Life. Love. Family. Our Perfect Imperfection. Living life as a Catholic, homeschooling family with three amazing, unique boys, a too-oft serious, frustrated and anxious but also loving momma, and a fun-loving, hardworking dad.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Month of Ethan - July TBT #5 AND (a slightly late) birthday post all rolled in to one!

12 years. That's how old our boy turned on Tuesday. TWELVE! I know that's not super-old or anything, but when it's your first-born reaching that milestone, it can feel like it. The years have flown by. We are so proud of you, Ethan!!

July 29th, 2002. Ethan's delivery was a little difficult. My labor had slowed somewhat, and I was put on pitocin to speed it up. My ob's office had 2 different doctors, and of course the one on duty that night, for most of my labor, was horrible :( She THREATENED me with a c-section if I didn't hurry up and push that baby out. Not that a c-section is a bad thing, it was just the way she treated me and said it to me. I was 21 and having my first child with no family around besides my poor tired husband! Thankfully, not long after that there was a shift change and the other OB came in. She was much kinder and respectful. We were concerned because Ethan's heart rate was dropping, but, she told me, not enough to do a c-section. Once he was born, we quickly realized why. His umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck twice cutting off the circulation some. He was fine though, and didn't need any interventions. Apgar scores were great and he was crying loudly.
Me, 7 months pregnant with Ethan, and Jason's Grandma (my baby shower)

My sweet boy and I. Just a few minutes old.

He was born on a Monday. Ethan and I stayed in the hospital until Wednesday, and I'm genuinely glad we did. It was discovered early Wednesday that he had a heart murmur. Many times it is an innocent murmur. In E's case, he has Ventricular Septal Defect, a hole in the septum of the ventricle of his heart. It was small, but there. Over the years, he has seen a cardiologist many times to monitor it. At first, he had a lot of trouble gaining weight, eventually (after we had a hard time breastfeeding and he was put on formula) being fed higher calorie formula. He has been very lucky in that he has never needed surgery or medication for his heart condition, and the hole has been slowly closing all this time. He still has a murmur and the hole is currently still there, but he only goes to the cardiologist every 2-3 years now. (Ethan does NOT like getting echocardiograms done :( )

Mommy, Daddy and Ethan (around 3 weeks old)

Summer 2003

Cake and ice cream, 2nd birthday, 2004

Ethan and Grandma O, National Zoo, Washington, DC, May 2005

Ethan and his 5th grade teacher, Mrs. L, Halloween 2011

Alex and Ethan, after his first spelling bee win, Feb 2012

Ethan with Jackson, April 2012

Being silly before his middle school dance, 2012

Age 3

Ethan and his first friend Jocelyn, about 18mo-2y

Ethan and Jocey, they were about a year old

Ethan and daddy (top 2: around 4 or 5 months, bottom: about 2)

Over the years, Ethan has had his fair share of struggles and triumphs. At around 18 months, he was diagnosed with communication delays, and we suspected Autism. He received in home services from then, until we moved from Maryland to Ohio. Around 3 he finally started to speak, and promptly started reading!! In Ohio he started preschool for a couple of months, with special services, and went on to half-day kindergarten that fall. During that time he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, and was given his first IEP.

We moved to a different house, and unfortunately he had to switch schools. Full day kindergarten, many phone calls home, and difficulty with bullies made for a tough 5 months. After finding out more than a month into the switch that they "didn't know about his IEP", I was furious for him. It was most definitely given to them, by myself and the old school. They did "find" it though. The next few years of school were all over the place for little E. We tried a Catholic school for first grade, but he was essentially kicked out due to lack of services available (I get it, but they did know prior to him starting about his diagnosis and said it was ok. I didn't appreciate the teacher saying he was "RUDE" because he would throw tantrums and yell "at" her or correct her. In all honesty, it was part of his Autism, and while not okay to disrespect others, we were still trying to figure out how to help him respond appropriately. Yelling at him, or sending him out of the classroom constantly was not helping... but I digress) We decided to send him to a special school for kids on the spectrum, and he excelled. In fact, they were the first to realize - besides us, of course - that he was brilliant and bored with the classwork. They moved him to second grade in November, and by January he was being "mainstreamed" into the typical classroom, with an aide. It was around this time, we took him to a psychologist and got the new diagnosis of Asperger's, which is still on the spectrum like PDD-NOS, and possibly ADHD. After given the choice to try medication (risperdal) and doing some research, we declined.

Over the summer, we moved yet again, to Michigan where daddy works. For third grade, E started at a charter school, and while that year was a tough one, he made a lot of progress. Since then E has done amazing, not only in school, but socially he's taken so many steps in the right direction, in part thanks to the amazing teachers he had in 4th-7th grade. He won the school and charter school spelling bees two years in a row, making it to the regional bee for the Scripps' National Spelling Bee and although he didn't make it to the end, he did well and managed his emotions also.

In the past year, E has made some amazing strides. Back in September, we went to a neurologist and after some discussion, with Ethan's approval, we decided on some medication to help with his anxiety. Not only has it helped with that, it has helped his focus. This year, he met 1 of his IEP goals by June (his runs Oct-Oct) and made a lot of progress on all of the others. He only had social/behavioral goals this year, which is different from the previous ones.

Ethan is an amazing, caring big brother. His empathy for others is quite astounding. He wants to make sure you are happy, and will sacrifice his own happiness to do what his brothers want many times. Ethan is kind, funny and so smart. Be careful telling him things, because if you are incorrect and he knows it, he will not hesitate to correct you! His favorite subjects are Math, History, and Science. He has mentioned wanting to become a teacher or an actor! Some of his favorite things to do are draw comics, play minecraft and other video games, and read books. He's especially loving James Patterson's middle school books right now.

I have loved watching him grow up to become this wonderful young man he is now. It's not always easy for him, but he tries so hard to be positive and he's learning to express himself when he's having a hard time or needs something specific. Whether it's a hug or time alone. In the coming year, E plans to try a couple of new activities. The dr tested his cholesterol yesterday, after it being slightly elevated last year, and found it to still be elevated. He eats pretty well, but doesn't get much exercise. While he is most definitely not overweight (4'9" and 82.6lbs), he needs to move more. After some discussion, Ethan has decided he would like to try Karate, and possibly yoga, as well as more swim lessons. I'm going to do my best to encourage him and help him. Not just for the cholesterol, but because I think emotionally the more he moves the better off he will be. Plus it will be just plain fun and he can meet some new people!

Mom and Dad love you, buddy. Keep up the good work, and just think, in one year, you will be a teenager! Time flies, so enjoy being a kid this year!

Monday, July 28, 2014

MPM: 7/28 - 8/3

This week is an eclectic week when it comes to our menu plan, as well as our schedule! Tomorrow we have a birthday. Wednesday is a yearly physical for the birthday boy. Thursday we have our first ever chiropractic appointment. Then on Saturday, we have my husband's family reunion to attend. It's a very busy week for us, compared to lately. Throw in some last minute grocery shopping and clothes shopping (for mom) today, and we need to find something laid back and fun to do this week!

The Michigan weather is all over the place the last week. Saturday was warm and a little humid, but yesterday was really hot until around 4:30 when a huge thunderstorm rolled through. We were actually in the mall at Sears, when they directed all the shoppers and employees to take cover in the hallway as a precaution! That was a little scary, especially to Ethan. He gets worked up quickly during tense events and can panic. I'm trying to teach him not to panic, but to assess the situation, follow directions of the adults or those in charge if necessary, and find the safest thing to do. I'm terrified if there's ever a truly dangerous situation that he'll either freeze and do nothing or just start screaming, and get injured :( Such is the life as mom with an Aspie. I just don't know what to expect or how to prepare him sometimes. And that's ok. I just have to be here for him, and try to guide him.

On to our menu:

We actually changed up our plan last week and didn't end up eating the pork tacos yet. I did FINALLY manage to get the nearly 8.5 lb pork shoulder in the crockpot first thing yesterday morning, but we had cheeseburgers (hamburger w/o a bun for me) last night instead, as the ground beef was in the fridge and needed cooked. That makes for a super easy meal tonight though, since the meat is already cooked and partially shredded!

Monday: Crockpot pork tacos (decided not to use the recipe I shared last week. Instead I put the pork shoulder in the crockpot along with about 6 T wildtree taco seasoning and filled it up with beef broth. It cooked on low for about 12 hours. Fell off the bone!), homemade guacomole w/ wildtree guacomole seasoning, coleslaw mix/lettuce/pico/salsa/onions/cheese, plus tortillas for the boys and green leaf lettuce for me.

Tuesday: Birthday boy's choice. Ethan picked Stevi B's pizza buffet (...) along with a chocolate chip cookie cake, summer berry cobbler and chocolate chip cookie dough ice creams. (Since I'm going to be eating some pizza and a small slice of cake, I am planning to pick up a quart of coconut ice cream and having a HUGE salad at the restaurant. That way I'm not going completely off track, while still indulging in the birthday celebration for my big kid :) )

Wednesday: Aidell's chicken and gruyere sausages, roasted potatoes and salad

Thursday: Steak, roasted sweet potato and roasted broccoli

Friday: Coconut-crusted chicken tenders, roasted cauliflower and baby carrots

Saturday: Reunion (hamburgers and hot dogs) We are taking a couple of sides this year: a veggie tray with baby carrots, cauliflower and broccoli, a watermelon, and Nom Nom Chocolate Truffles of which I'm making a double batch. We will just use cocoa powder, not coconut flakes to roll them in. One batch will be dark chocolate, the other will be mint chocolate! Honestly, I cannot wait to make and try these!

Sunday: Leftovers or breakfast or something easy for dinner tonight!

That's all I've got! Enjoy your Monday, and make sure to go to I'm an Organizing Junkie for more meal ideas.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Menu Plan Monday - Whole30 and Paleo: 7/21-7/27

What?! Two posts in two days? Holy crap! That's a record for me as of recent. This is just a quick one though with our menu plan for the week.

I do need to write an update on our yearly goals soon... Let's see if I can go for 3 days in a row!

I put Whole30 AND Paleo in the title because my Whole30 is over on Thursday and then we will be eating (mostly) paleo meals. There are few things I'm eager to eat again, though it's not what I anticipated wanting! *Hint: It's not pop, deep-fried foods, ice cream or even chocolate! Shocked? Yeah, me too!

Anyway, enjoy. I hope somebody finds something in here they like or want to give a try :)

MONDAY: Spicy tuna cakes and roasted broccoli (tossed with coconut oil, minced garlic, sea salt and pepper, then roasted at 350 for 20-25 mins - "recipe" from It Starts with Food.)

TUESDAY: Breakfast for dinner - homemade pork sausage patties, fried/scrambled eggs, roasted carrots (same as broccoli above) and toast for the husband and boys

WEDNESDAY: Cracklin' chicken, baked sweet potatoes (fries for the boys), salad, applesauce

THURSDAY: Coconut crusted chicken tenders, salad, roasted zucchini and summer squash

FRIDAY: Overnight oven-braised shredded pork tacos - although I may cook this in the crockpot - with guacamole (I still need to find shallots and don't have aleppo pepper), diced onions, tomatoes, lettuce and salsa, plus cheese and tortillas for Jason and the boys. I may decide to have a bit of cheese on mine, but we'll see.

SATURDAY: Cheese/hamburgers, oven-baked sweet potato fries, fresh cauliflower

SUNDAY: Leftovers OR dinner out somewhere

I can't wait to try a couple of other recipes: Bacon, egg & cheese muffins and cinnamon & coconut pancakes as well as Paleo sausage egg "mcmuffin" and Porkitos.

Linking up over on I'm an Organizing Junkie who is the awesome blogger that hosts this each week!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Learning to listen to my gut, figuratively and literally

If you've been following me on Facebook or Instagram - here or here - (or both!), then you know I started a new "journey" almost a month ago. What you may not know is the background and what the outcome is so far.

I had heard of Whole30 in passing on social media before but had never really done any research. One day, I was just sitting here and clicked over to read some more about it. I posed a question on my private FB page as well as the blog page, asking if anyone had done it, or was interested in doing it. I got some great feedback and decided it was worth a try. I ordered the book It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and change your life in unexpected ways. We went on vacation and I read about half of it on the road trip. I was convinced that it was worth trying.

30 days of real fresh food.
No (added) sugar or artificial sweeteners, including honey and maple syrup - added fruit juice is the exception.
No alcohol.
No soy.
No legumes (beans/peanuts/peas/lentils).
No grains (wheat/rice/corn/oats, gluten-free or otherwise, no quinoa, etc).
No dairy.
No "vegetable" or seed oils.

What's left to eat? Meat, including chicken, beef and pork among many others, seafood, and of course eggs. Vegetables and fruits. Healthy saturated fats (read the book and you will understand HOW that is possible!!) like clarified butter/ghee, duck or goat fat, tarrow or lard (!), coconut oil/milk/butter/"meat", olive oil and some nuts and nut butters.

Not so bad!

For nearly 25 full days, I ate really good - minus day 1 when I had soy from my canned tuna, and one day last week when I made the mistake of ordering sweet potato fries at a restaurant. I say mistake because I had made sweet potato fries at home, baked in the oven, with coconut oil and didn't think about it. Of course they were fried at the restaurant, and my brain didn't catch up to my eyes seeing how yummy they looked. Oh well, I only ate a small portion.

I've had some amazing results so far. My digestion has been better, my skin is clearing up on my upper arms where I've had a rash-like acne for years, my shorts are fitting looser, my brain/thinking has been clearer and my sleep has been amazing! I went from having very bad gas as well as weekly issues with *ahem* diarrhea (sorry, TMI) to having little to no gas and not having to use any anti-diarrheal medicine! I've even been told by a couple people - including my awesome MIL - that they see a difference in my size. I honestly can't wait to see my weight at the end of this on the 25th.

I am eating more often, 3 meals a day, and in reality, bigger meals most times, but also so many more veggies and fruit. I feel full and stay full. No real snacking and my cravings are virtually non-existent.

When we started, and I use the word "we" loosely, as my husband and sons are eating most of the same stuff as me for dinner, but are also still eating dairy and grains (mostly at breakfast and lunch) and a little sugar, I thought it would be hard to give all of that up. Especially pop. I was drinking one to two 20-oz Pepsi's a day. Giving it up cold turkey normally gives me a gigantic headache by about day 3 and I give in. This time I did not experience any headaches! I can only attribute that to the fact that I was also feeding my body real food, good-for-me food and my body finally had something to work with. And no, I'm not drinking coffee or tea, either! No caffeine at all for the last 25 days.

As I said above, for nearly 25 full days, I ate this way.

Yesterday, we drove to our hometown in Ohio, and went to a benefit for a friend's mom who is battling cancer. Knowing there may or may not be Whole30 compliant food there, I chose to eat a Larabar before going, and then made the determination to just do the best I could.

At first, it was easy. Pulled pork and shredded beef were available (with bbq sauce on the side, so that was easier, too) and carrots, celery and olives. I had some of the pork w/o sauce, some carrots and a couple of green and black olives. On that note, I realized I do not like whole olives, they are far too salty for me, and I'd much rather have them in a dish or on a salad.

After watching my older two sons and the rest of our family eating the mac and cheese, baked beans, and of course dessert, I thought to myself "What harm could come from having just a little?" I went back for some more food, this time choosing some beef w/o sauce, a small scoop of macaroni and cheese as well as the baked beans, and a small slice of cheesecake. I ate all of it but half of the piece of cheesecake. I felt just fine and figured one meal is okay.

We drove home and I felt very sleepy, which isn't unusual during a car ride for me, and by the time we got home, I was ready for bed. After getting our youngest son changed into pajamas and in bed, and giving hugs and kisses to the older boys, I literally fell into bed.

Fast forward a few hours to the middle of the night, around 3:15. I wake up from a sound sleep in the middle of dream, thinking I heard someone crying. Nope, nobody else is awake. I was wide awake for about 45 mins, just before 4 and then fell asleep until 8:30 when little J actually was calling for us.

This morning, I am feeling the after-effects of eating those things I've abstained from for the past 3 weeks. I could barely open my eyes, don't feel rested at all, and am quite groggy. My brain feels cloudy, if that makes sense. Almost like I was drinking last night. My stomach is a mess, just not feeling 100% and definitely gassy and bloated. :(

While I don't like the way I feel, I am glad I have a little confirmation that certain foods do affect me negatively. It gives me incentive and a renewed drive to continue eating Whole30 or at least paleo.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Month of Ethan - July TBT #3

Ethan on his 6th birthday
Checking out one of his favorite things at the time, a new map!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Month of Ethan: July TBT #2

I hesitated on sharing this one, because it's not a smiling, happy picture. It was taken at his 2nd birthday party, July 2004.

I look back at the pictures from the time Ethan was a little over a year old till around age 3 and see a lot of this "look". Almost a blank stare, lost in his own world, and honestly it makes me a bit sad. Only because we didn't know what was going on, that he had autism, that it was "ok" and how to help him work through things, and not want to just change things. I wish I'd known how to advocate for him better when he was little. Part of me just wanted to make him "all better" because I didn't want life to be hard for him.

Looking at him today, now, I wouldn't change anything about Ethan. I'm not saying I'm glad he has Autism, because there are things that make it hard for him to cope with everyday situations, but it's part of who he is, part of his personality, his quirks and his lovely traits! I love ALL of that about my oldest boy, and that's why I'd never ask for him to be different. If someone came to me tomorrow and said "We have a cure for Autism, all he has to do is A, B, C", I'd tell them "Only if HE wants to, because it's part of him. I love him for him." Just like I'd never want to change anything that is a part of who I am.

We are so blessed to have Ethan as our son and brother. I'm so proud of him in so many ways. He's learned to use his struggles to his advantage, and his "obsessions" to make life fun for him and us! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A month of Ethan - July TBT #1

This month, it's Ethan's turn. He gets to celebrate the big 1-2 this year, his last "official" pre-teen birthday! I can't believe how fast time has flown. I'll save the mushy stuff for his actual birthday post but here's a cute baby picture for now :)

Summer 2003 @ the zoo w/ grandparents

Look at that smile! Those teeth! Speaking of teeth, he was so excited to tell us on the phone yesterday that he'd finally lost his canine tooth that had been lose for "3 weeks!".