May 17, 2016

Podcasts I Love - Newbies and Oldies

Hey friends!

Recently I have been listening to a bunch of new podcasts and I wanted to share the list with you in case you're also looking for something interesting. Many thanks to my Facebook friends for all the great suggestions!

Stuff You Missed in History Class Love. it. Super interesting. This is filled with all the stories that make up the broad picture history you sorta remember from high school.

The Moth Regular people and not so average people tell their stories. I have enjoyed hearing from people with different beliefs, morals, and life experiences because nothing is told in a "If you don't agree you're a jerk" sort of way - which is so common in most other forms of social media - but in a "Here's my story, which can be part of your story since we're all in this together" sort of a way.

Girlfriends with Danielle Bean I started listening when my friend Kathryn Whitaker was a guest and I haven't stopped. Danielle has so much wisdom and a great personality to go with it. Plus each episode has a special guest and each guest answers the same list of questions. It's interesting to hear how everyone's answers vary.

How They Blog This is a niche one, I know, but lots of good content for any bloggers.

Lanky Guys These priests give a break down on the Sunday readings. It's great since sometimes I'm so busy keeping the kids in line and soothing the baby I miss the homily.

The Right Heart I just started this one but it's been wonderful and came highly recommended. Really great interviews with a lot of Catholic moms I love and admire.

The Simple Show This one was a bit of a surprise for me because I've never followed Tsh or her blog. But her podcast has been so great and she is so humble and warm-hearted. I know she didn't set out to win me over, but that's what happened.

Plus, here's three more that I have to add to this list even though I've loved them for awhile now:

Ghost Fawn  Cari and Ken are homesteaders and geeks and Catholic converts and passionate people. I love hearing them talk about their homesteading adventures and really appreciate the formatting of their podcast. I am so inspired by them.

Fountains of Carrots It's friends chatting and you get to eaves drop. Books, movies, interviewing interesting people - they've got it all. These podcasts are longer so I have to stop and start but Haley and Christy are the bees' knees.

Catholic Stuff You Should Know My apologies to all my podcasting friends but this one is simply my absolute favorite. Hands down. All the way. They get me.

There's a few more on my list - including my own radio show The Visitation Project, but if I've missed one of yours please let me know.

PS - Danielle Bean actually had me on her show! It was super fun and I'm so grateful for the chance to talk about Sheen's cause, my mom's cinnamon rolls, and what I have in common with a Biblical leper. You can listen here.

May 16, 2016

Two of My Favorite Ways to Pray

If you read the daily devotions from Blessed Is She than you might have already seen me over there today. In reading today's Gospel I was reminded of one of my favorite ways to pray - simple but powerful - and since it was a tip I didn't receive until later in life I wanted to be sure to pass it on. 

Catholic vocab lesson: an “aspiration” is a short prayer, a one liner that says it all without many words.
“I do believe, help my unbelief,” is one such aspiration. The father in today’s Gospel called it out to Jesus in desperation and, truthfully, it is one of my favorite lines of Scripture. I can relate to the sentiment strongly—a prayer asking God to fill in the gaps—and I pray it often, especially when I am struggling with Church teaching. “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
You can read the rest here. If you've never used aspirations before I really encourage you to give them a try. I find that having the words written in my heart helps me to pray when I don't know how to pray.

And then there is something else I love: praying with other women of faith. I don't mean praying with holy rollers, or spotless and perfect women, or other youngish moms who meet a certain standard of being good enough. I mean that I love praying with a group of women who are real. Women who believe and who love God and sometimes are really struggling. Cross-carrying, doing-their-best, open-hearted women - that's what I mean.

If that's you then I hope you will be able to join a group of us this June at the Finding Your Fiat Conference. The conference is not a way for any of us to get rich - it really is just an opportunity to for women to get together so we can be encouraged and inspired, so we can love and worship God together, and so we can enjoy each other's companionship.

We are nearing capacity but there are still tickets available. (You can buy yours here.) AND there is still the opportunity for you to win one of TWO FREE tickets to the Finding Your Fiat Conference! The giveaway ends tomorrow night at midnight! Hustle over and enter

May 14, 2016

Why He Talks Like That: Childhood Apraxia of Speech

May 14th is Apraxia Awareness Day and so I thought I would use this opportunity to share a little bit about the diagnosis in our family. When special needs show up in our kids' lives it can be scary and lonely and so I tell our story in the hope that it will help other moms. I am in no way an expert but I share this because I had never heard the words before my son's speech therapist suggested it to us almost four years ago. I hope this post will be helpful to those people who meet or already know our son along with any other family who may have or already has a member with this diagnosis. 

Our third child's first word was "walk." He loved going on walks and requested a walk at least once a day - rain, sun, or snow! But beyond "walk" there weren't a lot of words he said, even well after his second birthday

Now JF had a traumatic birth and spent seven weeks in the NICU. During the first months of his life he was pulseless for over an hour, had several seizures, was intubated, had several surgeries, and went through various other procedures. That's a lot for a little body to handle and any of those things or the sum total of them are likely to blame for JF having childhood apraxia of speech.

However, it is also possible that he could have had a perfectly normal birth and trauma-free infancy and still have apraxia. There is no known reason for apraxia in up to a third of the children who have it.

But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. What is apraxia? Well, it is a speech disorder where the person has trouble saying what they want to say. A person with apraxia understands language and even knows exactly what words they want to use but for some reason there is difficulty forming the words and producing the right sounds.

In adults, apraxia usually happens after some kind of head trauma or a stroke. In children, it can be the result of trauma in infancy or there can be no reason for it. Adult Apraxia of Speech is usually permanent. Childhood Apraxia of Speech is overcome with speech therapy, hard work, and time.

Apraxia can also show itself in a couple other ways, besides speech. JF had feeding therapy well before he ever had speech therapy because he didn't always swallow correctly. Chewing food and swallowing was something we had to work on with him. He also drooled a lot as a baby, toddler, and small child because he couldn't keep the saliva in his mouth like most of us do. Even today his face is the messiest of all his siblings after a meal. I have heard that some children have apraxic problems with other gross and fine motor skills (kicking, jumping, running, coloring) but we haven't noticed those things with JF.

So that's what it is, why it happens, and what it looks like - now let's talk about what it's meant for my family.

For starters, it has meant therapy and special ed. Because JF was a NICU baby who received cooling therapy he automatically qualified for Early Intervention in our state. As soon as he was discharged from the hospital we were making weekly or monthly appointments with a variety of specialists. In this way we were fortunate because his feeding / speech therapist was able to spot his difficulties much earlier than Travis and I would have ever considered there being a problem. In fact, for a long time we just thought he was a quiet kid. WRONG. JF is a silly, loud kid who couldn't speak.

Once JF turned 3 he aged out of Early Intervention and began attending preschool in an Early Childhood Education classroom at the public school. Here his speech therapy went from one hour once a week to twenty minutes three times a week with extra emphasis on language throughout his school hours by all his teachers. His language began to burst. For most people he was still very hard to understand but those closest to him could now talk to him. It was wonderful!

In that first year of school, when he was three, he often dropped the beginnings and sometimes the endings off words and only used about 1/5 of the words needed for a sentence but with context we knew what he was saying. JF also used a lot of signing and gesturing to help in his communicating. "Grandma, will you take me on a walk to the park now?" would be said, "Ama, walk 'wing?" with him pointing to himself and outside, then swinging his hand back and forth with "'wing" and finally pointing to the ground for "now."

We were also able to get an iPad with Go Talk NOW to help James communicate. He took it to school each day and we used it around the home but he wasn't very motivated to use it and relied more on trying to say the words and gesturing.

Another thing that helped JF was his siblings. They were often able to "translate" for us - no big deal. I also really believe that his younger sister helped him grow his vocabulary and sentence building. Eventually she would surpass JF, but for a long time Resa and he were progressing at the same rate and it was really beautiful to see how their friendship was helping them both.

JF just finished his third year in Early Childhood Education. He has gone from having a profound speech delay to a low-moderate one. His language continues to improve and even strangers are able to understand him now. He sometimes has trouble controlling his volume, especially if he is excited or hurt but we notice him making gains each week. We don't know how long JF will need extra help but we know that at some point - third grade, eighth grade, sophomore year of high school - he will be fine and no one will ever know he had issues with his speech.

If you or someone you know has a child with a childhood apraxia of speech diagnosis, there is hope. Your little one will find his voice, too.

PS - I have found the Apraxia Kids website to be an incredibly useful tool.

May 5, 2016

Mommy Bird and the Heartbreak of Motherhood

A mother robin built a nest in the crook of our garage window, near our side yard's large oak tree. One morning we peeked in and saw one beautiful, tiny, blue egg. The next day there was a total of four.

The kids were enamored but warned to stay away. "Let the Mommy Bird take care of her eggs. Don't touch the nest or you could knock it off and the eggs will break."

Two days ago L was playing outside and found half of a blue egg shell. "I think the baby birds are hatching!" Out we all went to peek in the nest again and there they were: two freshly hatched baby birds, in all their sorta-gross awesomeness.

Yesterday I set up a bench in the garage, right be the window, so the kids could look through any time they wanted. Throughout the day, practically every hour, they would pop outside to check on the Mommy Bird and her nest. Another one hatched, though we didn't see it happen, and we waited for the last. I looked forward to watching them grow and seeing them playing in the hostas, peonies, and petunias planted in the flower bed.

This morning Ben went out to check and came in to tell us that something had knocked the nest down and now all the baby birds were gone.

We went out to investigate and it was true. The nest on the ground, the bedding next to it, and the birds all vanished.

"Mommy Bird is so sad!" Resa Rie said.

Really, we are all sad, especially me. Yesterday our family heard some disappointing news. Last night I overheard a child make a hurtful remark to my kiddo. And this morning the baby birds are gone. I said to Travis, about the birds, "Maybe So-and-So did it. He seems to like dashing away hope."

I thought motherhood was tough when I had one little baby who never slept. I thought it was hard when I had two at home and one in the NICU for seven weeks. I thought it was hard when all six kids were home all day long over Spring Break. Keeping kids with food allergies alive and the endless line of small people demanding food, listening to and then correcting the tattling, the continuous circle of tidying and cleaning and cleaning and tidying... that's not what is hard about parenthood. Watching your kids get hurt or having things happen to your family that are beyond your control - that's what's hard.

I suppose I am in  right melancholic state to be incredibly empathetic to that Mommy Bird.

May 4, 2016

Two Free Tickets to the Finding Your Fiat Conference

Hey ladies! Great news!

We have an exciting giveaway for TWO tickets to the Finding Your Fiat Conference!

The conference is going to be absolutely wonderful - just a laid back, encouraging, fun, weekend with Christ as the foundation. The more I work on the details with Abbey, Nell, Jenna, Molly, Annie, Meg, Colleen, Sister Clara, Nancy, Laura, and Marie the more excited I am for YOU to be with us.

And so, if you've been putting off buying a ticket, now is your chance to win one!

There are tons of ways to get entries, so have some fun, and share away so more sisters can know about Finding Your Fiat and we can all be together.

We are holding the giveaway over at Blessed Is She so head on over!

The giveaway ends Tuesday, May 17th at 11:59pm EST.

PS - A special Thank you! to the two anonymous donors who made this giveaway possible!

April 28, 2016

What do you feed a kid who is allergic to everything

Food allergies: I hate them. I never, ever, ever saw them coming, and I never thought I would have to deal with them. Quite frankly, they have been both a much bigger and smaller cross to bear than I ever imagined.

When I learned that Ben was allergic to nuts I was bummed, but not too worried. Easy PBJs would have to be moved out of the easy lunch menu rotation but we could make it work. But when we learned that JF is allergic to dairy, nuts, eggs, wheat, tomatoes, and soy (along with cats, dust, and various seasonal crap) I was both incredibly sad and really worried.

Food is an important part of every single culture. One's ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic situation all combine to define what we eat and how we eat it, and what we eat and how we eat it help to define who we are.

Food brings people together. It helps us celebrate and grieve. It heals us and unites us. Traditions center around it and our holidays are filled with specific food that for a general culture and individual families help define that holiday.

The Super Bowl has chips, dip, wings, and beer. Birthday parties, weddings, graduations, and pretty much every other celebration has cake. And on it goes...

Valentine's Day: chocolate
St. Patrick's Day: corned beef, soda bread,  potatoes, and beer
Lenten Fridays: mac n' cheese, grilled cheese, cheese pizza and fish
Easter: chocolate bunnies and jelly beans
Fourth of July: hot dogs and watermelon
Halloween: Trick-or-Treat candy and caramel apples
Thanksgiving: turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream
St. Nicholas' feast day: Chocolate coins and candy canes
Christmas: cut-out cookies, hot chocolate, and casseroles

So just what do you feed a kid who is allergic to everything? And how do you make stuff special when so many of the celebratory food gold standards (pizza, ice cream, s'mores, and cake) were now off limits?

If you are a mom who just learned that your child has food allergies I want to tell you something: It is hard. And it can be very isolating. And people won't get it. And you will worry about your child every single day, especially if the allergies are severe. But you can do it. Your child will learn to advocate and ask questions to keep himself safe. Your loved ones will come to understand and will put your child's presence above the importance of the family's traditional pecan pie. And you will find that there are lots of foods you can feed for your child and your whole family. You can do this.

But first... go ahead and cry. Mourn those nachos, family pizza nights, Taco Tuesdays, and casseroles. Mourn the birthday cakes and milkshakes and Go'Gurts. Mourn the loss of friends and social functions. Cry and feel afraid for a little bit because I understand and I think you deserve it. But once you're ready to move on and get going, well let's get going.

The first step in moving forward is figuring out what is going to work with your family. Our situations will vary, but I am going to share five ways I feed my son - who is allergic to everything - and keep him safe in the world. Maybe some of them will be helpful to you.

#1 - Realize he's not allergic to everything. When wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, tomatoes, and soy were taken out of our family dinners I was reeling, but the truth is there is a whole month's worth of dinners that don't have to contain any of those items. Basic meat, veggies, and fruits. Rice, quinoa, and steel cut oats. Vanilla Rice Milk isn't so bad, rice krispie treats can be made with coconut oil, and Earth Balance Soy Free "butter" spread is actually pretty good. Salt, pepper, and other seasonings go a long way and there's lots of tricks vegans have been using for years that can be borrowed. Focus on what still *is* on the menu, not what isn't. 

#2 -Try new recipes knowing that some will flop and some foods just can't be replaced. For a long time I felt I had to find recipes that would give me an exact-tasting, allergy-safe version of the food we wanted to eat. But the fact is baking always, and cooking sometimes, relies on chemistry and when you change the ingredients you are not going to get the same result. That being said, some recipes are simple to adapt (like the rice krispie treats mentioned above) and you will learn what they are - just be patient and don't be afraid to try, fail, and throw things out. And by the way, while most recipes I have tried online have failed me in one way or another, The Healthy Gluten-Free Life Cookbook has been wonderful. I'm not being compensated to say that, either. I just borrowed and then bought the book and want to share, although that is an affiliate link.

#3 - Say "no" to events when you have to. For the most part we have stopped going to potlucks, reunions, parties, and even our parish's coffee and donuts because it's just not safe for our boys, especially our son with the severe allergies. Truthfully, this is one of the hardest parts for me, because I want to be with my loved ones, but food is everywhere and at everything and my child's safety is more important. If it's not a situation where we can control how food is served and when hands are washed we just stay home.

#4 - Say "yes" when you can and help hosts keep things safe. Fortunately there are people who love us and who are willing to learn. We've had entire Thanksgiving dinners that are entirely safe for my boys to eat! When someone offers to make things safe for your child with allergies take them up on it! Explain beforehand what will need to be done and then pitch in, especially if it's the first time for the host. Bringing food, explaining about the allergies and hand washing to other guests, helping to wipe down tables and put food away - all of that helps you and others create a community with the shared goal of protecting your child.

#5 - Have a plan and communicate it.  Since allergies, our family has changed how things work in our home and every time food is eaten. We wash hands and mouths after we eat. Food is eaten at the table unless it is a "safe" food which can be taken outside or eaten from a bowl in the living room (popcorn, potato chips, popcicles, fruit). Grazing is not allowed, especially of "unsafe" foods. A pencil bag with emergency drugs accompanies my son everywhere. Anyone who will be left in the care of my boys is trained on how to use an EpiPen. Our kids are taught to speak up - the boys with allergies ask if food is safe for them and their siblings watch out for them, too. Friends, family members, teachers, bus drivers, babysitters - everyone knows about the food allergies in our family and are told the household rules.

Now you may be thinking, "That's nice, lady, but what am I supposed to feed this kid?" Well, here's some standards for us. These foods should all be dairy, egg, nut, wheat, tomato, and soy free although recipes and packaging change so please read labels!

- Earth Balance Soy-Free "Butter" spread
- Live G Free cookies, bars, and pretzels from Aldi
- Oscar Meyer Turkey Selects hot dogs
- Mustard
- Honey
- King Arthur Gluten Free Baking Mix
- Cornstarch (as a thickener for gravies, sauces, etc)
- Applesauce
- Jello brand jello
- Lays Potato Chips
- Tostitos Tortilla Chips
- Tyson Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets
- Italian Ice
- Frozen veggies
- Rice
- baked potatoes
- BACON!!!
- Fresh meats and fish
- Fresh veggies
- Fresh fruit
- Marshmallows
- Rice Krispies
- Kroger brand Chocolate Cheerios
- Corn Flakes
- Vanilla Rice Milk
- Mott's Fruit Snacks
- Regular Skittles
- Smarties
- Regular Starburts

Hopefully that's a helpful start for you! Most likely, you have a lot of those products in your home already. And remember, you can do this!

April 16, 2016

Recipes, IEP Prep, Mercy, Scripture, and Fiats - 7QT

1 - Let's start off with a song, shall we?

or maybe you'd prefer this one

L prefers this one. She loves the little dance he does (and so do I, really.)

2 - We have a lot of food allergies in our home and I have tried out a lot of recipes over the years. Just to review, JF and JP do not eat dairy, eggs, nuts, wheat, or tomatoes; Ben cannot have nuts; and I am currently dairy-free for Tee's sake. In case you're in a similar boat here's some recipes that some or all of us have enjoyed recently:

Easy Dairy Free Scones
I made these with blueberries and a clementine glaze the other day - delicious!

Easy Biscuits
Use water instead of milk for dairy free. I even substituted GF flour and added some herbs and they were still really good.

The Healthy Gluten-Free Life Cookbook (affiliate link)
This cookbook has been wonderful! I have tried so many online recipes which have been failures and so often allergy cookbooks don't cover all our bases. But this one has 200 recipes that are dairy, egg, soy, and gluten free. I can easily not use nuts for some but even with the ones that are based on nuts this book has been just awesome and I just had to share.

3 - Speaking of special needs (because I definitely think of the boys food allergies - especially JF's deadly allergy to dairy - as special needs), we are getting ready for JF going to Kindergarten next year and addressing his special needs. Our older kids are at our parish school but because of JF's apraxia he will need services that he can only get at our excellent public school. We're working with both principals to hopefully do a dual enrollment so he can have the best of both schools. At the encouragement of a friend of mine, who has spent many years advocating for her son, I made up an info sheet to pass out at JF's upcoming IEP meeting. I think it's such a good idea that I wanted to share an example in case it might be of help to anyone else. I used PicMonkey to make the section titles and then used Microsoft Publisher for the rest, but Word would work just as well I think.

4 - Earlier in the week I spoke live on Facebook, talking about a really wonderful video called Mercy is Greater, the book Beautiful Mercy, my fears, God's mercy and how I am supposed to live that out, and why I decided to start memorizing Scripture. Knowing that I was going to be sharing some personal stuff I was pretty nervous, which shows a bit in some slight rambling.

You can watch the Mercy is Greater video here, and you can go to my blog's Facebook page to watch the 12 minute video of me. And if you want to follow along and join me in memorizing Scripture please do. I will mostly be posting on Instagram, and mostly as a way to keep myself accountable to my goal of daily reading a chapter of the Bible, doing spiritual reading, and working on my memory verse.

5 - My nerves (and the tears) in the video meant that I forgot to mention something.

I wanted to say that my friend, Heather Renshaw, has been a major influence in my understanding the importance of Scripture memorization. Heather frequently peppers her conversations with Scripture. It's something I noticed while recording The Visitation Project with her (and maybe you've noticed to when you listen) and I've seen that same act in Facebook conversations and in offline conversations, too. She has used Scripture to bring hope, comfort, and praise into so many situations and often in situations where I didn't know what to say but Heather did because she has so much Scripture tucked in her heart. I see that as mercy in action.

The two verses I have memorized so are: Galations 5:22 and Philipeans 1:6. Look them up - they're good.

6 - Maybe you saw already, by the last Breakout Speaker for the Finding Your Fiat Conference was announced - Sr. Clara from the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

We have so many great speakers coming - it's an incredible line-up. I hope you can join us and be there, too. To learn more and buy your ticket visit our website.

7 - I don't really think these were so quick so I'll just end here with a big THANK YOU to Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for being hilarious and for hosting the link-up each week.