Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Yesterday my course materials arrived. I was excited and a bit scared looking through them.  So many assignments with such tricky questions!  But today I completed my first assignment, which in all fairness was no doubt the easiest of the course. It was basically an essay about me, my life, and why I am choosing to study nutrition.

I am quite excited about this diploma in nutrition.  I can’t wait to get my first assignment back and get onto the next one.  Today I’ve been reading all about the digestive system. It’s very interesting. 

I can’t believe that October is almost here.  Barney is having his 6th birthday party on Saturday, although his birthday isn’t actually until Tuesday.  And Rosie is almost 10 months old, so close to being 1!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Kale Chips

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I finally got hold of some Kale (would you believe I had to get a green grocer to order it in for me!?)  I’ve been wanting to try making Kale Chips since we did the 5 day vegan challenge.  I followed Meghans Instruction’s for crispy, crunchy, delicious kale chips. 

My first bath weren’t all that nice.  I followed the instructions and they looked just like Meghan’s, but none of us were too keen on them.  I knew something must be wrong because I’d heard so many people raving about how lovely they are.  The photo below shows my first attempt.  They look like Meghan’s but didn’t taste as nice as the ones above.  So here is how I made them to suit the family.  And believe me, I had to go out and make more because everyone (even the kids) were fighting over them!

Tear the kale into pieces, discarding all the stalks.  Put in a large bowl and add the juice of half to one lemon (depending on how much kale you are using… we all preferred them on the lemony side).  Add a little olive oil, and some sea salt, and mix it all together until everything is well coated.

Lay the kale out on a baking tray so that they are not overlapping.  Cook on a very low heat (my cooker was set to 100) for about 20 minutes until they are totally crispy – but dont let them go to the stage where they lose their green colour (as below) because they just won’t be as delicious then.

You can keep these in the fridge for a week, although ours were all eaten within minutes.  They make a great snack to replacement crisps or popcorn.

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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

I'm just so happy!


Did you ever see a happier face? Rosie has always loved bath time. I can't believe that she is 9 months old already!

Monday, 21 September 2009

So much to blog about, so little time to blog with….

This morning Barney’s teacher was waiting in the playground to speak to one of us.  Marty took him to school today, so she spoke to him.  The paediatrician that we saw last week phoned the school on Friday to speak with Barney’s teacher.  She seemed pleased that he had spent so long on the phone and was showing general interest and concern.  When she told him how Barney is at school, how anxious and worried, and how he doesn’t interact with other children, the doctors reply was “well, that is not good, we shall have to do something about that then”.  She said that once the school and autism team are working together things get done a lot faster. So here’s hoping. 

Barney was invited to a party on Saturday. He was really excited about it and wanted to go, but was anxious as always.  Marty agreed to go with him and stay as long as was needed at the party, which was in the town hall with about 40 children.  Marty ended up staying for the entire party.  He came home utterly emotionally exhausted and near to tears.  It was the first time that Marty had really seen Barney in that sort of environment, whereas I had been on school trips to observe and had already had my heart tugged at. 

Barney’s two friends from school didn’t make it to the party, which made it worse for him as he doesn’t interact with any of the other children.  His two friends at school (the teacher calls them the three musketeer's) are a boy whose brother has Asperger Syndrome, and a boy who can not talk properly – Barney has taken it upon himself to teach this boy how to speak.  The party was hard work.  Barney would not do anything, would not play anything, would not join in with anything, looked constantly on the verge of panic, cried a few times, wouldn’t talk to anyone, wouldn’t look at anyone. He just looked as if he had been plonked down on an alien planet and expected to fit in. 

They both got home from the party (Marty an emotional wreck by this point) and Barney ran in to tell me what a great time he had. He was full of stories about the games they played, how he got his face painted.  He often seems oblivious to how hard he finds things; as if he is just so used to it that it seems normal.

I’ve just found this last week pretty hard going.  Barney seems to be finding things harder and harder and harder.  If he is as desperately anxious at school as he was at that party then it seems awful to be sending him there every day.  He comes home from school telling me everything was ok, just as he did from the party.  Then his teacher tells me a completely different story when I speak to her.  I am torn with worry about him at the moment and sometimes it feels like my heart is just going to break for him.

At the moment he has taken to spending every free moment on his own in the play shed.  It was full of old stock from Marty’s shop, but they cleaned it out a few weeks ago.  Barney has spent weeks turning it into a little club house of his own.  He has a rug, seating, shelves, a dinner table, toys.  He eats every meal that we allow out there in the club house. The second he gets home from school he goes out there, and we don’t see him for hours on end.  He is just quite happy to be out there alone.  I have to keep checking on him to make sure he is ok.  He has collected all the bottle tops from milks, juices, coke etc  over the last few weeks, and he has them all lined up in colour order out in his play shed.

Summary of the 5 days vegan challenge

The 5 days vegan challenge was a great success, despite Marty waking up fancying milk, cheese, bacon and steaks every morning!  I had a headache the first day, but the following four days I felt alive, pain free, energetic and full of vitality.  I didn’t get that awful afternoon tiredness that I am plagued with, I had no aches and pains, and no headaches.  I’d say on average I usually spend 3 out of every 7 days with a headache, and once a week I get a migraine coming on (although I have learnt how to nip it in the bud before it develops).  And most days I am in some sort of pain or another. I swear, I feel like I’m falling apart most of the time!  But on the 5 days vegan challenge I had no pain, and felt really well.  It’s certainly making me think. Was it the omission of gluten and wheat? The exclusion of dairy? Or just the fact that everything we ate was pure, real, natural food, and that nothing at all was processed and filled with chemicals?  Or a combination of all?

I have decided to do a Diploma in Nutrition.  For years now I have been sprouting, milling, juicing and promoting the consumption of more raw foods.  I can do the course from home, in my own time; and it is certainly a subject that I will enjoy even if I take it no further.  Afterwards I would be entitled to call myself a holistic nutritionist, or a practitioner of nutritional therapy.  Id love to run classes showing people how to sprout, or promoting healthy eating for children and babies.  We will see if I ever get that far.  I’ve done some research and I can’t find anyone in Northern Ireland offering such a service.  I have found only one serious nutritionist in NI with a good website. She is based in Belfast.  I think there is certainly room for some more.

I will certainly never be a vegan. I like fish too much and believe it is good for you. But I do think we all eat far too much meat and dairy, and even more processed trash.

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Friday, 18 September 2009

Vegan days 2 and 3

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Days 2 and 3 of the vegan challenge have gone well. Surprisingly we have found some meals that everyone likes, including Barney! He loved last nights chickpea curry (not photographed), so that was a success.  Rosie liked the marinated bean salad that we had for lunch yesterday. You can see her trying that out in the photo. She also has discovered a love of tomatoes (funny how both the girls love tomatoes and both the boys hate them), and loved roast sweet potato. 

This 5 day diet isn’t just vegan, it’s also gluten free, potato free and corn free. So what does one eat for breakfast if you can’t have toast, packet cereals or bacon and eggs?  Good question. Apart from the obvious, fruit, we have tried a few different breakfasts. The first photo is soaked nuts with almond milk.  The almonds, cashews, walnuts and sunflower seeds were soaked over night to make them easier to digest.  Then I added fresh pear to them, but they really could have used a bit more fruit in.  I made my own almond milk following meghan’s recipe. Almond milk is lovely! And a great cows milk substitute in cereals. The kids have been drinking it neat and calling it a nut smoothie.  It is so simple to make as well.  The second photo is a mixed porridge of various grains… millet, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice and oats.  It was soaked overnight and then boiled up in the morning.  I added honey and dried and fresh fruits to it.  It is a real stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast.  Rosie ate a massive bowl of it, so I will be making it again for her. 

The other photos show our lunches. Marinated bean salad. It was yum; Rosie and I like it more than Marty who ate it but wasn’t all that excited. Lol.  We will have the leftovers for todays lunch, and then any that are still left can be cooked into a curry or veggie chilli for dinner. The roast veggies were really nice, especially the roast sweet potato and leek.  I’ve never thought of eating roast veggies without potato or meat before but it was quite a satisfying lunch, and so easy to prepare.

The bowl of green stuff is raw courgette and avocado hummus dip.  I really liked this.   So all in all the vegan thing has been going well. It’s funny though how much you crave something as soon as you know that you aren’t allowed it.  For instance, Marty is craving cheese; even though he quite often goes more than 5 days without eating it.

I must say that I feel far more energetic and full of life.  I haven’t been suffering with the constant headaches that I get, even though I’ve reduced my caffeine intake right down.  Reducing caffeine usually gives me terrible headaches. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Day 1 – 5 Days Vegan

Yay! Day one of our 5 day vegan challenge. I couldn't wait to get started on cooking (and eating!)  Some of it didn't go so well, some went well, and some was great. I have asked everyone to score each meal out of 10 so that I know which ones to make again.  I don't want them saying 'mmmm, its nice' just so that they don't offend me and my cooking skills, just to find out when I remake it that they aren't so keen. Lol.

Breakfast was banana pancakes made with buckwheat flour, banana, honey, linseed and apple sauce.  Marty wasn't keen on it (he doesn't like banana's), nor was Barney.  Tarja liked hers and Jimmie went for seconds.  Not so bad.

Lunch was carrot and ginger soup, with Quinoa Tabouli.  The soup was a bit bland in my opinion, but fluorescent orange in colour and nothing to complain about.  I liked the tabouli but Marty thought it was too lemony.

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I couldn’t make the planned dinner for this evening as I couldn’t get hold of some of the ingredients for it. So we made Indian Lentils instead (see last photo).  As horrible as it looks (I personally think it looks yum, but Marty nearly died when I dished it up!) it tasted really, really, really good. It is definitely a meal that we will make regularly.  We ate it with brown rice, and leftover Adzuki Patties.  Yum.

But more than anything, the kids and Marty are loving the seedy treats.  They are disappearing fast. In the photo you can see a log of seedy heaven, which is frozen and sliced up, eaten straight from the freezer. To the left of that are sesame slices, and the balls are walnut and cocoa truffles.  All are totally healthy and nutritious, and the bonus is that the kids think they are cakes!

I also made a big pot of lentil and lemon soup for another day.  Marty wanted it blended up so that he couldn’t see the ingredients, and it is now yellow soup, but it tastes absolutely divine. I can’t wait to eat it!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Autism Appointment

This morning Barney had his appointment with the paediatrician who specialises in autism in children.  He missed the morning of school and we headed off at the crack of dawn to miss the school traffic on the way to Lurgan. He was a bit nervous and panicked just a little when he realised both Daddy and I would be going, and not just me as he had imagined.  We got over that by letting him sit in the front of the car while I drove (Daddy being relegated to the back with Rosie). 

The appointment started with the four of us and the doctor. Dr N had a little chat with Barney who sat at a little table playing with some cars. He asked him questions about school, his interests, his family etc. Then he asked Marty to take Barney and Rosie for a walk while I answered questions to form a history. 

So I spent an hour and a half answering questions about every stage of Barneys life so far.  A lot of them were hard to remember the answers to. What age did he sit, crawl, walk, talk? How did he transition from breast to bottle, from bottle to solids, from purees to real food?  It’s hard to remember such details after four children!

He asked about all Barneys symptoms. I don’t think symptoms is the right word, since he doesn’t have an illness, but I’m lost for the right word at the moment.  For every ‘symptom’ that I gave he would go back over his life bit by bit to see when those symptoms started and how they progressed. For instance, we spoke about how he can’t handle being given a meal at dinner time if he hasn’t been told in advance what it is.  So then he asked about his eating habits as a baby, then a toddler, then at age 3, 4, etc.  So the whole thing took quite some time.

We discussed his difficulties with interacting with other children, his panic attacks, his hate of surprises, his ‘obsessions’, his imagination, how he plays, how he talks, how he does a jigsaw puzzle (apparently there’s more than one way to do a puzzle!) He asked me a million questions and I answered them as best as I could. He also made me think a little. I said that Barney has a good imagination, but the doctor questioned that and asked me to watch and see whether the imagination he has is really his own thoughts, or a re-enactment of things he has seen and heard elsewhere. When I thought about that it did make sense.  He said that many people don’t notice the difference until it is pointed out to them.

Anyway, he wrote a lot of notes and is going to speak to Barneys teachers this week. He said that many people live perfectly happy lives with Asperger Syndrome  (which he kept stressing was not an illness and is a perfectly normal way to be – which I already knew) and do not need a diagnosis. He knows a lot of children whose parents haven’t gone further in seeking a diagnosis. But he felt that due to the anxiety and panic attacks that Barney has regularly, he really does need to be seen further and to get a proper diagnosis so that he can receive help and we can all learn how to reduce his anxiety.

So Barney will now be seen at the ‘communication clinic’, which he said is a clinic solely for children on the autistic spectrum.  They will come out to our home and out to the school.  He will be given therapy to help with the anxiety, and should start being seen by the clinic within a couple of weeks.  I can’t wait to start getting some help and some answers. So far all I have done is answer questions, which is an understandable part of the process, but what we really need is to learn more about Aspergers and find ways to help Barney lead a less panic stricken life.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Carnival’s and Cooking

All in all it’s been a pretty good week.  I’ve have a few unexpected hours to myself as Marty has taken the kids to my Mum’s house. I spent most of that time ironing school uniforms, changing bed sheets, vacuuming etc.  But I have a few minutes left to write about the week.

Yesterday we went to Banbridge Carnival.  Barney had been looking forward to it for a while, and was delighted that it wasn’t too far away as he doesn’t like travelling.  It was a fair bit of  disappointment though. The weather was glorious, and since nothing ever happens in Banbridge and the weather is never normally good, the whole town went to the carnival!  Solitude Park is nice now that they have redesigned it and tried to make it less of a hoody hangout.  But they just didn’t have enough on for the sheer volume of people who turned up.   Barney didn’t like the crowds and can’t bear queues, so he didn’t get his face painted or go on any rides.  We did spend ten minutes having a go with some circus equipment.  (Well, stilts and juggling skittles).  Marty tried to impress us all with his circus skills.  Hmmm.

Barney got to sit inside a fire engine.  After two attempts. The first time he went up to it with his Dad when some kid hit the siren button, and he was terrified of the noise.  The next time I took him up and we were assured the sirens wouldn’t be on, so he sat inside for a few moments.

Rosie just loved the carnival. She sat in her buggy smiling and singing. All those people to look at; so much to see and hear.  It was the first day her new tooth hadn’t been hurting too, so she was in good form.

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I was looking for a vegetarian/vegan cookery course, but typically there’s nothing like that here. So I did the next best thing and signed up for a 5 day vegan course.  It starts on Tuesday but Barney and I couldn’t wait to get started on some of the recipes.  So we spent some Mummy time yesterday out in the kitchen creating healthy treats.  There’s nothing he likes more than to cook with Mummy (or Daddy, he’s not fussy!)  He became so inspired by healthy eating that he created his very own salad without any help at all. You can see photos of that in the album below.

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I will post more about our 5 day vegan experiment during the week as we progress with the meals. I’m really looking forward to it.  We already had one vegan meal of Adzuki Bean Patties which tasted like a cross between a bean burger and an onion bargee.  I’ve been eating the left over ones all day as snacks. Yummmm.  Barneys favourite were the healthy truffles (pictured above) which were made from walnuts, almonds and dates. They taste really scrumptious and are healthy for the kids to snack on.

Tomorrow morning Barney has his first paediatrics appointment at Lurgan Hospital.  I have no idea what to expect.  I suppose we won’t find out much on the first appointment.  It will be interesting to see what happens.  He is very nervous about it, because it’s in a place that he has never been before, and somewhere that we have to drive to.  But on the plus side, he misses a morning of school!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Nine months old today,

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I just wanted to post this photo of Rosie who is nine months old today. She has the most beautiful eyes, and the cuddliest cheeks!  She has just cut her first tooth today. I just love this photo.  I just love her so much.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Rosie moshing!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Robots take over our Saturday…

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I’ve missed having the kids at home on their first week back at school. It seems so quiet with just Rosie in the house until 2pm. So today Barney and I spent a good half of the day at the kitchen table making a robot with a cereal box. He was delighted to make a robot with his Mummy. I cut out the shapes and then let him design it, and it turned out to be pretty cool, as you can see in the photos! I quite enjoyed myself too.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Rosie’s Charm Necklace…

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I wanted to post a photo of the charm necklace that was made on Rosie’s naming day. It has charms with wishes from all her family and friends. There are a couple more still to arrive (three, I think – there’s just about room for them!) It is an 18 inch necklace and it’s pretty heavy now. She is one lucky girl.

Barneys first day back at school went pretty well in the end. He was totally nervous, and anxious, but managed not to have a panic attack. Writing the letter to his school teacher himself (see post below) really seemed to help. In future I shall try this method with him to see if it helps calm him in other situations.

He loved his teacher. So much so that he came home and made a present for her! He got a box (the one our new kettle came in) and painted it, then stuck gold paper, lolly sticks and red glitter all over it. It was pretty big, and very colourful. Today he took it into school with him, and the teacher must have liked it because he came home with a special sticker and a Pirates of the Caribbean light up pen! He has had a few nervous outbursts at school where he has started to panic and felt sick (when moving rooms or going to assembly etc) but the teacher has managed to calm him down pretty well. She lets him sit with her in assembly. Barney says she lets him do anything he likes. He is very impressed!

I was also impressed as she phoned us after his first day of school to let us know how he got on. I am going in on Friday to speak with her. So far so good.

charm 001 I was reading on an autism site last night about how the obsessive lining up of toys can often be one of the first signs of autism in a child. Barney still likes to line up his cars, but not as much now as he used to. I remember when he was 2 or 3 years old he would spend literally days at a time lining his cars up in various straight patterns. He could fill the entire hallway with his perfectly straight geometric car patterns. Once he had lined up about 200 cars he would start again with a different pattern. Even now, whenever we are going out for the day somewhere where he will need to entertain himself, we always take a big bag of cars for him to play with.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Back to School blues

We all knew that going back to school was going to be hard for Barney. His problems seem to have doubled in size over the summer, poor lad. Yesterday morning the panic attacks started… the very second he woke up. He knew it was the last day of the summer holidays, and hence it was time to start panicking.

Marty woke me up after an hour of his anxiety. He was shouting at Daddy, hyperventilating, just generally not coping. I managed to take his mind off things for a while by letting him play my Fish World game on Facebook. But during the day he kept reminding us all of how scared he was about starting P2.

I thought it would be a difficult night last night. Marty went to bed early and I got Barney all settled into bed. He watched his DVD and came down a few times. I could see his anxiety rising and his worries about school getting bigger. I told him that I’d be sending him in with a letter to his teacher explaining about his Autism assessments and how he feels anxious. Then he suggested that he write a letter to the teacher himself. So I went with it. He dictated to me what he wanted to tell her. Then he finished it off by writing his name and some kisses, awww! His letter went along the lines of …

My name is Barney. My mummy is writing you a letter but I wanted to write one too. I want you to know that I may have aspergers. I am really scared every time we have to go to the assembly hall. I am scared of going to different rooms. I am afraid of starting p2 for the very first time. When I panic I feel nervous and scared. I think I am going to be sick, and I think I can’

t breath. I panic when people cough, or cry, or are sick, or when there are loud noises, or if people back into me or touch me when I am not expecting it. I have my ear defenders in my school bag. I am looking forward to being in your class. I am half excited and half worried. From Barney.

As soon as he had written it and put it into his school bag he totally relaxed. He went to bed with no bother and slept all night!

This morning he was anxious and scared but managed to get to the school without any meltdowns. He kept reminding me how scared he was, and I kept assuring him that I wouldn’t leave until he was happy and settled with his teacher. I know the teachers don’t like the parents going into the playground with them. They expect them to be dropped off outside the fence, but I didn’t care. There was no way Barney could make his own way in without losing control. So I took him to his teacher and explained to her how anxious he was, then watched as he held her hand and went inside, glancing back at me with a face filled with worry.

Now I’m awaiting 2pm to see how he got on. I do hope he doesn’t struggle too much. Poor little lad.

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