Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Things To Know About a Child with Special Needs

11 years with Annie!

Today, I had the opportunity to speak to Early Intervention parents and professionals about "Having That First Conversation with Families" - families of children with special needs. Having been on both sides of the fence - a parent and a professional - I offered my perspective. In preparation for my presentation, I read about a training for a disability ministry in which the ministerial student approached the presenter and here is what he said, "I feel better prepared to talk to parents of children whose child has died than to talk to parents of a child with a disability. I simply have no idea how to have that first conversation." Wow! What a statement!
 
I have used this "Top Ten" list for several presentations to different groups so I thought I would share it here in hopes that it will give you the parent perspective of having a child with special needs.
 
Name on her bed at Children's Hospital of Alabama

 

1) A child with special needs has a name!..... Our daughter is officially Ann Olivia but to us she is "Annie". I shared the story in which Heather, our first NICU nurse at Children's Hospital, made this name tag for her bedside. I was so touched that it read "Annie" and not Ann or Ann Olivia or Baby Allen. It was a very personal approach to her care that we remember to this day! It means so much to us when people take the time to know her as "Annie" and not just the official name on her files.
Our tired artist at the Sprayberry Art Show
 
 
2) A child with special needs is busy!....Annie is not as "busy" as she used to be, thankfully! I am referring to the many doctor visits, therapy visits, case managers, early interventionists and more. It can be quite overwhelming at times.
 
Easter 2013
 
3) A child with special needs has a family with special needs!....I read the blogs of some parents of children with special needs and the found the following things to be pretty common in all of them - parents may be tired, scared, jealous, lonely/left out, stressed out, needing a break! We experience highs and lows. We are sometimes good at hiding things and sometimes not. We are stronger than you think and not as strong as you think. Of course, we don't experience all of these things all the time. The same goes for the rest of the family as well - like siblings. At the same time, we all experience joy!
One of my favorites of these sweet sisters!
 
4) A child with special needs also needs attention - just like other children.... It warms our hearts for people to talk to Annie, even though she can't talk back. At the same time, it is important that the child with special needs doesn't get all the attention. Elle is equally as important in our family!
5) A child with special needs is expensive....financial needs can be a "special need" all it's own. Thankfully, there are resources available to assist families in this area.
 
Papa and Granny
Nannie, Granddaddy, Madeline and Margaret
 
6) A child with special needs has resources.....in Early Intervention, listing a families resources is an important part of the Individual Family Service Plan. We have been fortunate to have great resources for Annie.
7) A child with special needs is a challenge..... what child isn't? I recently read about a conversation between a dad and daughter. The daughter was about to have her first child - she said to her Dad, "Dad, I think we're ready" to which he replied "No, you're not". Is anybody ever really ready? We take one day at a time, always learning along the way.
 
Friends and Family at Annie's 5th Birthday
 
8) A child with special needs takes a village..... Is it more than WE can handle? Sure, it is! That's why our "village" is so important. We handle it, first of all, because we have a great faith! God has placed some pretty special people in our life - grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, teachers, para educators, doctors, nurses, principals, therapists, early intervention staff, friends, church members and more! So thankful for EVERYONE who has played a part in Annie's life movie so far!
 
Sprayberry Night at Alabama Baseball 2013
 
9) A child with special needs can be happy.....if only the rest of the world would take a cue from Annie or my precious cousin, Wendell, who has cerebral palsy! Two of the happiest people I know!
 
Taking a stroll at Sprayberry!
 
10) A child with special needs is a blessing....we just can't imagine Annie any other way. Do we wish she could walk and talk like other children? Of course, we do! But we love her for who she is - she's feisty, determined, funny, strong, and very active. We are so proud of all that she has accomplished and so thankful to everyone on her team!
 
 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Best Chicken Salad EVER

 
 
When my friend, Kay Fields, posted this recipe on her Facebook page, I couldn't wait to try it! In fact, I didn't - not yet anyway - I know it's good!
Best chicken salad EVER is how she describes it!
 
Here is the recipe for Kay's Chicken Salad in her words: 1) I boil ONLY white large chicken breasts and using scissors trim off all fat and gristle, if any, and boil slowly so all that AWESOME FLAVOR gets in, for several hours (Yes, I Do This). 2) after chicken just falls apart, set aside to cool a bit, 3) Drain liquid off and use hands to toss and the chicken just shreds up so nicely, 4)Add all these ingredients as much or little as I want to (I never measure): Kraft Mayo, Pecans (I cut them up myself - don't like them chopped), Green or Purple Seedless Grapes (I slice in half), Dill Pickle Chips (I cut these up as I see fit as well) and then 5) I pour some of the dill pickle juice over mixture to moisten if it's a little dry. I may or may not add more Mayo. That's it and I serve anyway I want - on regular bread, white or wheat, croissants, alone or with assorted crackers! YUMMY!!!!!! Then we eat it all up! If I ever have left overs  - of course, cover and put back in fridge. Next day, I usually add either Mayo or pickle juice again because it may be a little bit dry. That's all!
 
 
Thanks, Kay, for sharing your recipe! If anyone else has fabulous recipes to share, send them to me with a photo and I would love to feature on this blog!
 
 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What's for Supper?

I have no idea! That is my usual response to the question "What's for Supper?" that I hear frequently. Unless I have done any amount of planning, I really don't know. It's not that there is not food in the freezer, it's just that I don't always plan ahead to have something thawed or ready to cook after work. Planning is the key! So...... I created this list to help me be prepared for the question next time!
 
 
 
I have to admit that I created this "list" a while back and I haven't really used it yet, but today's the day! Maybe you can use it, too! Use the link above to print your own copy. Maybe, when I get my own copy filled in, I can share some new recipes! Don't be surprised to see Chick Fil A, Walton's and others on still on my list, just hopefully not every night.... On my way to plan this week's dinner!


 
 


Monday, June 2, 2014

The Sweet Spot - S'mores Bars

 
The sweet spot is a place where a combination of factors results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort. In  baseball, a given swing will result in a more powerful hit if the ball strikes the bat on the latter's sweet spot. OK, I' ve been watching too much baseball this weekend! It's that time of year when I love watching my favorite college teams on the road to the College World Series!
 
Of course, I watch my favorite team, the Alabama Crimson Tide first! Then I find myself watching other SEC teams and more. I'm especially enjoying watching teams like Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Kentucky whose coaches recently contributed recipes to a baseball themed cookbook we compiled for a fundraiser for Annie's school (Sprayberry Education Center). You will, of course, here more about it soon! Never thought I'd be choosing a team by their recipes! Just very appreciative of their support!
 
My "sweet spot" during this baseball season, included these yummy S'mores Bars that I am sharing with you! I made them for some work friends who have birthdays but we were able to sneak a few right out of the oven to enjoy for ourselves!
Smores bars
Crust:
½ C. melted butter
1 ½ C. graham cracker crumbs
Dough:
2 C. brown sugar
2/3 C. salted butter, softened
2 eggs
2 ½ C. flour
2 ¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C. mini marshmallows
Topping:
1 Hershey’s chocolate candy bar (broken into pieces)
1 Graham Cracker (broken into pieces)
½ C. mini marshmallows
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Line a 13 X 9 inch pan with foil. Press graham cracker mixture into pan to form the crust. Cream butter and sugar. Add in eggs and vanilla until combined. Mix the baking powder and salt with 1 cup of flour. Add to the butter mixture and then add remaining flour. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and 1 cup of marshmallows. Press dough into pan on top of crust. Sprinkle broken chocolate pieces, broken graham crackers and mini marshmallows on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned or it tests done in the middle. Let bars cool before cutting into squares.
 
 
 
I have made S'mores Bars before using marshmallow crème. I like this version better - it is easier! Make these for any occasion and you're sure to hit a home run!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What's for Breakfast? Sausage Swiss Muffins


If you want a super simple breakfast recipe, this it. There is no need to cook the sausage for this recipe. Just buy Jimmy Dean fully cooked sausage crumbles. One package is just the amount you need. Just mix the ingredients and bake. You can serve warm, reheat later or even freeze and heat one at a time if you so desire! You can use any variety of cheese or spice. Another good thing about this recipe is that you can keep these ingredients on hand for a quick breakfast. This combination was really good! Served with some super sweet fresh cantaloupe, it was the perfect Saturday morning breakfast on the back porch!


Sausage Swiss Muffins

1 pkg. fully cooked sausage crumbles
1 ¾ C. Bisquick
½ C. shredded Swiss cheese (or cheese of your choice)
¼ tsp. thyme
1 large egg
½ C. milk
Mix sausage crumbles, Bisquick, cheese and thyme. Combine egg and milk and mix into other ingredients. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake muffins at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned. Serve warm. Makes 12 muffins. Muffins can be reheated in microwave for 20-30 seconds. Serve with fresh fruit.
 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day(or Any Day) Meal

 
These recipes were too good and too easy not to share. A couple of weeks ago, Elle had to take a "Mediterranean" dish to school for Culture Day. We made Chicken and Grape Skewers for that day. It was so easy, I started planning to do the same at home. I changed it up a bit, but we celebrated Memorial Day (and my birthday again!) with Chicken Kabobs, Grilled Potatoes, Marinated Veggie Salad, Easy Fruit Salad.
 

Chicken Kabobs


Skewers

2 T. Olive Oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. orange zest

½ tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. black pepper

3 boneless chicken breasts

Fresh pineapple, cut into chunks *

Red pepper, cut into chunks

Cut chicken breasts into cubes. Whisk together olive oil, garlic cloves, salt, orange zest, chili powder and black pepper. Pour over chicken cubes. Marinate in refrigerator overnight. If using wooden skewers, soak in water prior to using to prevent skewers from burning. Thread chicken, pineapple and red peppers onto skewers as desired. Grill over medium heat until chicken is done. It doesn’t take very long to cook these small pieces of chicken so watch carefully! Serve with white BBQ Sauce.
 
* You can get fresh pineapple already cut into chunks from the Publix produce section. There chunks were pretty bit so I cut most of them in half.
 


Quick White BBQ Sauce

½ c. mayonnaise

1/8 c. white vinegar

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. salt

Whisk together until smooth. Serve with chicken kabobs!
 
 
Grilled potatoes
5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced
1 stick butter
1 /3 C. shredded cheddar cheese or cheese of your choice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 C. chicken broth
 
Place the potatoes and onion on a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil; dot with butter. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fold foil up around potatoes. Combine Worcestershire sauce and chicken broth and pour evenly over potatoes. Seal the edges of the foil. Place on the grill over medium heat for 35-40 minutes, covered or potatoes are tender.
 
Marinated Veggie Salad
1 can green beans, drained
2 cans English peas, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 cup sugar
¾ c. white vinegar
½ c. vegetable oil
½ t. salt
½ t. pepper
1 t. garlic powder
 
Mix the first 3 ingredients with the green pepper and sliced onions. In a small saucepan, heat sugar, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Do not over cook. Remove from heat and pour over veggies. Refrigerate overnight!
 
 
Easy Fruit Salad
1 can chunk pineapple, drained (Reserve juice)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 red delicious apple, chopped
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup seedless grapes, sliced
Mix fruit and marshmallows. Pour reserved pineapple juice over fruit and stir.
 
This recipe is a slightly different version of the fruit salad my friend, Jane, served for my birthday celebration last week. It was a hit with my family!
 
Super easy meal - the fruit and veggies can be done the night before! You can just put the potatoes on the grill and forget about them - I just set a timer. The kabobs are easy to put together and don't take long at all to cook. I just put them on as soon as the potatoes were done. I just moved the potatoes to the top rack when the kabobs cooked. This meal will definitely be a summer "do again"! Enjoy the recipes!
 
 
So thankful today for every man and woman (and their families) who have served our great country! My Daddy served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was also so very proud of his service. I am proud of him, too!
 
 
 
 


 

 
 


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

 
I remember when the year 2000 seemed so far into the future and here we are in 2014! New Year's Day at our house - our traditional waffle breakfast, lots of football, a big pot of chili in the crock pot and, of course, some black eyed peas. I don't really think about the "why" of black eyed peas - it's just what I've always done. So...I decided to do a little research and found this article on this New Year's Day Tradition!
 
This year, my tradition is served in the form of a "Black Eyed Pea Dip". Some people call this "Texas Caviar" and there are several versions out there. Here's the one I have tweeked for my own.
 
Black-Eyed Pea Dip
2 (15-oz) cans black-eyed peas, well drained
1 (15-oz) can whole kernel corn, well drained
2 cans Rotel tomatoes, well drained
1 small or ½ large red pepper, chopped
1 T. chopped jalepeno pepper, fresh or from a jar
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. sugar
Pinch dried oregano
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. vegetable oil
Directions:
In a large bowl, stir together the black-eyed peas, corn, Rotel, bell pepper, jalapeño and onion. In a jar fitted with a tight lid, mix together the vinegars, oils, salt, pepper, mustard, sugar and oregano. Pour the dressing into the bowl, adding just enough to coat the vegetables but not drench them.
Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips.
 
 
My Favorite Crock Pot Chili
 
2 pounds ground beef
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and well drained
2 cans chopped tomatoes, well drained
2 small onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. chili powder
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
Brown the ground beef and drain. Place ground beef in a large slow cooker. Add all other ingredients. Stir until blended. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Garnish individual bowls as desired – cheese, sour cream, chips, etc.
Note: I used one can of regular chopped tomatoes and one can fire-roasted tomatoes so it is a bit spicy! This is a very "hearty" chili!
So, my research reminded me that black eyed peas symbolize prosperity! Wishing you a day of fun traditions, good food and a year of happiness and prosperity! Happy 2014!!