Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Trying New Things: Extreme Focus

Collaborative homeschooling is going well.  We are utilizing early mornings since my kids are morning people, nap times, and time when D is home so I can focus one-on-one with the bigs.  I feel like we are getting a ton done considering it's summer and our schedule is modified.  I'm happy with how it is going so far.

This week my goal is extreme focus on something I have been working on for five years:  my novel.

Grown ups can work consistently on a project, little by little, chipping away at the work until it is complete.  This is how Dennis has written two books during the years where we were multiplying like rabbits.  I'm not a grown up.  I start and stop and get distracted by my shadow.  I like to read about writing and talk about writing; I can see the book unfold in my head, but I am not good at just consistently sitting down and doing the work.

The most I have accomplished ever was in November during National Novel Writing Month, also called NaNo.  What was different?  No clue.  I just went onto the NaNo website, logged my words daily, and suddenly they started adding up.  Was it the fact that other people were doing this too, even though I didn't have contact with them?  Was it the accountability of actually typing in how many words I did a day?  Was it the short term sprint mentality of just putting in one really hyper focused month?  I don't know.  It just worked.

Starting tomorrow, NaNo is having a camp.  I will have bunk mates to cheer me on and we will log our words for the entire month of July.  At the end, I hope to have a finished book.  It will be an unrevised, choppy mess, but it will hopefully be a finished rough draft.

For the month of July, I am putting everything else on the back burner, at least the things that can go on the back burner.  I still have to do all the momming (I am making being a mom a verb because it feels like one).  I am going to try to blog twice a week.  Bible study ALWAYS stays priority.  But novel writing, 1612 words a day, has to come before the following:  reading, running (though working out usually provides inspiration), learning Spanish (currently 23% fluent), and generally surfing the internet for useless things I don't need to know.  It may be hard to get a hold of me through Facebook or Twitter for the next 31 days.

I am still going to read, but I don't anticipate knocking out my usual five or six books a month.  Instead I am focusing on finishing these books by the end of August.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Homemakers by Brit Morin
Middlemarch by George Eliot
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

They are long, I'll be short on time, but reading also offers inspiration.  I don't need to lose steam halfway through this.

So, if you're not busy in August, maybe you can revise my book?  I'm pretty sure I'll be too tired to even look at it by then.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Menu Posting and Book Updates

I'm going to look for some new ideas for breakfast this week since my kids are starting to gripe about eggs everyday.  The weird thing is that as much as they gripe about eggs for breakfast, they want to eat them for lunch.  Go figure.

Eggs and Canadian bacon
Eggs and chicken sausage
Peanut butter muffins
Check last week's menu posting to see how I modify this muffin recipe.

ham roll ups with hummus, veggies, and fruit

Twisted Root for the twins' birthday
Daiya gluten-free, dairy-free pizza
turkey burgers with sauteed carrots, snap peas and broccoli
Eggs, Canadian bacon and fruit
Sweet potato chip Italian chicken nachos
Purchase or make just pure sweet potato chips, not the ones with corn.  Put them on a baking dish. Add already cooked chicken and then pasta sauce.  Throw on some vegan cheese if you have some. Bake or broil until warm  Yum!
Ground turkey on top of veggies with olives and coconut aminos
Beef broccoli, carrots, and snap peas with coconut aminos

peanut butter muffins
Kind bars
chocolate covered strawberries
banana swirl sundaes with chocolate chips and leftover fruit snacks for toppings
raw veggies dipped in hummus

It's been a good month for reading.  Unfortunately, I suffered a pretty severe case of bronchitis early in the month that put me out of commission for a couple of days.  On a positive note, that two days in bed gave me time to read between sleeping!  So far this month:

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet
Quirky.  It was from my list from Bookpages.  I'm just going to stick with quirky.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan (not as good as Atonement, but still good)
CounterCulture by David Platt
This book is very relevant to where we are right now in terms of dealing with big issues.  Highly recommend.
Child 44 
This was a recommendation from D, and it did not disappoint.  However, warn everyone in your house not to sneak up on you while you are reading this book.  In fact, tell them to yell, "I am entering the room now" if they need to come to the place you are reading after dark.  My heart stopped at least two times when someone walked in on me reading this at night.
Design Mom by Gabrielle Stanley Blair
Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos

I'm currently reading The Year of Reading Dangerously, which is making me want to read a ton of books that weren't on my list for this year.  It's not a bad problem to have, this endless supply of awesome literature to explore.

Here's my question:  What, in your opinion, is the one book everyone should read in their lifetime?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Bill Maher Brings Me Closer to Jesus

D and I have a Saturday night tradition we quite enjoy.  We watch Bill Maher's show RealTime on YouTube, pausing to discuss.

If you know who Bill Maher is, then you know his goal in life is not to bring people closer to Jesus.  Quite the contrary.  He is an atheist, liberal, secularist who, when he has Christian guests on the show, usually asks them about their "imaginary friend, Jesus."  He is a comedian who has built a stand-up routine on being anti-all religion, even making a documentary about it.

So why do we watch?  For one, I like funny people.  I hate that so many comedians have taken the offensive raunchy route to laughs, but there are a few who are genuinely funny.  Maher can be over-the-top, I don't agree with him on most things, but he can be hilarious when he is on about an issue.  Plus, though he is a liberal, he knows how to call out his side when they aren't doing what he believes they should do.  That's something you don't see much these days.  People pledge allegiance to a party or ideal, and then they will follow that group into the ground carrying all the hate, aggression and misinformation given to them without so much as a question.

Which brings me to how I walk away closer to Jesus after watching an atheist rant for an hour.

Maher usually has a pretty wide variety of guests, some who are going to vehemently disagree with each other on every issue.  It's a good way to try to see both sides, but it's also an awesome way to see why following Jesus is so much better than following people.  It's a reminder that I am guilty of trying to form Jesus into some other image, usually one that fits into my middle-class, small-town raised, suburban-living existence instead of trying to be formed more into His image.  I take a stance on an issue then I start manipulating Jesus' words to make sure we are unified.  I jump first and try to drag Jesus with me down the path I've chosen.  From what I've seen, I'm not the only one.

At the end of the show D and I usually end up rehashing what we've seen and asking in all seriousness:  What would Jesus do?  Based on the current issues discussed tonight, what is the Biblical response?  Did anybody on that show present it?  Much of the time, despite sincere efforts from Christians, their "Biblical" view ends up being accepted unbiblical truisms meant to serve a political purpose.  When Maher asked one Christian guest what Jesus would think about her view on a hot-button political issue, she answered, "He'd be fine with it.  Jesus doesn't want me taking in homeless people."  Maher, a former Catholic, shot back with, "Actually, I think that's exactly what Jesus said to do."

These exchanges help me remember that Jesus did not come down to pledge allegiance to a country or a political movement.  He is outside and beyond all of that.  Yes, our faith should affect every action, including how we vote, but things get murky when people start waving the God flag to grab the God people, some of who will not question intent or motive or demand more from representatives as long as they think they are on the God side.  I've seen politics make people very stupid.  I've been very stupid for their sake.  It's infuriating.

That's where our Saturday night ritual helps me.  RealTime with Bill Maher is my glass of red wine, stabilizing my blood pressure and keeping me mellow as political season creeps closer.  It helps remind me that no matter who wins the election (and I am honestly at a point where I don't feel like I have much skin in this game) I know which direction to go, who to seek, and that the end game is not in the hands of presidential candidates.  I will make an informed decision, vote, and that will be that. I walk away from the show more dedicated to knowing my Jesus and truly trying to understand His will and His ways instead of being the person who tries to fit Him into my box with the label I want.   When the show is over on Saturday, I feel even more grateful to have a relationship with Christ, the exact opposite of what I think Maher wanted to accomplish, but God can work anything for His glory.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trying New Things Tuesday: Collaborative Homeschooling

Sammy is four and a half years old.  Sometimes I glance at him and am startled because I'm not prepared for him to be this big boy with long arms and legs, his dad's features spread across his face.

At four and a half, Wren started sight reading.   It was just a few minutes a day, slow going, but it built the foundation for her reading skills.  It hit me last week that Sammy could technically start now if he wanted to.  There's nothing to say that every kid learns the same or needs to do things at the same time, but I decided to float the idea his way, and he wanted to give it a go.

Here's the thing:  Two of my kids (I call them the bigs) are doing homeschool work and two of my kids (the twins or the littles) are toddlers.  I would love to wax poetic about how having seen the bigs through their toddler years I'm totally prepared to handle two two-years old.  But I'm not.  This is so new and I have not yet figured out the best approach.  Almost always, one of the twins is pissed.  They can't reach something, they aren't allowed to eat glue, they want chocolate chips for breakfast, not eggs.  When one calms down, the other gears up.  It is a phase, but I have to figure out how to manage the needs of all four when two currently attempt to dominate by screaming, planking (when you try to pick them up and fold them into the stroller but they go all rigid), or just generally refusing to follow any directions.  It will be trial and error.

This morning we managed by having Sam put together word puzzles, followed by Wren using the words to write sentences on the board.  Two birds, one stone, 15 minutes.  We are also utilizing parts of the twins' nap time to work on homeschool skills.  My goal this week is to figure out what works and get a schedule going that is more firm and consistent so everyone knows what to expect.

Of course, it's good to stay flexible with four kids.  Things will change, people will go in and out of phases.  Still, I'm hoping to find some kind of rough draft rhythm to the school days.  I'll let you know next week.

Friday, June 19, 2015

And Then The Two Turned Two

So, I have two two year-olds.  I can't even believe I just typed that.  In honor of the twins' birthday, or the day also known as the day they were evicted from my uterus because I could no longer stand upright, here are a few things to know about our girls:

They aren't very good at hide and seek.  See below.

"They'll never see us, I'm sure of it!"

They shared a womb, and that's all they plan on sharing.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say the next forever years of my life are going to be spent breaking up fights over every material item known to man.  In general, Eowyn takes what is in Asher's hands and walks away with it.  Asher lays in the floor and cries.  Originally, this was completely reversed, and now Asher is getting a little sick of it again, so the tables may be turning soon.  I think I'm going to put a mud pit in the floor and just let them wrestle it out so I don't have to be involved.  The carpet already looks like crap anyway.

This is Eowyn trying her sneak-up-and-take-it move.
Asher is giving her the I'm-about-to-scream look.

French fries are the gateway to their souls.

Gluten-free French fries from In-N-Out Burgers or Twisted Root are the ultimate go to for happy babies.  Teething?  French fries.  Anxiety over being around a lot of people?  French fries, then they're everyone's best friends.  We don't do it often, so when we do and there are 10 consecutive minutes of quiet while they chew, I feel no guilt.  Just happiness.
Eowyn in purple, Asher in red.  This is bliss.

They develop at their own pace.

At this point, Asher is better at physical things like climbing while Eowyn has more words.  This leads to frustration for both of them when they can't do the same thing as sister, but I'm pretty sure one day they are going to figure out that Eowyn can verbally direct while Asher scales the cabinets to retrieve their items of choice.  That days scares me.

Potty training is going to be gross, but I think they are ready.

Two naked butts, double the output in our floor.  Whatever.  I'm tired of paying for diapers.  We're going for it!  One of them has already peed in the potty, but we're not sure which one because they were both naked and we weren't watching.  We high fived everyone just for good measure.

Asher in yellow, Eowyn in green.  One of them peed
in those potties, so yay!

They will always be the babies (unless we have a "surprise")

I notice that we still call Asher and Eowyn the babies.  I think it's just because they are the youngest, because when Wren was two years and 12 days, I had Sammy.  When Sammy was two and a half, I had the twins.  Upon the entrance of a new baby, the oldest child, even if they were only two, looked like some adult behemoth.  With no comparison to actual infant babies, the twins still get deemed our babies.  I cannot even IMAGINE being pregnant right now or being close to having another child, so they will probably forever get away with a ton more than their older siblings and get tired of being called the "little ones".

They encourage each other to go rogue

At VBS, guess what we learned?  Stuff about Jesus, and also that Asher and Eowyn cannot walk while holding a rope (can't might better be replaced with the word won't), only sit down if they are good and in the mood, and generally assume because they come in a pair they run the joint.  They don't misbehave but are just super confident in their abilities to own a room and not be bothered too much because there are two of them, so interference is complicated, tedious, and generally involves tons of time and effort.  They towed the line pretty well since this was their first time at anything this structured, but it was fairly hilarious to watch Eowyn sprint down the hall the wrong direction while Asher sat on the floor refusing to walk.  It was funny until I had to run to catch Eowyn, then it sucked because I am not in shape and she had a major head start.

They go to sleep at night listening to the Blade Runner soundtrack.

This has everything to do with Dennis and zero to do with me.

They are both mischievous, but there is something in Eowyn's eyes that lets me know she will probably be the one I have to start re-reading parenting books about.  She was my first biter, the one who thinks the word no is a suggestion, and who also has the ability to cuddle with you and make you totally forget that she repainted the hallway without permission.  Eowyn still also likes to grab my chest and scream "boobies" when she is sad.  Glad the old girls can perk somebody up after all this time!

Asher is sensitive.  Look at her the wrong way, bump into her, and she is going to wail for an hour.  There are times she gets so caught up in her own drama that she will be 30 minutes into a screaming session before she realizes she has no idea why she is upset.  At that point she just lays face down in the floor until she has the strength to move again.  Drama?  I think so.  I see her making real changes in the world because people will just do what she wants so she will stop shrieking.  But when she crawls in my lap, hugs me and then starts patting my back, I still melt.

More than anything I feel blessed to have these girls.  I'm still sort of shocked when I wake up everyday and there are two little people, born 15 seconds apart, staring back at me.  Being the 3rd and 4th kids means you roll with it and probably don't get as much individual time as you deserve.  I hope both of them know how loved they are, how unique they are, how their bond as twins is fascinating but their unique God-given souls and spirits are what set them apart.

As an added bonus, Wren and Sammy describe their siblings:

Asher loves to sing and hug.
Eowyn is playful and likes to lay on our bellies.

So, Happy Birthday to my sweet Ash and Eo (pronounced like the long a sound, we've totally screwed this kid up on phonetic sounds).  Love you both.
Eowyn in purple, both girls not so sure
about fire.  The bakery employees had to hear us sing,
so it was probably a long day for them at work.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Gluten-Free VBS: Menu Posting

For menu posting, I'm going to stick mainly with what the kids ate at VBS.  Managing snacks was enough meal planning for the week!  Each child ate two snacks, and my youngest ate lunch there too since they fell asleep in the car after VBS, sometimes before it started moving.  Here's what they ate:

Kind bars
snap peas with hummus
fruit snacks
sweet potato chips
The Good Bean chick peas
trail mix made with almonds and Enjoy Life chocolate chips
peanut butter muffins
*I tweaked this recipe a bit since we do use natural peanut butter without the hydrogenated oils, and the creator of this recipe implied that wouldn't hold together.  I threw in half of a ripe avocado and two tablespoons of cacao bits(powder would work too), and they were perfect.  Not too dense and kid approved!
bottled water
I put some pictures below of the food spread.  It wasn't fancy, but it worked.  We have all enjoyed the week!  There are also some kid pics thrown in for good measure.
The yummies!

Wren spitting out blood after sawing her tooth out of her mouth with floss
like some psycho tooth killer.  It was hard core.  I tried to take a picture of Sammy, but
he was as traumatized as I was and refused pictures.  
These two will be two tomorrow.  If you see me tomorrow, I will
probably be crying.  This is weird.  Where are the babies?  Eowyn in the blue
being aloof for the camera.

I may post some reflections, some things we learned from this first time around.  One thing I'm sure of is that I don't praise the kids, especially Wren since the cross-contamination issue falls on her plate, near enough.  I don't like to overpraise or make words worthless.  However, it occurred to me this week how much I expect from her and how much she delivers without complaining.  I take it for granted a lot.  Sammy also handles his business, telling anyone who will listen that he does not eat gluten, so don't feed it to him, okay?  Sammy quote, "If they give me gluten food I give it back to them and ask for my gluten-free food."  He's four.  That's pretty awesome.  At four I was still eating Play-doh straight from the container.

We are blessed and the fellowship this week has been amazing.  It was worth the prep, worth getting out there, worth packing the Glutenzyne and going for it.  The time was right.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gluten-free VBS: Preventative Care

Once you've decided to send a child with Celiac to an event with food sans adult, there are a few good tips to help ensure no issues.  There's no way to predict everything, but here are few safe bets:

Give them GlutenEase, GlutenFlam, or Glutenzynes

A child with Celiac should NEVER intentionally eat gluten.  Every possibility of cross-contamination should be eliminated to the best of your ability.  However, things happen.  Cross-contamination, in my head, is a much bigger threat than my child actually picking up a food she didn't bring and eating it.  With that in mind, I give her one of the support enzymes listed above when we eat out or when she goes to events like VBS, AWANAs, Sunday School.  These help a person who can't process gluten break it down so it won't do as much external harm.  Understand, this does not stop gluten from damaging the body of a Celiac.  The only for sure way to help that is to not eat gluten.  However, it does help manage external symptoms.  It's a good precautionary measure if non-stop vomit is not something you want to view if something goes wrong.

Pack food in easy-to-open containers

If possible, the only hands you want on your kids' food are theirs.  If a teacher who has just distributed animal crackers then helps your child open their fruit snacks, cross-contamination will take place.  You could ask the teacher to wash before touching your child's food, but my policy is this:  take as much of the responsibility as you can off the teacher or helper.  Ten kids to manage, with probably at least two or three having food allergies, is not easy.  I used these baggies to store Wren's food this week:

The high tab makes them easy for her, and we haven't had any opening issues so far.

Help Avoid Food Envy

I let the kids help me plan their VBS menu to ensure they wouldn't be looking around longing for food they couldn't have.  It has included a plethora of the following:  Larabars, Kindbars (the ones with the chocolate), peanut butter muffins, carrots and hummus, and fruit snacks as opposed to the real fruit they eat at home.  It's been snacky and a bit higher on the junky sugar side than we usually go, but it's still reasonable and I'm comfy with it.  No guts have suffered, and I fill them with tons of protein for breakfast and dinner.  Here's a picture of what the line up looked like Sunday night, back when I was actually organized:
Fruits and veggies? The twins tore them up and
the older kids sent them back like cast offs, even
though they live on them at home.  Whatever.

I'm going to go into more detail about what I packed tomorrow on menu listing.  I'll list brands, recipes, and what my kids managed to consume in a short four hours on a daily basis!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gluten-Free VBS: The Starting Point

I'm going to start this series going over the major points to cover before thinking about all the fun stuff like food prep and Pinterest recipes.  Though I will be talking about VBS, this list can work for any event where a child with Celiac will have to manage their eating in a cross-contaminated environment.

Assess Your Child's Situation

Every child is different, and knowing your child is one of the most important parts of managing Celiac.  Age of diagnosis, ability to handle stress, and ability to follow detailed instructions are huge factors when deciding if a child with Celiac can manage on their own in a cross-contaminated environment.  We let Wren start Sunday School and AWANAs on her own around age 5, but we pushed back Vacation Bible School until age six because there are more opportunities for issues since there are more snack times.  We wanted to make sure she was confident where she was managing one snack time before pushing forward.  Here's what we know about Wren that helped us make our decisions:

She was diagnosed at two, so she has always understood that she can't have gluten.  It's been a part of her life as long as she can remember;

She's type-A and can follow detailed instructions IF she sees the benefit.  Time with friends without mom and dad is a big benefit for her;

She does not process stress well at all.  Her body actually started going into pretty major adrenal distress at one point because it was just all too much.  In the process of helping her manage her own health, we also had to protect her from herself, sometimes completely stopping the process of teaching about cross-contamination so she could breathe, heal, and we could all just wait until she made it to a phase where she was more developmentally prepared to go on.  This phase felt a lot like micromanaging our child's life, and that's kind of what it was.  You do what you got to do.  We still have to check in with her to assess how her nerves are holding up, even after all this time.

Once you are sure your child is ready to take on the responsibility of going on the gluten-free journey without you (and it's okay if they're not; one day they will be), move to step two.

Make Your Contacts

When I realized my Celiac girl and my gluten-intolerant kiddos would be going to VBS, I started contacting people.  I messaged all the teachers I knew for sure would have the kids, the person in charge of art, the person in charge of snacks.  I do this to ask questions and inform the individuals of the following:

My kids can't eat anything there, even it's labeled gluten-free;
My kids will need to have their food available anytime anyone else has a snack;
Do you use flour or Play-doh during art?  What do you use, just in case I need to verify ingredients?

Everyone I have contacted has always been super cooperative, and I go ahead and give them the kids' names so they know who to look for.  This year I didn't know who Wren's teacher would be, which leads to the next step.

Prepare Your Child to Advocate for Themselves

This is vital.  Wren knows the whole drill, but she is used to having me there when she explains it to a teacher.  I can fill in the holes and back her up.  That wasn't the case Monday morning at VBS.  I was helping with a bunch of toddlers while she was separated into her crew, meaning she met her crew leader alone.

The night before, we talked through the list.  The list includes telling the teacher:

I have Celiac and cannot eat any food I didn't bring;
I must wash my hands with soap and water before every snack;
No one else can touch my food;
If art activities include flour or Play-doh, I cannot participate (she didn't have to cover this one because I had already spoken to the art teacher, but it's good to have on the list just in case.)

I then wrote a note to put in Wren's bag in case she wanted to give it to her teacher.  I thought at this point she would roll her eyes and laugh at me, but instead she was grateful for the note.  She asked to do a rehearsal where I was her teacher and she told me what she was supposed to, using the note to check off that she didn't miss anything.  She did a wonderful job, though I sensed that she was nervous.  It hit her that her teacher would know nothing unless she made sure to tell her, and she liked having the note as back up.

Everything went well.  From what I've been told, Wren informed anyone who might be a food distributor that she was covered.  Her type-A kicked in and she rocked it!

Besides notes, I saw a really cool idea this week at VBS.  A parent laminated a piece of card stock and typed on it something to the effect of "my child has multiple severe food allergies, please do not feed them....."  That card was pinned to the front of the child's shirt all day long.  It got attention and helped ensure that any adult in the vicinity would not accidentally feed this kid.

So, what's next?  Tomorrow I'm hoping to post about the importance of GlutenEase, easy-to-open containers, and preventive prep.  I'll also share some pics and recipes from our week so far.
Crazy hair day.  Asher is closest to the camera.
Sammy told me to leave his hair

Monday, June 15, 2015

Trying New Things Tuesday: Gluten-Free VBS

I always assume when I'm under stress I cry.  When Sammy was sick as a baby, I kept apologizing for crying all the time, only to have people tell me I wasn't crying.  When Wren was first diagnosed with Celiac, I thought I cried for a year, but no one remembers that.  Maybe I cry internally?

Anyway, I do know the first time I for sure cried about Wren's Celiac diagnosis.  We were standing in the church lobby and I grabbed a flyer to see what we could donate for snacks for Vacation Bible School.  Wren was only two, so it's not like she would be going yet, but as I scanned the list I felt a sick feeling rise in my stomach.  Not one thing on the list was gluten-free.  Not one thing on the list would even be easy to eat while controlling cross-contamination.  I sat in the lobby of our church surrounded by Dennis and our kids and I wept.  It hit me for the first time, the reality:

This is about so much more than just food.

I imagined Wren never participating in any social functions; I imagined becoming a helicopter parent, not something I ever aspired to be; I imagined the ostracism, the feeling of being left out that would plague Wren forever as kids around her ate ice cream sandwiches and Goldfish Crackers while I built five foot barriers between her and any child holding a snack with wheat. When that flood gate opened, everything came out in a big way.

I wish I could go sit next to that scared mom me now.  I'd wrap my arms around her shoulders, give her a hug, and then tell her to snap the hell out of it!  Ain't nobody got time for this!

I'd also tell her the following:

Wren will go to Vacation Bible School in 2015, six years-old and totally able to handle her business;

the church will have gluten-free snacks, though she won't eat those just to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination while handling.  Still, they're there!

To guess, about 30-40% of the kids she will attend VBS with will also have food allergies.  Some will have Celiac, some will come with their own epi-pens.  Sister, this kid will find her tribe!

Wren will be so surrounded by love that those who know her will go out of their way to shield her from whatever left-out feelings they can.  If there's a Play-doh table in class, there will be two other tables of choice for her to play at.  She won't just get dumped somewhere no one else wants to go.  If she needs to wash her hands before she eats, someone will make sure it happens.  This has been proven in Sunday School, AWANAs.  VBS won't be any different.  It just keeps getting better.

It's handled.  It's fine.

Breathe, mama.

With that in mind, my new thing this week is going to be to try to help those people out there who are where I was four years ago:  tired, scared, and with almost everything in your path looking like some variation of the worst case scenario.  I'm going to go through a step-by-step, snack-by-snack, detailed layout of what Gluten-Free VBS prep looked like in our house, as well as try to give updates on how things are going throughout the week.

Where we are now, it's a good place to be.  Not without complications, but oh so good!  God can take you places you never imagine going so fast.  Hang on for the ride.
VBS, here comes the crazy!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Menu Posting

Applegate chicken sausage
Almond milk hot chocolate
Peanut butter protein bars


Homemade pizza
We used the Bob's Red Mill flour this time just because it was super fast and I didn't have my usual rice flour on hand.
Daddy's new invention of coconut flour covered chicken
Roll small pieces of chicken in egg, then coconut flour, and fry.  Serve with ketchup or BBQ sauce. Yum!
Hamburgers wrapped in lettuce with a side of Kettle Chips
Chicken and spaghetti sauce covered with Daiya cheese with a side of carrots and snap peas
Breakfast for dinner, which means eggs and sausage with a side of raw veg and fruit

Apples and peanut butter
Snap peas and carrots with hummus or guacamole
Avocado brownies
Kettle chips

The list looks a little wimpy this week because of illness.  At some point during the week, almost all of us felt too congested to eat so leftovers went a long way.  The cycle rotated through all of us, but I think we're out of it now.  We grocery shopped today and will be trying some new yummies this week, as well as celebrating a party for Asher and Eowyn's birthday.  Plus, I will be packing gluten-free snacks and lunches for all the kids to go to Vacation Bible School.  It should be a culinary adventure!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Trying New Things Tuesday: A Wellness List

Update from Last Week:  Well, Wren really did get a modified schedule last week.  Due to illness, we had one official day of homeschool.  Oh well!

Last Wednesday we started the day at Children's with Sammy.  His breathing was labored, and he has now been unofficially diagnosed with asthma pending a visit to a pulmonologist.  His breathing problems seem to only happen when he catches a virus.  In Eowyn, this virus turned into a double ear infection.  In Wren it was just a raspy voice.  In Asher, it was fever with goop leaking out her eyes (I thought the goop would stop, but tonight her eyes started turning red, so back to the doctor tomorrow!)  For Sammy, it was not being able to breathe, four days of steroids, and way too much inhaler use just to get his breathing stable.

During this I forgot something:  I had the virus first.  Yeah, two days before Sam got sick, I had this scratchy feeling in my throat.  I kept on with my vitamins, drank a little more lemon water, but I didn't really move into high gear and attack the problem.  By the time I started coughing, which is when I would normally hit this junk with all the crunchy granola goodness I know, Sam was sick. I then started losing sleep so D and I could take shifts checking Sam's breathing.  He didn't make it without inhaler intervention for four nights straight.

So, last night after maintaining my vitamin use but not trying anything extra due to lack of time, lack of energy, and lack of organization since all my effort was going to medicate my children or sleep, I was strolling through Walgreens looking for anything on the planet that would make me stop coughing.  I bought cough drops.  I then bought a bottle of Walgreens brand cough syrup, gluten-free and 10% alcohol, just how I like them at this point in the game.  I chugged the recommended dose and woke up paranoid, thick tongued and fully aware of why I didn't need to operate heavy machinery on this medication.

This is not how I like to do things.  I am all about preventive care, not chugging a bottle of high fructose alcohol mixed with red and blue coloring.  But I got behind because I wasn't paying attention, so now I suffer.

This week I am going to make a list of all the things I need to do the EXACT SECOND I start feeling sick.  These are things I do for my kids without thinking.  Somehow, I have started doing this weird transference thing, or at least I think that's what you'd call it.  It goes like this:  kids took their vitamins, drank their water, ate their veggies.  Great!  We're all good.  My mind then checks all of these things off for myself, even if I did none of them.  I think an actual list I can see will help.

For now, I'm going to gurgle salt water and drink more apple cider vinegar.  It may be a little late, but I hope it still helps.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summer Reading!!!!

It's the most wonderful time of the year...no, not Christmas.  Summer reading!  Are you ready?  Do you have a list of books you must devour?  Do you want to spend the next three months at the library just taking it all in?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, then you just haven't found the right book.  I'm here to assist with a list of my personal favorites from through the years.  This was like choosing between children, so all my favorites aren't here.  Friend me on Goodreads so you can spy my full list and I can see what you read!

Favorite Short Story Collections
Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger
Cheating at Canasta or anything by William Trevor
The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway

Classics aka Books You Were Supposed to Read in High School But Didn't
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

All-Time Favorites
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Reading Turgenev by William Trevor
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

Favorite Series
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Chains Series by Laurie Halse Anderson (still waiting to read the third book)

Expecting Adam by Martha Beck
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Better Than Before by Gretchin Rubin
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Historical Fiction
What is Visible by Kimberly Elkins
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

New Fiction
A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis

Christian Writing
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Counter Culture by David Platt
Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, both by C.S. Lewis
Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

Great Books for Adults or Kids that Read Well Together(the books read well together)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Be prepared to discuss time travel.

Daily Reading
The Bible
I'm doing a Bible Study right now, walking through the entire book with a couple of ladies from my family.  No matter how much or how often I study God's word, there is always something new, something more, each time I read.

Children's Books We're Loving

And for May, my book list didn't go as planned.  I did not read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.  The writing was great, but it turns out I really don't want to know about the inner workings of people getting cremated.  If that's your thing, that book might be for you.  I also started Internal Medicine, but never could get into it.  Again, the writing was solid, but it didn't strike my fancy at the time. Instead I read:

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Scary Close by Donald Miller
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast
Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn
A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

I enjoyed all but Colorless Tsukuru.  The book was very addicting at first, but the ending was unsatisfying to me.  Plus, there was one very graphic scene that caught me off guard and that seemed to be in there for no reason at all except to shock.  That's not really my style.

Now that you have material to read, check out the summer reading program at Half Price Books, or stop in at your local library and see how to sign up and track your reading.  Around here, Frisco opens up their summer reading sign up tomorrow, and Plano kicks off Suburban Dare (summer reading is a part of this program) on Saturday.  We read around here all the time anyway, so might as well track it and earn some prizes!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Menu Posting

This is a day late, but yesterday was a tornado of crazy.  Forgive me.

Eggs and bacon
Banana swirl

  • Freeze bananas, put them in a food processor with coconut or almond milk and blend.   It's ice cream for breakfast!

Leftovers from dinner
Spinach salads with turkey and almonds thrown in
In N Out burgers, protein-style, with fries
The burgers were a request from Sammy after he suffered an asthma attack and spent five hours in the hospital.  He could have asked for a pony at that point, but he asked for burgers, fries, and donuts.  I was happy to accomodate!

  • I cooked two pounds of turkey meat, so it lasted forever!  We didn't use rice.  
Turkey sloppy joes minus the buns
Meat and spaghetti sauce with veggies
Breakfast for dinner

Kind bars
Coconut ice cream
Pudding-This was amazing!   D and I ate it out of wine glasses because we're fancy like that, and we don't drink wine so we have to find creative uses for the glasses.
Snap peas 
Carrots and hummus
This crust with this tart filling topped with strawberries

I'm finding that we snack, a lot.  We will sit down and eat a meal, but in general we just like a little something now and then.  Our dinners tend to make plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day, and sometimes we have enough for dinner the next night.  Also, we go through some eggs because for some reason before bed, everyone wants eggs fried in coconut oil lightly sprinkled with salt.  Give them this and they sleep well.  

Wren can't have rice at this point because of some intestinal issues, and most of our gluten-free flour is made of rice.  This has been awesome.  We have eaten completely grain-free before, but we added in gluten free grains as Wren's condition improved, something I think we may have overdone and may be partially responsible for her gut issues.  I don't know for sure, but getting off them again has made me so much more adventurous in the kitchen, and I feel good about eating.  I also feel okay about splurging like we did on the first day of no rain in forever.  We had some ice cream.  It was a yummy week!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Trying New Things: Modifying the Homeschool Schedule

Last week's update:  I did not go seven days using only responsible words, though I was surprised by what I found.  As I knew, I'm not a crazy yelling person, but I do tend to raise my voice in times of panic, like the twins throwing plates at each other during breakfast or when Wren isn't paying attention and walks into the road while staring at clouds.  That's normal, but that is my gateway.  Unfortunately, once I raise my voice, even for something that is necessary like saving my children from cars or flying glass, it sets off my not fun tone.  It's not a yell; it's a survival tone, like for the rest of my life I'm going to be put off about having to remind toddlers not to have food fights.  It's my not-letting-go-of-things tone.  I don't like it.  I'm refocusing my energy on killing the tone.  I feel the steering clear of the careless words thing is going to be a life long project.

This week's focus is modifying our homeschool schedule.  My plan was to push right through summer since we're working on skills that are good to repeat daily.  Wren got wind of this thing called summer break that all the other kids get, so we've come to a compromise.  Until September we will have three day school weeks.  These will be our really focused times where we run through the same schedule we do the rest of the year.  The other days, nothing specific will be required.  She's chosen Tuesday-Thursday as her school days, so yesterday was her first day off.  She and Sammy watched a video on magnets then set up an experiment to see what magnets would attract and what they wouldn't.  They then built a book fort in the middle of the living room floor using every pillow in the house.  Wren read to the other three kids during story time.  In the course of playing a game of Beto and Channy (I don't know, they made it up, it involves one of them being the parent and the other crying like a newborn for a good portion of the day) we found out Sammy knows the word hesitant and how to use it in a sentence.

They were stoked because of no school today.  Jokes on them, but I am not saying a thing.
Eowyn was drowning in snot, so she wanted goggles, obviously.