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Ooey-Gooey S’mores Bar Squares

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I just got back from a weeklong camping trip. We went to a beautiful campground in the mountains in BC (British Columbia, Canada) with my husband’s extended family. All told, there were 57 of us! You can imagine how much fun we had. They had even ordered matching shirts with a Kostelyk Campout 2016 logo on them and right down to the youngest baby and my sister-in-law’s chihuahua were wearing them!

I’m not much of a camper and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve eaten a s’more in my lifetime. I did get one in on this camping trip and I have to say that it was delicious. Even though I’m not a big camper, I’ve been making and eating these s’mores bar squares for years.

With these S'mores bar squares, you can bring the taste of camping to any day.They pack all the elements of a s’more, the graham taste, the marshmallows, the chocolate, and even the ooey-gooeyness without the need for a campfire.

I know that at this point, you may be thinking that s’mores without a campfire wouldn’t be as fun. You’re absolutely right. However, there are situations in which a campfire just isn’t possible. Even when you’re camping, there are sometimes fire bans that prohibit campfires. It’s also harder to roast marshmallows in the dead of winter.

If you find yourself in such a situation and are craving the taste of a s’more, you have come to the right place.

S’mores Bar Squares Recipe:

8 cups Golden Grahams cereal
6 cups mini marshmallows, setting one aside for later
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup light corn syrup
5 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Butter a 13×9 inch pan. Put the cereal in a large bowl.

Microwave 5 of the cups of mini marshmallows, the chocolate chips, corn syrup, and butter on high for 2-4 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. Stop and stir every minute until everything is melted and it stirs easily. Pour in the vanilla and stir.

Pour the mixture over the cereal and fold to coat it completely. Once it is mixed, stir in the last cup of mini marshmallows.

S'mores squares processPress into the greased pan and chill for at least one hour before cutting into bars and serving.

S'mores barsJust like the real thing, these s’mores bars can be a bit messy to eat which just makes the camping experience feel all the more real!

I especially like making these to bring to summer picnics although the last time I made them, they didn’t last long enough to get them out the door! My kids are big fans of anything that has chocolate and marshmallow in it. I may have also tasted one (just to do the quality control of course!) or two myself.

S'Mores Bar Squares squareghost hands FBGhost Hands Campfire Fun

A Day in the Life of a Special Needs Mom

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Welcome to a peek into what the day in the life of a special needs mom looks like. Of course, a day in the life of any one mom is going to look very different than a day in the life of another mom and no two days are the same for any mom. In my case, I have five kids with special needs with a fairly wide range of different diagnoses so detailing our routine presents challenges as there are so many variables.

I decided that instead of focusing on one particular special need and explaining how that affects our family’s routine, I would instead present a peek into a typical day in the life of this special needs momma.

A typical day in the life of one special needs mom, well as typical as any day can be.It’s ironic that I’m typing this particular post today because this day is about as far from typical as you can get. I’m typing in the front passenger seat while we drive back from a camping trip with the kids. I’m not a camper, so that’s pretty outside the norm. I won’t talk about what this week has been like but instead focus what our regular days at home are like.

In our home, we have three type of days. We have what I would call at-home days and then we have appointment days and then we have never-a-dull-moment days.

At-home Days.

Before I was the a special needs mom, I was the mom of two neurotypical children so I have a pretty good idea of what the differences are between that life and the one I’m living now. A normal day now consists of me getting up before the kids are awake, working on my blog or whatever book I’m writing at the time and maybe doing a bit of tidying up and throwing a load of laundry in before the kids get up. With a large family, there is always laundry to be done!

Once the kids are up, we have our morning routine which is similar to what probably goes on in most homes but the main difference would be that particularly with our one daughter, I have to be involved and help her through her routine even though she’s ten years old, as even the basics such as personal hygiene and toiling are challenges for her due to her delays.

It’s about this time of the day that the battle of the hearing aids begins. Dancing Queen has progressive hearing loss but she is quite resistant to wearing her hearing aids. As a result, her speech continues to get worse and she becomes harder to understand so I’m quite rigid on insisting that she wear them. This battle continues off and on until bedtime and usually includes a family wide game of searching-for-the-missing-hearing-aids because she takes them off throughout the day and forgets where she puts them.

The kids have breakfast and I read them a story and we talk for a bit and pray together for people we know using our prayer wall. During the school year, one of our sons heads off to school on the bus while the rest of the kids start homeschooling.

In the midst of the morning routine and homeschooling, there are usually several behaviour issues that go far beyond what would be considered typical so we parent a bit differently than a typical family might.

Five of our kids have Sensory Processing Disorder so we take sensory breaks throughout the day and even while we are homeschooling. We also have many sensory items that we use throughout the day to make it easier for our kids to cope and even thrive.

After homeschooling, we have lunch and I do some clean-up. The afternoon is usually spent with the kids playing. This looks similar to most other kids other than the level of supervision that is needed considering their ages and the sensory needs.

Our one son comes home from school. There are some behaviour issues and sibling conflict that need to be dealt with. We eat supper. The kids play again and then we start their bedtime routine and tuck them in and I work again on my blog or writing in the evenings other than date night.

Our at-home days don’t look much different than yours might other than having to remember some of the kids’ medication schedules, increasing supervision and assistance, meeting their sensory needs, the frequency and intensity of the behaviour issues, and the worry.

I find that the worry I have as a mom of kids with special needs is a constant struggle. What that daily routine could have said was “wake up, worry, get frustrated with myself for worrying because it does no good, work, worry, breakfast, worry, homeschool, worry, pray and try to give control to God, behaviour issue, pull control back from God and start worrying again, lunch, clean-up, worry, kids playing, child gets hurt, worry, pray, supper, worry, remind self not to worry, worry some more…”

Appointment days.

I try to schedule all of our appointments in the city for one day a week instead of going to appointments almost every day. Our appointments include:

  • Miss Optimism needs two injections every second week and those are in a neighbouring city downtown.
  • Miss Optimism and Granola Girl to the paediatric pulmonary specialist bi-weekly or monthly.
  • Dancing Queen’s audiology – ear mould fittings every six months and going to pick up the new ear moulds, audiograms every six months, appointments for broken equipment which has been happening a lot lately
  • Dancing Queen to her specialists including ENT, genetic counsellor, paediatrician, psychiatrist, therapist
  • Einstein to therapy
  • Snuggle Puppy to psychiatrist, therapy, orthodontist
  • Regular appointments such as dentist, optometrist and doctor.

I also try to run my errands like going to the pharmacy plus the normal ones that other moms have to do like the bank and the grocery store on those appointment days. The grocery store is more of a challenge. Dancing Queen is too big to go in the cart or a stroller but has a tendency to wander off and has issues surrounding appropriate boundaries with strangers so a trip to the warehouse store can become a crisis or at least cause for panic in a hurry. I try to stick to going to one local store where they know us and know her and I feel much safer there. If she were to try to leave that store with someone who wasn’t me, there are many employees there who would know and try to alert me.

On appointments days (at least one a week), I need to plan for waiting rooms, lunch and snacks for the kids and those are days when I am particularly glad to have freezer meals so that I don’t have to worry about supper when we get home.

With our kids’ special needs, there is also a lot of paperwork. There are papers to apply for funding to help cover some of the costs, papers to fill out for respite, for community aid workers (don’t have that yet because I’m not done the paperwork), for their specialists, for their post-adoption workers, for the testing that needs to be done. There is literally paperwork for some of the other paperwork!

Never-a-dull-moment days.

The thing that I find most difficult about this is that I live everyday with the knowledge that any day could turn into one of these days. It’s like I can never fully exhale, never relax, and always have to be on guard. Even if I’m out on a date with my husband, the phone could ring. Even if the kids and I are having a nice relaxing day where everything is seeming to go well, things could turn at any moment.

There are two reasons that days can turn into a never-a-dull-moment day at our home. One is that two of our children have difficulty understanding cause and effect. This means that one of them may decided to jump off the back of a moving snowmobile not thinking about the possibility that her leg would get wrapped around the tread and break or one might jump from the playhouse roof over the trampoline net and onto the trampoline when her sister is already on the trampoline, thus landing on her sister’s head and causing a concussion. (both of those are our true stories and I could give many more examples) Both of our kids with this as part of their reality are improving.

When they were younger, they would run out into traffic or climb out onto the roof or find matches and light a teddy bear on fire or walk out into a field of cows at two or ride their bike through a glass panel on the deck. They still require more supervision and teaching than other kids their age might, but they are making significant progress. We now have less trips to the emergency room than we used to.

The other reason for never-a-dull-moment days is that two of our children have RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) in addition to PTSD, ODD and other diagnoses, so when there is a trauma trigger for one of them (which can come from anywhere at anytime), things turn very quickly. So in our house on the never-a-dull-moment days, the result may be a trip to the hospital or worse. Also with two of our girls having severe asthma, that can also result in a trip to the emergency room. So there’s always the possibility of excitement around here.

As I used to ask my friends…”please pray for boring for me!” With the risk of the never-a-dull-moment type of day always looming, that leads to more worry.

I worry about their futures. I worry about their interaction with friends or lack thereof. I worry about how others will treat them, about how they will adapt to the world, whether we are making the right decisions for them. I worry about worrying too much because I know that I am supposed to be trusting God and that fear is not from Him which brings me back to the worry-pray cycle I was describing before. I also worry about all the things that every parent worries about.

Other than our never-a-dull-moment days and the amount of appointments and paperwork I’m describing, I have the life of most any typical mom except that everything in our life is taken to an extreme both because of the size of our family and because of the special needs of our kids. A lot of the behaviours and difficulties that our kids display are ones that typical kids also display. The difference is the frequency and intensity.

Frequency and intensity pretty much sums up the life of this special needs momma. Oh and worry of course, but I’m working on that one!

Parenting with Special Needs Series imageI am pleased to have joined a fabulous group of bloggers to bring you this series on Parenting Special Needs Children. Be sure to read their stories on daily life.

How to Homeschool your Child with Special Needs | Natural Beach Living

Day to Day Life Parenting a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder | Every Star is Different

Life with Trauma ~ Living in the shadows‎ | STEAM Powered Family

Reality Bites: Autism and Daily Life | My Home Truths

Why Special Needs Moms are Exhausted All the Time, But Will Never Ask for Help| Life Over C’s

A Day in the Life of a Special Needs Mom| The Chaos and The Clutter

A Day in the Life: A Blogging Mom and Her Special Needs Kids | B-Inspired Mama

Failing My Son and the Routines He Can’t Explain | This Outnumbered Mama

Everyday Accommodations & Strategies for Kids with Hyperlexia | And Next Comes L

The Importance of Visual Schedules for Non-Verbal Autistic Children | Kori at Home

One Simple Trick to Connect with Your Child – Even on the Rough Days| Parenting Chaos

Navigating The Stream: The Trails of Daily Routine | 3 Dinosaurs

Recognizing the Signs of Reactive Attachment DisorderRecognizing the Signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder

Does my Child Have Sensory Processing Disorder? If you are wondering whether or not your child has Sensory Processing Disorder, this list of information and resources will be a starting place for you to find help.Does my Child have Sensory Processing Disorder?

Breakfast in the Slow Cooker

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

As the mom of a large family, I love my crock pot! It saves me time on busy days. Another thing that I like about the slow cooker is that it frees up space in my oven. This is particularly true of making breakfast in the slow cooker.

Breakfast in the Slow Cooker recipes including oatmeals, french toast, casseroles, quiches, and more.On a day when we are hosting a large gathering of people for brunch or celebrating Mother’s Day with a special breakfast, cooking one recipe in the crock pot frees up the oven and stovetop for me to cook other recipes at the same time.

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casseroles:

Cheesy Slow Cooker Hash Brown Casserole from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Smoked Sausage and Hash Brown Casserole from Lauren’s Latest (pictured)

Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole from The Typical Mom

Slow Cooker Overnight Breakfast Casserole from Crazy Adventures in Parenting

Bacon, Egg and Hash Brown Casserole from Sabrina and Company (pictured)

Sausage Egg Casserole from Recipes That Crock

Slow Cooker French Toast:

Cinnamon Roll Crock Pot French Toast from Mess for Less

Slow Cooker French Toast from Growing up Gabel

Crock Pot French Toast Casserole from Moms with Crock Pots

Chocolate Chip French Toast from Or So She Says (pictured)

Banana Blueberry French Toast from Fit Slow Cooker Queen

Breakfasts in the Slow Cooker square

Slow Cooker Oatmeal:

Overnight Crock Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal from Mom Endeavors

Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal from Raising Lifelong Learners

Gingerbread Oatmeal from Coffee Cups and Crayons (pictured)

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Parfait from The Sassy Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Pancakes:

Easy Slow Cooker Pancakes from The Sassy Slow Cooker

Blueberry Vanilla Pancakes from Slow Cooker Gourmet

Cinnamon Swirl Pancake Bake from Homemaking Hacks

Slow Cooker Eggs:

Crock Pot Hard Boiled Eggs from Laura’s Little House Tips

Crock Pot Healthy Sausage Mediterranean Quiche from The Cookie Rookie

Slow Cooker Veggie Omelette from Diethood (pictured)

Spinach and Feta Quiche from Simply Stacie

Frittata with Broccoli, Ham and Swiss from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Other Slow Cooker Breakfast Ideas:

Crock Pot Orange Sweet Rolls from Kevin & Amanda

Sausage, Gravy and Biscuits from The Sassy Slow Cooker

Breakfast in the Slow CookerI hope you enjoy these breakfast in the slow cooker recipes. You may also be interested in some of our other crock pot recipe collections:

Summer in the Slow Cooker squareSummer in the Slow Cooker

Must Haves for Kids with Sensory Needs

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Four of my kids have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). It’s been a challenge to learn what works best for them but now that we have been on this road for many years, I have discovered things that make their lives so much easier. I wish I had known in the beginning what a huge difference a few small changes could make. These are some of the must-haves that I have found in working with them. It was hard to create this list because not only are there different types of Sensory Processing Disorder that present very differently and can actually present opposing needs, but each child is also so unique. You can read more about the signs of Sensory Processing Disorder here. I am sharing what works for some of my kids. What works for other kids with sensory needs may vary.

These are must-haves if you have kids with sensory processing disorder (SPD).

The books…

There are several books geared towards children regarding Sensory Processing Disorder and I have shared some in Our Favourite Books for Kids About Special Needs.

The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping With Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder are two must-reads for parents or teachers of kids with SPD. The Out-of-Sync Child has Fun also has great ideas for activities and practical suggestions that are very helpful.

Sensory Processing 101 is a very comprehensive book written in part by a mom with a child with SPD. It explains SPD very well and also has a large section on activities and contains handy printables. It is great for teachers, professionals and parents.

Weighted items…

Not all of our kids like weighted items but the ones that do, love them! We buy our weighted blankets, capes, neck rolls, and neck curves at Innovaid (you may recognize some of the models on their site as my kids!).

Two of our kids who like deep pressure have a very hard time sleeping without their weighted blankets. Those same two have an easier time attending during our homeschool lessons if they wear a weighted cape or neck curve. They also have weighted stuffed animals that seem to help calm them.

There are tutorials available that walk you through making your own weighted blanket. (hint: click that highlighted text to take you to a list of online tutorials) There are also tutorials for making your own weighted vests.

weighted blanket

Fidgets…

Fidget toys such as the ones from Tangle Creations can be very helpful in focusing. Especially for children who have to attend for longer periods of time, they can make a tremendous difference. In order for something to be called a fidget toy, it doesn’t need to be officially sold as such. The one most often used by my kids is sensory balls and we make our own for pennies.

Create Your Own Sensory Balls (for pennies each)

My kids also use things like knobby balls or stretchy snakes when they are sitting at their desks so that they have something in their hands to squeeze and pull and move around in their fingers but that doesn’t make a lot of noise or distract the other kids.

knobby balls

Project Sensory offers a wide variety of fidgets as well as other sensory items. They are focused on helping children succeed at navigating the world around them.

Fidgets image

Seat Aids…

Two of my kids really like the Movin’ Sit Cushion. This wonderful invention allows them to stay seated but move around silently at the same time! Not all of my SPD kids like it though.

movin' sit cushionThere are other ways to help your child with SPD in sitting. At places like Ikea, you can buy round textured disks that are about the size of a seat and some kids like the feel of sitting on them.

Another adjustment you can easily make to the chairs in your home to make them more SPD-friendly is to put a theraband or other type of stretchy band around the legs of the chair. This provides sensory feedback to a child who is sitting swinging their legs, as the backs of their legs will make contact with the theraband. One way to explain why some children find this helpful is this…children with SPD do not always have a good sense of where their own body is in space and when their legs swing freely while they sit, it can be an unsettling feeling, but providing a resistance band on the legs of the chair gives them feedback and lets them know where they are in relation to the chair and to the room around them.

Other suggestions include things such as bean bag chairs or swivel chairs, though I don’t recommend swivel chairs in a classroom setting! We have a bean bag chair in our homeschool classroom and it is very popular!

Sensory Bins…

We use sensory bins every day in our home and our homeschool. All of our kids love them and they have been particularly effective with our kids who have SPD. I try to make a different sensory bin every week. I sometimes incorporate what we are learning in our homeschooling into the sensory bin.

The Ultimate Guide to Sensory BinsChew Toys…

Some sensory kids feel the need to chew on things. If they are not given something to chew on, they will chew on pencils, clothes, toys, or even their own fingers. For “chewers”, chew toys are a healthy alternative to those things. There are chew toys that can be purchased, Chewlery (chewable jewelry), pencil toppers designed to be chewed on, or chewy wrist bands.

Play Dough…

Play dough is an inexpensive and effective tool to use with kids with SPD. If you have some readily available, kids can use it when they are anxious, overstimulated or even while they are trying to sit still and pay attention. The store-bought play dough doesn’t stay soft for very long and can get crumbly and messy, so I prefer to make my own such as this lavender scented playdough (although I don’t love all that stirring!). There are many wonderful recipes available for homemade playdough online like Jello Playdough and I have included some recipes in my Sensory Bins book.

Anxiety Aids…

Sometimes, sensory issues and anxiety can go hand-in-hand. For my youngest daughter who deals with anxiety due to other issues, I have created an anti-anxiety kit and many of the items in the kit are useful with all of my kids, particularly when they are overstimulated and are having a hard time self-regulating.

Create an Anti-Anxiety Kit for Your ChildSnugness… 

Some of my kids are more comfortable wearing tight clothing or having the feeling of being snug. There are several ways that we achieve this. One is by them wearing a gymnastics body suit (the kind that goes down almost to the knee) that is a size or two too small underneath their clothing. Innovaid carries a pressure vest that provides essentially the same effect and can be worn under or over clothing.

pressure vest

Another way is by using a sensory sock. You can make your own by sewing a tube with stretchy fabric.

Music…

Some children with SPD find music soothing and it can help with their self-regulation. For kids who prefer white noise, a small sound therapy machine can be invaluable. When it comes time to do quiet seat work in our homeschool, ironically, the classroom is actually quieter if I play music while the kids do their work!

Noise Reduction Headphones:

One of our sons could not get by without his noise reduction headphones. He is extremely sensitive to sound and uses them in the house and especially when we go somewhere that is going to be loud. I try to remember to bring them with us when we will be going to see fireworks or in a crowded place that may be noisy. They have made a huge difference.

Must Haves for Kids with Sensory Needsimage copyright: bnehus1 / 123RF Stock Photo

What items have you found to be must-haves with your kids with sensory needs?

If you are looking for more ideas for sensory needs, you may be interested in following my Sensory Activities for Kids and Sensory Processing Disorder boards on Pinterest.

Follow Sharla Kostelyk’s board Sensory Activities for Kids on Pinterest.

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