Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Prayer Request...

I find myself more frequently in the position of amateur Catholic apologist. This is over my pay raise on so many levels. I lack the education, patience, the fundamental kindness and consideration, and the charity required for this. I could use some backup.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Peeps...

We got all dressed up and most of us had nowhere to go. Just under half of us have some sort of cough. That means no Nana for all of us cootie exposed Martins and no church for the actively coughing. We still managed to make Easter a happening at our house.

The Centerpiece
The boys managed to look good without doing their hair or nails.


You can see him plotting this in the Before picture, can't you?

I'm sick and tired and you have a camera. 

AfterOn the other hand, you also have candy.
P.S. I'm not changing my shirt. This one has a bear on it.

The girls took a little more primping and polishing to get to maximum Easter readiness.

If you are wondering why this group shot is what it is (a candid moment just before the mayhem), you obviously have never tried to capture one good still shot of three little girls who simply must pose while simultaneously showing you their pretty shoes, their painted fingernails, their hairdo and (in the case of the newly potty-trained) clean underpants.

I had better luck with the single shots of the girls.

She particularly liked her hair and nails.

She liked her dress the best.

She especially liked the attention.

Happy Easter, everyone! 
Hope you enjoyed your family time, too! 




Friday, April 22, 2011

Why it is good...

A few months ago, a Facebook friend acted like a troll. He came over to my page to insult both me and my Christianity. I allowed it to stand and didn't react with the vitriol I was tempted to, much to the amusement of my friends out in the real world. "Better you than me," one said. I was tempted to drop him, of course, but I won't do that except in extreme cases (and haven't yet). I'd rather interact. I'm probably the only person of faith this person actually engages with, so I tolerate the periodic pettiness because, honestly, aren't we all petty on occasion? From all I can tell, he surrounds himself with people who agree with him and so his world seems pretty narrow. Though I know I drive him crazy, it seems he's willing to put up with me, too. I can't begin to imagine why. I'm his "diversity" maybe, so I'll stick it out. We're tolerating each other.

Another friend and I disagree radically on several fundamentals. We have a nodding recognition that we'll probably never come to common ground on those few things, so we simply don't discuss them. I post my pro and anti pages and she politely does not comment. She posts her polar opposite pro and anti pages and I politely do not comment. I read a few of hers and think, "How sad this all is." She very likely does the same. We peacefully coexist until we come across common ground, then boy howdy can we go to town on each other's comments. We are waiting for those moments when we agree so that we can pick each others' brains and spur each other on. I enjoy those times because I really and truly love the way she thinks. I forgive her as she forgives me, for being different. I just love that about her, almost as much as I love her.

My sister taught me this skill, by the way, in case you think I am some sort of saintly, tolerant woman. I'm not. I'm a pain in most every one's behind really (most especially my own). My sister can attest to what an obnoxious, opinionated person I am naturally. She bore the brunt of my bluntness for years with a patience I can only admire. I have studied her. I have watched her exist, relatively peacefully, in a world that disagrees with nearly every cherished belief she holds. I have seen her temper flare up in her eyes, only to be expressed by a raising of the eyebrows and a slight cooling of her natural warmth. I have always wanted that.

Good, God! WHY?!
With all that in mind, I will answer on Good Friday this accusation of a question on why Christians hold up the Cross as a cherished symbol. "It's like Jews worshiping Auschwitz!" that certain somebody accused, offending me and two wide swaths of humanity in the same careless analogy. In swallowing my anger, I had my answer, "Because it gives me the strength to bear you." The cross means that suffering has a higher purpose. You suffering with me and me suffering with you is a good thing. I'd give up my life for that, for you, in a minute. At least I hope I would, if called to. In the meantime I'll be giving up my anger instead. It's practice. We Catholics call it "dying to self." It's a type of martyrdom that isn't much admired in the world, but some of the most admirable people I know practice it.

I'm working on it. In the meantime, God Himself thought we were worth dying for and I agree, even if I'm only called to "die to self" for you.

So there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Heavenly Humbling Homemade Olive Oil Mayo

Is it just me or do you sometimes get the feeling the angels are laughing at you?
"Silly human"
Last year I made my very first batch of Olive Oil Mayonnaise and planned on blogging about how simple and easy the recipe is. It's so easy and so good, in fact, that some restaurants make their mayonnaise in-house and you know how busy a restaurant kitchen is. It really is that simple and quick. In theory, anyway. That blog post never materialized. All I managed was this. (I was in a bit of a mood.) The mayonnaise was a disaster. Turns out I'd done everything right and still had a mess of inedible gloop in the end. Life's like that. It's just a little reminder that no matter what I think, I'm not in charge of things.

Since I don't like those little reminders, I don't usually take them lying down. I guess it's a holdover from my unrepentant heathen days that I hold onto the illusion that if I can plan things out to the last detail, everything will be fine. God knows better. Let's just say that He tosses me friendly and frequent reminders of who He is when I start to puff up with ignorant importance. This was one of those reminders. After the failure, I hunted around to find out what went wrong. As it turns out, olive oil can not be whipped with a metal utensil without sometimes developing a flat metallic taste. Sometimes. (?)(!)(...) I tried it with a wooden spoon and it turned out well. Then I tried it with plastic. Fine again. Then I tried it again with the metal and that was fine, too. Then I ran out of eggs. So I had to accept that sometimes using metal on mayo would make a mess and sometimes it wouldn't. Oh fine, then. 

So, let's get that straight before you start: use a metal whisk at your own risk. No matter what it tastes like, the mayo will turn out a bright yellow due to the egg yolks. If you find the idea of yellow mayo hard to stomach, I'm sure you could use only egg whites, but you may need to add an extra egg or two, maybe three. Let me know if you fiddle with this and how it turned out. I don't want to be the only lonely silly human around the place.

Olive Oil Mayonnaise (Revised)

1 egg white, room temperature (the fresher the better)
1 Tbs vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup olive oil (have 1/4 cup ready in reserve)
salt to taste (try starting with 1/4 tsp)

Whip yolk, salt, and vinegar, and slowly add half of your oil. Then whip in remaining oil. It will begin to pull away from the bowl when it is thick enough. If too thick, add water by the drop. 

Use in the same way you always use mayonnaise. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Featured! A Blogspot Review...

Judge not, lest ye be featured!
But worry not, if you do be judging, we'll get you cleaned up. refreshing! And soul cleansing, too!

I have a confession to make, and it has nothing to do with my own personal sins (mostly). It has to do with the sins of the blogger who runs the Saint Kitsch blog (all of the images and even the tone of this post are borrowed from it in order to give you a feel for the delights therein). Or more accurately, it has to do with the Sins of the Artists, the Sins Against Good Taste. The ones who would do this to Jesus...

or this...
Secretly covets this to hang this over the waterbed.

Oh right. Coveting is bad. I knew that.
This will help that.

I have to confess that I agree with any blogger who says, "If you can put glitter on it, put glitter on it."

Whoa! Hold on there!
That's JESUS
Don't you be messing with my Jesus, now. 
because he's looking pretty good there.
He might could take 
those needle-armed artist types.

At least most days.
Excuse me, Miss, have you seen Jesus?

Well, this blog only has 16 subscribers. I can't imagine why. I thought I'd do my part. I don't want to be the only one...

Saint Kitsch: It could even make Jesus laugh.
Or not...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Autism Awareness Month--What We Know

When you have a special needs child, all of the normal temptations and fears of parenting aren't any different, they are simply exaggerated. I think that may be why those of you without a special needs child find a resonance when you read about parenting a child with them. You can put yourself in my shoes because you are in them. The feelings you experience may be more fleeting than mine, but the same tasks face us both--we're both in the business of helping people become people. My child is not so different than yours, he's just...well...different.

In short, my son may not make me a better parent, but he does make me a better observer of my parenting. So let me share with you an on-going insight:

Celebrate your victories!
Don't complicate them.
Just be happy.

What matters is that a developmental goal has been met, not that it is late, not that it has fallen short of the stellar level you expected. It matters that the skill is now your child's to own, not that it is complicated by your longing for more. In fact, the struggle to attain this victory or even to recognize it has made a stronger person of you both.

So, try to remember the wonder of it all as you wander along. Each child has a path to travel, marked by milestones along the way. Some are reached after a long and determined slogging.  Some are swept past effortlessly. At any rate you travel, it's the traveling itself that makes the change.

Feel free to dance on the journey. 

The Planet's Best Cole Slaw

My husband concocted this recipe. It is so good that I had to share it even though I've not done much posting on anything other than food lately. YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS! I'm warning you though, better make a double batch or it'll never make it to the picnic.

The Planet's Best Cole Slaw

1 large head of cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1/2 cup of vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
splash of white wine
1 tsp of salt (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients with a wooden or plastic spoon. Refrigerate.

Cooking Tip: If an olive oil based mayonnaise is stirred too vigorously with a metal spoon, sometimes a horrible metallic aftertaste develops. It is safer to just stick with wood or plastic.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

How to train your babysitter...special needs edition...

The Amazing Martinis!
At one point in my mommy career I had children aged like a countdown: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. It only lasted for a month, but during that month I often thought, "Blast off!" when I looked at the lot of them. Imagine how a babysitter might feel: five children, five and under, one with autism (cue Springsteen's "Baby I Was Born to Run"). When even The Mommy can get overwhelmed, just imagine the horrors an imaginative teen could concoct at first sight of them. "Uh, Mrs. Martin, I was like, '$5 an hour,' right? But that was, like, per child, okay?"

I've never daunted a babysitter. Instead, I've trained them. Since my family needed more from the average sitter, I trained above-average sitters. I've done it over a period of 5 years now, and I thought I'd better share the process because it evolved hit and miss with the help of great sitters and good friends. The ideas came from necessity and we happened on what works. I know that it's going to sound like I'm made of money. I'm not. We're on one income, remember. We just have made this a significant part of budgeting for events. I don't go out much, but whenever I do, I know I'm covered on the homefront. That's priceless!

First step: CPR/First Aid Certification

Whenever we have foster children, our babysitters are required to have CPR and First Aid Certification. This is such a good idea that we Martins have required it even during the few months in the last six years that we've not been fostering.

I made this an easy requirement by calling the American Heart Association and finding an instructor who could come to us, then advertising by word of mouth that it was being offered. The kids who want to babysit for us on a regular basis invest in their skills as a sitter before they even step foot in the door. At the very least, this requirement will weed out the sitters who are more interested in your money than in doing their job.

Second step: On the Job Training

This actually evolved out of necessity: I had some projects that needed doing that I couldn't do well without a little help watching the kids. It turned out so well, I've been doing it ever since.

I have the babysitter come over to babysit when I am home. I pay the sitter half wages for On the Job Training (OJT). The sitter comes over, learns the routines that are vital to the good behavior of my son with autism and my other children, too, and I am there to coach, tweak, and guide the process. If I envision an evening event, the OJT takes place late enough to include the bedtime routine. If I've got to leave on a Tuesday, I have the sitter come learn how to "do Tuesday." It may seem strange to pay a sitter when you are home, but I consider it an investment. I can not tell you how vital this step is. Not only does the sitter learns where you keep everything and how the kids are expected to behave, all the kids benefit from the smooth continuation of their routine. The babysitters are more competent and more confident when the time comes to solo. Plus, the money is good! There's the reward of the money of babysitting without the trials and confusion that babysitting alone can bring!

Third Step: Sometimes, It Takes Two

During certain developmental phases (the quietly-disappearing phase, the I'm-going-to-the-park-alone phase, the meltdown-at-random-intervals phase), I have hired one sitter for my son with autism and then another sitter for the rest of the children. It costs double, but we build it into the budget and if it means a peanut butter and jelly sandwich main course on Friday (or on several Fridays), so be it.

Fourth Step: Back up!

When we confer our Parental Authority Badge, it is conferred. We do not undo it when we get home. If the babysitter has given a time-out, we don't let our children complain about it. We back up the babysitter with statements like, "Did you tell Hannah you were sorry for not obeying her?" or "Oh no! Weren't you embarrassed to be naughty in front of Clara?" Our kids know that if the babysitter has sentenced anyone to a time out or restricted the use of a toy or removed  popsicle privileges, mommy and daddy are following through when we get home. So far we've not run into much in the way of overzealousness or other authority problems on the babysitter's part, and any tweaking that needs to be done is handled privately with the sitter, out of earshot of the kids.

Well, then...
That's about it. Four steps and a couple of months of training and you have yourself a few babysitters who are ready for just about anything your family can dish out. Start with quality kids--I prefer the children of large families because of the experience they bring--and help them learn the ropes. Two of my best sitters have gone one to volunteer at an equestrian center for special needs kids because they've learned that kids are kids, no matter what the labels say.