Saturday, June 20, 2009

Occupational therapy update

Some people have asked how OT is going, so I thought I'd give my thoughts on it now that Ainsley's been having two 1-hour sessions each week for about the last month. She really hasn't been going that long, but already we think we've seen enough of a difference to keep with it. Her very sweet therapist, Theresa, has been working mainly on getting Ainsley used to/comfortable with movement and developing her ability to do complex tasks (like putting blocks in certain containers) while moving. A couple of weeks ago Theresa discovered that Ainsley is especially uncomfortable with things that involve rolling on wheels and moving in a circular direction. They were doing an activity that required Ainsley to lie, stomach-down, on a board with wheels and all of a sudden Ainsley got very upset and started crying. Theresa tried it again a few days ago but at a slower pace/for a shorter time and noticed that Ainsley started to get very irritable after a short time. Theresa thinks she's definitely found a sensitivity in Ainsley to this type of movement, so she plans to work on slowly building Ainsley's tolerance to it. Theresa also suggested that, at home, I have Ainsley ride her tricycle more so she can get more used to that movement. Ainsley does not like riding tricycles and refuses to touch her scooter. She absolutely hates the idea of riding a bicycle - when I've suggested that we could get her a bicycle for her next bicycle she has vehemently refused to consider it.

Based on my own observations of Ainsley, I agree completely with Theresa's suggestions and am hopeful we can improve Ainsley's tolerance to movement. We have planned a Disneyworld trip for November and I worry that she won't want to ride any of the rides (particularly the flying Dumbo ride and the Teacups) because of her sensitivity. In the past we've noticed that she's particularly sensitive to carnival-ride-type movement (even the carousel upsets her sometimes) so we are hoping to see some improvement in the next few months.

The other thing Theresa has been concentrating on is developing Ainsley's fine motor skills. Theresa has concluded that Ainsley's muscles, including her hand muscles, get tired very easily and that interferes with her ability/willingness to do activities involving coloring/drawing/writing. Theresa has worked with her a lot in practicing coloring with a large Crayola marker and has taught Ainsley how to hold it the right way. At home we've been drawing and coloring a lot with the markers and I've also been having her do "sewing" with these Melissa & Doug lace-up animals to help her learn to control her hand muscles. I can tell she's improving in the fine-motor-skills area - she is doing much better with her coloring and writing.

In sum, so far so good with the therapy. Ainsley loves the sessions (we still call them "gymnastics") and Theresa and we feel that we've seen progress even after this short time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

No power for over 48 hours!

We had some severe storms in the area on Wednesday and our power was knocked out until Saturday morning. I had no idea it would be out so long, so I did not move my important food from my freezers, and, as a result, lost all of it. This was sad for me because I had a fair amount of homemade Ainsley-friendly food, including cupcakes, sorbet, etc. in there. Because we had no power, for those two days we had to feed Ainsley almost exclusively at McDonald's and Wendy's, where there are a few things she can eat. I'm sure she didn't mind, but I didn't feel like her diet was very nutritionally complete during that time.

Thankfully, this weekend we were able to clean our the refrigerator and freezers and have begun restocking what we lost. All of our soy ice cream went bad so I am planning to make some with Ainsley today - for the first time! I finally bought a small ice-cream maker last week and want to break it in. I think we'll do strawberry ice cream using a recipe from the Kid-Pleasing cookbook (see sidebar - my favorite cookbooks) - I will let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Food-allergy paranoia, and a totally unrelated interior decorating whine

First thing - last night, while Ainsley was at grandma's, we gave Leighton part of an Almond Joy (not the almond part, but the chocolate-covered coconut part) and several minutes later she started vomiting. I got so scared - was she allergic to coconut (she had been tested for almonds but not coconut)? Had she developed an allergy to something else that was in the bar? I also lamented that I did not have Benadryl or the Epi-Pen - they were with Ainsley.

Immediately I checked for hives, breathing difficulty, etc. - nothing. My husband sheepishly admitted that she had started vomiting after he gave her a bite of the meat from his taco and that he thought the food activated her gag reflex; apparently it was too spicy for her. What a relief. Still, this experience demonstrated to me that, even after Leighton's allergy testing, I've never quite believed that she's 100% allergy-free, and have been waiting for "that moment" when I find out she's allergic to something.

* * * *

On a totally unrelated note, I have discovered that I am the world's worst at picking paint colors. We are having some minor work done on our house, including having a few of the walls painted (mostly two hallways that were a very boring shade of gray). I decided I wanted to warm up the hallways with a nice shade of beige/tan. Big mistake - the color looks okay in the back hallway, but the front hallway looked horribly dark and the color clashed with the colors in all of the bedrooms, which are off of that hallway. Since the painters were coming back the next day to do some other work, after spending at least an hour pouring over color samples I decided upon a much lighter shade of beige and had the painters repaint the hallway that color. While they were working I took Leighton to Dave's office to have dinner with him and escape the paint fumes. We arrived back to find the hallway completely done - and the color was bright yellow! Oh no! I swear it looked beige on the sample. Now we have a cheery, bright yellow hallway that clashes with the entryway and basically every other color in the house except Ainsley's yellow room.

I have finally thrown in the towel and called an interior decorator, who can hopefully help me dig myself out of this hole. Thankfully, Dave was not mad that I had just wasted our money in having the hallway painted the wrong color twice, but he is relieved that I called the decorator, if for nothing else so that he will not have to listen to me whine about the hallway anymore. I have always fancied myself a good decorator, but there is definitely a limit to my skills.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Quick & easy cherry-bottom chocolate cake

Apparently I'm into chocolate-and-fruit combinations (really, I'm into chocolate-and-anything combinations - I am such a big chocoholic it's ridiculous). This week was my sister-in-law's birthday and I was commissioned with making the birthday cake. I listed some of the things I could do and she thought something with cherries sounded good. So I decided to make a cherry sauce, top it with cake batter, bake it, and frost it - and it turned out as good as it sounds. Here is how I did it in ridiculously easy fashion:

Cherry-bottom chocolate cake

1 box Cherrybrook Kitchen chocolate cake mix or other allergen-free chocolate cake mix (some varieties of Duncan Hines are milk-, egg-, and peanut/tree-nut-free)

1 can safe premade icing (I used Pillsbury reduced sugar chocolate fudge - lots of Pillsbury icings are safe) or 1 box Cherrybrook Kitchen chocolate frosting prepared as directed

1 16-oz bag frozen, pitted cherries

1 Tbsp arrowroot powder

3 Tbsp grenadine, pomogranite juice, or water

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp water

Prepare cake mix as directed on the box (mine called for 1/2 C oil and 1 C cold water). Set aside. Make cherry sauce by combining frozen cherries, grenadine, arrowroot powder, sugar, and water in medium saucepan. Cook and stir on medium/low heat until thick sauce forms.

Spray 9x9 pan with nonstick spray. Pour cherry sauce on bottom. Pour cake batter on top and spread batter to completely (or as close as possible) cover the cherry sauce. Bake at 350 for ~25 minutes or until tester for the cake comes out clean.

When cake is cooled, spread chocolate icing on top and enjoy.

Note: You can also use this cherry sauce instead of the strawberry sauce for the brownie mini-cakes described in the previous post. You can also add safe chocolate chips to the cake batter if your mix doesn't have them already (my Cherrybrook mix did have them). This cake is messy but oh so good!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Medic Alert deal

Today I enrolled Ainsley in the Medic Alert system. I had been meaning to do this for a while but our recent ambulance incident finally spurred me to action. In case you don't know, Medic Alert is a system that provides a bracelet or other piece of jewelry with a special medical symbol printed on one side that alerts medical personnel to the fact that the wearer has a health condition. The other side of the tag lists information about the health condition and a number to call for more information. The company was started by a man whose child had a serious allergic reaction, so the program is tailor-made for food-allergic families.

When I called to enroll Ainsley, I was happy to learn that Medic Alert just started a KidSmart program for children that is a reduced-price program and contains certain kid-specific features. In total, I paid about $35 for the enrollment fee and bracelet and will need to pay only $10 per year to continue the membership until Ainsley turns 18 (the price will increase then). Additionally, I am also enrolling my dad (who has Type I diabetes) and he will get a discount on his membership and Ainsley will get a $25 credit for "referring" him. What a deal!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Easy chocolate chip brownie mini-cakes with strawberry sauce

We are going to a friend's house today for dinner (you know who you are!) and I volunteered to bring the dessert. I wanted to try something different, but was in a lazy mood, so I decided to do something using the Cherrybrook Kitchen chocolate chip brownie mix that was in my pantry. I made the batter and put it in a cupcake pan with cupcake liners (1 box of the mix makes 12 brownie cupcakes). After I took the brownie cupcakes out of the oven (I baked them at 350 for about 18 minutes), I cooled them on a wire rack.

While the brownies were baking, I made the sauce from a recipe I saw on the Fat-free Vegan blog: cut up a pint of strawberries (excluding the stems, of course!) and cook them in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tbsp cornstarch until the mixture is boiling and forms a sauce.

After the brownie cupcakes are cool, take the paper wrappers off and place each one on its own plate. Spoon sauce on top. Voila - fancy-looking dessert in no time!