Archive for the ‘Things that make my life easier’ Category

Things that make my life easier: Wildtree

Although my son is not currently on the gfcf diet, Wildtree make our lives easier even now. I wanted to share this with all of you!

Autism From the Lighter Side

We had already tried the casein free diet, and were trying our best to stick to it, when a specialist recommended that we do the gluten free, as well.

I cried.

And so my son started the  gluten free / casein free, or gfcf diet, in 2005.   Gluten is a protein in grains such as wheat and barley, and casein is a protein found in milk products.

I began my journey into gfcf cooking, which often times simply flopped.  Happily, I’ve come a long way since then! (I still haven’t figured out how to make gf bread, despite bread machines, mixes, and cookbooks.)

Fast forward a few years.  I was at a local grocery store and saw gfcf chicken nuggets, bagels, donuts, fish sticks, cereal.

I cried again, only this time for joy!

Disclaimer: I am a representative for the company I will talk about next,  and I do make…

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Things that make my life easier: Ice Cube Trays

I while back I wrote about hooksVelcro, my coffee press, and my electric water kettle.

These things continue to make my life easier, as far as time management, including the family in clean up, and overall messes.

Now I’m going to share how something else makes my life easier, and dare I say, cushier!

Ready?  Dum dada dum!  It’s the lowly ice cube tray!!!

The humble ice cube tray. Photo by E. Givler

Freezing coffee– I get my frozen latte whenever I want and I don’t have to drive anywhere!  I make up some strong coffee, freeze it in ice cube trays, and then use the coffee cubes to make frappes and other frozen coffee drinks.  Of course, this works only when we remember to buy milk.

Freezing lemon juice– Same deal as the coffee, only I use the lemon juice in recipes, as ice cubes in tea / water, or to make slushies.  Just another way to take time for my

Uh oh, running out of coffee cubes! Photo by E. Givler

self during the day.

Freezing fresh herbs– I read somewhere that I could use my herbs year round by snipping them, putting them in ice cube trays, and  pouring water over the herbs to make an “herb cube”. When I want to make a sauce or soup with the herbs, I just drop the cube in the boiling mixture!  It works great.

By the way, I measured, and each cube= 2 Tablespoons. Makes measuring a little easier.

Organizing– Recently we got a fridge with an ice maker.  I had these nifty ice cube  trays with lids that I didn’t need to use anymore.  I repurposed them to organize this boxful of fabulous 80’s earrings my sweet cousin gave to me and my daughter!  They are all organized and stacked in the closet.

Painting– I used an old ice cube tray for painting.  I put a different color in each cube, and then painted my heart out.  At the end I just rinsed the tray.  A lot less messy.

Enjoying my frozen latte on a hot day. Aaah! Photo by E. Givler

Might not seem like much, but these ice cube trays make it easier to  “indulge” my self with my lattes, frozen lemonades, playing dressup with my daughter, and embracing my crafty side.  🙂

So what little tips do you have to share?

Feingold diet friendly food!

from the Feingold Association of the United States

Hey there!    Just got this link, and I wanted to share it with my readers, fellow bloggers, and autism parents.
Do you know anyone on the Feingold diet?   The web site says, “many learning and behavior problems start in your grocery cart.”

Although I do not think that this is the case for everyone, I do know that diet can aggravate  or even cause symptoms in some people with autism, adhd, and other such issues. We found this to be true with my son, as he followed the gf/cf diet for many years. My neice, who has ADHD, had significantly decreased symptoms when she stayed away from artificial additives and dyes.

People who follow the Feingold diet avoid artificial everything, including dyes and sweeteners. It’s not easy to do, as you can imagine.  I know kiddos on the spectrum who tried this diet… and some whose parents won’t try this diet because it is so hard.  I don’t blame them at all.  GFCF was hard enough.

So, as I’ve said before, that’s one of the reasons why I signed up to be a Wildtree rep.  We use nothing artificial, manufacture our own products in a peanut free facility, and strive to make meal planning easy for everyone.    Check my website for more information.  Or, click on the “Wildtree Doc” tab above.

I do make money from Wildtree, and business is great. But please believe me when I say that my passion isn’t for selling… it’s for helping families like mine.  I promise.  🙂

Going off the diet

In 2005, my son Philip went on the gfcf diet.  As I wrote in a previous post, I cried!  But we did it.  Somehow, when the going gets tough, I cry and move on, step by step.

According to the folks at Pfeiffer Treatment Center, if casein (dairy protein) was a problem for Philip, we would see fogginess and an inability to focus. If gluten (protein in wheat, barley,  and rye) was a problem, we would see hyperactivity, severe impulsivity, and perhaps even dangerous behavior. We were to try the diet for at least three months to see if there were any changes.

We saw a lot of change in a short amount of time.  Here’s a short list of some benefits:

  • We no longer worried about his “escaping” the house. (Before the diet, we had actually called the police a couple of times because he’d simply disappeared. Thankfully, nothing bad had happened and he was safe.) About a month after we began the diet, the escaping stopped and we could take the alarms off our doors.
  • We didn’t have to worry about his staying with us when we went out somewhere.
  • His speech increased.
  • He listened much better.

So the diet, although it was a challenge, was a success.

However, over the past year, Philip has been “cheating” on his diet.  The following event convinced me to start weaning him off of the diet altogether.

A few days ago, I came downstairs to find Philip sitting on the couch, a blanket over his head, and heard munching sounds.  I yanked the blanket off of his head, and said, “A HA!”  I discovered that Philip had gone to the garage, opened the deep freezer, pulled out a frozen pizza, unwrapped it, microwaved it, neatly removed the pizza from the microwave, and cut it into slices with a pizza cutter.  He then took a piece, proceeded to the couch, covered up his head, and at his breakfast in secret.

I didn’t know whether to scold him or laugh and  be proud at his self-sufficiency! I ended up having him clean up after himself, throw out the rest of the pizza (because he didn’t ask first), and get on with his morning schedule.

We watched him throughout the day, kept tabs on him at school, and saw no behavior differences.  In the past, we would have seen “off the wall” behavior right away and perhaps received phone calls from school.

Nothing bad reported.  Nada.  Zilch.

Philip is now eating regular school lunch, and is as happy as a clam.  We continue to monitor.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that, by the time we go on vacation this summer, the diet will be history.

Funny thing is, Philip has been having “green” days at school since he went off the diet.  That means he didn’t get in trouble at all.  Wow.

I became a Wildtree rep (see my link to the right) mainly because of this special diet.  However, we are eating so much healthier because of Wildtree that I’m glad I signed up.

Going on the diet 6 years ago lighted our load by increasing our peace of mind.  Going off of it now lightens our load by lessening our grocery bill and giving us more freedom and flexibility.  Just goes to show that change is inevitable, and that for everything, there is a season!

Hair cuts

Recently I told Philip that I was going to get Daddy to cut his hair.

He thought about this for a moment.

“But Daddy’s not my hair cutter.”

“Who is your hair cutter?”

“My hair cutter is Miss Andi.”  Pause. “When Daddy cuts my hair, he cuts all of them.  Miss Andi cuts only some of them and then it’s not so itchy.”

Well said.  Have I mentioned before that I love it when he uses his words? 🙂

Philip definitely prefers Miss Andi, and for good reason.  Daddy does an all over buzz cut.  Miss Andi buzzes only the sides and back.  She cuts the top with scissors.  Miss Andi’s cape also stays closed all by itself.  Daddy has to keep his cape closed with a clothes pin.

There are other perks to going to Miss Andi’s, too:

  • Gracie, her cute little dog, sits on his lap when he gets his hair washed.
  • Miss Andi has a spinning chair that moves up and down, and a mirror for making funny faces.  Daddy has Philip sit on a step stool in the garage.  Enough said.
  • Miss Andi has a special sink with a sprayer for washing hair,  a “tickle-y” brush for getting the hair off his neck, yummy snacks and drinks, and a special timer.  Daddy has Philip go wash his own hair and Philip only gets special snacks and drinks if he sits still.
  • Miss Andi has a timer.
  • Miss Andi’s timer rocks!

Cell phone photo by Elizabeth Givler 🙂

Cutting Philip’s hair has not always been easy.  (Same for Josh, who used to run out of the house at the sight of the clippers.) A hair cut was endured, usually with one parent holding the crying boy’s  head still while murmuring comforting things, and the “hair cutter” working as quickly as humanly possible.

Miss Andi has found what works for Philip.  She lets him play with her timer while she cuts his hair.  It is actually three different timers on one device. Philip obsesses perseverates focuses intently on the numbers, and before he can say “Hey, what are you doing?!?”  his hair is cut and he looks so darn cute.  Hooray, Miss Andi!

Holding ear down for Miss Andi while looking at the timer. Photo by E. Givler

Going to Miss Andi’s is a family affair. I love it when she highlights my hair– my hubby says I look hot :-).  Meg likes being pampered (since she was two years old… wash, condition, cut, style, blow dry… the whole shebang).   Philip and Meg like playing with her adorable children.  Since it’s a home based salon, chances of seeing her kids are pretty good.

Meg getting pampered by Miss Andi. Photo by E. Givler

Miss Andi is one of the few “hair cutters” who “gets it.”  I am thankful for people like her who are patient and understand that Philip is not misbehaving when he has sensory issues.

People like Miss Andi make my family life easier and, more importantly, give me hope.  She’s not only our “hair cutter.” She’s also our friend.

My electric kettle and my coffee press

These things make my life easier.

I got these items at first because of our “coffee issue.”  My oldest son loves coffee, and has since he was 9 years old (and younger).  When he came to live with us we let him continue drinking coffee… as long as it was decaf!

So now he’s old enough to make his own coffee, and coffee grounds were getting EVERYWHERE.  I’m talking about the floor, counter, crevices in the coffee maker, the coffee maker’s water reservior, the stove.  You get the picture.  There was also the problem of finding old coffee and dried up coffee filters in the basket because dear son didn’t want to clean up after himself.

I tried to come up with ways to make my son clean up.  “Grounding” him from the coffee maker, letting him have coffee only on the weekends, switching to instant coffee… nothing worked.

Finally, I got rid of the coffee pot and switched to an electric kettle and coffee press.  Click here to check ’em out.  (I do get a referral fee should you purchase them after viewing.)

First, the kettle. My kettle boils water very quickly.  The one I got has a blue light that comes on when it’s heating, and an automatic shut-off after the water boils.  It’s also cordless, which makes it very convenient.

I found other uses for the kettle, too.  I cook with cast iron and stoneware.  These are to be cleaned with hot water, no soap.  I boil the water in the kettle, scrape the skillet and / or baker, and use that water to make clean up a breeze!  I also use the hot water to soak other dishes while I load the dishwasher.  Casserole dishes are cleaned much quicker.

Now for my coffee press.  It doesn’t use energy.  It takes up very little room.  The whole thing can go in the dishwasher. It brews in  about the same amount of time as a drip coffee maker.  I just put the grounds in the bottom of the press, pour boiling water from the kettle over the grounds, insert the press / plunger thingie, and wait 5 minutes.  Then I pour the coffee in my cup, put gobs of milk or creamer in, and add sweetener. The coffee is so good.  It tasts richer. There’s no remembering to empty the coffee basket, discard the grounds and filter.  There’s also no coffee grounds ending up in the water reservoir or other crevices that I can’t figure out how they got wedged in there (courtesy of above-mentioned son), no grounds spilled all over the kitchen counter when dealing with the basket (also above-mentioned son), etc.

It’s the little things that lighten my load.  I’m thankful for my kettle and press.

Things I’ve learned from the autism support classroom: Life with Velcro

Bottles "velcroed" to cabinet door

I am a “new uses for old things” junkie. I love finding simple solutions that don’t cost a lot.

When my son was in our local intermediate unit’s preschool, I discovered the wonder of velcro.  First, I saw it used for visual schedules.  For my post on how we use visual schedules, etc., click here.) Little icons, signifying each assigned activity or task, were stuck to a big piece of paper with velcro.  When the students were done with one activity, they would move the icon to a “done” column, where another half of velcro awaited, ready to secure the icon to the board. Wow, I thought.  Little squares of paper don’t get lost!   The little squares didn’t get lost! They were even more secure than magnets!

A paraprofessional told me that she didn’t know what they would do in the autism support classrooms without Velcro.  It was like magic.

I started looking for other ways to use this overlooked wonder! I don’t sew (too much work, LOL) so I use the sticky kind.Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Storing vanilla and other extracts on the inside of cabinet doors– now I refill the old bottles and recycle the new ones, since the old ones have the velcro on them.

Keeping erasers and markers on a dry erase board

Keeping notepads from disappearing by attaching them to the inside of yet another cabinet door

Notepads secured to inside of cabinet door

Securing my paper accordion files and photo box lids

Hanging pictures on the wall (I was so happy when I found the command picture hanging velcro-like strips!)

Keeping my son’s shoe inserts in his shoes (Industrial strength velcro! Who knew?)

I’ve heard of people using industrial strength velcro to hang heavy items on walls, but I haven’t tried that yet.

I wonder, when I look around some more, what else I will find that I learned from the autism support classroom…

Schedules, social stories, visuals make our life with autism easy, er, easier

Morning, afternoon, and evening routines for all three kids

When it come to successful family life, we find that preparation is key.

Preparation means discussing the who, what, when, where, why, how of the event ahead of time.

I find for us preparation has three components: inspiration, perspiration, and the the actual preparation. One time we had a family gathering at a local restaurant. I wondered how I was going to prepare my sons.

Inspiration: write a social story! (This is how it starts– I have to think of the idea or be inspired to do something.)

Perspiration: actually writing the story.  I wrote a social story using Boardmaker, detailing why we were getting together, who was going to be there, and defined our expectations.

Preparation: having everyone read the story. Over and over and over.

Of course, with our family life sometimes I forget or don’t have time to prepare.  Now that I think of it, on this occasion we prepared  on the fly, and the kids read it on the way to Red Robin. It worked, though!

Here is a run down of some other ways we prepare:

  • Schedules—doing evening calendar checks so we know what we need for the next day, or simply following a routine so that we get out of the house on time.

    Morning schedule written by daughter

  • Social stories— how to behave at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, how to ask for a break, and why chores are necessary.
  • Visuals–when we go on vacation, my husband and I do our best to print out a picture of the place where we will stay, places wewill go, and describe things we will do.
  • More visuals–We’ve printed out maps when we are on driving trips, with the routes highlighted. The kids like checking off the towns that we are going through.
  • Chores–The kids also pack their own things, whether it is a back pack, suit case, or swimming pool bag, so they are mentally preparing before we leave.  (I double check, of course… their “necessities” can be quite humorous!)
  • Meetings–Sometimes we even have family meetings to discuss possible activities over a school break, changes in chores, meal planning.
  • Previewing–At school, teachers preview or pre-teach material so my younger son is prepared to go into regular ed.  Works very well! We’ve done this at home too.  The first time we hosted Thanksgiving, we did a trial run with a roasted chicken, instant mashed potatoes, and green beans, complete with the Thanksgiving table decorations.  That Thanksgiving was the calmest ever.

Although we don’t do this consistently as we would prefer, our past efforts have made the present ones easier.  Hotels are not a big struggle now for my boys, as they know what to expect.  My oldest will ask us when we are going to discuss family fun activities for the next break. My youngest will keep us on track—“We said we’d stop for slushies, remember???”

Preparation is key for us.  What do you do to prepare?

The great cleanout: Getting cash for my old books

I’ve said before that life is hectic and I look for things to simplify.  I had the opportunity to pay someone to clean my house (and massage my body), and I am amazed at the difference in my kids.  They are much calmer in a cleaner and more organized house.

So, we continue the shredding, cleaning, donating our stuff in our attempt to simplify this crazy busy household.

I just put a new link on my page: “Cash 4 Books.”  I wanted to share this with you, as it’s been a great “pocket money maker” for me. Also, fyi, this is my first affiliate link, so I do get a referral fee if you do business with them.

Note: non fiction, text books, newer books (2008+) are the most likely to be accepted.

This is how it works:

You enter in the ISBN numbers of your books. The site tells you if they will accept your books and how much they will pay your for them.

When you’re done entering in the ISBN numbers, you can print out a shipping label.  If you have enough books, you get free postal service or free fed ex to their place.

Upon receipt of shipment, they either send you a check or they deposit the amount into your paypal account.

It’s easy.  I heard about them and decided to try it when my local thrift shops were overrun with books and therefore were no longer accepting my book donations.  I’ve made anywhere from $.50 to $7 per book.  I figure that’s better than a yard sale.

Back to decluttering…

Things that make my life easier: Wildtree

We had already tried the casein free diet, and were trying our best to stick to it, when a specialist recommended that we do the gluten free, as well.

I cried.

And so my son started the  gluten free / casein free, or gfcf diet, in 2005.   Gluten is a protein in grains such as wheat and barley, and casein is a protein found in milk products.

I began my journey into gfcf cooking, which often times simply flopped.  Happily, I’ve come a long way since then! (I still haven’t figured out how to make gf bread, despite bread machines, mixes, and cookbooks.)

Fast forward a few years.  I was at a local grocery store and saw gfcf chicken nuggets, bagels, donuts, fish sticks, cereal.

I cried again, only this time for joy!

Disclaimer: I am a representative for the company I will talk about next,  and I do make money from Wildtree.

Now, we have several special diets in the house.  GFCF, low sodium, low cholesterol– you get the picture.

Recently I tasted some products from Wildtree, an all natural food company that specializes in quick and easy, allergen friendly meals. Delicious!  And when I went through the product ingredients, my list of things everyone in my family could eat was much longer than the list of things that they couldn’t.  Same for my friend whose son is allergic to peanuts!

I jumped for joy, and then signed up to be a rep, mostly for the life time discount I get on the products, and also to try to make some income for the family.

Life have definitely gotten easier since I signed up to be a rep.   Especially since I can use the natural butter flavor oil for popcorn, in gf shortbread cookies (they taste soooo good), and other things that call for butter. (The butter flavor comes from coconuts.)

Here’s the a healthier, more streamlined, easier 2011!