My son has autism – Now What??

My youngest child has autism.  He was officially diagnosed 6 1/2 years ago.  Like many parents, I KNEW something was not right with our youngest child.  He was not progressing and developing like my older 2 children.  He was exhibiting  the signs of autism I had read about in Parenting magazines and books.  While I was slowly coming to the realization of the challenges that were ahead, my toughest challenge was getting a confirmed diagnosis.

What happens when you get the “Official” diagnosis??  Well, if you are normal, you start to google everything you can about autism and how to fix it.  You probably buy the Jenny McCarthy book(s) that talk about her son.  You might join a few Yahoo groups to find comfort in numbers.  You can cry, yell, feel sorry for yourself, drink too much one night, and just basically try to do anything to wake yourself up from this nightmare.

I did all those things.  None of them worked and a few of them left me feeling like a truck ran over me.  When I realized that the answers did not lie with Yahoo groups or Google (Jenny McCarthy too), the real work began.  I have been working with different doctors, teachers, and mentors for 6 years to try and find the best treatment plan for our son.  It has not been easy and the work will never end.

If you have a child diagnosed with autism, the best thing to do is find someone who is on the same journey as you.  The news reports 1 in 88 children is diagnosed on the spectrum.  If that number is true it will not be difficult to find another family in the same situation.  Find a family that is using different ideas for treating autism.  I recommend staying away from those who advocate no vaccinations and ADD or ADHD medications.  Our son is on a Gluten, Dairy (I know the irony :-)), Soy, Nuts, Egg, and Legume free diet.  He also takes supplements each day to make up for those important vitamins and minerals he lacks.  Is everyday great??  NO.  But it is better than him screaming ALL day.  As I said, it is a journey and it is paved with lots of ups and downs.  You just need to ride out the lows to get to the highs.


Joey and his siblings. Most people who meet him would never guess he is autistic.


5 “Stupid” Myths about Organic Dairy Farming!!

I want to address 5 myths about Organic Dairy Farming and why I believe you are stupid if you believe and REPEAT any of them as truths.

1.  A cow or calf gets sick – you just let her die. Are you serious??  All my cows have names and personalities and are very important to me.  I look forward to playing with the calves when I am feeding them and I am sad when they grow up and leave my barn .  I have a conscience.  I have feelings.  I have a heart.  Prevention is the best way to prevent my cows and calves from getting sick.  I do everything possible to prevent them from getting sick.  This includes vaccinations, clean bedding, and good calving environment.  BUT, if one of my babies does gets sick and it is necessary to treat her with conventional medicine, I do it.  It is a tough choice to make but I do it because it is the right thing to do.  Unfortunately I must remove her from our operation and this is the last thing I want to do.  So bottom line – I DO NOT HAVE COWS OR CALVES LAYING AROUND MY FARM DYING BECAUSE I WILL NOT TREAT THEM.

2.  Organic milk is more nutritious than Conventional milk.  While I wish this was true, there is no scientific evidence concluding organic milk is safer or healthier than conventional milk.  The only reason I wish it were true is because it would increase the demand and increase organic milk sales.  But to date there is no evidence supporting this claim.  Organic Milk is a choice.  A choice similar to Hemp bedding sheets versus Cotton Bedding sheets or Organic Cheerios versus Regular Cheerios.  Just a another consumer choice.  

3.  I am an Organic Dairy Farmer because I am a “Hippie” type gal and this is how I live my life.  WRONG!!!  The 2 reasons we transitioned to Organic Dairy Farming.  1- We have the ideal climate, topography, and farm to successfully pasture milk cows.  2 – It is easier to “ride out” the volatile conventional milk prices received at the farm.  I love Starbucks, Kate Spade purses, all things Disney, and drive a SUV.  YIKES!!  Not the “HIPPIE” lifestyle at all!!  We want to stay in Western Washington and run our 4th generation farm.  This is possible because we are organic.

4.  Our cows must be lower quality, lower producing, and overall inferior animal compared to the conventional cow.  NO WAY!!  I am happy to share my kids are super involved in several dairy shows in Washington State and I am happy to report our animals are competitive.  It is all about cow care.  My son has won multiple fairs with Grand Champion Holstein, Grand Champion Jersey, and my daughter has done very well with her 2 Brown Swiss and holstein.  We work very hard to prepare these animals and the awards prove we have animals that can compete!!

5.  We completely embrace the “Organic” life.  We live in Washington.  Pot is Legal!!  However, that does not mean that we have decided to embrace this questionable lifestyle.  I guess if we could figure out how to grow and sell Organic Pot we may think about it.  But as I read more and more stories about Pot growers in our state getting robbed because they can not deposit any of the money they earn from their business, I figure the risk is just not worth it.  For me and my family, we will stay with milking cows.  Someone else can capitalize on the organic pot market.

I hope I have cleared up a few myths about Organic Dairy Farming.  It really is not that complicated and I love what we do.  


Grilled Cheese for a cold miserable day like today PLEASE!!

Winter is a tough time around the farm.  Calves need to get fed, cows need to be bred, all the same chores I enjoy during the summer MUST be done during the winter too!!  BUT, it is cold, rainy, and miserable here in Western Washington.  So when I come in for lunch, soup and a grilled cheese sandwich make me feel warm and toasty.  Here is a wonderful Grilled Cheese Recipe. Add some yummy Tomato Soup and my lunch is complete!!

Mediterranean Grilled Cheese Sandwich

2 slices rustic white bread or sourdough bread
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 oz. Wisconsin Whole Milk Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 oz. Wisconsin Feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups fresh spinach
4 Roma tomato slices
2 Tbsp diced black olives
1 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp finely minced garlic (about 1/3 clove)
Freshly ground black pepper


Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a non-stick 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add garlic and spinach and saute until spinach begins to wilt, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, stir in basil and set aside. To assemble sandwich, spread Mozzarella and Feta cheese over one slice of bread into an even layer. Layer tomatoes in a single layer over cheese. Spread spinach mixture over tomatoes then sprinkle olives and red onions over tomatoes. Season with freshly ground black pepper and top with remaining slice of bread.
Spread 1 tsp olive oil evenly over skillet, add sandwich and heat over medium-low heat. Cook until bottom is golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes, then remove sandwich from pan. Spread remaining 1 tsp olive oil evenly along skillet, carefully rotate sandwich to opposite side and return to pan over medium-low heat. Cover skillet with lid and cook until bottom is golden brown, about 2 – 3 minutes. Serve immediately.




2015 Expectations

It is hard to believe I am sitting here looking at my expectations for 2015.  My husband was remembering the last time we celebrated the New Year in Reno (a former  annual tradition).  It was the 2000 Millennium.  We watched as we marched into a new century and it is amazing that was 15 years ago.  So much in our life has changed, changes we never anticipated, changes we hope for, and changes we wanted to make.  But now as I stare at a new blank 2015 year of “365 days” (what I have seen ALL over FB posts), I am putting together my expectations for the coming year. Why expectations??  I think goals leave room for failure or an excuse for when you don’t achieve them.  To me “expectations” mean I expect to accomplish, achieve, or finish these goals.  So here are a few expectations for 2015:

1.  Let some things go.  I know this may sound cheezy but I need to let some things just “GO”.  I want to take this year and try to repair or rekindle some relationships I had in the past.  Things happen.  People say and do things.  You never know why someone does something to you, but I need to just “Let it go” and try to move on (Darn Disney movie…)

2.  Increase number of heifers calves born on our farm.  This is the way we expand internally and now with our new calf barn, this will be so much easier.  A good calf raising facility makes raising calves easier for everyone!!

Chocolate at 2 days old

Of course I want a few more of these cuties!!

3.  Learn to Artificially Inseminate Dairy Cows.  I want to learn this for a variety of reason.  A few a obvious – 1.  Help increase the number of pregnant cows in the herd.  2.  Help my husband.  3.  Because I want to be able to say “I Can Do It!!”.  This one will be a tough one to accomplish.  It involves time away from the family but if I can swing it I want to learn.

4.  Increase the visibility of the farm.  This is the year to start the publicity for the farm.  I’ve got the farm logo, now it is time to take the next steps.  It is going to be fun to see where we can take this.  Luckily I have kids that help this “techie” challenged mom and hopefully do it right!!

SunTon Farms_LogoRe-Design

So as we steam into 2015, I hope all your dreams come true.  As for me and our family, we will be hard at work trying to meet or surpass my expectations for the year!!  Lots of hard work ahead but I would definitely not have it any other way!!

What a great 2014!!

As I sit here and listen to “Let It Go” on the Ryan Seacreast New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show, I sit back and realize what a great 2014 our farm and family enjoyed.  As with any year on a dairy farm, there are always highs AND lows.  But overall our farm and family had a pretty fantastic year.  Here are some of the highlights:

Dairy Cow Shows – Our family participated in a record number of cows shows in 2014. We had the pleasure to participate, develop friendships, and make memories at the 1st Annual Evergreen Junior Dairy Show, Lewis County Youth Fair, Washington State Black and White Show (1st time!!), Southwest Washington Fair, Pacific County Fair, Western National Jersey Show, Western National Brown Swiss Show, FFA Dairy Show for Lewis County and Washington State, and the 4-H Lewis County and Washington State Fair.  Here are some of the photo highlights:


The 2014 Washington State Black and White Show



Junior Champion – Grand Champion Female Washington State Black and White Show


Washington State 4-H Show Junior and Intermediate Fit and Show Champion

New Calf Barn – We are almost finished with our new calf barn.  At this point we have raised almost 75 heifers in this new facility.  It is so amazing how a new facility does so much to help such a critical component of our farm.  Raising healthy heifers helps transition to healthy productive milk cows.  Here are some highlights of our new calf barn:


The doors we uses to move in and out with tractors.

The doors we uses to move in and out with tractors.

IMG_1818 IMG_1817Healthy Happy Family – I am happy to say we have had a wonderful year as a family.  We had one child enter high school as well as our youngest 2 are now middle school kids.  We have transitioned to a whole new high school environment as well as a new principal at our Catholic School.  Our kids love school, love to play sports, and enjoy the farm.  While every day is clearly NOT “disney” happy, in general we are proud of what we were able to accomplish in 2014 and we are looking forward to what we can accomplish in 2015.  A few of our highlights:


2014 National Holstein Convention


First day of snowboarding and it was successful!!

First day of snowboarding and it was successful!!


2014 Western National Brown Swiss Show


Too many great accomplishments to list with Zach’s favorite show cow!!

Looking forward to a new year with so many possibilities!!  We have many goals and stay tuned to see what the goals are for our farm and family for 2015!!  In the mean time, I will enjoy the rest of the Ryan Seacrest New Year’s Eve Rockin’ Party.  The ONLY time I will enjoy Ryan Seacrest……..                                                    

Insisting on Snowboarding

I have 3 kids.  3 kids means lots of soccer, basketball, t-ball, swimming lessons….. You get the idea.  Our kids have participated in all things sports with the exception of our youngest son who is autistic.  Every thing I have read and people I have spoken with usually same the same thing.  Team sports are very difficult for children with autism.  Our youngest definitely falls into this category.  Soccer – he could not be a part of the team because he did not understand and want to pass the ball and interact with his teammates.  Basketball – the buzzer was way too loud and again the interaction with the teammates.  T-ball -never even tried.  Swimming – worked a little better but couldn’t keep him paying attention long enough to move beyond the “guppy” level type class.  My husband had the idea that this year skiing would be our big gift to the kids.

I have to admit I was a HUGE skeptic.  As i hurried around looking for ski socks, gloves, pants, etc. I couldn’t shake the feeling this was going to be a disaster.  Especially because Joey has expressed that he only wants to snowboard.  When asked, he explained “I am really awesome on the wii”.  OK…….. So the husband, brother-in-law, and the kids set off yesterday for their first ski adventure.  I am happy to report Joey did amazing.  He would only snowboard and lucky for him, his super patient uncle helped him figure it out.

Another small victory in our journey with Joey.  When I listen to parents complain about all the different sports they are driving their kids to, instead of being envious because their children have the ability and desire to participate, I can now take comfort that we have found something Joey can do.

First day of snowboarding and it was successful!!

First day of snowboarding and it was successful!!

Lefse – A Family Tradition

Lefse – My family has a Scandinavian history.  Growing up, I remember making lefse with my grandmother.  I always remember it being a Christmas time family activity.  My mom, sister, and I would spend a Saturday at “Bobbie’s” house making lefse.  Lefse is similar to a flour tortilla but it is made of potatoes, whipping cream, butter, and flour.  It is rolled out and cooked on a super hot griddle.  There are special lefse “flippers” and a technique to flipping.  Best of all, my kids look forward to making lefse when school gets out for Christmas break.  We spend several days cooking and always watch “The Sound of Music”.  I love that I am creating memories with my children as well as caring on the tradition of making lefse.  I also love that Lefse requires 2 dairy products to make – Butter and Heavy Whipping Cream.  YUMMY!!!!


My Lefse rolling pin, flippers, and board.


This is the lefse after it has been rolled.


The special griddle that cooks the lefse at 500 degrees.


A major problem – my husband and kids eat the lefse as soon as it comes off the griddle. This is why I do 35 pounds of potatoes and it takes me several days to cook all of them.


My Last Minute Gifts – Do I have the time??

My last minute Christmas gifts that my kids (all are on break!!) can help with.
Christmas is next week, and time is running short for gift buying. What could be more perfect than a gift that’s quick and easy to make and packaged with love? We have a large family and circle of friends so I spread the holiday cheer with a jar full of cookies.  It makes it more special when the kids have helped put them together.  My holiday favorite cookies are:

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies



Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies


Cookies for Santa


We Survived Sedation and the Dentist

A few days ago I wrote about our impeding visit to the dentist with my autistic son.  I am happy to report he tolerated the sedation and dental work very well.  No parent is ok with having their child sedated or under anesthesia.  Unfortunately this was our only option to do some necessary dental work on our son.  I was worried about all the normal things you worry about but then it was amplified to whole new level because I had no idea how he would react.  The doctors prepared me for the “devil” child to emerge when he started to wake up.  “Oh great…….”  I am pleased to say all he did was act like he was waking up from a super duper nap.  No bad behavior, aggressive acts, screaming (the girl before him did plenty of that), or crying.  He simply took his own “sweet” time waking up.  I actually was able to breathe some relief when the doctor said he is good, you are welcome to go home anytime.  Later in the afternoon at home, he asked if he was ever going to have to wear that awful “gas” mask again.  I smiled and nicely stated “As long as you do a wonderful outstanding job brushing your teeth twice a day, you will probably never wear the gas mask again”.  It seems this is the motivation he needed to do a better job of brushing.  Another hurdle was cleared today………. what will the next one be??


Our son Joey who was diagnosed with autism at age 3

Our son Joey who was diagnosed with autism at age 3

Autism and a visit to the Dentist

My youngest son is Autistic and last week I posted a blog about the challenge of “Secret Santa”.  Well, we are working our way through “Secret Santa” week – just a few minor issues.  But now it is the Dentist.  No human on this planet likes going to the dentist – PERIOD!!  No one likes to have their teeth poked, scraped, drilled, filled……  I think there is nothing like a dental visit that generates a consensus among people about the “wonderful” world of dentistry.  But what if you have an autistic child?  It is a challenge on a whole new level!!  I am blessed that we have found a wonderful dentist in our home town.  She and her staff are so wonderful and understanding with our son.  But, when it comes to the cavities and such she prefers to have someone who specializes in pediatric dentistry.  Luckily, we have someone close (45 minutes away) who can treat him.  I would love to say that it has been all rainbows and lollipops.  It has been successful so far but now we have a very large cavity that needs attention.  I have 2 options, the traditional method that we all hate (the most painful shot in the world) or sedation.  Sedation scares me but after praying and trying to decide what would be best and most tolerable for my Joey it seems this will be best.  My biggest fear is that if we tried the conventional method (the most painful shot in the world), I would forever create a negative unpleasant experience that would forever make Joey want to avoid the dentist at all costs.  I fear that would be more dangerous and unhealthy for Joey.  So for now we will try the sedation route.  My hope is he will be so preoccupied about how hungry he is and maybe it will be easier for him to get through the procedure.  He will know that when he finishes this procedure, an amazing lunch of his choice will be his reward.  Wish us luck!!

Our son Joey who was diagnosed with autism at age 3

Our son Joey who was diagnosed with autism at age 3