Friday, June 26, 2009

My kids are weird

I was late getting dinner on the table tonight because I got distracted playing in the garden (with Dave). Apparently the children were hungry (there was shredded BBQ beef in the crockpot- I just needed to make buns, cook a veggie, and set the table). Chris joined us in the garden with a bowl in his hand. I didn't think much of it until I made it back into the house to complete dinner prep.

Chris was sitting at the kitchen table with Jake and they were sharing a salad. The salad was full of beet greens and bok choy, butter bib lettuce, nasturtium flowers, tiny carrots, chives, parsley, and basil. It looked kinda weird. However, they'd sprayed it with balsamic viniagrette and were chowing down on the strange greens while they waited for me to finish cooking.

I've heard that kids on the Austism spectrum are picky eaters, rigid in their likes and dislikes, afraid or unable to try new things. Not Chris. If it's green- he'll eat it. If it grows in the garden- he'll eat it. If we see it in the grocery store and it looks interesting- he'll eat it. I know fairly normal grown-ups who don't eat as varied a diet as my children do.

People sometimes ask me how I get my kids to eat vegetables. The only answer I can come up with is- I simply don't care whether they eat them or not. I eat vegetables (but I truly don't like root veggies, which my kids all love). I serve vegetables at least twice a day, fruit three or four times a day. We're always looking for new ways to cook or serve veggies.

The kids enjoy helping in the garden and watching the vegetables grow. I think this makes them naturally curious and open to eating the product of their toil (bet you thought I'd never use that FFA Creed ever again, huh?). We start seeds on the patio in March and then move them to the garden the middle of May. Sam only cares about pumpkins and squash. He doesn't participate with the rest of the garden (but we do have about 16 mounds of cucubit type plants). Jake doesn't really work in the garden, but he likes to help harvest stuff. Chris has his own grow box and portions of two others that he cares for on his own (and he is much more conscientious than I am about caring for the garden).

Every trip to the grocery store we try to bring home something we've never tried before. Sometimes it's a vegetable. Sometimes it's a cut of meat. Sauces, condiments, and ethnic foods have all found their way onto our pantry shelves where they're rapidly consumed. Trying new things has become an adventure, quest, and lifestyle for our family. In the beginning I made up the "adventure" as a way to keep my mind from stagnating (any more than it already had). I needed a challenge that required me to flex my mind without taking any more time or energy than I was already spending caring for my family and house.

Now, seven years later, we see the result of my challenge. My children are weird. But they're weird in a good way and even though I catch myself laughing at them (often) I really enjoy the little people they're becoming.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Classrooms of the Heart

I saw this video on Barbara Frank's blog ( and liked it so much I copied it so that any of you who don't already read Barbara's blog will have an opportunity to watch.

Gatto's teaching philosophy resonates particulary with me because much of what he is saying about educating teens and teaching real responsibility is exactly what our teens experience through participation in 4-H.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hmmm.... recipes?

Chris found a brand new (albeit broken) recipe binder in the garage today. He's fascinated with all the dividers, the recipe sheets, and the binder itself.

I've had a hard time getting Chris to read and practice his writing lately. Here's my newly hatched (and now documented) plan for summer instruction. Two days a week Chris will help make a meal (whichever meal he'd like to cook during the day). Before he gets to cook he has to locate a recipe he'd like to try.

Ok, here's the educational, language arts, genius part of the idea: He must copy the recipe into his binder.

After a whole summer of cooking he should have a good grasp of copying measurements and words. Following directions in sequential order, double checking measurements, using measuring tools, learning cooking terminology... what a treasure chest full of new skills he can gain by the end of the season. Plus, this is a great opportunity to learn how to prepare some of the vegetables he's growing in his very own garden plot.

Here's hoping mom has the discipline to follow through on this one. Some days it's just so much easier to do everything (especially cooking and cleaning related things) myself. Keep us in your prayers and hopefully the whole family will survive this experience!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Night before last Chris stayed up late and watched "Good Eats" with me. I love Alton Brown (in a purely innocent way). He explains the food chemistry behind cooking. "Good Eats" is my version of continuing education :-) On Friday the show was about hiding vegetables in tasty foods that kids will eat. I admit to some curiosity although I have been known to tell my kids to eat some tator tots before they can have thirds of the brussels sprouts or broccoli (mainly because I wanted to eat more of the brussels sprouts or broccoli).

Alton introduced us to the world of parsnips. He made muffins, fries, and a pear/parsnip puree. Chris watched the entire episode with me. Upon completion he says, "Mom, let's buy some parsnips." Last week Chris wanted to choose his own vegetable while we were grocery shopping. Of course I gave permission. There was a clerk in the produce section stocking cucumbers. You should have seen him do a double take when Chris very confidently chose turnips for his vegetable. He asked if Chris liked turnips and Chris told him that he'd never tried them before but had heard they were good (God only knows who told him that).

This week I went grocery shopping by myself, but I did remember to put parsnips on the list. During the show Alton jokes about stashing them around his kitchen so that he never runs out. I thought of that as I selected eight tuberous specimens. The kids were excited to find new veggies as they helped me put away groceries. I had planned on experimenting with them Monday or Tuesday. By dinner time last night (the groceries came home at 3:30pm, we eat at 6:30) we were down to two and a half parsnips- because the kids ate them raw.

I quickly threw together a batch of muffins, substituting parsnips for fruit. The kids ate them for dessert and again this morning. Perhaps having a stash of this vegetable on hand is a good idea. They're somewhat sweet like carrots, but they also taste a bit like celery and radish- except mild. I guess what I'm saying is: They taste like parsnips and parsnips are good.

Also, beware of what your children watch on tv because they are being trained to become little consumers. I think that watching Alton exclaim over the delights of eating this vegetable made my children view them favorably before they ever even tasted a parsnip. The power of advertising is huge and we frequently take it for granted. So... long live the parsnip! It must be good, because Alton said so :-)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Wackiest Wildest Weirdest Animals in the World- by Jack Hanna

Yesterday we received, "The Wackiest, Wildest, Weirdest Animals in the World," by Jack Hanna, published by Thomas Nelson. I didn't get the opportunity to look at the book until this evening because my children have been fighting over it for the past day. "The Wackiest Wildest Weirdest Animals in the World" is a big hit with the seven and under crowd living here! Some of the animals covered were very familiar to the family (like lions and ostrich). A couple of the animals (like Bongo) we'd never heard of before. Our kids were definately motivated by the beautiful pictures to read to themselves and find out more about the animals.

Included with the book is a DVD of bloopers from Jack Hanna's TV show. My kids weren't terrifically enthralled with the DVD, but I enjoyed it :-) I'd recommed this book to anyone with younger children.

Exposure - by Brandilyn Collins

I loved this book! All week I kept trying to get into a romance I'd agreed to review and this book sat on my side table, tempting me. Finally, I put the other book aside and started reading Exposure, written by Brandilyn Collins, published by Zondervan. I couldn't put it down. Kaycee Raye lives in fear of unknown people watching her every move. She knows the fear is irrational. It's something she picked up from her mother, who had the same fear. Except- what if her fears aren't irrational? What if someone really is out there? Watching her? Moving things in her house? Leaving vanishing pictures of a dead man in her home?

Exposure is very well written. The suspense kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book. There are no "slow" chapters. Brandilyn Collins has written an amazing action packed story that I highly recommend to anyone interested in mystery/suspense. I'll certainly be looking for more stories written by this author!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Makes me laugh!

This isn't even remotely politically correct, but it made me laugh so hard my sides hurt! I apologize in advance to any new fathers who may read my blog (although I'm betting there aren't any).

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room