Sunday, February 28, 2010

We JUST Got Power Back

We've been without electricity, heat, and hot water since Thursday. I used to think Little House on the Prairie was such a romantic time, but I would have made a horrible pioneer, I think.
Will post more later...going to revel in being able to flick a switch and have the lights go on, and celebrate not having to shiver myself to sleep and think about my kids doing the same. :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I think all the boots lined up look so cute.
My son trying and failing to walk in the snow.

My daughter not even having success walking on the sidewalk.
Well, we're getting hammered by snow. We took the kids out to play in the snow today, and on the grassy areas, it's just about two feet deep and they can't walk in it. It was very difficult to try to make a snowman, and after a few minutes the kids were miserable so we came back in. Oh well. At least we were out.
The snow is very wet and heavy and dangerous. There are a lot of trees and branches down around here. My husband thought it was a good idea to bring our daughter under a tree so she could walk around because there was very little snow, but I reminded him about the branches surrounding him and how another could fall on them at any second, so out they came. We keep losing power...whenever figure skating comes on. Skiing, which I really don't want to watch, is all I get to see.

My son has been home from school for two days now, and school is already closed for tomorrow. My husband's job isn't expecting him in, so that's a good thing...I don't have to think about him traveling on bad roads, and I'll have help with my son.

My son has been having a rough few days. I'm not exactly sure why. He's been getting very easily frustrated and upset, and has been banging his head a lot. His forehead is raw, and I may have a broken nose because he head butted me very hard. I'm icing it, and there's not a lot to do for it besides that. It may be time to look into meds. If he can injure me, he can injure my daughter.

Autism is hard on everyone.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Maple Sugar Tour

This is the syrup they had for sale at the nature preserve where we took our tour. It's available for purchase from Justus Asthalter Maple Syrup Inc.

We went on a maple sugar tour at a local nature preserve. This weekend we were still sick, but not too sick, and it was the first nice days in ages...temperatures were in the forties and it was sunny. Also, it was my husband's birthday weekend, so we wanted to spend some family time together.

The tour began with story time around a fire. The storyteller told two American Indian stories about the origins of the use of maple syrup.

The first one is about how maple syrup used to drip from the trees and the people sat under the streams and got fat and lazy. Manabohzo, a Native American Hero thought this just wasn't right, and poured water into all the trees so the people had to work hard to turn the sap into syrup.

The second story was about a chief who threw his axe into a tree out of anger, and sap poured out. His wife caught it in a birch bark bowl, and used it to cook because she thought it was water. The food became very sweet, and that is how they discovered that the "water" could be turned into sweet syrup.

Each child received a small pouch that they wore around their neck, and with each stop on the tour, they received a small, laminated picture to remind them of the stories they learned. Here they received a picture of a birch bark bowl.

Here we learned to identify a sugar maple tree. We need to look for ovals, faces, and "Y"'s. The silhouette of the sugar maple is oval. The bark of the tree is shaggy, and you can see faces in it. Every branch forms a Y all the way from the trunk to the smallest twig. Here, the children received little twigs to put into their story pouch.

My husband is in the plaid jacket carrying our son in this picture.
Then we learned how to tap the sap. A hole is drilled that can only go about 2 inches deep so as not to hurt the tree. A hollow piece of wood or metal is put into the hole. A pail is hung or placed underneath, and the sap drips out. A cover is put onto the pail to keep out water and critters.

Here is what the sap looks like. It looks like water. We even got to taste some, and it tasted like slightly sweet water. Sap is 97% water, and only 3% sugar, so it takes a lot of sap and time to make maple syrup.

Here the children received a picture of a drop of sap for their story pouches.

Here is the heating element they use to boil down the sap into syrup. They keep it over low heat until the water evaporates. Different grades of syrup from Grade A Fancy to Grade B are achieved by using sap from different times during the season (there are grades in between these as well). Grade A Fancy is a light amber syrup from sap collected early in the season (right around now), and Grade B is from sap collected near the end of the season, which lasts for about 4-6 weeks.

Here is where the heating element is located, in the Sugar Shack.

After the tour, I bought some maple sugar candy and maple syrup. I am going to make up a story board for my son's class and send in the maple sugar candy so they can all taste it. Then we went out to dinner for pancakes and waffles, and I brought in the maple syrup. Boy, it was delicious! If you've never tasted real maple syrup, it has a thinner consistency than pancake syrup, it doesn't have the sickening sweet smell, and it has a wonderful depth of flavor, so you don't need to use as much. It's much more expensive because it's so labor intensive, but for a treat, it's wonderful.

It was a lot of fun to go on the tour, and great to get some fresh air for a change. Boy oh boy did we have cabin fever. If you have a chance to go on a maple sugar tour, you should definitely go! :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Oh, Has it Been a Week?

My son was sick, my daughter got sick, I have been sick, and now my son is sick again. He's coughing so badly. My husband just gave him a nebulizer treatment a few hours ago, and I'm thinking about giving him another. I know this will wake him up and then I'll have to get him back to sleep, which is no easy task, so I'm going to wait to see if he stops coughing. I feel so bad for him. He also vomited several times today and had a fever. Oh, the never ending cycle.
So, that is why I have been absent, and will continue to be until I can afford to spend time on the computer instead of in bed trying to get better or with my kids. Alas. :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lunch with Carole at the CIA Part 2

Last Thursday I went out to lunch with my cousin Carole from Carole's Thoughtful Spot, and you can read the first part of my post here, and Carole's posts here and here.

Once we placed our orders and paid for them, we found a table and got a high chair for my daughter. When you place your order, you get little number cards that you place in a little holder on the table so the students know where to bring your food.

A student came first with my Coke, which was in a bottle. I always order soda without ice because it takes me awhile to drink it and it gets watery when there's ice in it, and I think that's yucky. I also like to pour my soda in a glass to get some of the bubbles out. Usually, when you order a drink in a cafe, it comes in a glass, so I thought it was a little odd that the waitress just brought a bottle. Then she asked me a question that I'm so glad she asked. "I dropped the bottle. Do you want to just wait awhile to open it, or should I bring you another one?" I'm glad she asked me so that the soda didn't explode all over me, but why was this even a question?????
"I'd like a new bottle please, and may I also please have a glass?"
"Oh, you want a glass?"
"Yes, please." That's why I asked for it.... hmmmm. LOL

So in the meantime, my cousin and I talked and laughed. I'd tell you what we were laughing at, but I think it was one of those "you had to be there" moments. But we had a good laugh. My daughter was as good as can be and played happily and drank her sippy cup while my cousin and I talked. Finally, my food came. I had to wait awhile to taste it because they took even longer to bring my cousin's meal.

Then, it was time. This is what I got:

Braised Beef Short Ribs
Slow-braised beef short ribs served with sautéed Brussel sprouts, pearl onions and deep-fried potato croquettes.

Except there were baked mashed potatoes instead of the croquettes...which was A-okay!

So, first I took a bit of the mashed potatoes. There was a crunchy crust with a cheesy, mass of decadence beneath. I gave some to my daughter, but she didn't want any. ?! Then I sliced off a piece of the short ribs. I really didn't need a knife. The meat just fell apart. It melted in my mouth, mingled with the flavors of wine, salt, onion, and spices. Delicious. The pearl onions were cooked perfectly, soft but not mushy. The Brussels sprouts were also perfect, tender inside and caramelized with a bit of crunch on the outside.

It was a perfect meal. I couldn't finish the whole thing, so I asked for a to-go box to pack it up in. Since my daughter wasn't interested in anything I was eating, I took out a jar of baby food for her. She was also uninterested in this. So, we went to the default...french fries. This was a hit. She ate while she transferred the fries from their container to my to-go box and back. Unfortunately, at some point, someone took my food away, so I had no leftovers to bring home in my box. Alas.

My cousin said she'd go up and get the desserts and coffee while I stayed at the table with my daughter and watched our bags. It didn't occur to me that this meant that she would be treating me and I didn't think to say anything until she got back! So, Carole very nicely treated me to:

Praline and Caramel Gâteau
Praline mousse layered with almond cake, house-made praline, and coated in dark caramel glaze.

It looks like a little mousy, doesn't it? It's so cute! And those are 24 karat gold leaf "whiskers" on the "nose".

I also had cappuccino with a chocolate biscotti. You can't really tell, but they shape the foam on the cappuccino into an apple.

You can also see in this picture all the layers of the cake. It was very creamy, and I could taste all the different flavors. The praline in the top layer of praline mousse added a nice crunchy texture within the creaminess.
As you also tell from the picture, the dessert aroused my daughter's interest (and one of the cats scratched her hand). She swiped the chocolate curl from my gateau, and enjoyed some herself. She has a sweet tooth like her mother and her great grandfather. Later, unnoticed by me, she also stole my biscotti. Well, she needs it more than me...I'm sure it felt good on her teething gums.

So after a wonderful meal with wonderful company, I was warm and full and happy. Then my daughter began to cry. She was tired. She had been an absolute angel the whole time, and it was time to go. She was out cold almost as soon as I got her into her car seat.

If you're ever in the Hudson Valley, Hyde Park area, I highly recommend visiting the Culinary Institute of America. If you're short on time and funds, breakfast or lunch at the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe is a great choice since you don't need reservations, the food is as good as any of the fancier restaurants, and you can enjoy an entire meal for about $20.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I Want to Talk to My Son

There's an extremely powerful scene in the move "Mr. Holland's Opus" where a mother, Iris Holland is talking about learning sign language because she is unable to communicate with her deaf son, Cole. She is discussing sign language classes with her husband Glenn Holland, while Cole is trying to tell her what he wants. Iris can't understand Cole's request, and he grows increasingly frustrated to the point of tears. She holds him and rocks him while he cries, and begins to cry herself explaining to Glenn Holland that she wants to tell their Cole that she is his mother and that she loves him. In desperation she cries, "I don't know what he wants, I don't understand what he's trying to say. Don't you get it? You go to school every day with all these children who are normal. I can't talk to my son! I don't know what he wants or what he thinks or what he feels. I can't tell him that I love him, I can't tell him who I am. I want to talk to my son! I don't care what it costs, I don't care what the stupid doctor says is right or wrong. I WANT TO TALK TO MY SON!"

(At the end of the movie, the father sings "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon to his son in sign language. It's another beautiful and moving scene. I sing this to my son all the time too, and he just loves it. )

This was always very moving even before I had a son, and now that I have a son with whom I have great difficulty communicating, even more so.

I was reading another blog site written by another mother with an autistic child called "A Parent's Autism Experiences" . She also had a failed attempt at using sign language with her son, but decided to try one more time. Here is a link to her post. She bought a set of DVD's, and, well, this is what she wrote:

"We tried [teaching our son sign language] again about six months ago, and what a miracle. Our little clam has opened up in ways that we never expected. He has gone from not understanding or at least not being able to communicate what he understands to having some semblance of normal communication with his parents and siblings.

We made the plunge and spent over $300 and got the “Signing Time” DVD collection. Now I’m not selling them and I could care less if you run out and buy them or not, but they have literally opened up a whole new world for us.

We have two other children, one nine and one four. All of the children love the videos and as parents we are learning the signs as well. Now our little boy can identify all of the foods he likes, as well as a variety of other activities and objects. It is so much easier to be able to say it is bed time than to have to show him the bed etc. "

I found a set on E-Bay for $200 (it's listed at $750 on the Signing Time website...whoa). I wonder if my son would do as well trying sign again. He's been starting to use more signs including the sign for "mother" and "moon", and "drink", and he's doing them correctly. He always used to only approximate signs, and sometimes still does. However, maybe he's ready. He also will sit long enough to watch a video, so now might be the right time. My daughter, I'm sure, who is 15 months old could certainly benefit too. My son's speech still sounds like babbling, and it is incredibly frustrating to try to understand what he's trying to say most of the time. He is throwing more and more tantrums, and hurts himself. He screams, "Momma, help!" But he can't tell me what he needs help with and he screams and cries and smashes his head into the wall or floor or furniture to the point where he has contusions on his head. It's horrible.

I love my son so much. I wish I could see a little bit more into his world and I think it would mean the world to him to be able to communicate with more than a very few words. So, I think I'd like to give it a try. It's expensive, but what price can you put on talking to your son?

I want my son to be able to talk to me, and I want to talk to my son.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lunch with Carole at the CIA Part 1

Cool Chandelier at the CIA
Yes, I had lunch at the CIA. I'll bet you never knew they were known for their food. The first time I ever ate at the CIA was with my uncle who took my husband and me there as a thank you gesture...a VERY nice gesture that I have never forgotten and never will. I didn't know what to expect, thinking about eating at the CIA. I figured they must have Top Secret food. I soon found out that CIA stands for the Culinary Institute of America. That's where Bobby Flay and Chef Duff graduated from, in addition to many other famous and not so famous amazing chefs. It's a renown culinary school in Hyde Park, NY. It is absolutely beautiful, and it has several wonderful restaurants both upscale and casual.

As a matter of fact, I met my cousin Carole from Carole's Thoughtful Spot for lunch at the CIA yesterday. She wrote an absolutely wonderful blog entry all about the school and the restaurant where we had lunch with wonderful pictures. As I was carrying two bags and my daughter, I didn't take any pictures until we were inside, so please visit Carole's entry to see beautiful pictures of the CIA, stunning views of the frozen Hudson River, and pictures of the restaurant.

I was so thrilled to be meeting Carole for lunch because we have always had so much fun together, and also because I had been cooped up at home with sick children for weeks.

The last time we met for lunch, we were very health conscious and had Lean Cuisine frozen pizzas with Crystal Light and Weight Watchers ice cream bars for dessert. Yesterday, we did not think about one single calorie. It's a good thing too, because we probably would have needed a good accountant to figure out how many calories we consumed.

The goal of the day was to get out, relax, laugh, eat delicious food, enjoy ourselves, and revitalize. We chose the Apple Pie Bakery both because of the menu and because I could relax and not worry about my daughter making noise or a mess.

I'd been to the Apple Pie Bakery once before. Confronted with the delicacies, delights, and temptations, I ordered an egg white omelet and water. The Apple Pie Bakery really is the worst place to order an egg white omelet and water. There is a plethora of artisan breads, rich meals, and display cases full of artistically prepared desserts of every kind. You can see a slide show of the Apple Pie Bakery as well as the other items they offer here and the cafe menu is available here and the dessert menu is here. Take a look and see what you would just might be taking a ride, sail, or flight over to Hyde Park within the next couple of minutes. Anyway, I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice and felt my arteries begin to harden just thinking about what to choose from the menus.

So as not to spoil Carole's surprise, I will end my post at this point as well and reveal what we had for lunch and dessert and how much fun we had in my next post. You will also get to see more relevant pictures, since the silly picture of the chandelier is the only picture I took (because I was laden with child and bags) that does not reveal what I am not yet ready to reveal.

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Dear John" by Nicholas Sparks: A Surprising Look at Autism

"Dear John" by Nicholas Sparks - Courtesy Barnes & Noble Books

I just finished reading "Dear John" by Nicholas Sparks. I chose this particular book just because I like Sparks' books, even though they are usually heart wrenching. This book was no exception.

What I didn't expect, and what I didn't see in the book reviews or movie trailer is that it has two autistic characters. I don't want to give anything away, but a very large part of the story is the development and change of the relationship between two of the characters as one realizes the other is autistic and comes to understand and accept the character's behavior and why their relationship has remained so limited.

If you're interested in reading a synopsis of the book full of every possible spoiler, you can do so here.

It was really a beautiful story, but like so many of Sparks' books, doesn't have a happy ending.

I wonder if the movie is going to be true to the book or if it's going to cheat and end the way anyone who read the book would want the book to end. I wonder if they're going to portray autism as it was so beautifully portrayed in the book.

I know I won't be seeing it in the movies, so if anyone sees it, please let me know how it is!

My Daughter is Sick Now

Ugh. My son is feeling better, and now my daughter is sick. She had a temperature of 102 the other day, and has been coughing, had a runny nose with terribly thick mucous, and has been generally miserable, poor thing. So, I will post as soon as I can. :)