but spare me your indifference!" comes in. I am tired of mealy mouthed platitudes and feigned friendship. I am frustrated with how certain church members put up with the existence of other church members in the name of tolerance and love, while truly not fully loving. There are certain families I have made efforts to reach out to where I have been flatly rejected, I have witnessed looks of outright contempt and disapproval. But, when it comes to associating with the other more highly thought of families that are deemed to be of a higher social status, the mothers of those formerly disapproving families pay all kinds of attention to them. Mothers of certain disapproving families offer to hold and love the children of the families that enjoy a higher status. But do you know what? Those same mothers ignore our family and have NEVER ONCE offered to hold the 3 children I have born while in this ward. I have often asked my husband if we have a disease that they fear is contagious. Of course it isn't true. But it feels that way. It hurts.

I am fed up with this. If we were in a better financial situation, we would move! I would love to move. Because if we were able to move, we could leave behind the judgements and have a fresh, clean slate.

Recently, I was at church in a relaxed social situation. There was a group of us women sitting in a circle. Some men came in and pointed out the 'troublemakers', 2 younger sisters that enjoy a higher social status. Then the men pointed out the older sisters as the righteous and then the men asked what we were where a friend and I were sitting. One of the ladies pointed to us and said we were the group trying to stay on the path, trying to be righteous. I have no response. I had my game face on, and was trying to visit in the group, be social, be positive. But that comment, albeit unintentional, really says it all! It may have been a joke, but there is always an element of truth in a joke. Always. That is the judgement and the indifferent dismissal I have been fighting against the last 10 years.

A few years ago, my husband had a major surgery to help with his sleep apnea. I had 5 kids at that point. My youngest was under the age of 1. My son Ethan's disability was just beginning to emerge. And, I needed help. My husband was in the ICU for 2 or 3 days. My grandfather was not in a position to be of help. And, my husband's family live in Utah, and were unable to help. So, we rely on ourselves. I had always, up until that point, lived with the knowledge that if all else failed our ward family would be of help. Boy was I proved wrong!

It is difficult to ask for help. In my past, I have asked for help, only to have my hand slapped away in rejection and outright refusal. Because of this, I am very tentative in my requests for help. Things have to be pretty bad for me to ask.

So, whether it was due to an inability of me to communicate my needs on my part, or something else that was going on, a very unfortunate situation happened with my visiting teachers. I felt like they not only were hesitant to help but did it begrudgingly or unhappily. I am sure this isn't quite true. I am not sure what was going on. I just picked up on some weird vibes and didn't understand the events that transpired. And, because I had hired this sister to help me out with childcare in the past, I felt duty bound to pay her. This sister's visiting teaching companion that had come over to help her. So, as soon as I got there to pick up my son, the companion sped off as if the hounds of Hell were at her heels. To this day, I don't know what happened or why.

Because of the events of that day, I felt completely rejected. I lost it. I couldn't even ask for the full measure of help that I needed. Earlier, when I went to the ICU, I took my infant in his backpack. I felt like I didn't want to inconvenience my visiting teacher, I didn't want to overburden her. ICU didn't want to let me in. Children are not allowed in the ICU. But, they let me in, seeing that my baby was in a backpack and couldn't touch anything. I visited with my husband for maybe 5 minutes and had to leave. My husband's surgery was scary. He could barely breathe, let alone talk or swallow. It was hard on him and me. During this time, no meals were offered to my family. Instead of other sisters in our church offering help, a number of young women's families were asked if they could help. Some of those families were hesitant to allow their daughters to help because of their daughter's young age. So, I was left on my own. All the previous expectations I had had came crashing down. It was an event that devestated my faith and trust in my 'ward family.' I wanted to walk away from the church. I felt it was hypocritical that our church who proclaimed themselves to be a ward family would leave us in the lurch like that. I knew that I couldn't walk away from my faith. I have a testimony. But, it shattered my complete trust in it. It has never been the same since.

My friend was so concerned with how upset I was, she had her husband call our bishop. He then shared his concerns. He explained how we felt largely overlooked and unimportant. I still feel rather unimportant and overlooked, at least in the workings of our ward. It has been that way for me for the last 10 years. It was only after that call that my family started to receive some help. We were then offered some meals and a few girls were brave enough to come and help out.

I do not feel like I can freely ask for help. It is also difficult socially with these women. They socialize together outside of church. But not me, except on rare occasions. I don't think I will ever fit in with a certain group of women. Generally, I will visit with some of the older sisters at church. They are always loving and accepting. I appreciate that ... words cannot express the depth of my appreciation for their unwavering love and kindness and acceptance.

What I find the most difficult is the fact that when my husband and I attended BYU, it was easy to make and maintain friends and to socialize. Then we moved out here to California. It was different. Now, some of my closest friends are NOT members of our church. They accept me with open arms and an open heart. I am loved and appreciated regardless of the social drawbacks of my family. I know that my son is difficult to be around. It is difficult to understand his behavior and his speech. Sometimes it is scary to witness his outbursts. But, above all he is a child of God and needs love. And moreover, our family needs love, understanding and support.

Maybe I have things all wrong and could be "schooled" a bit. I would love to have your input if I have inaccurately portrayed things or viewed them differently. Maybe you have a differing perspective than I do. I welcome any and all comments.

Thus ends this long entry. I am hurting still, it fades with time - thank goodness. I guess this hurt helps me to know that even if I am rejected by my fellow man, I do have a Savior who understands my every need and care. I take solace in that fact. That is the rock that I can rely upon. He provides an unchanging and immovable foundation. For that I am eternally grateful. I can draw upon His strength and go to Him with my cares. That is incredibly comforting. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's been a long time!

It has been too long since I blogged last. I was shocked. What have I been doing lately you may ask? I have been cooking, gaining weight, gardening, tending my backyard chickens, selling Pampered Chef, nagging my kids, taxi-ing, tackling long overdue household home improvements, taking my son Ethan to weekly therapy appointments, and exercising 3 days a week (it feels body abuse- but it is an awesome workout).

I don't have any pictures to post because I left my camera in my Grampa's car when I visited him in June. A terrible error on my part- I have missed out on some wonderful photo opps since then.

In 2 days I am hosting a party at my house. I haven't hosted anything except a swim party in my backyard in 5 years. I am doing it mainly as an opportunity to visit. Believe it or not- I invited over 100 people and 5 or 6 are coming. Hmmmm ..... not a good sign. My friend is going to be on hand to sell her trendy chunky beaded watches, I will have my Pampered Chef stuff there and a lady who I met recently whose daughter goes to Los Osos is coming with her daughter and she is bringing her designer handbags. But mainly, I just want to visit and enjoy the company of other women. I have been working hard at reaching out and trying to be more social and develop friendships.

Tomorrow is my son, Steven's 12th birthday. He is excited. He will be able to attend our church's Young Men/Young Women group. This coming Sunday, he will be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood in our church. It's a big step. He will start Junior High in August. My boy is growing up.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I Heart Faces - Hands On Photo Entry

Besides selling Pampered Chef products, making jewelry, cooking, sewing, and my carpentry class, I have taken an interest in photography. Recently, I even joined the community photography club!

I took the picture of Ethan (my autistic 4 year old terrorist) during one of his calm moments (he was asleep- that's the only time he is calm!). And since it features his hands in a unique perspective, I thought I would enter it into the contest. 

The day I took the picture he was obsessing about Halloween. He wanted it to be Halloween again! Ethan couldn't understand why we couldn't have Halloween again. When else can you go around house to house and they GIVE you chocolates? Halloween was a dream come true for him. 

So, he donned his trusty Iron Man costume (which is in tatters now) and found a Halloween treat bucket and sat at the table where I was working on one project or another. I didn't have any chocolate candy for him that day - he had eaten all the chocolate in the house, so I substituted Oreos instead. My standard bribe for him is chocolate. We probably spend more money than the average household on chocolate candies and chips. They are a staple in his finicky diet. 

So after much ado, here is the picture:

Sunday excitement? I'll pass!

I hope you had a good weekend. Friday night was great for me, I got to work (I sell Pampered Chef products now) and I got to make money and visit with friends! It was a lot of fun and a break from the kids. 

Saturday I was tired but it was a nice day of down time and relaxation. We rested, got a few chores down, had a delicious breakfast of pancakes made from whole grain buckwheat, and got gas. Our big treat for the weekend was dinner at Arby's. We had 3 buy one get one free coupons for sandwiches thus making it more affordable on our meager budget. Steven used one, Peter used one, and I used one. I'm sure the manager was less than happy with us, but hey- we weren't breaking the law. There were three separate customers for the transactions. And, we were better able to afford a dinner away from home for our rather large family of 7. It was nice. Everyone loved the Arby's curly fries. We had to go back and buy another order during dinner to satisfy everyone's desire for french fries. Ethan and Aeron stuck to the fries; they didn't care for the sandwiches. Their loss! They got cold cereal when they got home. Silly boys! 

Today, however, was not so great! Peter this morning had to attend to his responsibilities as Stake Sunday School President. He had to attend a ward conference at 9 AM this morning and then had to attend another meeting at 1 PM. He came home in between sessions to help me get the kids ready for church. 

It was all ok until our church started at 1 PM. That time is not ideal for our children, most especially for Ethan. We had our Sacrament meeting first. I didn't even make it 20 minutes in the chapel before I had to take the 2 youngest children out.  

Then, Ethan had a VIOLENT outburst and I left church in tears! It was time to go to the children's Bible study class during the 2nd hour. With much protestation, I got him in there. I asked him if he would be good, if he would listen, if he would be nice to his teacher. He said yes. I told him if he was good, I would give him chocolates when we got home. And, he could "play" with our chickens  (really he just tortures them, but in a non-harmful way). But once I turned around to leave and deal with a tantruming Aeron, Ethan got violent. He was knocking over chairs and tables, screaming, and I assume trying to hit the 2 other children in the class. 
I got angry! I don't often get mad, but I was angry. This type of violent outburst is absolutely not appropriate! I went in the room, got down on his level, grabbed a hold of him and told him what was what. I didn't hurt him, but I told him he was very naughty. I don't care who saw me, what they thought, how good or bad a mother they thought I am, but I wanted him to stop it. Of course, he couldn't stop. When he gets going like that, he has to wind down a bit and it can take a while. 

All the while I was in the room dealing with Ethan, Aeron was screaming and fighting to be freed, writhing in anger; he was screaming like a banshee. It was a shocking scene. It was horrific. People around me wanted to help, but there wasn't much they could do. Most people are afraid of hurting him, as if I would be upset with their offer of assistance. I wouldn't; sometimes Ethan HAS to be manhandled. We do it here at home. We aren't violent with him, but we have to be firm and sometimes we even have to restrain him.

So, I grabbed Ethan; if I had to, I was willing to drag him to the car. I got a hold of Aeron who immediately calmed down. I had a paper I needed to hand to our Primary President. I dispatched that duty with the help of a friend Amy Frandsen. And then I had to go back for Ethan. While holding on to Aeron, searching for paper, Ethan ran off. Thankfully, Brother O'Neal England was watching him; trying to corral him. Evidently, Ethan decided to stomp on his foot. Oh my gosh! So, Brother England picked him up and tried to calm him down. He was SO sweet. He was talking to him very calmly. He was trying to help. I was so grateful for his presence. I just wanted to beat him (something I have never done and did not do- though I was sorely temped!). Brother England said that he thought Ethan needed a hug. All the while, Brother England was talking to Ethan, Ethan was hitting him, struggling to get away. So, Brother England hugged him and then Ethan immediately hit him again. I thanked him for help and apologized for Ethan's crappy behavior. I got a hold of Ethan after Brother England put him down and walked past the shocked onlookers in the hallway. I know they felt bad for me. They just felt powerless to help and didn't know HOW to help. 

As I walked past them, they asked if I was all right. I wasn't all right. I started to break down, but I just kept walking down the hallway with tears streaming down my face. I got to the car, strapped the kids in and hit the road with the intention of going home. I had hoped I would find Peter at home. Peter was still in his meeting. Once home, I got a drink and a chocolate candy, this time for myself. I figured I had earned it. And, I got back in the car and headed back up to the church hoping to find Peter back at the church. He wasn't there. But, by the time I found a parking spot in the parking lot, Ethan had passed out and was asleep! Glory be!

So, I left Ethan asleep in the car, and took Aeron by hand and took him to the Nursery. This time, he willingly went in. Very quickly, he settled in and found a toy to play with. I left and headed back to the car to carry the sleeping Ethan to Relief Society. That's the meeting we have the third hour. I carefully set him on 2 chairs and sat down to enjoy the meeting.

I didn't get to sit very long, because when Peter arrived we had been requested to go in and speak with the Bishop. Once in there, he discussed some concerns he had about Ethan and I started crying again. 

Ethan has been having more of these violent outbursts lately. Twice on the bus, Friday he had one at school and the teacher had to restrain him. Ethan we hitting her, struggling to get free, and blowing his nose on her. Yuck! He's done that to me before when we had to go to the doctor. He had a full on tantrum in the doctor's office the WHOLE time I was there. I couldn't even stop to make an appointment. I dragged him out the door and downstairs to the car, where I went home with my tail between my legs. These episodes are extremely frustrating and extremely embarrassing. Often people look at him with horror. I have seen judgemental looks on the faces of some onlookers. I have also seen looks of compassion and understanding. Those kind souls help buoy me up and help me endure the Ethan's madness.

It's all very overwhelming and difficult to deal with my son. I am tired and I often feel beaten down with the cares of life. It's not as if he is the only child I have to deal with. There are 4 other children who need my attention and affection. We are struggling financially, but I cannot even think of going to work. With Ethan's volatility and unpredictability, who in their right mind would be willing to babysit him? And, it would be tremendously expensive. 

Ethan needs state services. He should qualify for disability. I need some help here at home and at school for him. He has progressively gotten worse during the last few months. And, I feel powerless to help him. I'm doing everything I can. And, sometimes I am just hanging on by my finger nails. There are times, I would LOVE to just drop him off somewhere and leave him there. But, I wouldn't; I couldn't. It does sound tempting, though, especially when he's in the middle of one of his outbursts.

So, with ALL that being said, as we were speaking to the Bishop, I just starting crying. Peter was looking at me with concern. The Bishop was certainly uncomfortable. I know he felt bad. But, with the floodgates released, I cried. We spoke at length about Ethan, about our homelife, about his schooling. 

I just feel very hopeless about the situation. I have been told several times, Ethan will NOT qualify for services. And, private services are horrendously expensive and they are NOT covered by our insurance. Testing is generally not covered by our insurance either. It is also horrendously expensive. I gave up babysitting in November for the sake of my mental health and because of Ethan's worsening condition. It was too much for me. So, with those funds being gone, we are struggling that much more. 

Really, money comes and money will go. It is just hard to have that one more concern when I am struggling mentally and physically on a daily basis with this kid. 

After our meeting in the Bishops office, I did not return to Relief Society. Peter took the still sleeping child to the car and I took my very red rimmed eyes home. Then, on the way home, Ethan starting yelling for a bean burrito. Wishing to end the harassment, I gave in. I went through the drive through at Del Taco and bought him his bean burrito. Yes, it was a moment of weakness. But, I've grown so tired of the yelling and the fighting. I just want it to END!

After church our good friend Maryanne Bingham came over. We had dinner of Cheddar Broccoli soup and Loaded Bake Potato Chowder, Salad, and homemade fresh out of the oven rolls. It was a most delicious dinner.

Then we at 7 pm, we had a meeting for Steven. In July he will be turning 12 and will be going to Young Men and will receive the priesthood. The meeting was about that. We left the other 3 kids under the care of Rebekkah and went to the meeting just Peter, Steven and I. By the time we left, Ethan was well on the way to going to sleep. I knew Jonathon would just play video games and that would just leave Rebekkah to care for Aeron- a very manageable task. 

I could hardly keep my eyes open during the meeting. I was tired. It was a lovely meeting. It was a very nice meeting for Steven. He enjoyed it. Peter and I each wrote him a letter telling him something we liked about him and how we hoped he would continue to make good choices in the future. Steven felt very appreciated. It was a good boost to his self-esteem and a period of time he will hopefully look back on with fondness. 

So, that's my day. It was a very exciting one. The Gale family's life is never lacking action or excitement. I often wish it was a little more calm, but hopefully, that will come with time. I can only hope!

Ethan in one of him "moods"

Monday, February 8, 2010

A few of my favorite things

6. Kidney Stones
5. Little boy's ties in dirty #2 toilet water
4. Urgent care at 8 pm on a Sunday in the winter
3. Tonsillitis and other contagious ailments
2. Doctor co-pays
1. Pharmacy co-pays
This last weekend was tough. Peter discovered his dreaded kidney stones have returned. Since the lithotripsy (ultrasonic breaking up of the stones) 4-5 years ago, he has gone on to reproduce more. :( Bad times!
And, Sunday night I ended up in the urgent care with Ethan. He has tonsillitis. 
To start this long story off, it all began Wednesday, when Peter, Bekkah and Ethan went to the same urgent I took Ethan to last night. At that time, Peter and Bekkah were diagnosed with tonsillitis. Ethan was deemed "healthy." 
This last week was a difficult one for Ethan. Thursday, Peter stayed home from school a second day recovering from feeling yucky. Well, around 1:50 PM the dispatcher for First Student Transportation called me saying we needed to go up and rescue bus driver Dana. Ethan had removed his seat belt and did his usual shlump to the floor, where he remained for 30 minutes while screaming, yelling, and crying. Oh what fun! When we arrived, he had dirt and snot and tears all over his face, shirt and hands.
Because of his poor behavior on the bus, I have been in frequent contact with Transportation. When they changed his morning bus driver a few weeks ago, he's been exhibiting increasingly poor behavior. One day, it took him 15 minutes to get him on the bus. Last Friday, Tracy his newest morning bus driver, kicked him off the bus because he wouldn't sit up on the bus and wouldn't settle down. 
I am very frustrated with Ethan's behavior. I am an unwillingly reinforcing his behavior by removing him from the bus. When he raises a ruckus, I HAVE to come remove him from the bus. Now, he knows that when he acts up, I will come get him. The problem is that I can't just leave him on the bus both for the safety of the other children and because the bus driver has other stops.
Friday I went so far as to follow the bus from the school on the route. He made it from Etiwanda Ave. & Banyan St. and Haven Ave. & Banyan St. He made it a total of 3.3 miles!  I hid behind cars in the parking lot and followed from about 1/2 mile distance. Unfortunately, farther up the road I found the bus with its hazards on right off of Haven Ave. Ethan's new afternoon bus driver Angelica was having problems with him. It was Angelica's first day on the route! Trying to work with Ethan's desires to be independent and still keep him restrained, they are using a buckle guard. A buckle guard is a square-like device that you attach around the sear belt and the guard is then secured with a medicine cap that screws down and is "child-proof." So instead of trying to unbuckle the seatbelt, Ethan decided to slither out of the belt and on the floor. 
Where there is a will there is a way! And boy, does that child have a will!
I keep reminding myself that Heavenly Father placed him here with our family for a purpose. He came to this earth for a purpose. It is our job to love and guide him and help him discover that purpose. Ethan is amazing. Ethan is so strong, both physically and mentally. Once he has decided upon a course of action or something he wants- that is generally the way it turns out. He is now the size almost the size of a 6 year old. He is so strong! And, boy does he have a sense of humor.
One of the funniest things occurred last night. When the male triage nurse brought him back to get his stats. He took Ethan's blood pressure. The cup squeezed his arm. Ethan didn't like it. So, he looked at the nurse, and Ethan told him that squeezing his arm isn't nice! I tried to explain To Ethan that the nurse didn't do it, the machine did it. I told Ethan that he should tell the machine that it's not nice to squeeze his arm, so he did. It was so funny the way he says it. He says, "It's not nite." That's how he says nice. He has problems with his speech, most especially his front loading syllables. So, in the triage room, he says it with all seriousness to the nurse and to me. The nurse was amused at his behavior. And, for a change, Ethan wasn't out of control by the time we got into the triage; he was rather charming. 
With all the winter illnesses this time of year, the waiting time was about 1 1/2 hours in the lobby. I amused Ethan by helping him play games on my iPhone. We played bubble wrap, bubbles, and Scoops. We played Scoops for what seemed like forever until my eyes hurt. I kept trying to encourage Ethan to play the game on his own, but he was much more happy with me playing it. The point of the game is to stack as many scoops of ice cream on top of each other as you can while avoiding the evil veggies- red tomatoes, red onions, and white onions. So in the waiting room, Ethan keep exclaiming in a rather loud voice, "Oh no, not the tomatoes!" Then he would cheer me on as I avoided the shower of veggies. It was cute. I was very grateful that it was just him and I instead of more kids in the mix. Whew!
Earlier yesterday at church, Peter had to remove Ethan from his Primary class. He just couldn't behave. He only made it about a little over an hour. I had just returned from picking Bekkah up from her weekend stay at Karen Blackmer's house in Lake Elsinore. I med her mom at the Travel America truck stop parking lot off the 10 freeway and Milliken. By the time I made it back up to the church, I picked up Peter and Ethan and brought them home. On the way home, Ethan fell asleep, something that he NEVER does unless he is medicated. That's when I first knew something was up. Earlier, Peter took Ethan to the bathroom, and Ethan had a bowel movement. Peter had a rough time trying to get him cleaned up so he had Ethan lean way over. That's when Ethan church tie took a dip in dirty water. Can you say GROSS? When I picked up Peter and drove him home from church, Peter had had quite enough of the trials and travails of Ethan and church! But, at least, I got to attend the last hour of church- Relief Society. It was really nice. I enjoyed it.
So, that's how my Sunday went. I finally returned home from Urgent Care at close to 10 PM. I fixed Ethan some Bagel Bites from our freezer. He was intent upon eating little pizzas. And, we had them in our freezer. I finally sought relief in my pillow and bed around 11:00 PM. 
Here's a picture a what I'd rather be doing. I finally had to resort to giving him Ethan a nap in a bottle. He decided to fall asleep in the chair.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Valentine's Day Giveaway! Check it out for your chance to win a $25 giftcard!

Two $25 AMEX Gift Cards ~~TWO WINNERS

Get excited for yet Another Earl's Daughter Giveaway!!!

This giveaway is for 


$25 American Express Gift Cards

There will be two winners for this giveaway!

Good Luck!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Good Day

I had a good day today which is a change from the last few weeks!
Not only did we get a lot of laundry and cleaning done around the house, but I had my first Pampered Chef party since December 12. I've been excited because my friend Judy Tran from church agreed to hold one. It was her first Pampered Chef party. I am happy. She had 6 friends and family members come. I like the more intimate settings so I can get to know the guests and they can really check out the products.
It's funny because I am SO not a sales person. My decision to sell Pampered Chef came as a result of my signing off with childcare. I had to stop in order to preserve my mental health. I needed to get out of the house. I DESPERATELY missed visiting with other people. I couldn't take all my charges out and about without significant stress. And, I had to do something I enjoyed.
When my friend Roberta approached me with the idea, I said, "Why not?" What can it hurt. There was an initial investment of $155 for the kit but then I have done pretty well. And, if it doesn't work out, I get to keep all my cool kitchen tools.
When I received my kit, it was rather humorous. You see, I had some repeats. I have a lot of Pampered Chef products I have accumulated over the years. I love their products. They have great quality products, and they do save time. The key to Pampered Chef and increasing your Pampered Chef tools is to hold parties. By holding a party, you earn free and reduced price products. That is the best way to stock your kitchen with their products. Pampered Chef products do cost more than if you were to purchase the same item at Target or Walmart. But, that is always the way of things. Quality products require an investment, but over time you will appreciate the investment.
So today at the party I demonstrated the Pampered Chef recipe for Warm Nutty Caramel Brownies. They turned out great. What can be better than brownies, melted chocolate and melted caramels. It's a win all the way around. It was the first time I had tried that recipe. But, I have found that all their recipes for demonstrations are pretty much fool proof, easy, and delicious.
I also had an inspiration right before I left my house. The whole theme of the show was Valentine's Day Tricks and Treats. Before hand I had made Mother Goose Popcorn and Oreo Truffles. Both of these recipes can be found over at Your Home Based Mom's website. She has such great recipes.  So, in additon to those other 3 ideas, I wanted to throw something else out there. I brought my Deep Covered Baker. You see in the Deep Covered Baker, you can make a cake in 8 minutes. Yes, believe it, it is not a typo. In 8 minutes, anyone can make a cake. It cooks in the microwave.
I wanted to deviate from our chocolate theme, so I brought a lemon cake mix. Then we got to talking about different products and then I pulled out my Ultimate Mandoline and demonstrated it on a lemon and a tomato. The results are impressive.
I had some lemon juice so I decided to throw the cake mix together and I added probably 2-3 Tbs. of lemon juice and then I demonstrated the Microplane Adjustable Grater. It is great for zesting an orange or lemon or finely shredding hard cheeses like Parmesan which taste absolutely AMAZING fresh. I haven't ever added those items to a cake mix before. It turned out delicious- and I ended up impressing myself at my little spark of inspiration; the lemon juice and zest really enhanced the lemon cake mix's flavor.
With the Deep Covered Baker, you prepare your cake mix according to the package directions and pour it into the baker. You don't have to grease the pan. Then on top of the batter,  you scoop frosting onto the top of the cake batter using the Pampered Chef Stainless Steel Scoop (I used vanilla frosting).  Most of time, when I start doing this, everyone gives me perplexed and confused looks until I explain that after the 8 minutes are up, the frosting magically appears at the bottom and acts as a yummy sauce. I'm not just tooting my own horn, that is not me. But it was so good served alone or with vanilla ice cream. The brownies were a big hit as well. My favorite by far was the lemon cake.
I was really happy with the party. I am starting to get some of the tips and tricks down. With each party, I am feeling more confident in my ability to present and sell Pampered Chef. I do love it. I like their products.  I LOVE cooking and sharing my knowledge of cooking with other people. And, if I can get paid to do this, I feel like I  come out the winner. I mean, I am loving the opportunity to get out and meet new people and visit with people.
So, that was my day today. It was wonderful. After the party, I came home and did dishes and more laundry and made Kraft mac and cheese while Peter took Bekkah, Steven, and Jonathon to Avatar. He wanted to reward the kids for their hard work at helping out around the house. They did a good job with laundry, dishes, sweeping and mopping the floor, vacuuming, and the cleaning of bathrooms. And, they needed a break from Ethan's crazy, manic behavior lately.
Yesterday, I took him in for his med check with our medication doctor, Dr. Gordon. It was UGLY- and that's an UNDERSTATEMENT! I had to partially sit on him to restrain him from running around the doctor's office. He spit on me, blew his nose on me, fought with me, and screamed the WHOLE time. I'm not kidding or exaggerating!
It's been so bad lately, that he's not functioning at church, home, or school. At home, it's been HELL. I've had to resort to using some extra drugs (legal, prescription drugs prescribed to him, just in case you are wondering or concerned) to help sedate him a bit. For a while it was working. It was helping to lessen his irrational, angry destructiveness. The past few weeks, I have lived like an alcoholic, one day at at time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time just to get through the day. The housework hasn't been much of a priority. I've fallen behind in a few things. But, I haven't killed him which is a HUGE accomplishment. And, we have survived in one piece. The last few weeks have pushed me to my limits, but I guess that is a part of the growth and development we learn here on earth in our process to one day become like our Savior. And, the 4 hours he's been gone at school I've either relaxed and decompressed which is a mental necessity or taken Aeron to do some errands. I HATE taking Ethan places. He makes doing errands an unbearable experience. He grabs everything and demands that I buy it. That's not going to happen, so we then suffer through an angry tantrum while people gawk and stare and judge.
Back to the main accomplishment, the doctor visit. The doctor's appointment was productive. I was very honest with the doctor. I always am, but he was shocked at Ethan's behavior. I didn't pull any punches. I told him sometimes I feel like beating the crap out of him, but I realize that would be for my benefit- of expressing my anger and frustration- not his. He agreed with me about that temptation with an oppositional and volatile child like him. I told the doctor we can't continue to live this way.
Right now Dr. Gordon is working under the premise that he has outgrown his medication. He turns 5 in 4 months and he's almost the size of a 6 year old. He's wearing clothes and shoes right now that Jonathon wore in Kindergarten. He's had a growth spurt, which can throw off the effectiveness of the medication. So, right now we are working on that assumption.
He is taking more pills everyday but, what else can we do? Otherwise with the old amount of medication, he acts like a monster (yelling, screaming, fighting). He's belligerent and so volatile. Everything sets him off. I'm afraid to tell him no. Believe me, I do say no. But every time, I am inwardly cringing to see what screaming fit or tantrum my "NO" will bring on. I live in fear, he might accidentally push his little brother Aeron who is 2, down the stairs in a fit of rage. He wouldn't do it on purpose, but he would do it without thinking about the consequences. That is just his brain. He's so impulsive and impetuous.
We should see results in a week on one of the medications and 2-3 weeks on the other medication. I am praying and crossing my fingers that this will work and help him resume his daily activities with the former zest and enthusiasm. I hope and pray his rage will wane.
So, I guess that is why I had such a great day. I got a lengthy break from my son. I got to get out, socialize,  make money and cook delicious food for other people who appreciate it. It's a nice break from the daily purgatory I've been suffering through.
If you are interested in finding more about Pampered Chef I have a website. Click the link and it'll take you right there: I would be ecstatic if you would be willing to have a party or place an order. I want to make this work to help support my family. Either way, just let me know, I would appreciate your support.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Homemade Italian Bread and Lasagna - recipes

 Last night, after dithering the day away with a nap and errands, I was feeling particularly domestic and wanted to make a special meal for our "date night." So I made Italian bread and lasagna.
   In theory, we would save money by NOT going out to eat and NOT seeing a movie, which would allow us to rationalize a book purchase at Barnes and Noble. Peter wanted to buy a Flash book (computer programming stuff), it was $50 and he could not justify it. I purchased 2 more books by Shannon Hale. The first book in her series is Goose Girl. It is located in Young Adult/Teen fiction. I listened to it over Christmas and enjoyed it. She is an LDS writer. The book is of the fantasy genre. It's a good read. She has 4 books in her Books of Bayern series. Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born. Check it out if you are interested.

I have digressed, as usual. Back to the main focus - FOOD!
Here are the recipes- enjoy!

Italian Bread
Yield: 2 loaves
3 c. warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 1/2 Tbs. (2 packets) active dry yeast
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. sugar, divided
1 Tbs. salt
1/4 c. butter, melted
7-9 c. bread flour ( I used 8 cups)
1 egg white
1. In a small bowl, combine the water, yeast, 1 tsp. sugar. Stir just until yeast is dissolved. Cover with a small plate and let stand until the mixture is bubbly or foamy (5-10 minutes).
2. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, mix the salt, the remaining sugar, butter, the yeast mixture,  and 3 1/2 c. of the flour. Start mixing.
*Note- Here is where I diverge from the recipe. I added dough conditioner (3 Tbs.) and Vital Wheat Gluten (3 Tbs.). I subtracted 1/2 c. flour from the recipe for these two additions. These two products are available from Honeyville Grain Co. in 3.5 lb. cans. That's where I purchase them. I love Honeyville! They have a store here in Rancho Cucamonga off Milliken Ave. off of 7th Street. If you live here locally, check them out!
Back to the recipe:
Keep adding flour, 1/2 c. at a time, up to 3 cups for a total of 7 cups. The dough should be firm and completely away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour 1/4 c. at a time, up to the remaining 2 cups. (I used a total of 8 cups).
3. Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface, or with the dough hook on low to medium speed, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl and turn it once to coat. Cover with a dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place away from drafts until doubled in bulk, 20-40 minutes (I averaged 40 minutes in my convection oven set to the bread proofing setting. Check out your owners manual to see if your oven has this setting. I love it. A lot of the newer ovens have this setting. In case your owner's manual doesn't tell you, when you proof the bread at 100 degrees you the bread you want to rise on the middle rack and on the very bottom rack put a quart of BOILING water in a 9x13 pan on the very bottom shelf) Grease a baking sheet or sheet pan and set aside (I used my Pampered Chef stoneware large bar pan).
4. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, form each half into a thick baguette shape, about 10 inches long. Place the loaves on the prepared pan. With a sharp knife, make three angled 1/2 inch deep slashes on the top of each loaf. Bead the egg white with a whisk and brush it over the loaves. Let the loaves rise uncovered until doubled in bulk 20-40 minutes (40 minutes again in the oven on the bread proofing setting with the water from before).
5. Meanwhile, transfer one loaf onto another greased baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf for 30 minutes. Leave the water in the oven if you desire, the extra water helps you have moist bread. For a crisper crust, spray water in the oven with a spray bottle just before baking and again a few times during the baking (and remove the pan of water).
6. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack. Serve the bread hot if desired or allow to cool. Put olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a shallow dish and dip as an alternative to butter.
Variation: To make rolls, pinch off about 1 1/2 inch balls of dough for each roll and place side by side on a greased sheet pan. Let rise until doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until the rolls are lightly browned, 10-13 minutes.
Recipe adapted from the Food Nanny Rescues Dinner. My friend's older sister wrote this AWESOME book. Every recipe is a keeper! Believe me, I tried to prove her wrong. :)

Aunt Laura's Lasagna
This recipe is from Laura Harmon, my husband's aunt. She is another fantastic cook. I've adapted the recipe a little.
1 lb. of ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced (using my Pampered Chef garlic press, I LOVE this tool!)
1 medium finely diced onion
1 1/2 Tbs. parsley flakes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbs. basil
3 Tbs. sugar
2 c. water
10 oz. lasagna noodles
3 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbs. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated
Brown the hamburger with the garlic and onions in a skillet, drain the fat. Place hamburger back in the skillet. Add the parsley, salt, tomato paste. crushed tomatoes, basil and sugar and water. Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes stirring constantly. Meanwhile, add noodles to boiling, salted water. Cook until tender and drain. Combine cottage cheese, with eggs, seasonings and parmesan cheese. Place a little meat sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Place 1/2 noodles in the pan. Spread 1/2 cottage cheese mixture over the noodles, 1/2 the mozzarella sprinkled over that and then 1/2 the meat sauce. Repeat using the noodles, cottage cheese, a little mozzarella cheese, meat sauce and top with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Place on a cookie sheet, because this dish gets bubbly and I am lazy and don't want to clean my oven.
Serves 8-10 people, gracefully.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lacking in tact- yep, that's my boy!

I always hear the comment, "Kids say the darndest things." 

Sometimes it is just so funny what children say. In honor of Martin Luther King Day this last Monday, Jonathon was assigned to write a speech for his 3rd grade class. 

What did he write? I'll tell you.

"I have a dream that my brother would be nicer to me at the house. He always is being a butthead to me. My dream is important to my parents because they know he is a real pain in the butt to me. If my dream came true, I would be so glad I would say thank you to God. I would say to Steven you are a good brother since you have changed." 

Peter helped Jonathon clean up his speech. He felt that the words butt and butthead did not belong in a speech. It is funny that he would think of that word to use in his speech, but I'm sure his teacher would frown on that amongst all the laughter of the other children. After all, body humor is SO FUNNY at that age!

His speech now reads:
I have a dream that my brother will be nicer to me someday. My dream is important to me because I want to feel happy when I am with my brother. My dream is important to my parents because they want peace and harmony in our house. If my dream came true, I wold be so glad that I would say thank you to God. I would say to Steven, "You are a good brother since you have changed." If we all would be nicer to each other, it would make our house a happier place.

I love the brutal, simple honesty of kids, especially Jonathon. He always says it like it is. There is no guile in him. Everything he does is straight up. We just need to help him refine his skills and to use tact.

Another illustration of this trait is an event that occurred a couple weeks ago. His teacher, Barbara Chase, caught him cheating. She was giving the class a spelling test. Jonathon for whatever reason decided he was going to cheat, he was copying the words down from the spelling test inside his desk. She caught him red handed; he was on #18 while the class was still on #7. He got a 0 on the test. And she talked to him about cheating. Then later that same day they were doing a math drill exercise in which they had to complete as many problems as they could in 1 minute. Well, after the minute was up, Jonathon kept working. He got another 0 on that test. And, she wrote an email to me. I checked my email after dinner and read the bad news. He was sent to bed after dinner that night while Peter, Steven, Ethan, Aeron and I went to a drive in to see Sherlock Holmes and The Blind Side. He was very unhappy about that. There were tears. Also, the next day, when Peter had to go in to do some work at the high school, Jonathon had to go with him. While there, Jon had to write a letter of apology both to his teacher and to himself. We talked with Jon about how cheating really cheats him of the opportunity to gain important knowledge. Obviously we don't agree with this type of behavior, but what child hasn't tried this? I hope that he won't try this little stunt again. Otherwise, we'll have to think up a more serious punishment.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oatmeal... breakfast of the champions and those who want to lower their cholesterol!

  • Here's my mini lesson on oatmeal. I love oatmeal. It's so good for you! It's a great way to start out your day. What could be better than a warm, filling, and nutritious meal that will do your mind and body good?
Now, I'm not a fan of just any oatmeal, but freshly ground oatmeal. It's a must! Freshly ground oatmeal contains essential oils and vitamins that you don't get in the packages off the shelf. To mill oats, you need a flaker. Don't have a flaker? I'll mill it for you and bring it to you. Just let me know. It's is worth your while!

  • Oatmeal in it's whole form is called oat groats. It looks like this:

    But in processing, the oatmeal is flaked or run through a mill which squishes it flat. Now it looks like this:

  • Once any type of grain is processed, whether it is flaked or ground into a flour, it oxidizes. The process of oxidation (exposure to oxygen) causes those magical nutrients, vitamins and oils that do our bodies the most good to deteriorate. With in 24-36 hours the grain loses most of it's nutritional value. Thus, by the time it reaches the store, it's value is negligible. Yes, it does provide you with a good source of fiber, but that is about it! One way to combat the process of oxidation is to store fresh ground oatmeal in the freezer or refrigerator. I prefer the freezer because it has a longer storage time. But, I have my handy dandy grain mill as a permanent fixture on my counter top. I choose to grind it as I use it, and most of the minimal leftovers are fed to my chickens who are very grateful to gobble it up!

I promised to post these recipes long ago, and didn't follow through on my promise before Christmas. I'm sorry Carolyn. I owe you a bag of oatmeal. :)

Here are my oatmeal recipes.

The choc-oat-chip recipe are the only chocolate chip cookies I make. That way, I can sneak some whole-grain goodness into my kids' bodies. :)
Also, I love the oatmeal muffins. I like the fact that instead of throwing away the leftover oatmeal, you can use it to make these muffins. My kids don't know that leftover oatmeal is the main ingredient. Instead of using raisins, you can leave it out altogether or use dried cherries or cranberries or even chocolate chips instead.

Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies:
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat brown sugar, butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, morsels and nuts; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12 to 13 minutes for crispy cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Oatmeal Muffins


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup leftover oatmeal
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon


  • In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, combine oil, eggs, oatmeal, raisins and vanilla and cinnamon; add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened (the batter will be thin). Spoon into 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until the muffins test done. Yield: 1 dozen.
  • Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 248 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 35 mg cholesterol, 158 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.
  • Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chippers
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 c. butter 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. granulated sugar 3 c. old fashioned oats
  • 1 c. firmly packed brown sugar 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs 1/2 c. coconut
  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour 1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat over to 350 and lightly grease a cookie sheet.
Beat the butter, sugars, and eggs in a large bowl of an electric mixer until blended. Beat for 1 minute.
Sifts the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Add to the butter mixture and blend well. Stir in the oats and vanilla. Stir in the coconut and chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned and almost firm when lightly pressed on the top, about 10 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool! Yield: 3 dozen cookies