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My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Fun: fun trumps hard work

  • June 19, 2012 10:34 am

So yesterday I was informed by The Brothers that last year, Summer Homeschool was more fun than this year. Bummer.

Every summer, me and the boys do a little homeschooling in the mornings for 2 hours a few days a week. It keeps them structured, and it helps me work on skills they struggled with during the school year while reinforcing their other skills to reduce regression when the school year begins. This is particularly helpful because the transition is such a stressful time (for all of us) that their energy is freed up to only wig out about the socialization, instead of wigging out about that AND academic skills.

When we first started, these “academic” skills were more like OT – cutting/drawing on the line, gluing things together without a freak-out, yoga and calming-strategies, etc. But last summer, we actually worked on writing and reading and math, etc.

Sounds real fun doesn’t it? I like to think I made it fun since I’m pretty fun and all…

This past school year, their teachers had no suggestions on skills they needed to be working on. Not even social skills or anger management! #proudmama

So I thought I would make Summer Homeschool more “fun” this year (obviously only by my definition). We still write and read and do flashcards, but I added a Character Building unit. I got tools from various places and people, but have based it on the Fruit of the Spirit in Galations 5:22-23. The thing is that they have loved everything about the unit. The worksheets, the Bible study, the videos, the “crafts” (its just coloring and cutting – The Younger should teach the crafts portion. He has more artsy genes than all of us put together!), and especially the music! So I was really scratching my head on this one. We haven’t been as hard core on the writing and math this summer. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was too diligent last summer on academics and resolved to be a little more laid back this time around.

So what did I do differently last summer that was sooooo fun?

I found out that it wasn’t what we did during school hours that captivated them. It was what we did after we dismissed. We had a Cooking Class (that was code for “lunch”). They helped me make lunch and they would write down the recipes. Nothing fancy. Sandwiches, spaghetti, “good meat” and rice (will post that recipe another day). Some days, I would give them a “test” and they would have to make the rice all by themselves (rice + water + rice cooker).

I learned that it didn’t matter how much I drilled them last summer or how hard they worked to try to figure out that analog clock nonsense. What they remembered, and ultimately labeled the entire program, was the fun they had making a mess in the kitchen together. Therefore, this morning I announced that we would start school with Cooking Class today and they got to vote for what they wanted to learn to make.

The verdict…Breakfast Casserole…

This made me a little nervous because I “hide” good-for-you stuff in this recipe and secretly put onions in it even though they swear up and down they hate onions. But it worked out!  We had a nice brunch (with leftovers) and now we are off to the pool!

And so “fun” has been reinstated into the curriculum!  Maybe now I can pull out those flashcards without feeling like a math nazi.

how we made our Breakfast Casserole

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Allow me to translate…

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1. Fry 2-3 strips of turkey bacon and set aside.  (Since we use uncured turkey bacon, we have to add a little coconut oil to get it to brown and look like bacon and produce bacon grease.)

2, 3, 4. Finely chopped 1/2 an onion and saute in the bacon grease until translucent.

5. Add 2-3 cups hash brown potatoes and brown.

6. Cut the 3-4 bread slices to fit the bottom of a casserole dish. Ours is from Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix.
(The Elder added Step #7 in his notes: Eat Extra Bread).

8-12. In a bowl, beat 4-5 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk (we used unsweetened coconut milk), salt, garlic powder, and any dehydrated/powdered veggies you want to hide (today it was “spinach” – code for anything green).

13. Crumble bacon (we cut into strips with shears)

14. Layer the potato/onion mix on top of the bread.

15. Layer more veggies you want to hide.

16. Layer the crumbled bacon.

17. Pour the egg mix evenly over the entire dish.

18. Top with freshly ground pepper.

19. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 20 minutes.

20. Yeah, I was the only one washing dishes here…Oh but The Younger did wipe up spilled eggs off the kickstool!

21-22. Layer cheddar cheese on top and bake an additional 5 minutes. (we used Daiya Foods Cheddar Shreds)

23. Enjoy!


Me: Do you think you’ll know how to make this on your own now?

The Elder: Yeah, now that I have the list of ingredients and the steps.

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about Birthday Parties: how we handle the gluten/dairy dilemma

  • June 5, 2012 10:20 pm

One of the toughest trials of being a gluten-free family is sending one of The Brothers to a birthday party. Because most families are not gluten free, there is usually no gluten-free menu to cater to my little ones. Now on occasion, we’ve encountered a host that was willing to provide a gf option for my boys, but that is a rare gem and I don’t count on it happening (unless they are also a gluten-free family – we all kinda take care of each other like one big gf family!). So my standard RSVP for a birthday party is to say “Yay, my child will be there but there is no need to include him in the food headcount because of his special diet. Can you please tell me what you are planning to serve and I’ll send in comparable items for him to enjoy.”

And here are my standard substitutes for common birthday party items:

  • Cake or cupcakes: Chocolate Mug Cake (see recipe below – not the same recipe I use for MY crazy eating plan, thank goodness for the kids!) with Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Cream Cheese Frosting (very low milk content (in the natural flavorings) – we have never been affected by it. It’s not even listed on the can’s label, but click link for the official ingredients list.) There are other frostings without gluten and dairy, but this was the only canned cream-cheese flavored one that works for us.

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    Frosting

    Click for ingredients list


  • Ice Cream: So Delicious Chocolate (or Almond Breeze Chocolate, if cheaper and there are no nut allergies at the party). Both brands are dairy- and soy-free. I usually scoop some into a cup or thermos so I don’t have to bring the whole thing and risk melting it. Click link for coupon.

    So Delicious Ice Cream

  • Pizza Option 1: Make our own using Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix (makes 2 thin and crispy crusts or one thick crust) or The Hub’s special recipe (so special that I’ll have to ask him the recipe and I’ll post it at a later date). We bought out our local Big Lots of their BRM pizza crust mix stock, so we are good to go for another 6 months or so! And we top the pizza with Daiya Cheese Shreds. This cheese substitute is both dairy- and soy-free! It melts nicely, stretches and even crisps when overcooked! We’ve used the mozzarella, cheddar, and pepper jack cheeses and all three are yummy!

  • Pizza Option 2: Mellow Mushroom’s Gluten-free, Vegan Cheese Pizza (they use daiya cheese also for $2 extra). The Younger isn’t a fan of this crust and sauce, but The Elder will eat all things “Pizza.”

Everything else we’ve come across on a party menu has been OK for them to eat, such as fruit and plain potato chips, etc. They don’t really eat hot dogs or hamburgers, but if they did I would just request no bun or cheese.

What do you do to accommodate your special diet? What other birthday food items have I left out here?

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how to make a Chocolate Mug Cake

2 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp millet flour (or almond flour)
1/4 tsp baking powder (optional)
1 pinch of salt (optional)

In a large mug, melt coconut oil (nuke 10-15 seconds) and coat sides well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients, quickly beating together before the coconut oil solidifies. Nuke for 2:30 minutes. Turn mug upside down on a plate to release the cake. Let cool before frosting.

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about Avocado: it’s a Superior Food when it’s organic

  • April 27, 2012 10:31 am

So far my favorite food item since starting my current eating plan is AVOCADO! A Super Food to boot! I always have liked it, even as a kid, but never really bought it unless I was planning to make guacamole or it came in the sushi I was eating. To recap, I’m tweaking my already gluten-free diet (since 2007) to also be diary-free (soooo hard), and other limitations – all to reduce systemic inflammation, which has caused me chronic pain, break-outs, and has put my autonomic nervous system on high alert. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s worth it when I feel normal, like a productive member of my family and society, and I’m not afraid of what I might say or do out of pain or an impulsive fight or flight moment of sensory mayhem. AND…and…and… the best part – I don’t have to take medications – one of the triggers I feel got me into this mess to begin with. I just have to watch what I eat!

This eating plan has also encouraged me to go organic in everything I can, so I splurged and got the organic avocados…actually I sent The Hub. I would have wavered by the 10 for $10 sign posted for the “regular” avocados for too long, and he just gets what’s on the list. Go Aspies!

Well Oh.My.Goodness it was the Best.Move.Ever.

  • They were bigger. Which surprised me because organic apples are tiny compared to some of those monster apples at the store. But the larger size made me feel better about spending 3x as much – almost guilty even because organic ended up being all around the better deal.
  • Believe it or not, they don’t get overripe as fast either. That was also contrary to my previous belief about organic.(Organic bananas last longer too if you cut them at the stem and not break them off at the bunch’s “hub.” fyi).
  • They weren’t as bruised on the inside. Or even at all! Fortunately for me, bruises are just as yummy, but definitely an eye-sore.
  • They taste so much better. Just more flavor. It wasn’t necessarily sweeter, but richer, creamier, and more avocado-ier.
  • They have a much firmer consistency. “Regular” avocados I could only scoop the flesh out with a spoon. I never understood how to dice avocado because they were always so mushy – which was fine for guacamole.

I do believe that all avocados are Super Foods. But I have definitely been won over by organic. I keep them in a brown paper bag until they turn black and “give” in to a gentle squeeze. I like the outside to be black (no green skin allowed – I also do not like green bananas – so if you like green bananas, you might like green avocados) before I cut into them. Unfortunately, this gives them time to get overripe, bruised, and mushy. But this hasn’t been a problem with the organic variety.

Why does organic make a difference?

My belief – which is swayed by reading Michael Pollan and about Joel Salatin – is that organic produce is not hindered by chemical pesticides. Because they have to fend for themselves, they are bigger and better for us naturally. They don’t become “lazy” or “wimpy” foods, but they develop their own immune system (such as thicker skin to prevent bruising or keep pests out) to survive instead of relying on man to do it for them. So they become Superior Foods! (Organic meats on God-intended organic diets in God-intended environments follow this same concept. But that’s probably another blog post for a different time.) Furthermore, the nutrients they develop to fight off diseases are passed on to us – the consumer – and their nutrients help us to fight off diseases too. Thank you, organic super foods! You truly are Superior Foods in my book!

A friend told me to put them into the fridge to stop the ripening process, so that’s what I did and yes, it worked! The avocado pictured below was bag-ripened for about 2 days and then refrigerated for about a week.

Isn’t it beautiful?

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I used a regular knife to halve it, but spoons don’t work so well to scoop out the flesh since it is more firm. I’ve heard of avocado knives before, but found a very functional substitute – the butter knife! It slices them thin and gently “scoops” them out without disturbing the rest of the fruit!

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Here I layered the slices atop a quinoa cracker and topped with some fresh alfala sprouts – direct from the sprouter. I think the sprouts needed a little more sun – they weren’t too green.

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The only thing that would have made this snack more perfect would have been some tomatoes…