Mother of eight gives thoughts on motherhood, children with special needs

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By Ann Cipperly

With her love of children, Lynette Strickland has a heart for all kids and for expressing the importance of making each child feel treasured. Lynette and her husband, David, feel blessed to have eight children. They consider their seventh child, Henry, who has cerebral palsy, a miracle child, and feel honored to have come to know others with special needs.
When Lynette was in kindergarten, her family moved to Opelika from Chattanooga, Tenn. Her grandparents moved in with them when she was in the third grade. Her grandmother did most of the cooking, and they ate almost every meal at home.
Lynette didn’t develop an interest in cooking until after she was a student at Auburn University and living on her own. David, who grew up in Auburn, is also a graduate of Auburn University. He attended LSU for his master’s degree, then he moved back to Auburn.
Lynette and David were married while he was working at Ampex as a chemical engineer. He then worked for companies in several southern states before they moved back to Opelika in 2011. For the past several years, he has been teaching supply chain management at Auburn University.
While both Lynette and David grew up with only one sibling, they love having a big family with eight children.
They almost lost their seventh child, Henry, when he was born. He was taken immediately to a hospital in Montgomery where babies with heart and lung problems are sent. He became sick with sepsis.
While his doctor wanted to send Henry to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, there wasn’t a bed open At times, his medical team was not sure he would survive through the night.
The Stricklands’ pastor went to the hospital to pray with Lynette and David. “I just could not let Henry go,” remembers Lynette. “A few moments after prayer, I said if God needs Henry now, I will deal with it.
“Just a few minutes later the medical team called to let us know that Henry’s organs did not have permanent damage. Then they said Children’s Hospital just called, and there was a bed open.”
Since Henry was critically ill, his medical team in Montgomery did not want to wait for doctors at Children’s Hospital to arrive to get him. They took him immediately. His team at Children’s didn’t think Henry would make it through the night. He was on a ventilator, and his kidneys were not working.
“They said he was going to die if they didn’t do anything,” Lynette says, “and that he might die if they tried something.”
Lynette feels God gave their son a miracle. Henry is now 14 years old. He has cerebral palsy and wears a leg brace. He still goes to see doctors in Birmingham four or five times a year but does not have heart or lung problems.
Just as Henry came home from the hospital, Lynette and David learned his father had Leukemia.
While Henry was in the hospital, her parents were a huge help with the children. School teachers were also wonderful and brought them food and offered to keep their children after school until Lynette’s mother could pick them up.
“With Henry having cerebral palsy,” says Lynette, “we have met people we probably would have never met. We have been thrown into that special needs community, and that has been a blessing and an honor.
“We have met the sweetest people and seen heart break too. Everybody loves that child with a walker, but when they get to be teenagers, people think they aren’t cute anymore.
“We have a friend whose daughter has had ten surgeries on her legs,” says Lynette. “All she wanted was to be able to wear flip flops like her friends and for people not to ask her why she walks funny.”
Lynette’s father was an amputee in a wheelchair. “You don’t realize how unfriendly the world is for people in wheelchairs,” she says. “You don’t realize how much handicap parking spaces are so infringed upon. It is awful how people say they will only be a minute, and leave no place for those who need those parking spaces.”
Some of the most difficult parking spaces to get were when she was dropping Henry and his friends, who have walkers, off at school. She now homeschools the youngest two children.
All of the children have attended Opelika schools. The Stricklands’ children are Wilson and his wife Kayla who live in Ft. Collins, CO; Emma Bulso and husband Nick live in Nashville, TN., and have two children, Augustine and Maximilian, and baby number three due in July; Peter and his wife Paige reside in Atlanta, GA; Oliver, who will be moving to Atlanta; John David also lives in Ft. Collins; Cecilia, a student at Auburn University; Henry, 14, and Oscar, 11.
Cecilia is in pre-nursing and works at Oak Park where Lynette’s mother is living. Her parents were married for 66 years. Her father passed away last December.
While Lynette has a love for children and family, she also adores cooking for her family. “When I go in the kitchen to cook, that is my alone time,” states Lynette. “I might listen to music or a podcast while I am cooking. I am not one to say for everyone to come in the kitchen and let’s all cook together.”
Lynette is sharing their children’s favorite recipes.
When all the children were home, Lynette would double recipes to have enough for two meals. “It is not much harder to cook a big batch of something than a small batch,” she says. They have an extra freezer, which is convenient.
She enjoys making dishes from scratch. With Henry’s health issues, she has eliminated processed foods. For the most part, she makes their bread. All the children enjoy her baked chicken tenders. Sometimes she will cook them in an Air-Fryer to be crispy.
Now that there are only three children at home she has found it difficult to cut down big batches. When she used to make spaghetti, she cooked two boxes of pasta, and now they don’t eat one box.
Lynette has five Instant Pots in different sizes. She prefers making dishes such as chili in the Instant Pot since she doesn’t have to watch it or keep it stirred.
“Having a big family is not for everybody, and it is not for the faint of heart,” Lynette says. “It has been so rewarding for us. I am thankful for these two young ones in our home. Once our oldest child was old enough to babysit, we always had a babysitter. It was harder when there was no one old enough to babysit.
“I think it would be difficult if I didn’t have a great husband,” adds Lynette. “A lot of husbands don’t help that much, and I think they were raised that way. David is very hands-on. He is great daddy, great husband and a great provider. He loads and unloads the dishwasher all the time, he does his own laundry and is very helpful even though he works very hard.”
The Stricklands make a big deal out of birthdays and have a fun time when they are together.
“We never set our kids up to be jealous,” Lynette says. “My kids have always been excited and welcoming a new baby. Every time friends or family had children we have been excited and took them meals. I want my kids to think it is a joyous time; not a time to think my life is going to change or I can’t get that new car now.
“I feel it is a real blessing to be a mother,” she adds. “When I had my last two children, I felt honored that I was able to have another child, and to show people that, just because I am having a child in my mid-40s, my life is not going to end.
“We look to God ,” Lynette states, “to see the blessings in our lives.”

Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Yummy Chicken Tenders
Tweaked from a friend’s recipe to suit our gang. These are easy to make ahead and freeze on a cookie sheet until frozen, then placed in a freezer container. I also keep the breading mixture in the refrigerator to make these easier to whip up on a busy weeknight if I don’t have any in the freezer.
BREADING MIXTURE (large batch):
2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs
2 cups moderately crushed cornflakes, unsweetened (I put them in a food processor and pulse a few times. Leave a little texture.
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. garlic salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
Mix all ingredients well and keep in zip loc bag in the refrigerator until ready to make the tenders.
Only put a small amount of the breading at a time into a bowl when making the tenders until you need more because you don’t want to contaminate your extra breading with the raw chicken.
CHICKEN:
Pre-cut raw chicken tenders or chicken breasts cut strips
I usually get 4 strips from each average sized chicken breast.
BREADING AND COOKING:
Buttermilk, plain yogurt thinned or milk
Set up your breading station with a small bowl of buttermilk, plain yogurt thinned with milk or plain milk kefir and a separate bowl with a small amount of breading (you can always add more as needed).
Dip each tender in the milk and then in the breading, pressing the breading into the chicken to stick.
Lay the breaded tenders on a roasting pan with a drip tray. Coat with cooking oil spray. Can use an Air-Fryer.
Bake the tenders at 425 for 20-30 minutes until cooked through or air-fry at 400 for 20 minutes or until cooked through. The breading should be crispy cooked either way. All our children love these!

Easy Pot Pie
There was a time when I had to make three of these to feed our family for dinner, one with chicken and veggies, one with just veggies and one with only chicken.
For each pie:
Two pie crusts, homemade or store-bought
15 oz. can cream soup (We use cream of mushroom for the veggie pie and cream of chicken for the pies with chicken in them.)
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. each of onion powder and garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Filling:
1-2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced or pulled into bite-sized pieces (Use 2 if not adding veggies to your pie.)
1½ cups (for chicken/veggie pie or 2½ if making a veggie pie) of your choice cooked or canned veggies: diced carrots, green beans, diced potatoes, sliced mushrooms, English peas, corn, etc.
Directions:
In a large bowl, mix cream soup, sour cream and spices. Stir in chicken and/or veggies.
Line a deep dish pie plate with one pie crust, fill in with filling mixture and top with second pie crust and press to seal around the edges. Make a few slits in top crust for steam to escape.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until crust is browned and filling is bubbly.

Our Favorite Granola
We make a new batch of this each week to store in the pantry. We eat it as cold cereal with milk, on yogurt, or just as a snack.
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup each of assorted chopped nuts, totally 3 cups (Our favorites are macadamia, pecans and sliced almonds.)
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup packed brown sugar
⅓ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup melted coconut oil
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice
1 cup raisins (optional)
Combine all dry ingredients except raisins into a large bowl. Stir in maple syrup and oil. Stir well to combine.
Spread mixture onto 2-3 sheet pans and bake at 250 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to insure even baking. Once cool, add raisins ,if desired. Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Mixed Grill Dinner Marinades
When we grill out for the whole family, everyone wants something different! Mix the marinade and pour over meat or veggies in a freezer zip loc bag for easy cleanup. Marinate for at least an hour, up to overnight.
For Chicken:
Marinates 2-3 chicken breasts
⅓ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Weber brand roasted garlic and herb seasoning (or 1 tsp. each garlic salt, onion powder and Montreal steak seasoning)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
For Steak:
Tweaked from a friend’s family recipe. Marinates a large flank steak, 2 ribeye steaks or equivalent.
½ cup olive oil
⅓ cup yellow mustard
⅓ cup Dale’s or Moore’ Sauce or soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Montreal Steak seasoning
2 tsp. garlic salt
For Shrimp:
Marinates 1 lb. large peeled shrimp
⅓ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. garlic salt
1 Tbsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. dried parsley
Juice of ½ lemon
For Veggies:
Marinates 3-4 cups mixed veggies such as sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, sliced squash- yellow or zucchini, onions. Grill on a slotted grill pan over charcoal or gas grill.
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. garlic salt
¼ cup Moore’s, Dale’s or soy sauce

Clean Out the Fridge fried Rice
This freezes well and was a favorite in our daughter, Ceci’s, lunch box for school. Rice is a staple in our house, and we make a big pot each of brown and white rice (we use basmati or jasmine rice) a couple of times per week, so we always have cooked rice on hand. This recipe works best with cold rice.
In a wok or large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. coconut or peanut oil until hot. Stir fry any raw hard veggies you like (chopped onion, shredded carrots, sliced bell peppers, sliced water chestnuts, etc.) until nearly soft. Add any raw meat (chicken, steak or shrimp) and stir fry until cooked through.
Add any soft raw veggies next, like mushrooms or broccoli and stir fry.
Next add 1-2 cups cold brown or white rice and break up any clumps. Sprinkle everything well with soy or tamari sauce, about ¼ cup and stir well.
If just using leftover veggies and/or meat (non-raw), stir fry the cold rice in the oil first and then add cooked meat or veggies in with the soy sauce after the rice is heated through. We usually use leftover cooked rice, cooked chicken,
cooked carrots and cooked broccoli.
When everything is cooked and heated through with the soy sauce, stir in 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil and salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Poo Poo Cookies (aka Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies)
Nearly everyone’s mom has a recipe for these. My children love these favorites that I also grew up enjoying. My guys renamed them Poo Poo Cookies because of how they look, but don’t let looks fool you as they are yummy! Try to make them on one of our few low humidity days here in the
South. They set up better in dry weather.
½ cup butter
½ cup milk
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups quick cooking oats
In a large pot, melt the butter with the milk, sugar, salt and cocoa over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and boil for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla, stirring well. Next stir in the oatmeal. At this int the mixture should be starting to harden. Working quickly, drop by spoonful onto wax or parchment paper. I like to use a cookie or ice cream scoop for uniform sized cookies). Allow to harden before eating, if you can!

Chocolate Chip Pie
Serve warm with a scoop of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream!
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
Pie shell
Combine all ingredients except pie shell. Pour into the pie shell and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.
Best served warm, but still delicious at room temperature.

Patricia’s Banana Pudding
This delicious recipe was passed on to me years ago from our friend, Patricia Bennett (may she rest in peace).
Family size vanilla instant pudding, made per package directions.
Large tub of Cool Whip
1 cup sour cream
1-2 boxes vanilla wafers (Don’t use the low fat ones if you want your cookies to get soft in the pudding since those stay crunchy.)
4-5 ripe bananas
In a large bowl, mix together prepared vanilla pudding, sour cream and half of the Cool Whip.
In a serving bowl (I like to use a tall glass trifle bowl.) or lasagna style dish, layer the vanilla wafers, then part of the pudding mixture, topped with sliced bananas. Then add another layer of vanilla wafers, pudding mixture, sliced bananas and so on until the ingredients fill the serving dish. Top with the remaining Cool Whip.
Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight to soften the vanilla wafers. The sour cream helps the banana slices from turning brown.

Our Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 eggs
15 oz. can of pure pumpkin( not pumpkin pie filling)
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup butterscotch chips (Don’t omit! This is the special ingredient!)
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
In a large bowl, mix flour, sugars, spices, baking soda and powder salt.
In another bowl, mix pumpkin and melted butter, then slowly drizzle in beaten eggs. Mix wet with dry ingredients and then stir in butterscotch chips and nuts, if using.
Scoop into muffin tin or loaf pan and bake in preheated 350 oven for loaf for 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. If making muffins, bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until done through.

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