Guess Who’s Comin’ to Town?

For some it is hot chocolate. For others it is egg nog. But every holiday guest ought to have that warm and cozy creature comfort waiting for them when they arrive at their destination… something to make them feel right at home.

Welcome to the jungle, Mom. We are happy to have you with us this week!

Mr. Potato Head Cupcakes

My boy turns FOUR today! Thanks to all of you who sent birthday texts and cards to Salem. He came off the school bus this afternoon singing Happy Birthday to himself, so I think he is feeling special. Last night after the kids went to sleep, Clark was busy cursing the Comcast Cable Corporate Conspiracy paying bills, and I was decorating these…

My kids are currently obsessed with Toy Story, so I thought these Mr. Potato Head cupcakes were only fitting. A variety of marshmallows, some candy eyes, raisin eye brows and ‘staches, mini oreo hats, and jelly beans for feet and we were in business. I saved a few for Mia to decorate herself today, but, well…you can see how that turned out.

The cupcakes were a hit with Salem’s class! Gotta love his preschool teacher who sends me real time photos throughout the morning.

I love you to the moon and back, Salem Bug. Happy Birthday my sweet boy!

Interview with a Recovering Blond

Part of me wishes I could gather together all of the doctors and specialists that have something to say about my son. I would then throw them in a ring together so they can duke out his diagnosis. They all have something different to say. Part of me, if I’m honest, has been hoping to hear just one of them say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him and all the other opinions are bogus and he is brilliant and gifted and bound to be a smashing success in life. Unfortunately, the one thing they can agree on is that he is a blond. Here’s the thing about blonds– or should I say, those who are on the “blond spectrum”. They may be platinum blond, dirty blond, strawberry blond, sandy blond, bottle-job blond, verbal, non-verbal, savant, sensory challenged, antisocial, repetitive and so forth. No matter how you classify it, they are all blond. I brought my little blond-headed kid to Macon today to meet with an ASD specialist (who is named Dr. Duke ironically enough). She had one thing going for her for sure that has set her apart from anyone else I’ve talked to about Salem’s mystery condition. She has a son with Asperger’s syndrome. Three hours into our visit, I took the greatest comfort in knowing that she knows more from first-hand experience about what I am dealing with on a daily basis with my son than anyone I have consulted in the medical community thus far. Somehow, that gave her more authority to speak into our situation. She seemed very confident that Salem is an Asperger-blond, which nobody has come right out and said. For eight months now we’ve been circling the same spectrum. For crying out loud, will somebody please land the plane? Forgive me, but I would like to know just what shade of blond my son is sporting. When he was first born I studied all of the creases in his chubby fingers, and I knew that his foot was exactly the length of my pointer finger. If I look deep enough into his piercing blue eyes, his right iris bears a speck of hazel at 4 o’clock that identifies part of him, even if it is only a small part of him, with me. So while medical science is now more sophisticated than ever with all of its advanced diagnostics and complex protocols, a broad-stroke ASD consensus just isn’t good enough for me. Dr. Duke used a lot of confusing medical terms that left me nodding my head like I knew what she was talking about, but really I had no idea. I sort of tuned out most of the medical jargon and just fixed myself on this particular word she kept using… this word, “recovery”. In context, she said that she “recovered her son from Asperger’s”. He is now 17, and in mainstream education/gifted classes. He’s on Facebook, and he participates in study groups. Perhaps it was the fact that she looked identical to Christy Nockels, but she was/is completely gorgeous and hardly resembles the mother of a 17-year-old boy, much less one with a complicated neurobehavioral disorder. One thing I have noticed in my limited experience with other parents who are raising children with special needs, no matter if it is physical or of the less-apparent-to-the-naked-eye variety, we all just look sort of…weathered. We can all agree that parenting in general is exhausting, but there’s a big difference in looking tired and a looking weathered. Tired parents need a nap. Weathered parents need hope. Tired parents are training their kids to say please and thank you, to aim for the toilet, and to color in the lines. Weathered parents need hope that their kids will one day be able to dress themselves, to sit through Thanksgiving dinner without having a sensory meltdown, or that they will beat the odds of other special needs children who don’t typically grow up and get married and have children of their own. But this doctor, or should I say this mother didn’t look tired or weathered. She looked like somebody that I would enjoy having a laugh with over a glass of Cabernet. She looked like someone who had managed to rise above all of the statistics and not only recover her son but recover herself in the process. It reminded me that being a parent is hard enough, but when you’re the parent of a child with special needs, maintaining your own sense of self is without a doubt the first thing prone to falling by the wayside. I feel the tug to let myself go every single day. When you have a child that can’t stand the sound of loud laughter and covers his ears and starts screaming when you sing or even hum, you begin to naturally avoid things that you once found amusing. You wait until he is sleeping to play music around the house so you won’t be tempted to sing-along. Little pieces of yourself start to erode until you can’t recognize what formerly made you come alive. While you are so determined to provide every opportunity for that child to thrive, one can easily forget what it is like to thrive themselves. Dr. Duke gave me hope. Hope that Salem really could rise above this hand he has been dealt. Hope that the four of us Beasleys will learn how to live together under one roof in peace and harmony. Hope that when he is 17, I will be able to remember who I was before his diagnosis. So, our Macon voyage was successful today in the sense that I am returning home with a sleeping son in the backseat who is clutching his oversized stuffed bunny, and I now have a little bit better understanding of his blond-ness. But also I have a picture of hope that the future with a child with Asperger’s can hold some recovery. And I will take all the hope I can get right now.

Thanksgiving Menu

While Daddy and Salem have been out all morning on a guitar gear errand, Mia and I have been hard at work on the Thanksgiving menu.

I couldn’t convince her that the sweet potato would taste better after it was in the casserole. My little raw foods lover… And who knew that an apple slicer would cut my potato chopping time in half. It would also cut the tip of my thumb, but no good Thanksgiving meal is complete without a few injuries, right?

After more of the apple pie tart crust ended up in her mouth and on the floor than in the muffin tins, I decided to wait until she’s napping to tackle the turkey.
What’s on your Thanksgiving menu? This list isn’t exhaustive, but the goal is to have it all “oven ready” before my Thanksgiving 5-miler tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Juicy Thanksgiving Turkey
Cranberry Sauce
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Casserole
Strawberry Fields Salad

And for dessert…
Apple Pie Tarts
Cinnamon Tortillas with Pumpkin Dip
Rolo Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Like I said. This list isn’t exhaustive. I am still on the fence with the Apple Cider Sangria. If there is a dish here you want to try that doesn’t have a link, it is most likely a Beasley family recipe. Comment below with your email address and I will be happy to send it to you.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Gallery Wall Tour

Ah… now that’s better

Note to self… don’t ever write a post lamenting about a missing wedding box when you are sick and doped up on cold meds. Clark came home and within moments found it and the missing Christmas decorations. Oooo right… we have a basement now. Didn’t think to check there.

Turns out the silk wedding bouquet didn’t work for the yellow flower pot, but the holly berries we used for groom’s men boutineers inside our wedding communion goblet made the cut.

So, with deep satisfaction (and much less head congestion), I’ve moved on to completing the family room gallery wall.

Care to take a tour with me?
Today is our wedding anniversary, so I am especially loving some of these early engagement pictures of Clark and I. He still makes me laugh like the pic in the upper far left corner.

I grouped these three photos together as proof that my children did in fact come from me. Everyone says that they both look like Clark. Granted they do with their red hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. Regardless of my dominant Latin genes, I somehow manage to look adopted in every family photo.

Salem’s smile on the right looks so much like mine on the left. Yes? No? Well, it was worth a try.

Here’s a little tip if you every decide to put together your own gallery wall

I made a paper template of every frame and accent I wanted to use. I laid them out on the floor and tweaked the configuration until I was happy with the big picture. Then I taped them to the wall. Then I paused for popcorn and a movie and went back to arranging and taping and rearranging and re-taping. Then I slept on it and proceeded to obsess over it the entire next day. After enlisting Clark to check my angles and spacing a few dozen times, I confronted my Design Commitment Phobia and nailed those suckers to the wall. One broken glass panel, a few color changes for the candle, a splash of Autumn inspiration, and voila!

I’m headed out for some fresh air before my romantic anniversary date tonight. Pub food and Bond, Baby! Wish me luck!

Give Thanks

It’s Movie Monday. So far, we’ve watched every Christmas-themed Veggie Tales episode we can find, and in just a few minutes, we plan to pop in the Elf DVD. Last year, and the year before that, Salem made us turn it off. He is scared of the elves. He will watch Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and the first three years of Harry Potter without flinching, but he is spooked by elves. Go figure. I was so relieved that today was Movie Monday because I woke up in a sick funk with a pounding headache and the flu aches. I loathe being sick because it means that I have to lay around. This is problematic as it threatens my addiction to efficiency. I like productivity and multi-tasking. To Do lists make me happy. Checking off my To Do list is like Christmas Morning. My fingers weren’t all that achy, so I set to work making my version of a “Give Thanks” banner during our all request Veggie Tales lunch.

I started gathering pine cones and pumpkins (the ones that weren’t too rotten) from the back porch to fill out my Thanksgiving mantle display. I only got as far as hanging the banner when I remembered my wedding memory box is full of Fall decor. My silk bouquet would look perfect in this yellow pot (yes silk… I was willing to make an exception to my general aversion to silk flowers to display my wedding mums).

I abandoned my Thanksgiving mantle arrangement in search of the sacred wedding box. An hour later, I had combed the attic, the garage, and every storage closet I could think of… no wedding memories. And now that I think about it, I can’t find any of our Christmas decorations either.

OK. Don’t panic.

Ordinarily, I would approach these crises more soberly, but I am not sober today evidenced by the stack of cold meds on my kitchen counter. So, I called Clark at work this afternoon completely desperate but to no avail. I got so worked up over it. As I was tearing through cabinets and Rubbermaids, I was cursing my head cold and the fact that we just moved a-GAIN and moving is the pits because you inevitably lose stuff, but my wedding box?! My Christmas decorations?! Murmur…Murmur…Murmur… and this big house, and these rotten pumpkins… moan… moan… moan… and I need a bigger flashlight to search the attic again… this thing is USELESS! I am a big girl who needs a Big Girl Flashlight…. and wah wah wah…

In the middle of my tirade, I glanced toward my unfinished Thanksgiving mantle display at the banner that I had just hung.

Give Thanks.

So, while I don’t want to write this post necessarily, I need to write this post. So here goes.

I would like to take this opportunity to Give Thanks for the little girl peering out from under her bangs (which desperately needs trimming). Lately, when she scrunches up her nose, she’s all fringe and no eyes and it is so adorable it almost makes my heart stop.

I want to go on record for Giving Thanks for the husband with whom I am about to celebrate SEVEN YEARS of marriage. Tomorrow is our anniversary, and supposedly he has a surprise up his sleeve. I am thankful for him and for surprises. So what if I can’t find our wedding memory box. (I am actually still a bit worked up about that).

Finally, I would like to Give Thanks for my son. Four years ago, I was 40 weeks pregnant with him. My head was still spinning because the doctors told me we wouldn’t be able to get pregnant, and there I was about to pop any day. Our little turkey arrived fashionably late, on Thanksgiving Day, which means that this holiday has carried a whole new significance ever since.

I feel better. Madame Blueberry says, “A thankful heart is a happy heart”. Perhaps the Veggie Tales Marathon was more of a providential reminder for me today.

Give Thanks this Happy Monday!

“Special” Gluten-Free Banana Bread

Are you gluten-free? It seems that most people who are gluten-free are particularly passionate about their grain substitutes. I was strictly gluten-free when I was trying to get pregnant with Salem. Back then (all of four years ago), you practically had to have a downtown, cash-only connection to find anything that was gluten-free, and it always tasted like cardboard. Now, you can find gluten-free products in most grocery stores and restaurants. Even Wal-Mart has a gluten-free aisle. You know if Wal Mart has legalized recreational grain protein substitute usage, it is fast on its way to occupying majority thinking. My three (almost four) year old is gluten-free, so I am always using substitute ingredients in all our favorite homemade goodies. I recently laced Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious Banana Bread Recipe with all sorts of “special” ingredients that my boy could enjoy.

“Special” Gluten-Free Banana Bread

nonstick cooking spray
1 1/4 c Bob’s Red Mill “Sweet” White Sorghum flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin spice
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c coconut oil
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 c banana puree
1/2 c cauliflower puree
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9×5″ loaf pan, or 2 mini pans, with cooking spray.

In a bowl, mix the flours with the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (pumpkin pie spice). Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, Mix the sugar and oil with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add the egg whites, pureed banana and cauliflower, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Pour the batter into prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-60 minutes for a large loaf and 25-30 for 2 mini pans. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool before you slice, slice, pass.

Try it over the weekend and let me know what you think!

Picture Pages

Thanks for all of your encouragement from yesterday’s post. One friend of mine told me that she likes reading my blog despite the fact that lately it has been all text and no pics. Well, we can’t have that now can we? Funny how when we were kids we would judge a book by its pictures, and now that we are all grown up and oh so very sophisticated readers, let’s face it. We still like the pictures.

The Beasleys have moved. Again. No, I’m not referring to the time before the last time we moved into the house with the great sunroom turned creative learning space. That was a great house. We were only there a whopping 8 weeks, and I had barely unpacked my sewing machine when Clark got assigned to a post in Atlanta for the Summer months. No, he isn’t a military man, but you would think so based on the number of times we’ve moved. By the end of the summer, his temporary post turned into a full time position with benefits. I’m not even sure what that word even means… “Benefits”. When you are a contractor, the job IS the benefit, right? “Bonus” means you landed an extra gig so you can take that money and buy new tires for the minivan. So, Clark accepted the beneficial job with Super-Beneficial Benefits and we moved to Atlanta not the first… not the second… wait for it…ah, the THIRD time must be the charm. More to come on my feelings about that whole shenanigans later. Enough blah blah for now. This post is meant to be picture-y. So here you go.

This is out new street…

20121115-130050.jpg

And this is our new house…

20121115-130134.jpg

And this is my nature walking buddy all bundled for a stroll.

20121115-130202.jpg

The trails in this neighborhood are my favorite part about living here. There is always something new to explore.

20121115-130224.jpg

20121115-130238.jpg

This garden statue is in the front yard of the house three doors down. Without fail, Mia always walks right up to it and says, “Hi Daddy!” Now, why is that?

20121115-141932.jpg
Every time we pass our neighbor’s flower beds, I remind Mia not to touch the flowers, and evvv-ery time she reaches for them and looks up at me with this “can-I-get-away-with-it-today?” smile. Then we have it out in the neighbor’s flower beds and I win and she cries and I hope the Flowery Neighbor is at work and not watching the whole episode through her front window with DFCS on speed dial. Just kidding. Not really. Fortunately, today, I snapped a pic of the “can-I-get-away-with-it-today?” smile so you can see for yourself how irresistible it is.

20121115-154304.jpg

I will save the home interior photos for another post as I am pretty sure that there is a pair of Buzz Light Year underwear (Salem’s, not Clark’s) on the kitchen floor and a crusty loaf pan in the sink. Hardly blog-worthy material. But, in case you thought I was kidding yesterday about blogging from the empty garden tub, here’s the view.

What did I tell you? When you stay at home all day, you have to savor the inspiration whenever and wherever it comes.

Hope you enjoyed the photos from our daily nature walk today. Tomorrow…the Gluten Free Banana Bread recipe formerly occupying the crusty loaf pan.

Laryngitis

…I have only had it once as I can recall. Perhaps I’ve already shared this story, but for a brief period during my early twenties, I was a full-time children’s music director at a church. Five minutes into that career, I wondered why I had just spent the last 4 years and EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLARS (which I am still spending) on a Music History degree. Not only did I feel I had somehow been duped by the establishment (whichever establishment specializes in duping unsuspecting over-acheivers such as myself), but I was feeling so 24, and small, and single, and alone, and uninspired, and oh so very. very… single.

Enter Clark Beasley.

And I thought he was beautiful and talented and off-beat enough to at least enjoy a free dinner or a cup of coffee. Shortly after we first met, I found myself peeking at my phone throughout the day hoping to see a number I didn’t recognize. I would answer. It would be Clark. He would say he had “ways” of tracking my unlisted phone number and within minutes, he would ask me out for dinner and next thing you know I’m imagining what I would wear and what I would say and what he would say… and then I would say… and then he would say… and then I would say…

You get the picture. But alas. It would remain but a fantasy… for SIX WHOLE MONTHS. That’s enough time to pen The Tales of the Blind Date Train Wreck– of which I was soon becoming an expert.

Twenty-four. Single. Duped. Set up. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good look on me.

And so, one Spring day I woke up with a scratch in my throat, and next thing you know, it’s noon and I am unable to utter an intelligible phrase. It was laryngitis and I had no choice but to shut up until it passed. So, I clocked out of my cubicle for the day, but not before I heeded the advice of a co-worker who swore that Maker’s Mark and hot tea would whip me back into shape in no time. Now, I have said it before, and I will say it again, there are a few things in life, namely church work and cubicles, that can drive a sober person to drink. However, as single and duped as I believed myself to be, I generally chose to abstain.

Generally.

So here’s a pop quiz for you: What do you get when you combine a prescribed holistic remedy by an ex-rock and roll band member turned church worker with an unexperienced drinker nursing her first case of laryngitis?

Answer: A Twenty-four year old, single. duped. set up, mute, and now completely SMASHED ministry worker. Things somehow went from bad to worse.

The phone rings. I don’t recognize the phone number. It’s a Nashville area code. Clark Beasley is from Nashville. I’m drunk (add that to a very short list of inebriated episodes in my 24 years..Praise the Lord) and all alone, sitting in the dark in my apartment crying out a completely inaudible, “NOOOO!!!!!” as I watched my flickering green fantasy roll to voicemail. It was quite the dramatic scene.

But you know how the story ends. I sobered up and my voice came back and we went out and five minutes later we were married and… they lived happily every after.

I remembered that story this morning while I was texting a girlfriend at 6am. That’s what happens when you have kids. You start getting in touch with people at weird and inappropriate times because normal people are able to complete a thought in their brain during business hours. Mommies do their best thinking between the hours of 2am-4am with sentences including words over two syllables. Such is life with small children. But, if I may speak candidly for a moment, I have been battling the blue sense that in the current edition of my life, I run the risk of losing my voice (figuratively speaking). Do you ever feel that way? Perhaps you had a platform or a forum to be heard and people actually listened and nodded as though every word you spoke (or in my case wrote or sung…. I loathe public speaking) was dripping with noteworthy brilliance. I’m not saying it happened every day. But when it did, it felt as though my voice somehow mattered to people. But lately, I’ve spoken, written, and sung less than I ever have before which usually leads to healthy introspection or at the very least more Maker’s Mark. In my attempt to explain this in my wee-hour text to my friend, I described it as a sort of “Soul Laryngitis”. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation. I can’t remember if she said it or if I did, but at some point one of us said: Well, that’s the good thing about laryngitis. It’s temporary.

And so, this post is brought to you from my empty garden tub because the window next to it provides the prettiest view of the Autumn leaves barely hanging on to the trees in my backyard. With this cold ceramic as my witness, I have never intended to stay completely quiet. Perhaps if we pick up our conversation here, it might help me get over my voiceless funk. Or you can be my guest and help yourself to a hot tottie and we can proceed in silence. Either way, I’m reaching out so tag… your it.

{And no, Mom. I am most certainly not an alcoholic.}