Food Porn: Weekend Breakfast

Depending on how much time I have, weekend breakfasts can be extravagant and, because on the volume of organic vegetables involved, expensive. I photographed my way through a recent weekend breakfast, prepared when we were all awake around 7:00 am but no one had to be anywhere before 11:00 am.

Dish No. 1 was sweet potato hash, and Dish No. 2 was vegetable scrambled eggs. First, I diced/processed my veggies and arranged them for those two dishes.

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In this photo, the middle mixing bowl contains the veggies for the scrambled eggs: carrots, garlic, red bell pepper, Jerusalem artichoke, and several sorts of mushrooms. Martin has declared that he doesn’t like mushrooms, so I sneak them in wherever I can; in this instance, the pre-cooked mushrooms will reduce enough that he doesn’t notice them in the scrambled eggs.

Also in the photo are—

a small glass of yellow “base,” which comprised onion, garlic, and turmeric root (there’s that turmeric again!), processed into a paste, which I put first into the pan, along with cooking oil (usually coconut);

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the diced sweet potatoes, which require the longest cooking time, so I added them as soon as the base became fragrant;

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onions and red bell pepper, which I add until well after the sweet potatoes, because they would have burnt before the sweet potatoes were cooked;

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and a glass of minced herbs, which on this occasion were parsley and sage, which went in last, just enough to heat them.

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When the sweet potato hash was about half done, I set the egg veggies to cook in coconut oil, separately.

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While both the sweet potato hash and the egg veggies were cooking, I prepped the vegetables for juice. I am very into juicing right now. Juice does have “all the sugar without the insoluble fiber,” which is not great vis-à-vis Martin’s yeast troubles. On the other hand, juicing is GAPS-approved and makes vitamins, minerals, and even enzymes rapidly available, which is terrific for those times when Martin is not so into eating vegetables. (Yes, even super-healthy-diet Martin behaves sometimes like an American seven-year-old.) On this morning, I made “green lemonade”: collard greens, celery, cucumber, kiwifruit, green and red apples, lemon, and turmeric. (Again with the turmeric!)

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Finally I juiced, added eggs and sea salt to the egg veggies, and served. For Adrian’s breakfast, I added a slice of toast, made from Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free bread.

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I think the Canyon Bakehouse product is good-quality, but it’s still too starchy and processed for Martin. So when Martin insisted that he too wanted toast, I substituted a couple Lundberg Family Farms Red Rice & Quinoa Stackers. Not perfect. Still a grain. Still processed to some degree. But these “toast crackers” made Martin happy and brought peace to breakfast.

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I don’t eat eggs. For my breakfast, I ate the sweet potato hash and drank the juice, and substituted the eggs with Fakin’ Bacon, which is spiced organic tempeh. I try not to eat too much soy; when I do consume soy, organic and fermented is the best way to go.

And I almost forgot: There was one more item that brought peace, and for me and Adrian, a lot of joy, to the morning kitchen—

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Food Porn: Pasta and Broccoli With “Cheese” Sauce

I’ve been lax about posting recipes and cooking tips, which is strange because the No. 1 recovery-process question I get remains, “What does Martin eat?” Many people still find it hard to fathom, in this day, a diet of minimally processed foods; focused on fresh and organic; free from gluten, dairy, corn, soy, refined sugar, and most grains or starchy vegetables; that includes daily bone broth and probiotic/fermented foods; with meat (other than broth) limited to one serving daily; and that is prepared 90% from scratch. I don’t blame them. Before I started this journey, I wouldn’t have known how to manage it at all.

Time to post a few examples of how breakfast, lunch, and dinner look for Martin. Exhibit One shall be this relatively simple vegetarian dinner, which our whole family, including pescatarian Adrian and vegan me, can enjoy: pasta with broccoli and “cheese” sauce:

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The “cheese” sauce—you won’t believe me until you try it—is delicious. The recipe does call for potato, which we generally try to avoid; fortunately, the overall potato content ends up being low, on a per-serving basis. I happened upon the “cheese” sauce recipe when a friend posted the link on her Facebook page.

Of course, I make alterations. I generally try to soak and dehydrate the cashews before I use them, though I may not always manage. I like to replace the garlic powder with a clove or two of raw garlic. I also usually add an inch or two of peeled, fresh turmeric, throwing that root into the cooking water at the same time as the potato. (If you read several of these posts, you’re going to uncover a sort of turmeric leitmotif. I add fresh turmeric to almost everything—including (some) desserts and snacks.)

The pasta is Tolerant brand penne, which lists, as its only ingredient, red lentils. I love the idea of one-ingredient pasta, especially when the ingredient is organic red lentils. That being said, I do have questions about Tolerant, especially how exactly the lentils are processed into pasta, i.e., what the lentils undergo and how they eventually stick together. My friend Stacey and I once found Tolerant’s representatives at a food trade show and peppered them with questions about their processing methods; citing trade secrets, they wouldn’t reveal anything, so I still have concerns. Sometimes the best you’ve got is the best you’ve got, and right now, for pasta, I think Tolerant is the best I’ve got.

(Monday afternoons, Martin and I visit the organic grocery. He loves to run to the Tolerant aisle and yell, “Mommy, do we have enough pasta?”, then dump four or five boxes of the penne into my cart.)

Sometimes I add slivered almonds or pine nuts to this dish. In the version pictured above, the final ingredient was steamed broccoli. I cooked the broccoli before the pasta, saved the leftover steaming water, which absorbs some broccoli nutrients, and cooked the pasta in that water, hope to transfer those nutrients to the pasta. Long shot? Probably.

A tasty entrée that paired well with salad? Definitely.

Year 2014 in Review

A year ago, I woke up on New Year’s morning with the conviction that 2014 would be a banner year in Martin’s recovery.

It’s time for a look back at 2014.

Martin and a boy he played with on the beach, Florida Keys, New Year's 2014.

Martin and a boy he played with on the beach, Florida Keys, New Year’s 2014.

We started several interventions to which, for a change, Martin plainly seemed to respond. (I write “for a change” because these were some of the few times when I was able to isolate particular interventions that helped. More often, it’s just something in “the whole package.”) When I posted in late July about five treatments that were “working now,” I also posted my frustration in jumping to conclusions based on initial positive results. I’m going to report now that at least two of those five “what’s working now” treatments, six months later, still are kicking autism’s butt: camel milk and Candex. Martin’s language took off immediately following the introduction of camel milk, and it hasn’t stopped since. Did you Tuesday’s post about the conversationalist? How cool was that? As for the Candex, Martin still has yeast flares. (I’ve come to accept that candida overgrowth may be a battle we fight for many years. Therein may lie our war.) Since we started using Candex, however, those flares have been milder and of shorter duration. They’ve been manageable.

Martin with his cousin Mandy in the snow, February 2014.

Martin with his cousin Mandy in the snow, February 2014.

And the other three “working now” treatments, the GAPS diet, Enhansa™, and MitoSpectra? We are still on all three. I modified the GAPS diet by adding quinoa and reducing Martin’s meat consumption to one meal per day. (The reduction of meat isn’t particularly a “modification,” I suppose, though it felt that way.) I think Martin’s gut health is better than ever, though I wish he weren’t still prone to yeast flares. As to Enhansa, Martin’s chronic inflammation appears to have eased; I can’t say whether the Enhansa is responsible, or general improvement in gut health. I may stop the Enhansa, as an experiment, and see what happens. I plan to keep the MitoSpectra, for the time being. I reduced Martin’s dosage when a blood test revealed high levels of carnatine, and I feel like I could be doing more for his mitochondrial functioning (hence the quinoa). I’m keeping the MitoSpectra because I haven’t yet discovered that next best thing.

Martin at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay, New York, Spring 2014.

Martin at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay, New York, Spring 2014.

In the second half of the year, after my “What’s Working Now” post, we started vision(-ish) therapy with Dr. Deborah Zelinsky; Heilkunst homeopathy with Rudi Verspoor; and a weekly facilitated social group with local kids. So far, I give all three a big thumbs up. We are in another period when “things are going well” but I’m not totally sure why. I may be observing a slight uptick in Martin’s eye contact and attention span. I’ll give that development to Dr. Zelinsky. Martin had a fever and apparent healing reaction over the Christmas break. That goes to the Heilkunst. As for the social group, that’s a confidence-builder. Martin is happy to have friends of his own. Last week, for the first time, he asked to bring a game that everyone could play—the lovely wildlife bingo set his uncle Eddie gave him.

Martin rock climbing at a birthday party, July 2014.

Martin rock climbing at a birthday party, July 2014.

Did I make mistakes in 2014? Of course I did. I think the straight-up GAPS diet had too few carbs to meet Martin’s mitochondrial needs. I know there is debate on this point. For my child, I should have known; way back in 2011, when we first went grain-free, Martin showed signs of mild ketoacidosis, and we had to add a few gluten-free grains back in. This time around, I should have guessed that he would need more carbs than GAPS allows.

Martin with his uncle Rudy, Strasbourg, France, August 2014.

Martin with his uncle Rudy, Strasbourg, France, August 2014.

I rushed treatments. The mother who launched our biomedical journey cautioned me against the urge to do everything at once. Nevertheless, when I find an intervention that excites me, I might move too quickly. Even today, four years into Martin’s recovery, I’m prone to that amateur mistake. Other times, I just fail to pay attention and mistakenly start two treatments together. C’est la vie.

Martin looking over St. Bartholomá church, on the Königsee, Berchtesgadan, Germany, August 2014.

Martin looking over St. Bartholomá church, on the Königsee, Berchtesgadan, Germany, August 2014.

Despite my tendency to rush, though, I think honestly I can peg 2014 as the year when I internalized “marathon not sprint.” Sure, for years now I’ve parroted the mantra. Autism recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Autism recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. But what kind of marathon did I really envision? In my “banner year” post, last January, I wrote, “I now understand ‘the long haul,’” and “I no longer fear that some mythical window will close while Martin is five . . ., or seven, or any age.” Even after I wrote that, however, the notions took some time to sink in. It wasn’t until November, when I wrote the “Journey” post, that I finally abandoned the idea that this process will have an end date. Striving for better health may well be a perennial task, one that Martin needs to continue even after he becomes responsible for his own care. Autism recovery is not a sprint. It isn’t even a marathon. Autism recovery is a lifestyle.

Martin hiking in the Adirondack mountains, near the Great Sacandaga Lake, August 2014.

Martin hiking in the Adirondack mountains, near the Great Sacandaga Lake, August 2014.

Behavior-wise, in 2014 Martin took new interest in socializing with other kids. Although he still isolates himself when he becomes overwhelmed, for the most part he wants to be near his friends, even if just to play side-by-side on iPads. Late in the year, Martin also (finally) made progress on nighttime potty training. He wakes now when he needs the potty, and yells for me. “Thanks, kid.” Language-wise, in 2014—well, wow. Martin has been asking “why” questions (like, gazillions of why questions) for a long time now; in 2014, he started answering them, coherently. He’s become conversational, staying on point for multiple exchanges. He can talk on the phone. This afternoon he’s going to call Uncle Eddie and wish him happy birthday! And the perseveration has decreased. Did I mention that the perseveration has decreased? Yeah, the perseveration has decreased. Such a relief.

Martin, on the left, with his cousin Luke, in the Florida Keys, New Year's 2015.

Martin, on the left, with his cousin Luke, in the Florida Keys, New Year’s 2015.

I am pleased to conclude that 2014 was a banner year in Martin’s recovery. All signs point to significant improvement in health, and corresponding changes in behavior.

May it be one banner year among many.

 

ASD Recovery Recipe: Egg Poppers

What to do for quick breakfast before school when a bowl of cereal or a frozen waffle is not an option? That’s a question I get from a lot of parents who are trying to manage a restricted diet.

For some time, Martin consumed only bone broth for weekday breakfast. He was okay with that, and so was I. Bone broth is filling and has protein. As long as I sent a substantive morning snack to school, he was fine until lunchtime.

The past few months, Martin has wanted solid food for breakfast. He will eat turkey bacon, but I’ve taken that off the breakfast list; I have Martin down to one meat meal per day, and right now the meat meal is school lunch. For breakfast, I look for non-meat items, preferably that I can prepare in advance.

Along come egg poppers, which my mother made Martin Thanksgiving week when I was sick. Martin doesn’t like to eat eggs scrambled, boiled, or fried. For whatever reason, when I cook the eggs into these “poppers,” he’s game. The poppers have other advantages, too. I can make them in advance in reheat them in the oven while he’s waking, and like meatballs, the poppers are a convenient place to pack vegetables.

Here’s the procedure:

Spray a stainless-steel muffin tray, liberally, with olive oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Chop vegetables. Chop whatever you have that might work well with eggs. In my experience, including at least some onion makes the poppers more appealing. Mince everything well; tiny pieces help the poppers hold together.

Fill the muffin tray with a mix of vegetables. I have found that, if you don’t pack the vegetables, you can fill the cups almost full without the finished poppers falling apart. In this example, I started with red bell peppers and then added shiitake mushrooms.

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Next came carrot greens. My chef friend turned me onto cooking with the greens from fresh carrots. They’re delicious. On top of the greens I added red onion.

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Usually I would have stopped there. In this example, not yet. I have added limited portions of quinoa to Martin’s GAPS diet. That’s been a challenge, because Martin doesn’t like quinoa, much. It happened that, the night before I made these egg poppers, I had served quinoa with scallions, parsley, and white mulberries. I decided to pile some of the leftover quinoa on top of the veggies. My filled cups looked like this:

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Once your cups are ready, whisk ten eggs with a half-cup of camel milk (or whatever milk your family uses), add salt and pepper, and pour this mixture over the vegetables.

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You’re ready to bake. Put the whole tray in the oven. Keep an eye on the poppers. After fifteen minutes or so, they will “poof” into domes. Let them cook for another five minutes or so after poofing. That’s it.

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In these pictures, I made a dozen poppers, because I served them also to Martin’s cousins, who have been visiting. Martin eats only one per morning, along with two zucchini muffins or slices of banana bread (recipe coming), so when I’m cooking just for Martin, I make only a few poppers, which I store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to heart.

Let Us All Gather at the Table. How?

Sorry to be posting so much about food lately. Recipes. GAPS. Quinoa. Goldfish. Goldfish. Food and diet are what people ask me about the most. And now Thanksgiving is here, hands-down my favorite holiday. Like we did last year—since we have a house in the suburbs, we might as well use it for something—Adrian and I are hosting Thanksgiving in our home. At the table, along with me and Adrian and Martin, will be my mother, my stepfather, my brother Rudy, and a friend of Rudy.

The dietary breakdown—

Rudy’s friend: eats all foods.

Adrian and my parents: pescatarians, i.e., eat dairy, eggs, and fish, but no fowl or red meat.

Rudy and I: vegans, i.e., avoid all animal products, including eggs and dairy.

Martin: GAPS and casein-free, i.e., eats fish, meat, and eggs, but no dairy, grains (except for a smidgen of quinoa), refined sugar, or starchy foods like yams or potatoes.

Also, Rudy is allergic to most tree nuts. He can eat almonds and hazelnuts.

Try menu planning for this crowd. Go on, try! After much contemplation, I have decided that I will, for Thanksgiving, eat recipes that contain eggs. Rudy has agreed to do the same. With that, I think I have come up with a decent, if non-traditional, menu. Some of the recipes came from The Heal Your Gut Cookbook. Others I found on-line, on “paleo” or “no grain” websites, and modified the ingredients as necessary. The lentil-nut loaf calls for a special shout-out to The Simple Veganista and Oh She Glows. Finally, a couple recipes (mashed cauliflower and roast Brussels sprouts) are favorite old creations of mine.

My aim was to ensure (1) that everyone was happy and satisfied, and (2) that Martin could partake in every food on the table. Without further ado, here are the dishes I plan to serve, with ingredients:

Breads

almond flour zucchini bread

ingredients: almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, eggs, honey, banana, shredded zucchini.

coconut butter bread

ingredients: coconut butter, eggs, coconut oil, sea salt, baking soda.

pumpkin poppers (mini-muffins)

ingredients: coconut flour, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger, eggs, cooked pumpkin, cooked carrots, coconut oil, honey, vanilla.

Main Courses

fish (for the non-vegans)

ingredients: not yet known; what fish I buy, and how we prepare it, will depend on which Martin-safe(r) fish is freshest and available.

lentil-hazelnut loaf (for the vegans, and anyone else who wants some)

ingredients: brown lentils, vegetable broth (I make my own), flax meal, olive oil, fresh garlic, onion, red bell pepper, carrot, celery, gluten-free oats (not GAPS-compliant, so I may look for a substitute), hazelnut meal, thyme, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

Side Dishes

quinoa stuffing

ingredients: quinoa, squash, onion, celery, bay leave, fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, fresh sage, apple, raisins or dried cranberries, chopped toasted hazelnuts, apple cider vinegar, fresh parsley, cumin, olive oil.

garlic mashed cauliflower

ingredients: cauliflower, olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic.

raw kale salad

ingredients: curly kale, olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, pumpkin seeds, red onion, avocado, salt and pepper.

roast Brussels sprouts

ingredients: Brussels sprouts, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic.

Desserts

carrot cake with vanilla ice cream

ingredients: coconut manna, honey, carrots, cinnamon, shredded coconut, sea salt, baking soda, vanilla, eggs

ice cream: Raw Ice Cream (this has some raw agave and so does not comply entirely with GAPS; also, Rudy can’t eat it because it contains cashews).

chocolate pudding pie

crust ingredients: hazelnut meal, salt, baking soda, palm-coconut shortening, honey, vanilla

filling ingredients: avocado, honey, cocoa, apple cider vinegar.

Yes. I am going to try to prepare that menu. My mother and stepfather have already arrived from Texas, so I will get help from them. Still, if by chance I fail to blog any day next week, you will know why. When I ran the menu by Adrian, three nights ago, he said, “That sounds fantastic! You know what I think?”

“What?”

“I think if you’re going to pull that off, you’d better start cooking now.”

ASD Recovery Recipe: Goldfish Crackers, Even More Complicated

When you read my exciting recipe for goldfish crackers, did you think I was crazy? Did you think, “This blogger spent two hours to make a couple trays of goldfish crackers. I’m going to do that, too. That fits right into my life.”

Guess what? I made more goldfish crackers, and I made them even more complicated still.

Nuts are GAPS-legal, provided they start raw (you can brown them yourself). The best way to eat nuts GAPS-style is to soak/sprout the nuts and then low-temperature dehydrate them, for digestibility.

Last time I made goldfish crackers, I used store-bought almond flour. This time, I thought: I’ve got raw macadamias. I’ve got a sprouting jar. I’ve got a dehydrator. Let’s party.

I used the same recipe (doubled). Instead of using commercial almond flour, I soaked several cups of raw macadamias in Fiji water overnight.

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The next day, I drained and rinsed the nuts and transferred them to my dehydrator.

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They took forever to dry at 115 degrees. I had to leave them in the dehydrator more than 24 hours.

That brings us to day three. I removed the soaked and dried macadamias and started grinding them in my Vitamix . . .

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. . . which didn’t work out so well. The stuff at the bottom turned into pasty nut butter before I could pack down enough of the sides to become flour. After a quarter-hour of arguing with the Vitamix, I decided to finish the job with my trusted coffee/nut/seed grinder. I could grind only, like, ten nuts at a time, but the easier access to the blades and bowl made the job manageable.

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When the process was finished, I had about three cups of macadamia flour. It was still kind of creamy, and not powdery at all; if I hadn’t been using it immediately, I would have refrigerated the product and not kept it more than a week. In order to make a double recipe of goldfish, I needed four cups of flour, so I supplemented with Bob’s Red Mill natural almond meal, which is a good product but neither organic nor sprouted. (Hint, hint, Bob Moore.)

At last I was able to mix my goldfish dough. Then, sprinkling more almond meal to prevent sticking, I turned my counter into a goldfish factory again.

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This round, however, I did not bother making eyes and mouths on the goldfish. Etching those details with a wooden toothpick consumed so much time, and I’m pretty sure Martin, as he chewed goldfish by the handful, never noticed whether his crackers had faces.

Total prep time: two days, plus three hours grinding, mixing, rolling, and cutting.

Total time goldfish crackers lasted before Martin ate them all: one week.

Next time, if I need to supplement the flour that I make, I will try using Blue Mountain Organics sprouted almond butter instead (there are various sprouted nut butters available commercially; usually I select the one I find first), and maybe decreasing the olive oil to compensate for the oilier product. As healthy as the current batch is, I can always do better.

(Now might be when you revisit the final paragraphs of “My Beef With the GAPS Diet Author,” wherein I asserted that my mental health is strong . . . .)

Snack Drawer

For the past six months or so, I’ve kept Lärabars and other snacks for Martin in the second drawer of our pantry. That drawer contains other foods, too: nut butters (including peanut butter), non-gluten flours, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, Adrian’s chocolate stash, stuff like that. A variety, only some of which Martin can eat.

I never thought Martin paid much attention to where I keep his snacks, until one afternoon two weeks ago. That day, Martin came home from his school, took off his shoes, opened the pantry, and started rummaging through the second drawer in search of a snack.

To me, that seemed like reasonably typical kid behavior and, for Martin, a new independence that I should foster. The second pantry drawer is somewhat too high for Martin to access comfortably (though with the way he’s growing taller, next week that might not be the case). Also, it seemed unfair that he should have to push aside stuff he cannot eat—e.g., peanut butter, or Adrian’s chocolate—to reach his own treats. Therefore, I emptied the third drawer of the pantry and redistributed those items in other drawers (a challenge in my snugly packed pantry!). Then I filled the third drawer with after-school snacks and taped labels on the front: “Martin’s snack selection” and “one snack per day!”

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The contents of the drawer reflect a preference Martin has (again, typical, I think) for store-bought, packaged goodies over what I prepare at home. I make protein bars, truffles, and macaroons similar to what’s pictured here; Martin wants the colorful, the prettily wrapped, “what you buy at the store!” (The homemade items I send to school.) Note also that not every product in the drawer is 100% GAPS-compatible. A few contain agave and, for whatever reason, have slipped through my control.

The snack drawer has been a big success. Martin loves to pore over its contents and select the perfect “snack of the day.” This weekend, when he was allowed to pick a snack to take to his activity program, he removed five different snacks, lined them up on the kitchen table, took a few minutes to decide which he wanted, then returned the other four to his drawer. When he wasn’t looking, I snuck in and rearranged the returned snacks into the appealing, every-snack-visual format. That’s me.

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I’m inspired now, to try to display Martin’s clothes in a way that makes him want to pick his own outfits. I like to dress him in the sports jersey of my choice, but I suppose I need to focus on his autonomy, too. The pumpkin glasses he’s wearing in that photo count as autonomy, I guess.