Managing a Household with Neurodivergencies (ADHD, ASD, etc.)

Earlier this week my friend Sam posted on Facebook, “Neurodivergent Friends what are some tools you use with others that help you with daily life, communication, relationships?”

A few friends posted that they needed help with meal prep, day-to-day stuff, and as y’all know, that’s my bag, baby!

Both my kids are Neurodivergent (ADHD/ASD and ADHD), and their dad has ADHD (combined type/ C) and because of that, we’ve had to make some adjustments to our daily life and how we function. And while our processes and schedules may not work for everyone, hopefully, these tips give you some idea and hope if you need it.

Some of these directly affect/benefit the kids, and some make my life easier, which in turn makes their lives easier.

Having an accurate(ish) pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory. I have made my own sheets in the past (using Canva), but the ones from Organized Home are great.

Meal Prep and meal planning (this includes using Dream Dinners once every few months). This frees up time each night to read, hang out, bathe, and get kids ready for bed.

Meal Prep can be as easy as cut up veggies, fruit, pre-portioned foods, and easy meals or side dishes prepared in advance that only need to be heated up to avoid wasting money eating out because “there is nothing to eat”. Also having one night for take-out. And I have a whiteboard that lists our meal plan for the week- I try and post it weekly on Instagram.

The Snack Box- I also organized our fridge and pantry to be more ND-friendly. Stuff that should be eaten (healthy food like fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt, etc.) is at kid eye level in clear packaging and is labeled (I use expo markers on my Rubbermaid containers), and I have a “Snack box” in the pantry that is available 24/7 for hungry faces. It’s got individually portioned shelf-stable snacks and meal components. And on days when I am too tired/rushed to cook we have “Meal of snacks” where I serve a variety of snacks on old-school sectioned cafeteria trays- fruits, veggies, crackers, cheese, cookies, and a drink (juice or iced tea is a hit).

We have a list of snacks on the fridge so the kids know what there is to snack on. It is a visual list (I drew it), and when we are out of specific items, I cover the picture with a piece of posit note.

Calendars– in the kitchen, and one in each bedroom. I update them weekly, plus the grownups use the calendars on their phones and we have a shared family calendar. Kids get reminders each day in the morning and afternoon of any appointments or events that will take place during the day. The visual and auditory reminders really help cement the appointment in their mind.

Visual reminders– next to the front door at eye level there is a sign that reminds us we need: cellphone, wallet, keys, and garage door opener. It’s laminated.

Visual schedule– this is mainly for the kids. I drew up a daily schedule using words and pictures. I wrote a post about it here.

Lists– Everyone has a “Care tasks” list each week that includes appts, returning borrowed items, and tasks to do throughout the week. You can read about my weekly Care Tasks here. 

Larger font digital clock with day of the week, date, and what part of the day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). The kids can read a clock, but it can take time to engage their brains and count by 5’s, but the “old people clock” as it was marketed on Amazon helps them instantly and helps a lot with the “is it time for xxxxx yet?!?!”

Using your phone to stay on top of details- I saw this on Facebook in a group and I’ve started doing this. If you have an iPhone, there is a notes section in each contact. I’ve seen them used to keep track of favorite fast food at various restaurants, favorite foods/drinks, clothing sizes and brands, favorite colors, birthdays, and anniversaries. It’s such a game changer.

The fidget/stim box– we have a plastic box full of fidget/stim toys for everyone to grab when they need to focus. And everyone has some in their room too. This includes headphones to cut down on loud sounds (I buy the landscapers kind from harbor freight). We have 3 pairs in the house and two pairs in the car. For those not familiar- fidget toys can help calm the body so the mind can focus.

Some favorites include pop-its, hand strengthening eggs, fidget cubes, fidget spinners, stretchy tubes, pop tubes, and stress balls (the kind with Orbeez are super satisfying). Amazon sells really great fidget toys mutli-packs.

Medication Boxes- We refill our medication boxes each week (both AM and PM).  The three of us take our meds together each morning at breakfast time. Our medication boxes live on the kitchen counter, along with our pill minders: Jon Cena and Skeletor.

Stuff has a place– The kid’s shoes and backpacks are always by the door during the school year, ready to be cleaned out and refilled each night. My car keys and purse live in the same spot, the pool key has a special spot. The extra toilet paper and paper towels are always in the same spot (under the front bathroom sink). These are just a few examples of the ways that we remind ourselves and create routines. Creating routines can give us a sense of normalcy and be calming.

The Family Binder– One last thing that doesn’t directly “help” the kids but helps the family, especially in times of emergency is the family binder. I’ve had one since 2010 in various incarnations. I have a really old post about it here.  It’s basically my brain in paper form. It’s got all of our important papers, insurance info, important phone numbers, policy numbers, warranty information, receipts for expensive/valuable stuff, copies of most recent IEPS, copies of diagnosis paperwork, lists of everyone’s meds, doctors info, etc. Think of it as all the info you’d need if you lost power for an extended period, your house burned down, or there was a tornado.

There are a lot of other things that we do in our home to help the kids- keep them safe, regulated, and happy. The stuff listed above is just a small sample. Everyone’s home runs differently. And this was and continues to be a lot of work. The examples above are continually changing, and evolving in our home, and are a combination of 11+ years of hard work, learning, and failing. Some of this stuff I did to try and get organized in my late 20s, even before I was married and had kids.

 

 

Family Recipe: $100 Brownies

This is an easy, decadent recipe that impresses guests.

Inspired by a friend’s brownie recipe that once fetched $100 at an auction, this dessert will disappear before your eyes. These brownies are so rich, so don’t forget the milk or cuppa Joe.

 

$100 Brownies

Ingredients 

  • 1 brownie mix 
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Melted butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (your favorite variety)
  • 1/2 bag (about 6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Directions:

  1. Mix up the brownie recipe per directions in the box. Substitute milk for water, and melted butter for oil in the directions. Use eggs as directed on the box.
  2. Bake brownies as directed.
  3. As soon as they are down, remove them from the oven and immediately top with peanut butter and chocolate chips.
  4. Allow PB and chips to melt atop the hot brownies, about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Using a silicone spatula, carefully mix and spread PB and melted chips to form and even layer a top the brownies.
  6. Once brownies have cooled to room temp, store them in the fridge for at least 1 hour prior to serving.

Makes 18 small brownies- these are very rich, and a little goes a long way.

Substitutions:

  • If you are Gluten Free, substitute your favorite GF brownie mix.

Recipe: Making Pie Crust!

Pie crust is easy to make. It has few ingredients, but there is some finesse involved in making a light, flaky pie crust.

There are no special tools needed, but a pastry cutter is nice (You can use a whisk instead, or your bare hands).

This is the pie crust recipe that I use. I know it by heart and I make it frequently. It’s great for sweet pies like pumpkin, or savory meat pies like chicken pot pie (that recipe is coming later this week).

This recipe makes 1 pie crust for an 8 or 9-inch pie plate, if you need two (top and bottom), double it.

Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon AP Flour
  • 1/3 cup shortening OR unsalted butter -It needs to be cold butter or room temp shortening. This part is SUPER IMPORTANT.
  • 1/4 cup ice-cold water (You may need an extra tablespoon or so if the weather is very dry).

 

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add flour and fat.
  2. Using a whisk, pastry cutter, or your hands, mix flour and fat until incorporated into little (pea-sized or smaller) pieces.
  3. Slowly add water and combine to form a large dough ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will help ensure that your crust is flaky.
  4. Flour a clean, flat surface, and roll the dough out into a large circle. Do not over roll it or manhandle the dough- this will make it heavy and flat.
  5. If you are making a bottom crust, press it into a pie plate, and trim the edges.
  6. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork a few times to keep it from bubbling.
  7. If you are making a pie that will be filled and baked again like pumpkin or quiche, bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Cool completely before filling and baking a second time.
  8. If you will be using the pie crust as a top only (no bottom crust), once the crust is rolled out, fill your baking dish with whatever you are cooking, top it with the uncooked crust, pierce it a few times (to vent the steam), and bake per the directions of the recipe.

Substitutions:

If you are vegan, use shortening. Do not use spread/oleo/margarine.  They contain water and will make your crust turn out funky. Butter flavored shortening is great.

If you are gluten free, use 1 for 1 AP flour.

Talk Back: What kind of pie do you like?

New Recipe: Banana Bread in a Cake Pan!

These bananas are perfect for making banana bread!

I’ll admit: I don’t have a loaf pan. I did, but it died. It was metal, and after 10+ weeks of weekly use… ::Sad Trombone:: I know I should buy a glass one (I have my eye on this one), but until then, I’m making do with what I’ve got.

And what I’ve got is a glass cake pan. Specifically a 9×9 glass cake pan, like this one. I looked online for some ideas about baking times and temps and reworked my usual recipe. The best part of this recipe is that the bread is moist, fluffy/airy with a good crumb.  It is not dense or heavy at all.

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spray 9×9 glass baking dish with spray release.
  2. In a small dish, mash up bananas, set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter/coconut oil for about 30 seconds-1 minute until light and fluffy.
  4. Add sugar, beat until combined and fluffy.
  5. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  6. Add bananas and vanilla, and blend until the wet ingredients are all incorporated.
  7. Add baking soda and Kodiak Mix. Stir to combine.
  8. Pour into the prepared 9×9 glass baking dish.
  9. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Test with toothpick in the center of the bread for doneness.

This recipe makes 1 9×9 cake pan, which is approximately 9-12 servings, depending on how big you like the pieces.

My kids like this bread toasted with either butter or cream cheese. It never lasts long.

Small Changes to Make your Box Cake Mix Taste Scratch-Made!

When cake mixes were first invented most of them only required the addition of water and one or two eggs. Some early cake mixes only required the addition of water, as the cake mixes contained shortening and powdered eggs.

Nowadays most of us use cake mixes, but we long for the taste of scratch-baked cakes and pastries.

Here are a few tips to make your boxed cake mix taste a little bit more like the scratch-baked treats you remember your grandmother or mother making in your youth.

  1. If a cake mix calls for water, use milk.
  2. When the cake mix calls for vegetable oil, use softened butter. Or coconut oil (room temp).
  3. If you are using a spice cake mix, omit eggs, oil and, water and substitute a (14.5 Oz) can of pumpkin to make a tasty pumpkin spice cake.
  4. If you are watching your cholesterol, you can omit oil and eggs in a cake mix for applesauce. 1/4 cup of applesauce per egg, and an equal amount of applesauce instead of the oil. The cake will come out delicious and moist.
  5. Adding ingredients such as chocolate chips, dried fruits (I like dried blueberries, dried cranberries, and dried cherries), or chopped nuts can also make your box cake a little fancier.
  6. I love making a yellow cake mix into a coffee cake by making a streusel topping: 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup room temperature butter, 1 tsp. cinnamon or pie spice to taste. After the cake batter is poured into the greased cake pan, sprinkle the streusel topping on top of the cake and bake per box directions. It makes a great coffee cake for brunch!

If you are looking for more ways to fancy up a plain boxed cake mix, check out the Cake Doctor books on Amazon!

Craftsy is Back and Some Awesome Classes!

 ** This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

I was bummed when Craftsy announced earlier this year it was closing its virtual doors. For some of us (myself included) being crafty and creating art is one of the things that has kept me going through the craziness of 2020.

Well, Craftsy is back, and they have some really awesome free classes that you can enjoy.  Craftsy has thousands of classes. You can purchase them one by one, or have an annual or monthly membership. If you are new to Craftsy and want to check it out, they also offer a lot of free classes. Here are just a few that I love:

Weekly Meal Plan & How You Can Do It Too!

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgNow, more than ever, it’s important to plan meals and use what you have on hand. While the grocery store is still on “Ok to visit” list, it is important to limit our exposure to other people.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day: Right now our local school district is serving lunch for a drive-through service for kids 18 and under M-F. It’s great because it helps stretch our budget and it gets the kids out of the house for a few minutes. They also include a cold lunch (usually cereal and milk and a piece of fruit) for the next morning. Often times, the cereal ends up being a snack for late afternoon. 

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular. recently the Big Kid has been on a protein shake kick in the AM.

Usually, I do a crockpot meal on Mondays, but now that we are home all the time, we’ve been having an odd combination of fully home-cooked, scratch meals, and frozen entrees and veggies. I have been posting our meal plans on Instagram too- As well as pics of stuff we are doing to keep busy.

  • Monday: Frozen Entrees & Veggies
  • Tuesday: Casserole (probably Chicken Tetrazzini)
  • Wednesday: Pasta with red sauce and garlic bread
  • Thursday: Frozen Entrees & Veggies
  • Friday: Breakfast for dinner: Bagels and cream cheese, smoothies, fruit
  • Saturday: Leftover fiesta!
  • Sunday:  Chicken Soup (from Scratch)

Please stay safe you guys! The sooner we flatten the curve, the sooner life can go back to normal- whatever that means.

Talk Back: What are you cooking for dinner this week?

Simple Things You Can Do To Make Your Stay Indoors Easier

file9831347376219.jpgA lot of people are posting about stocking up on essentials, or ways to make your own hand sanitizer in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

I don’t want to freak out or spread any misinformation, so instead, I’m going to focus on how you can get your home ready in case you have to quarantine, either because of illness/exposure or because of a government mandate.

What can you do to prepare your home?

Make sure that you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet. I don’t mean a years supply, maybe just enough to get you through an illness (like you would buy if someone in your home came down with a cold or cough), or in the case of #4, enough menstruation supplies for 1 period (most of us with periods have that in our homes anyway).

  1. Enough of your daily prescription meds for 14+ days.
  2. Pain relievers- Tylenol, Motrin, Advil.
  3. Cold /cough remedies- Sudafed, Mucinex, cough syrup. Don’t forget to have kid versions too!
  4. Menstruation supplies- Pads, Tampons, Cups, period panties.
  5. Any other OTC meds that you and your family use regularly.

Food– This is a tough one because each family is different. I recommend doing a pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory and make notes on what you have. I’d pick up a few extra things that are “must-haves” in your home. For us, that’s bagels and cream cheese. Bread products can be frozen, so I tossed a few extras in the freezer, as well a few extra quarts of milk.

I also picked up some of the shelf-stable milk quarts, like these. They are great for camping, as they don’t have to be refrigerated until after they are opened. They are also great for cooking.  I have also picked up some pantry staples so that we can have homemade baked goods (it gives us an activity and food!).

If you are worried about not having enough food because your budget doesn’t allow for an extra stock-up trip to the grocery store, there are food resources to help you. Check out this page for San Diego County food resources. If you are in Northern SD County, there is a list here. If you live outside San Diego County, but within the US, call 211 for assistance.

Cleaning Supplies-I cleaned out under our kitchen sink and organized all of the cleaning supplies- and I also have been cleaning the house. It was originally because we were hosting a birthday party, but, now it will be nice to have a clean house in case we are stuck inside.

A few of the cleaning supplies that are good to have on hand include:

  • Bleach
  • Ammonia (but never mix it with bleach or any other cleaning chemical)
  • Pine-Sol or Fabuloso
  • Spray bottles for bleach/water mixtures, Ammonia/water mixtures
  • sponges
  • Magic Erasers
  • Paper towels
  • baking soda or Comet/Ajax (to scrub sinks/toilets/bathtubs)
  • White vinegar
  • Oxi-Clean
  • Laundry Soap
  • Laundry stain pre-treater

These are what we keep on hand all the time. I am pretty old school. I use ammonia as a degreaser to clean the stovetop, range hood, and mop the kitchen floor.

Something to do- I think this is something that most of us are forgetting about. Without school, work, the gym, clubs, or other outside activities, Netflix is going to get really boring really fast.

I did a craft supply reorganization yesterday and pulled together stuff for a bunch of different crafts the kids can do. If you have crafty kids, but not a lot of craft supplies, a quick trip to Dollar Tree with $20 can hook you up with a decent selection of supplies. If you don’t have a chance to go, Dollar Tree has “Pick and Pack” service. They have some craft supplies that would be great- canvases, construction paper, glue sticks, etc.

I will be finishing up the basket of UFO (Unfinished Outlying Projects) sewing, and probably start on a few new things that I’ve been planning (like curtains). I’ve got plenty of fabric and thread. No trip to the store will be needed.

We’ll be hitting up the library today or tomorrow for some books for the kids. But we’ve also got Epic on the iPads, and well as some other educational apps (I’ll be posting a list of free apps later today).

I went through all of our games and pulled out some newer ones that the kids haven’t played, or haven’t played in a while. I foresee lots of family game time.

Some government officials and municipalities are telling people to keep a 6-foot distance from others and no handshakes/hugs. That’s is great to control the spread of illness, but I can’t keep my kids inside all the time. Which is why we’ll be playing in our outdoor space/patio, and the green area outside our home, while carefully avoiding others. I may also take them hiking- many of the trails that we frequent are not heavily used. It is rare that we see other people. The fresh air will do them good. If you have a yard, send your kids outside to play or read outside. We want to avoid others to contain the spread of disease.

file801244167702.jpgAnd my final bit of advice: WASH YOUR HANDS FOR AT LEAST 20 SECONDS OF SCRUBBING. Use soap. Dry your hands with a paper towel. Use hand sanitizer as needed, but it is not a substitute for handwashing. Try not to touch your face (This is super hard, I know). 

Please be safe!

 

 

12/30/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

It’s the last meal plan for 2019! I’ve got lots of good stuff planned recipe-wise this week. I’m doing my best to use up a lot of the stuff we’ve got in the freezer and pantry.

I’ve got a bunch of bananas that are REEEEALLLY ripe, they will be turned into banana bread today.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. We’ve got a bunch of stuff in the freezer, as I’ve been portioning out 2-3 adult-sized entree portions from several meals a week and freezing them for later meals.

  • Monday:  Pork Chili, and cornbread
  • Tuesday:  NYE and I’m not sure what we’re doing, but I’ll have fresh veggies, fruit, hummus, and other snackies.
  • Wednesday:  Chef Salad (greens, hardboiled eggs, cheese, peppers, carrots, celery, snap peas)
  • Thursday: Quinoa Veggie Bowls
  • Friday:    Date Night (I think we’re going out)
  • Saturday:  Pizza & Fruit Salad
  • Sunday:  Breakfast for dinner (savory waffles with poached eggs)

snacks.jpgOne of the kid’s recent favorite lunches is “Plate of Snacks”. I use the sectioned plastic plates (like old school cafeteria trays), and fill each section with a snack from the corresponding food group. This tray has goldfish crackers in the protein section (the 4-year-old insisted because there was fish on the section).

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

12/2/19 Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

We survived Thanksgiving break. Now it’s back to school, and back to work!

I did not go to the grocery store last week, other than to pick up milk. So last night I hit the store to stock up- The pantry was pretty bare. I ran out of flour- and for someone who bakes a lot.. well, I was pretty shocked.

This week we’re relying on a couple meal prepped items from the freezer, they come in so handy, especially on Mondays when we have so much going on. The big kid has a 2-day research study this week- he’s so excited!

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. We’ve got a bunch of stuff in the freezer, as I’ve been portioning out 2-3 adult-sized entree portions from several meals a week and freezing them for later meals.

  • Monday: Chicken Fajita bowls with rice, beans, grilled onions and peppers
  • Tuesday: Baked Ziti & Steamed veggies
  • Wednesday:  Butter Chicken, jasmine rice, and green salad
  • Thursday:  Soup (we have a couple kinds in the freezer), Grilled cheese sandwiches, and apple crisp
  • Friday:  Breakfast for dinner: Corned Beef Hash, poached eggs, toast, and fruit
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:  Pulled Pork, baked potatoes, steamed veggies

I had someone ask me how we always have enough of anything for leftovers. I always cook enough of the main dish for 6-8 servings, that way we have leftovers for lunches later in the week or leftover night. And really when you make stuff like soup, it’s hard to make a batch of soup that only feeds 4 people.

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?