Sunday, 27 March 2016

A s**tty, dumpster diving, ambulance ride kind of day.

Some days just don't go as well as planned, or hoped for, and in the life of special needs parenting the realities of life can be quite different than what most people experience in a given day.  I don't know if it's the recent full moon or what but some of the children in this house have been way off, and their behaviours have just been bizarre.

Yesterday morning when walking into the youngest boys room there was the undeniable smell of feces, the stench was way worse than anytime they have both soiled their diapers overnight.  It did not take much investigation to determine a certain young man had been extremely creative with his feces, he had thrown it and it was stuck to the ceiling, he had finger painted everywhere with it - on/in his bed, on all of the walls, all over the carpet, on the door, on himself and all over his brother and his brothers bed.  There was feces everywhere, it is actually hard to believe that all that feces came from one small child.  I then started the cleanup which started with bathing the 2 young boys - both have severe sensory issues and bathing them is similar to trying to bath a feral cat.  Then onto the clean up, all the walls and ceiling needed to be sanitized.  All the bedding was put into the washer on the sanitary cycle and it was determined both mattresses were beyond ever being cleaned and needed to be replaced.  The carpet cleaner we were planning on buying in the future was also needed immediately to make the room habitable once again.  While all this was happening you would expect that the guilty party would be remorseful or even realize what he did was wrong but this child does not comprehend this at all.

Even after all of this, you should never think "your day can't get any worse or more bizarre" because around here an adult child, after eating a very large lunch is caught going through the dumpster, looking for food and then caught eating food that has gone bad.  He is not eating said food because there is a shortage or because he is hungry, it's because of his lack of impulse control.....he saw it so he must do it.

During all the day's events I was also receiving texts from another adult that struggles with mental health issues, especially when a stressful situation happens, and today he got a phone call regarding his outstanding phone bill.  This stressful situation resulted in texts throughout the day like Ï am done with life", "nothing in my life works out", "home and safe", etc.  Knowing that he can overwhelm extremely easily I respond with very simple, positive responses as that is all he is able to take in.  I tell him to use his tax return money to pay his phone bill, a simple manageable solution.  When I return home from purchasing the new mattresses and carpet cleaner, I ask him about his day?  He is still worked up and has a complete meltdown.  Hitting himself, clawing at his face, crying, destroying his sunglasses and saying he wants to kill himself.  I ensure all the younger children stay downstairs watching a movie with their older sister so we can deal with this young man without scaring anyone.  As he says he wants to kill himself, hubby phones for support, and the police and ambulance arrive quickly.  He agrees to going to the hospital and seeking more help (he has already been seeing mental health and getting support for a while now).  We call our amazing and very supportive respite provider and she comes to watch the younger kids, hubby continues with the planned activities with the older kids, and I spend the evening at the hospital helping our son be heard while he seeks more professional help.  Before leaving for the hospital I take time to ensure everyone is okay, the younger kids don't seem to notice that their brother left in the ambulance between the movie and excitment of the babysitter coming over and I talk with the older children as to why their brother is going for more help.

After all of this our son is released from the hospital with a new plan.  We are both starving so we grab take out, I send our son in to get the food so I have time to phone hubby taking time to lean on each other for support.  With these kinds of days, which fortunately don't happen often, it is important that hubby and I take time to look after ourselves and our relationship.  It's also a huge relief that we have built supports and plans that work to help us through these situations reducing the stress for everyone involved.  

Friday, 25 March 2016

Cheap dinner for many!

When our budget needs a little relief from the never ending stretching this is one of our standby meals.  I find it helpful to have a variety of frugal recipes on hand that can be included in the monthly meal plan so it's not as noticeable when the budget is tighter for whatever reason.  This is a favourite with many of the children and I think they would have it everyday if it was available.  Also as I have stated before some of our children have swallowing challenges, this is a meal they find easier to manage which is a win because it doesn't require any additional preparation for them.

When I make this meal, I always make extra for lunch for the next day.  We enjoy this as a casserole but it can also be used as a filling in burritos or quesadillas to mix it up a bit, so it doesn't feel like the same meal again.

This recipe is adapted from the orginal recipe found in the "Easy Beans" cookbook by Trish Ross and Jacquie Trafford.

Mexican Lentil Casserole

serves 24

vegetable oil (enough to saute vegetables)
6 medium onions, chopped
1 bunch celery, chopped
3-4 grated carrots
6 cloves garlic pressed
16 cups water
4 cups dried green lentils
9 cups cooked rice (preferably brown for nutritional value but white does work)
5 cans tomato paste
4-5 tbsp taco seasoning (you can make your own if desired)
4-6 tsp chili powder (use your judgement how spicey you would like it)

Optional 1 bag crushed taco chips and 2 cups grated cheese

In large saucepan, saute onions, celery, carrot and garlic in oil over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

Add water and lentils then bring to a boil.  Stir, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Do not drain, add rice, tomato paste, taco seasoning and chili powder.  Stir well.  At this point you can serve directly from sauce pan or transfer to a slightly oiled casserole dish.

If serving from a casserole dish top with crushed taco chips and grated cheese, then bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Do you have any meals that you use to stretch your budge?  Please feel free to share.

Monday, 21 March 2016

10 simple ways to reduce your grocery budget!

Around here the cost of groceries are sky rocketing, with a large family we are constantly trying to stretch our food budget from eating up the entire household budget.  For us it is a constant battle employing various tactics to manage the expenses while still eating well.  Most times we are on top of things but every now and then life takes over and we find the need to reel ourselves in or an unexpected expense pops up and we need to find ways to pare back in other areas.

               10 Simple ways to reduce your grocery budget!

Meal planning

By planning your meals you have more control over how much you are spending and eating.  By having a plan you know what to purchase, reducing impulse buying, overspending and wasted time wandering the store wondering what to purchase.

Double recipes, one for the freezer

This is one of my favourite tips! By doubling the recipe and putting one in the freezer, this provides relief, on those hectic days, when the last thing I want to do is cook.  I have found some recipes are easy to double and freeze so well.  I will also make premade crockpot recipes that freeze well and then you just dump them into the crockpot in the morning.

Shop discounted items

Many grocery stores reduce prices on items just before there best before date.  I like to purchase our meat this way and find it works well if I put it directly into the freezer after purchase.  I have also found baked items, produced, and damaged canned or packaged items reduced also.

Leftover day

Do you typically have leftovers piling up in your fridge?  Pick one meal and have a buffet of leftovers.  This uses up the leftovers and reduces the costs of yet another meal.

Plan meals around sales

Before you make your meal plan flip through this weeks sales flyers and see what's on special.  Try including some of the sale items in your meal plan.

Plan around what's in season

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season costs less so eat what is in season or choose items that have been frozen or canned.

Plan around what you have on hand

Take a look in your fridge and pantry before making your meal plan, then plan around what you have on hand.  If you are having a mental block and don't know what you could possibly make with those leftover items why not try typing into google "recipes for" and then the items you have, this might inspire you with a recipe for tonight's dinner.

Go meatless once a week (or more)

The cost of meat has drastically increased, by declaring one or more days a week "meatless" days this can provide some financial relief.  Your meatless meal could be a dish with beans or lentils, or as simple as breakfast for dinner.

Make food from scratch

Prepackaged food is expensive!  Take a look around your pantry and determine what prepackaged items you are buying then look for some simple recipes that you could make to replace the need to purchase some of these packaged items.  By making things from scratch we have been able to reduce costs, control what goes into what we eat and have found that the items we make fill us up more so than the store bought version, which results in us eating less.

Shop around

It's always good to shop around so you know whether or not you are getting the best value for your money.  We tend to buy most of our produce from a local farm market which as exceptional prices compared to the grocery store.  Another store frequently has meat reduced first thing each morning so it is worth my time to check it out when in the area.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Puberty, cognitive delays and a CSI crime scene!

A friend was recently telling me about menarche parties, a party for young girls to celebrate their first period.  Not thinking that this was a real thing I did a bit of "googling" and I found this description "The occassion of an adolescent girl's first period is often a very embarrassing and scary time, even if they have been prepared for it by their parents.  One way to lighten the mood and celebrate this momentous time in your daughter's life is by having a first period party.  It can be difficult for young girls and even women to get excited about something that brings both blood and pain, but having a period party can be a great first step towards her being able to embrace her period and its significance as the beginning of her journey to womanhood."

Around our house we don't have a party and it is more like a situation of drawing straws between my husband and I.....whoever gets the short straw gets the never ending, daunting task of teaching and helping the young adolescent with cognitive delays cope with the changes his or her body is displaying.  This teaching may need to happen for years according to some of the examples in our home, we are at 10-14 years (since puberty) with some and don't seem to be getting any closer to independence.

First up is the "stench" of the adolescents and the increased need for personal hygiene.  We have gone through puberty with multiple children and it seems the ones with cognitive challenges either don't realize or care that they stink!!  Without constant reminders of, you need to shower, please put on clean clothing and put on some deodarant, our home would constantly smell like a middle school boys locker room.  We have visual schedules that are used, charts detailing how to do various tasks including showering and changing sanitary products and it's still never ending.  Each morning during "work out time" we need all the windows open and a gas mask would be beneficial.  I don't even think one of those "Febreeze" commercials could help this situation.

Then for the girls there is the need for a bra, which sneakes up so fast that they may not have even mastered the finer points of dressing, such as buttons and zippers.  Bras can be extremely difficult to put on and if your daughter is blessed with a large bosom she will have even more of a challenge.  We start with sport bras and buying mutliple of the same style to limit the learning curve.  You can read more about our bra challenges here.

Then there is menstuaration and the need for the use of sanitary products.  This one is huge and one that you wouldn't think you should have to constantly be involved in.  Over the years we have determined sanitary pads are what will be taught in our home and if you have the desire to use something else you will need to figure that out on your own.  We did try tampons with one, so she could still swim, when the tampon fell out and landed on the pool deck without her noticing (Dad had to say "you dropped something") not swimming on those days was a better option.  We also have to track the menstruation so said individual doesn't think "I will just wear a pad" because I really want to go on the water slides today, leaving a pad stuck on the inside of the water slide ready to greet the next person.  There has also been the ongoing lesson of where it is acceptable to change your sanitary products and how often it should be done.  Then there is the mess that is left when they are working on independence of looking after things themself.  Why does the bathroom look like a vicious CSI crime scene each time they finish?  Lysol wipes are a constant requirement in our bathroom between the ones being potty trained and the adolescents.

Do you have a successful method for teaching the finer points of becoming an adolescent/adult?  How do you manage these challenges in your home?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Making some dough....$$$$

Each week one of our young adults has been taking orders and then producing bread for sale. Earning her own spending money is the driving force behind this business venture.  With the help of a support person, usually Mom, she has been able to produce up to 8 loaves of bread in a day.  This weeks bread is a favourite with the customers and is delicious paired with homemade soup.

Rosemary Bread

2 tablespoons white sugar
2 cups warm water
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 tablesppons rosemary
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
5-6 cups all purpose flout
Olive oil to grease bowl and loaf pan.

Dissolve the sugar in warm water and mix in yeast.  When yeast is bubbly mix in butter, rosemary, italian seasoning, salt, and add flour gradually to form a workable dough.

Coat the inside of a large bowl with olive oil.  Place dough in bowl, cover and allow to rise 1 hour or until double in size in a warm location.  We put in oven with the oven light on.

Punch down dough and divide in half.  Place in a greased loaf pan and allow to rise until doubled in size (1 hour).  Cook at 375 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

The bread making has been teaching many skills and some have been easier to learn than others.  She has learned the importance of accurate measuring when one loaf came out like a rock.  A lot of math skills are being taught between measurements, costing out ingredients and determining the cost per loaf, and money math when selling the loaves.  Social skills are being taught dealing with customers between taking orders, filling orders and talking up her business.  There is also the much needed hand and arm strengthening (OT benefits) that has been happening from mixing and kneading the bread by hand.  Our baker has a terrible work ethic that we have been trying to rectify and probably the most shocking lesson of all was when she woke up "oh so sick" and decided she couldn't possibly make bread and the customers did not pay....she honestly felt the customers would giver her money even if they didn't get their bread.