Friday, March 27, 2015

Cousins Spring Break Fun

We knew going in this was going to be a long week with much patience and grace needed for Amber.  Apparently, I'm still not able to judge Amber's capabilities as evidenced by my many mistakes this week.

Our seven year old nephew arrived for a multiple day stay on Sunday afternoon.  The weather was nice and our back yard beckoned to the kids (including the almost 4 year who was just helping drop his brother off).  I assumed Amber could monitor herself and stop when it was too much.  I was wrong.  She attempted soccer in the yard with her cousins and worked her heart up to over 200 bpm.   And that's how my nephew's visit started.

Games at Brunswick Zone, playing Disney Infinity 1.0 (because it has Monsters University) and floating card magic tricks. 


Needless to say, Amber had lots of aerobic exercise this week.  She tried bowling with her cousin, but even one game was too much.  She did play in the arcade with more success.  We also spent a day at the St. Louis Science Center.  Thankfully, there were lots of places for Amber to rest and my mom went along so we could tag team the kids.  Amber didn't last near as long as hoped and didn't recover from that day in a timely fashion.  Actually, she's still somewhat recovering from the whole experience and we even left my nephew with Grandma (my mom) after the Science Center Tuesday evening. 

At least I was realistic and had no plans for school this week until co-op on Thursday, but Amber did show some initiative by reading the introductory material for the Renaissance on Wednesday.  Today we are trying to hit most subjects while not pushing too hard. Amber did not quite recovere before co-op yesterday which exhausted her again. She also has flute recital tomorrow evening.  I think I overestimated Amber's ability to recover.

Using a robotic arm; deciding which roof type is better in a hurricane; building a truss bridge; Running in the hamster wheel that powers the ball contraption.


Our standardized testing supplies arrived last weekend and now I need to block off the time for Amber to test.  Normally we take a couple of days and Amber finishes the tests easily.  Now, I'm not so sure if that's a good plan. We might have to spread it out over quite a few days to ensure she is at her best for each subsection.  Testing of any kind is not required for our state, and in fact there is no one who sees the scores except her dad and I.  This process is entirely for our own benefit, but we choose to complete them so Amber has experience in testing and we have proof, other than our records, of Amber's progress.

I did finally order and receive the entire Home School in the Woods Time Travelers set.  We will add in some portions of the New World Explorers this year when we study Renaissance era explorers.  I was on the fence if I should order just a couple of the topics or the entire set. They are listed as appropriate up through 8th grade and we definitely won't get to World War II again until high school.  However, Amber is quite enamored with these products so I'll probably try to incorporate them into her high school history as well.

Radaring traffic on the highway below (the Science Center has two buildings connected by skywalk OVER a major interstate); Playing a memory game; Digging for dinosaur fossils; Amber couldn't go any farther

The Mayo Clinic still has not scheduled Amber's approved visit to the autonomic dysfunction clinic, but I did call them again to verify everything was a go.  Their calendar block simply is not open yet.  I desperately hate waiting.  I did hear from Amber's local dysautonomia neurologist though.  Every two weeks I am to email him an update on Amber with detailed vitals from orthostatic testing done at home, any new symptoms, her impression of how she's doing, and my impression of how she is doing.  He was not yet pleased with Amber's standing blood pressure or heart rate even with the recent increased dose of midodrine, so it's being increased again.   This makes me a bit nervous, but her blood pressure is still quite low and can stand to go higher without any problem. I do need to monitor her blood pressure a little closer now with the higher dose and she has a greater risk of side effects.

Amber's welcome to her cousin on our dry erase wall and the schedule for his visit.  They love to check off items and update it.  Then, Amber on the way to flute a DAY after her cousin left.  She was still pretty exhausted.


Besides the flute recital this weekend, I must must must finish Amber's Narnia costume so that's not hanging over my head.  I managed to bake quite a bit of food for Amber on Wednesday which clears up this weekend for sewing.  Just in case you are interested in gluten free cooking / baking, I posted a list of our current 15 favorite gluten free recipes.  Of course there are many foods and dishes that are naturally gluten free, but our list is of foods that would not normally be gluten free.

Next week it is back to a regular school schedule for Holy Week and I'm hoping that a few of the standardized test subsections will be completed in lieu of new lessons. 

Happy Weekend!

Linking With:

Weekly Wrap-Up   photo purpFFBut_zps970d6cbe.png Homegrown Learners

Monday, March 23, 2015

15 of Our Favorite Gluten Free Recipes

As many of you might know, Amber and I both have a restricted diet.  I must avoid gluten, at almost all costs, along with a few other items.  Amber has severe fructose malabsorption and so must avoid fructose in its many forms, including naturally occurring.  I won't get into the details here, but wheat does contain fructose as chains of fructans.  This means she and I both eat gluten free with some other modifications.

Today I'm going to let you in on our favorite gluten free recipes from our favorite gluten free resource, Gluten Free on a Shoestring.   (I'm not affiliated with GFOAS or the author, Nicole Hunn, in anyway.  We are just HUGE fans)

All of these recipes are ones we use regularly with great success.  I've linked the original blog recipe, but noted the modifications that we make to satisfy Amber's needs.  Of course, there are a bazillion other recipes by Nicole Hunn that we adore, but they are all from her cookbooks and I can't link to the individual recipes here! 

(I do not use any of her flour blends exactly as they all contain ingredients Amber cannot tolerate. This is a link to the flour blend I've tweaked. It is suitable for all the recipes and safe for Amber)
  1. Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins - First off is Amber's all time favorite breakfast, and of course it was not actually published on the Gluten Free on a Shoestring blog, but in a magazine.  It's still Nicole Hunn's recipe :) I'm usually lazy and don't scald the milk, but just use the reduced amount.  We also replace the sugar with dextrose and sprinkle the muffins with a dextrose / cinnamon mixture instead of sugar.

  2. Chocolate Breakfast Muffins -  This includes a huge no-no for Amber: brown sugar.   I replace it with either maple sugar or dextrose.  Most often it's dextrose.  I also replace the milk and apple cider vinegar with buttermilk. We use the peppermint flavoring too.

  3. Soft Vanilla Swirl Bread - This bread is just absolutely a dream, but has way way too much sugar for Amber.  We did try it with all the sugar once. It was a nightmare.  I leave the 1/4 cup sugar in the batter to feed the yeast, but substitute the sugar in the filling with dextrose.  Just in case you are wondering, we also have to alter the bread flour to use our purpose flour blend base. 

  4. Chocolate Chip Yogurt Gluten Free Quick Bread - Again, too much sugar.  We substitute it with dextrose and also use Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chips.  Yum!

  5. Super Fluffy Gluten Free English Muffins - We like these just as much as the English Muffins in her bread book.  No substitutions either, except our changes to the base flour.

    Unexpected Homeschool: 15 of Our Favorite Gluten Free Recipes
    Top: (Left) Chocolate Chip Yogurt Bread  (Center and Right) Soft Vanilla Swirl Bread in pan and with cream cheese.
    Bottom: (Left) Chocolate Breakfast muffins (Right) Biscuit Donuts
  6. Cinnamon Swirl Gluten Free Quick Bread -  Same story - too much sugar.  It's all replaced with dextrose, including the powdered sugar. 

  7. Easy Gluten Free Biscuit Donuts - Made with the biscuit dough from the Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread book. We really do keep some in the freezer at all times. I make the dough and the donuts exactly as described - except I roll them in dextrose.

  8. Classic Gluten Free Red Velvet Cake - Oh my goodness!  We used this for Amber's 13th birthday cake. It was wonderful.  Again, substituted dextrose for sugar, buttermilk for vinegar and milk.  I also used a Red Velvet emulsion instead of food coloring, most of which are just horrid for Amber.  We used a different icing that was basically the same thing but with dextrose instead of powdered sugar. 

  9. Gluten Free Flour Tortillas from GFOAS Bakes Bread - No substitutions, but I must admit that my technique is horrid.  These are so hard for me.  I often resort to lesser quality store bought Tortillas that Amber mostly tolerates.  These are so much better when I can make it work.

  10. Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Chip-Style Cookies -  Okay, so Amber really wanted chocolate chip cookies, which NEED brown sugar.  These glorious cookies from GFOAS do not, but they need other stuff Amber can't have.  I made quite a few modifications for Amber to have her cookies.  I found that substituting dextrose for all the sugar did not result in a usable cookie. Instead, I use about 1/8th cup sugar and 3/4 cup dextrose.  The molasses is also right out. Normally I'm lazy and sub a sprinkling of sugar with enough water to make the needed 1/2 tablespoon of molasses.  Other days I might break out the pure maple syrup.  We also use the Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chips.  The cookies do turn out delicious, just probably not as originally intended. Our favorite way to eat them is frozen.

    Unexpected Homeschool: 15 of Our Favorite Gluten Free Recipes
    Top: (Left) Fresh pasta! (Right) How about in GF chicken noodle soup.
    Bottom: (Left) GF Tortillas made into chicken quidsadillas. (Right) Fresh macaroni 

  11. Gluten Free Crackers: "Wheat" Thins Copycat - We seriously always have a batch of these ready for consumption in our house.  Wheat Thins were our go-to snack when gluten was allowed.  Now these are the favorite! I make them as directed - using the granulated sugar and not coconut palm sugar.  I tried using mixtures of sugar and dextrose.  I got softees and not crackers. 

  12. Yeast Free Gluten Free Pizza (crust only) -  We use this for a fun dish called Hamburger Roll-up.  I think it originated in a Kraft recipe magazine.  At any rate, we have been so sad to not have refrigerated pizza dough for recipes.  This works perfectly and comes together quickly and simply.   I did have to substitute pure maple syrup for the honey (evil stuff... to Amber), and also reduce the water by 2 fluid ounces. 

  13. Gluten Free Arancini (Rice Balls) - Amber LOVES Arancini.  It is a bit messy to make, and usually requires Amber's help because I'm uncoordinated. We use the hamburger option instead of mushroom because... well, even before the special diet none of us liked mushrooms.  We also use rosemary rice since it's what we keep in the house. 

  14. Fresh Gluten Free Tortellini (pasta recipe only) - To be honest, we don't make Tortellini out of this pasta. We use this recipe for just about everything else though.  I make noodles for soup, pasta carbonara, toasted ravioli, and even fresh macaroni out of this pasta recipe.

  15. Slow Cooker Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese -  This one does not work with fresh macaroni.  Just in case you want to try it... don't waste the lovely fresh macaroni.  We skip the mustard powder in this recipe and use mild cheddar cheese instead of sharp. Otherwise, it's perfect. 

Unexpected Homeschool: 15 of Our Favorite Gluten Free Recipes
Top: Arancini. 
Bottom: (Left) Buttermilk biscuits. So flaky.  (Right) Red Velvet birthday cake!

These are just our top 15 recipes from Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  This doesn't even begin to touch all I've learned about overall gluten free cooking and adapting some of our favorite family recipes from reading her blog and books.  


Friday, March 20, 2015

Thinking About Eighth Grade

We had a full week of school lesson plans all lined up this week in preparation for next week when we have my nephew for a couple of days and will take some time off. This past weekend felt short and we were still exhausted Sunday afternoon with little accomplished. Amber and I both noticed the niggling of school burnout too. We did not have a Spring Break or even a full break week scheduled until the end of school because we thought it unnecessary with all the individual days off planned. Heeding the advice we have given ourselves after previous burnout times, we evaluated Amber's current progress and decided there was plenty of wiggle room.

Therefore this week has been projects, resting, shopping, resting, LEGOs, resting, Spring housework, resting, exercising, and more resting. Most of the resting was Amber.  Most of the housework was me. It wasn't an entirely school free week as Amber continued her Greek vocabulary (I can't wait for that review to go live) and did quite a bit of creative writing too.

Pi day pizza - Imo's has a gluten free that, if asked for with light sauce, Amber tolerates.  Amber's St. Patrick's Day shopping haul (bought with her own money) and looking Springy.
Emotionally it's been an up and down crazy week with the weather up and down too.  We received the call-back from the Mayo Clinic and Amber has been approved for an appointment.  Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the appointment dates because the date block she should be scheduled into was not open for scheduling on time.  Wait, wait and more wait.  At least I was told they have all the information required and should not need anything additional from us ahead of travel or at arrival.

I think we also have decided to just book a hotel and not try for the Ronald McDonald House.  I'm not up for the anxiety of rushing about on a weekend as soon as we arrive to get the referral from the Mayo Clinic Social Work office, waiting for the referral to be transferred to the Ronald McDonald House, and then hoping there is a room open during the busy summer months.  It's too much.  I know they provide reduced rates at hotels if they don't have a room open, but honestly I need to know which hotels because we will be there a while and we are a bit of hotel snobs.  Seriously.  The RMH is also over double the distance from the main building which houses pediatrics than our preferred hotels.

Shopping and lunch out on a warm day.  Then we were off to Cinderella that evening.


With our local homeschool expo being this week I've been slowly trying to plan for next school year, just to see how much I'll need to purchase and what subjects we might want to make part of our summer school.  I really like the setup that we have right now because a large majority of the curriculum is multi-year.  We split Year 2 of Tapestry of Grace into two school years to allow time for projects, which means we still have a year to go before we need another year plan of TOG. I have the three year library pass to Heritage History and hope to find most of Amber's history reading through that resource or the local library.

I do need to purchase (still) the Homeschool in the Woods American History set for use as a supplement with TOG. When asked what her favorite part of history class was this year, Amber replied "I liked all of it. Don't change a thing."  Well, I guess that made my life easier.  Analytical Grammar, Cover Story, and The Art of Poetry will all continue through at least 8th grade.  I am kinda looking for a different writing option than TOG Writing Aids.  They will probably be just fine, but I'm floundering a little on my end with it. 

St. Patrick's Day, Amber style.  I'm not sure she qualifies as Irish. My mother's heritage includes Irish, but by Amber's generation I think it's pretty much too tiny to count.


Last Spring I purchased the remainder of the Saxon Math curriculum, Algebra 1 through Calculus, so we would have the same edition for all levels and not need to deal with issues that might arise from the included or not include geometry.  This isn't exactly multiple year curriculum, but I've already invested in the books so it's not an expenditure for 8th grade.  Science is also not be a continuation from 7th grade, but I already purchased the Apologia Physical Science when we did our weather unit in the Fall.  Another curriculum ready to go.

It looks like German might be the only complete subject that I definitely need to purchase for 8th grade.  Amber is close to finishing German 1a and that means I'll need student and teacher books for the next level.  Thankfully, the first and second level have a combined test booklet and cultural DVD. I also use this curriculum for my German class at the homeschool co-op, which means I generally need all the pieces and not just what I think we might use with Amber.  I do try to start Amber on the next level about a month before the co-op classes begin for the year so that I have a head start in planning the lessons,  which makes German either a summer school topic or a very early 8th grade start.

LEGO!  Cinderella and several of the new Elves sets too.  Of course, she also had to play Infinity 2.0  She loves being Maleficent (right side of screen).  I usually play Tinkerbell (can you barely see her in the foreground of the left side).  Would you believe Amber has the majority of the Infinity 2.0 characters, yet we pretty much play these two in the toybox?

There are a few other odds and ins that might fill out our lessons, but being on the Review Crew I've decided to wait and see what comes up for review.  It's never good with Amber to have a packed schedule and we do need to have time for reviews.  I must say being on the Review Crew this year has already been such a blessing.  Amber has found several items she loved that we would have never considered or even thought to be a good match for her.

That's pretty much been our week.  Having fun on projects together, relaxing, planning for next year and a not-quite-vacation-trip to Minnesota.  This weekend we are cleaning like crazy people to de-cat our house for my nephew who is highly allergic to cats.  I know, it's an exercise in futility as the cats aren't leaving.

Happy Weekend!

Linking With:

Weekly Wrap-Up   photo purpFFBut_zps970d6cbe.png Homegrown Learners