How To Help Your Special Needs Child Fly Solo

Stressing out about getting onto the plane (click on the article for happier times).

Stressed about getting onto the plane (click on the article for happier times).

Please excuse the lack of writing lately, it’s back-from-vacation and back-to-school time! Which means, of course, that I have quite a bit to share with you if I could just find the time.

In the meantime, please check out my latest article on, about how we prepared and sent James on a cross-country flight. Alone.


Oreos are dairy free (and other tasty surprises for the allergy-afflicted)

512px-Happy_Cookie_FridayIan has struggled with allergies since he was 5 months old, the worst ones being dairy and nuts. As avid dairy lovers, we’ve been reluctant to give up our favorite treats, yet it’s hard not to feel a small twinge of guilt every time Ian asks hopefully, “Can I have some of that?” or says “No fank you, those chips will make me throw up in the pool.” So over the last two years we have come up with some easy-to-find, almost-as-tasty substitutes for lots of those puppy-eyed situations. The guilt is somehow less crushing if I can offer an Oreo.

1. Oreos. Have I mentioned Oreos yet? Oreos are dairy free, and let’s face it, delicious and addictive. When I know we’ll be baking “real” cookies or desserts, I make sure to get a couple flavors of Oreos we haven’t had in a while. It usually works, the main problem being that now I’m going to eat twice as many treats.

2. Bagels. Most brands of bagels offer dairy free flavors, Einstein Brothers is a family favorite, but Pepperidge Farm brand is a good grocery store option. I like to keep these on hand as a substitute for the even less healthy freezer waffle.

3. Ghiarardelli 72% Squares and other dark chocolates. Check the ingredients – cocoa butter is not butter. And dark chocolate is more healthy and satisfies chocolate cravings more quickly. Win-win-win.

4. Dole Chopped Sunflower Crunch Salad. This salad is perhaps the Best Salad Ever, with a creamy, delicious, dairy free dressing. Recently, my husband casually asked, “Do you think we could try another kind of salad sometime?” and it was only then that I realized I had been eating this same salad every night for about 3 weeks running. Maybe it was closer to 4. Go pick one up and you’ll understand. Continue reading

RACK Recipe #1: Pinch and Pour Marinade

RACK is short for Reading and Cooking Kids. When you see RACK in front of a recipe title on this site, you can assume:

1. It is a flexible, easy-to-make recipe.

2. The recipe will be easy to read with straightforward instructions and simple measurements.

3. It will still taste good if a couple of mistakes have been made (I’m pretty sure these are foolproof).

4. It can actually be made independently by your kids (except for the fire parts).

5. Your kitchen is probably going to be a mess afterward.

6. But your kids will be practicing reading and cooking at the same time!

7. This is the first step to you lying on the couch playing Word Chums while your kids make dinner on Fridays.

Our 5 year old was a budding but somewhat reluctant reader last year – she could read things along the lines of Little Bear and Frog and Toad but as soon as she got to a word she didn’t know right away, she wanted to “take a break.” After several weeks of frustration I told Margaret, my big helper in the kitchen, that she could cook dinner alone once she was old enough to read the recipes. She was immediately enthused by this prospect and RACK recipes were born. Though she has since become an independent reader and cook, we started out slowly. I used to put all of the ingredients, mixing and measuring implements, and cookware on the kitchen counters where she could find them, then would hand her the instructions I had written on a sheet of printer paper, go into the next room and close my eyes. I’m one of those “clean as you cook” types, so this was really a lesson for me as well.

Margaret has become quite skilled at preparing everything from gourmet pizzas to roast pork tenderloin but I started out with recipes that all but guaranteed her success. Below is what we call “Pinch and Pour Marinade,” meaning “2 pinches of ____” and “1 pour of ______,” in terms of measurements. Approved by Step Into Reading or Scholastic? I like to think they’d appreciate my initiative. Professional chef material? Perhaps not. Tasty with basically any roasted or grilled vegetable you could imagine? You bet. Continue reading

Welcome to the zoo!

While it seems as though I’m now writing as far away from New York City as humanly possible, I am happy to announce that I’ve found a connection to my old stomping grounds. Among the many things I’ve been missing about the city, Central Park is definitely in the top ten. I used to live just a couple of blocks away, and even after we moved to Brooklyn took the subway there twice a week for homeschooling meetups, a junior park rangers class and of course, for the zoo. So you can imagine my glee as I looked at my new home online and saw listed within the sale info, Subdivision: Central Park. Did we seriously just move somewhere called Central Park? In Texas? If that isn’t irony, I don’t know what is.

Somewhat reluctantly, I decided to leave my labor of love,, in New York where it belonged, and to continue with a new website and new direction. I still have special needs children so there will still be plenty of special needs info on this site. However, I have other children (quite a few) and lots of other stuff to talk about (surprised?), so it would be silly for me to ignore the many other exciting things going on around here. Let me show you around my new, improved site, devoted to all things big family, education, art, music, special needs, cooking and Texas: The Central Park Zoo.

Animals and Exhibits

We came home one afternoon to find a flock of newly hatched ducklings stuck in the pool, and have since removed dozens more eggs from the surrounding gardens.

We came home one afternoon to find a flock of newly hatched ducklings stuck in the pool, and have since removed dozens more eggs from the surrounding gardens.

In this section I know you’re expecting me to compare the animals at the Central Park Zoo to my kids or something cliche like that. But since we both know that that’s exactly what I’m thinking, let me go with something slightly less obvious. Muscovy Ducks! Before you take offense let me assure you that this is no expletive, but rather the cause for many expletives around our house, especially by my husband. What started out as “Wow, we have 4 ducks in our pond!” has grown into “$%#@, we have 37 ducks in our pond!” And in our pool, on our patio, on top of the roof, and basically anywhere you wouldn’t like a bunch of duck poop. We also have hawks, egrets, pelicans, vultures, and a whole slew of other birds that I’m still trying to label.

Aside from our bird exhibit, we also boast lizards, snakes, frogs, possums, field rats (much larger than regular rats), rabbits, squirrels, turtles, and a variety of fish, many of which also enjoy the occasional swim in our pool (obviously not the fish but definitely the snakes). And let’s not forget our world class insect exhibit. NYC’s “waterbug” is called a “palmetto bug” down here – they’re all cockroaches, people. There are also fire ants, crazy ants (look that up on youtube if you don’t feel like sleeping for the rest of the week), mosquitoes that are wicked even in January, beetles, giant grasshoppers, wasps, dragonflies and enormous hairy spiders, many of which have also taken a dip into our pool at one point or another.

Feeding Times


Yes, that’s my 4 year old with a knife.

We don’t generally feed any of the animals outside of our house, but if we did I bet they’d eat less often than my kids. This page will be filled with kid-friendly recipes, keto recipes, quick and easy meals, and meals your kids can make alone (seriously, my 5 year old cooks dinner most Fridays). Plus we have several kids who are allergic to nuts and dairy, so I’ve also got a whole slew of recipes to survive cheese, butter, or peanut-free – without giving up cupcakes.

(Cheap) Admissions

In this section, I’m only admitting to things that don’t get me into serious trouble. All kidding aside, you can come over any time you want and pay admission to look at our animals. Heck, you can even take one home with you. Field rat, anyone?


In between "classes." In pajamas, of course.

In between “classes.” In pajamas, of course.

Once homeschoolers, I returned to teaching and my kids went back to school a couple of years ago. I won’t pretend I don’t miss it, but I’ve definitely gained a whole lot of perspective. This section is mainly to share lessons, tips and activities that we incorporate into our daily learning. Eventually this page will introduce things like the mysterious and wonderful “Wh” game I created that 1) covers any subject on the face of the planet, 2) teaches my kids to read more fluently, 3) is 100% portable and 4) passes time pleasantly whether you’re on a NYC subway or in the equally crowded and slow-moving Whataburger drive-thru lane.


Bigger is definitely better when it comes to the sky here.

Bigger is definitely better when it comes to the sky here.

What would the site be without sharing stories and resources revolving around life in Texas? In the six years we’ve been here I have more material than I’ll ever know what to do with.

So, loyal Foorce followers and new readers alike, I encourage you to sign up for updates (top right corner) and follow my new site. I’m not entirely sure where it’s headed, but it won’t be boring.