22.2.15

Broccoli Slaw with Sour Cherries







 In the spirit of Lent, which we happen to be in, it seemed fitting for me to come up with something vegetarian to enjoy on those days that we're abstaining from meat. For my family, it's not that big of a deal to skip meat because we do it quite often. In fact the majority of our meals are meatless to save on the budget. Protein can be found in a million different places. It's more a challenge for me to come up with something vegetarian. One of these days I should challenge myself to do a dessert of some sort with a vegetable-- that would definitely be something! I love mixing and matching things in new and unusual ways. Some are hits. Some are misses. On those days I miss, you'll find me (sucking it up) eating alone.
 I had this broccoli hiding in my fridge drawer. I forgot it was there. Good thing I looked in there or it would have started to get fragrant. It actually wasn't that bad. It was just starting to get soft. We can do soft. I also had a couple of apples that were begging to be saved from their demise. I hate throwing food out. I did a little mixing and matching, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And it all turned out well. In fact, my boys ate it all before I could get any. This is a great way to get in some fruits and veggies all at once.
I blanched the broccoli just slightly, so it was still a little bit crunchy.

Broccoli Slaw with Sour Cherries

  • 1 bunch of broccoli, the florets cut off and the stems grated, keep separated
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup of dried sour cherries
  • 1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onion
  • small handful of roasted and salted sunflower seeds
  • a sprinkling of feta, optional (my kids skipped it, but it was tasty) 

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup of mayo
  • 2 tblsp of Agave
  • Half a lemon, juiced

Blanch your broccoli florets in a pot of boiling water. Cool immediately in an ice bath, or under cold water. Drain it in a colander. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl add your shredded stems, shredded apple, onion, and sour cherries. Add in your broccoli florets once they have drained. 

In a separate bowl combine the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over your fruit and vegetables and stir to combine and coat all. Sprinkle on your toasted sunflower seeds, and feta. Serve cold. 









  homework

20.2.15

No Handicap Here.


Today I had a conversation with a little one about 8 years old.
He asked me, “Is your baby handicapped?”

I took a moment to think. It’s a matter of perspective. Even those great athletes that have so called handicaps have been able to over come them and go on to do great things.

Lately, I feel like I am the one with a handicap. Lisette looks at life and has no questions about what she can achieve. She does what she wants when she decides she wants to do it. Does she want to stand up? She just decides to do it. And she keeps working at it. I, on the other hand, am facing life with this knowledge of all the things that are behind me, and all the things that lie in front of me and I have doubts about my own abilities to achieve success. She has no doubt about getting to those places she wants to arrive at. She just keeps working at them, not doubting the destination, but being patient with the journey.

I feel more of a handicap than she ever will. At least, that is my hope. I have no doubt that she can achieve what ever she sets her mind to. I hope she never feels limited or pulled back, or discouraged by others from achieving things. She, herself, has no doubt about what she can achieve.

My own journey has taken me to a place where I have been stepping forward toward things that I know I want. I have been scared silly. I will one day get around to writing down that story. In this moment, living it all is so much that I can’t think that far ahead. However, I have done my best to do for myself what I want for Lisette’s future. That is to surround myself with loving and supportive people who at times believe in my abilities to succeed more than I myself believe it. I see glimmers of hope and beauty and peace in the eyes and hearts of the people that I’m choosing to surround myself with. I can only hope and pray that I am being a good example to my daughter. To all my children.

There is no reason to put a label on her. For those of us who do not have a developmental disability, perhaps our doubts and fears are our handicap. The limits that we place on ourselves handicap our ability to move forward and to do it with a simple expectation that success will come. Why do I need to focus so much on the time line? The time line and the limits that I place on myself are my handicap. Fear is my handicap. My daughter has no fear of failure. She doesn’t understand why someone would discourage her from being anything but the best at what she can be. Her best is not someone else’s best. Our best is as individual and unique to the universe as each of us. No, to put a label on her, or myself is to limit our abilities. That becomes my handicap.

Perhaps, too, our handicaps are those people who happen to come into or pass through our life and do nothing but discourage and tear us down from the inside. It’s a hard thing to have to say to those handicaps, “I deserve better” and to move on. The struggle is real. We each deserve respect and encouragement to become something greater than we are. To remain sedentary in our place and not achieve more is to waste a good life. The endless possibilities! If our focus is so set on being whatever someone else might think we should be, or to stay where we should stay according to an others perception, we lose ourselves. It’s a journey of self-discovery by constantly challenging our handicaps to become something greater and to make a better life for ourselves.

My daughter does not, and will not if I can help it, ever think of her self as handicapped. If that happens to sneak into her consciousness at some point in life I hope she has the clarity to see it as nothing more than a label to be snipped off much like you would snip off the label on a new shirt. Handicap is nothing more than a misjudgment from others in your abilities. Snip off that thought. There's no handicap here. 

3.2.15

Fast [Crafty] Fun!

The fact that my little family is in transition makes being crafty and creative a little bit difficult. But in moments when I have a free second it is nice to have something fun to work on. Enter Brit Kits! The kits come with everything you need to complete a cute little project. The fact that everything is included is fantastic because I'm not in a position to go shopping for arts and crafts supplies, nor do I have a place to conveniently store them at this time. Eventually I hope get back to a place where I can have a whole room dedicated to all that loveliness, but for now the kits are a fantastic alternative.

  
The kit also comes with clear instructions, but leaves room for creativity so that you can put your own personal touches on the craft project. For this kit you could easily look up some cute and simple cross-stitch or embroidery patterns and take it from there! 
 
This watch kit is great because I don't need to be in a rush with time sensitive materials. So I can take my time and not rush to finish. I am eager to get it completed. I've been working it on it here and there for just a minute or two at a time. It's incredible how busy 4 little munchkins can keep you. And exhausted-- I'm that too.

One thing that I was thinking about as I started this little project was that these kits would make awesome birthday presents! Have a little one (or a big one) that has a birthday coming up and don't know what to get them? Look into getting them a Brit Kit!




P.S. This post was not a paid endorsement. I did it simply because it was fun!

30.1.15

A Year of Delight-- Journeying with a Down Syndrome Diagnosis


Our journey has been such a beautiful experience. I want to share in hopes that perhaps someone receiving this diagnosis will take a step back and breath and be open minded. 

It's common knowledge amidst the families who are immersed in this life long journey that %90+  children that are diagnosed with Down Syndrome during prenatal testing are aborted. When I look at my daughter and the joy she has brought to our family, I can't imagine her not being in our lives.
Here I thought I would answer some common questions I have encountered over the last year.
 Has she changed the dynamic of our family? She's brought out good in us all. She's brought us patience and kindness. She's made us giggle. She's helped the older kids be more accepting. And she's required us to have another chair at the table. Aside from that, nothing much has changed.

How is she at keeping up with milestones?
Lisette has not had too much trouble with staying close behind other children her age in keeping up with milestones. Things may be a little slower in coming, but she gets there in her own time. When she decides she wants to do something, she just does it! It's just like with out in the (gasp) real world, where people work at different rates and one person might take a little longer to get to the finish line than another person. It's not bad. It's just different. And different is ok.


Does Lisette need any special medical care? Only when she is sick. Her heart defects have corrected themselves over time. Were there moments of uncertainty? Surely. But education and understanding are key to successful treatment. 
She does do physical therapy and occupational therapies to help her meet milestones. But really, this is not much different than one of your children needing tutoring for a particular subject in school a few times a week.
 

Do we get stared at? This is a question that has come up on a few occasions.  The answer is, "Yes, we get stared at." Sometimes, perhaps due to someone noticing that she has Down syndrome. But on most occasions, it's because I am often out on my own with four children in tow and that is somewhat of an anomaly these days. Or it could be because my jeans are too tight. Or my 5 year old dressed himself, and that is oftentimes something really special to partake of.

 Is she crawling/walking/talking/playing? We're getting there! She's bear-crawling and standing, she's coo-ing, she's giggling a little bit, she's understanding signs, and she has favorite toys. 

 Do I worry about the future? Sometimes. Most often, no. I'm raising all my kids to love and care for each other, to be friends to one another and to lift one another up when they need help. Some days they fight like cats and dogs, and other times I see them helping one another when they recognize that an extra boost is needed. Rather than seeing one another as competition, my hope is that they will each be able to be a confidant to their other siblings. Likewise, my hope is that she will be able to do that for them as well. It's also important to remember that she can do whatever she wants. She has proven that already with her milestones. She will have times where we wait patiently, and work her through therapy to build the skills to do something, but until she makes the decision to do something herself all we can do is wait and be patient. And then out of the blue she surprises us all. I imagine that when she is older she will do things similarly, and surprise us with her talent and skill. The future is full of possibility!
  
Along those lines, I don't hold anything back with presenting possibilities to her. I take her everywhere. I want her to experience everything. There is no reason to put limitations on her. Who am I to know whether she may be a great photographer, or teacher, or inventor. 
 

 How severe is her Down syndrome? This is a question I have gotten so often and it takes me a moment to really understand what the person is asking. You either have an extra chromosome, or you don't. She does. What I've come to understand is that people are really asking, "How disabled is she?" There's not really any way to know to what degree she will be affected in every area of her life. We take a day at a time, and help her along when she needs help. Not one person in the family, including herself, has been negatively affected by any degree of effort we have had to put in to helping her along when she needs it. It's been no more so than when my 5 year old asks me to tie his shoes, or my 12 year old asks me for a ride to some activity.

In fact, there is no shortage of people willing and eager to come to her assistance or rescue when she lets out the slightest hint of a whimper. On more than a few occasions, I've had to put my foot down and say, "Leave her be! She'll figure it out!" And she does.


 What's she like? Is she like the other kids? She's mostly quiet. But she can also sing to the high heavens, especially if we go to church. She'll be singing her tune louder than anyone else! She doesn't cry much, but when she does--> you pay attention. She's very observant. She likes to watch people. If she is watching you, and you look at her she will smile at you with a big whole-face-smile. Her eyes smile at you. It's the greatest thing.


"She's so tiny!"
She is tiny. And I love it. I can easily carry her around. She is super fun to shop for. Good things come in small packages. And maybe she takes after her mama-- I'm pretty small, also. My three older kids are all tall and thin like their dad.

 

What's it like having a child with Down syndrome?
She's opened my eyes to a loving and supportive community that I previously wasn't familiar with. Lisette is joyful, and you can't help but be happy when you're around her. She's the easiest baby. I feel like I won the baby lottery! :)
The biggest struggle we have faced is acceptance and understanding from some who are not familiar with what Down syndrome is. But even then, it's just a matter of taking a few minutes to explain if they are open minded.
For myself, I can't wait to see all that the future holds for our family. The opportunities are limitless.
If you've received a diagnosis of Down syndrome, don't be afraid. There are way scarier things in the world to deal with. You've been blessed, you will see, with a sweet child that will make your heart swell and grow each day with love. You'll get so excited over milestones conquered and how this child sees the world so simply and joyfully. I can't promise every single moment will feel that way because you'll still deal with diaper blow-outs and burp-up, and perhaps some health issues. But, all that will be nothing compared to the love and joy you will experience from knowing this little soul. Trust me. You're in for a treat. 

27.1.15


Moving from the East Coast to the West Coast has been a food-lovers adventure. When I moved to North Carolina 6 years ago, I was struck by a couple of things. Firstly, the military moved us to, seemingly, the middle of nowhere. And secondly, there was a point at which I had to look around within the grocery stores and say to myself, "Okay, this is what I have to work with. Let's do this." It was an adventure in creativity and challenged my cooking skills to the max. I was working with some produce I was unfamiliar with.  There was a limited variety and definite cultural differences. When you are in middle school and learning all the different states, unless you are well traveled, you won't realize that yes, you can get culture shock even here within the United States. No, you can't bike yourself to a grocery market and pick up some specialty items. In essence, I learned what Southern Food was and started to cook it out of necessity. On occasions when I would venture us out of town, we would head to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's and pick up something I was more familiar with. But for the most part things were kept simple.

So you can only imagine my awe when I walked into Andronico's in San Francisco. The smorgasbord of fresh produce that met me at the door was enough for me to hear angels singing. Actually, I think it was the cash register dinging, but you get the idea. The deli was delightful. The wine selection had me tipsy just at the sight of it. It would be a lie to say that I eat the same everywhere I go. No, as Morgan Freeman stated in The Prince of Thieves, "God loves wondrous variety." And so does this girl. And as my mother has been known to say, "Variety is the spice of life." Indeed, I too love variety.

Admittedly, San Francisco and the surrounding area is very much a melting pot of culture and sophistication. A variety of foods, restaurants, culture and entertainment is easy to come by around every corner. ( I smiled when I saw the Vietnamese Seventh Day Adventist church on a corner. Ah, diversity!) This area lends itself well to wonderful opportunities to enjoy new and different. It also tends to be easier to come by those things that are staples in my gluten free and non dairy lifestyle. In North Carolina I would have to search out those sections of the store only to find the selection limited. Whereas so far in California, the ease with which I have been able to shop has been much easier. What would be considered "specialty" is mixed amidst the mainstream name brands like they belong! Thank you, grocery god's.

My taste buds are delighted with their new-found freedom. 
Pictures from my breakfast the other day.  Eggs on a bed of sauteed Kale with roasted garlic with tomato pesto. And gluten free toast.

Do you have a favorite place to shop? I'm open to finding new places to traverse.

26.1.15

Best. Coffee. Ever.

When we recently stayed with my sister in San Francisco she spoiled me rotten with wonderful coffee. It was wonderful, and terrible all at once. Obviously, who is going to say no to a good cup of coffee. On the other end of the spectrum, now and forever, I will be comparing every cup of Jo to the yumminess that she introduced me to. 
I enjoy a gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle. This limits my coffee intake to dairy-free options, but I also avoid Soy products (mostly because they don't agree with me). So Starbucks, for the most part, is not an option. Although, I do love their Passion Berry Tea. The smaller, local coffee shops are more likely to have Almond or Coconut milk. Up until visiting my sister, I'd only had ho-hum dairy free coffee, though. At home, I enjoy a plain-Jane cup O' Jo with a splash of Non-Dairy Creamer or some Coconut Milk. 

Andytown made me the most amazing Almond Milk Latte I have ever had, though. It was creamy and frothy, with just a hint of Almond flavor and the punch of espresso that I needed to wake up. If I could, I'd march myself right back there and have me another!
If you are ever in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by and have something.

The beauty of family.

It's been many years since I have been home and able to share in family events. The closest that the kids and I came to that was being blessed with attending the wedding of one of my brothers in Myrtle Beach in October. To be able to be there was so amazing. It was wonderful to see my siblings and be able to witness to a life event of such magnitude. These are once in a lifetime experiences. Another of my brothers will be marrying a beautiful woman in just a short few weeks. I am over the moon excited to be able to be here for it, and to get to know this wonderful woman that he has chosen to be his bride.


This weekend, I was blessed to be able to attend my soon-to-be-sister-in-law's bridal shower luncheon. It was a beautiful event. I had forgotten how much I missed partaking in events with family and friends. When the military takes your family here, there, and everywhere you almost start new family where ever you end up. But again, that is hard because you are all coming and going to different places at different times. I'm happy to have moved us to where my kids, (and selfishly, myself as well) can experience the loveliness that comes from the permanence of civilian life. We have made wonderful friends over the last ten years of traveling, but it's good to be home. The timing couldn't be better, too, in that we get to share in the new life that is developing in our extended family.


 The thing that struck me most about this day was that it was not just like I am gaining a sister through marriage, but a whole wonderful bunch of family. It was lovely. That's the only word, I can think of to describe the day. Lovely.






To the future! And to more of this loveliness in our lives!






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