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Archive for August, 2008

GF/CF Friday: Cloudy Jello

Every Friday, I will review a Gluten Free/Casein Free (GF/CF) product from the perspective of my 6-year-old, Edward, who has been on the GF/CF diet for 7 months.

Here he is with a temporary mullet:

Don’t you feel like you can trust his opinion?

While Jello is not typically a gluten or casein-filled product, it is filled with artificial flavors and colors, which are incredibly destructive to my son’s sensitive system.  I have, however, found a Jello-like product that my whole family will tolerate when it’s been several months since they’ve had “real Jello” and they have forgotten about the crisp, clear color and flavor of the true “Jello” brand.  Behold:

Jello is such an consummate part of childhood and I felt a considerable amount of sorrow that Edward was missing out on this.  Plus it seemed like such a good texture from a sensory perspective.

I first ordered this from the Squirrel’s Nest a web site devoted to gluten/casein/artificial color/artificial flavor-free candies and treats.  (I highly recommend them!  I ordered all Christmas and Easter candy from them this past year; their prices are fair and customer service is unbeatable!)  Whole Foods also carries this brand.

I think the picture says it all:

It’s OK.

I mean, you see the limpish thumb and the tolerant face.  It’s not the gleeful joy we’ve seen before with chocolate cake.  Still, it’s jiggly, it’s sweet, and I have found that other children will eat it.  And that’s cool because it is priced ($1.69)–only slightly higher than standard Jello.

I’m no photographer, but if you look closely, you might spy the cloudy nature of the product.  And while that is troublesome to those of us accustomed to the clear, jewel-like gleam of the Jello brand product, what is more confounding is best described by Edward’s question:  “What’s the brown dust in the bottom of my bowl?”

Yes, you can’t see it with my limited photographic skills, but there is a brownish sediment that settles to the bottom of the Jello-like product once it is molded.  Perhaps the beet juice coloring is the culprit?  I don’t know.

It won’t send children running in from the yard, but at least it’s sweet.

Maybe we can break out the microscope next week and research this mysterious brown sediment further.  In the meantime, I’ll buy it again.

I guess.

Maybe I should mold it into shapes?

Posted on 15 August '08 by , under GF/CF Diet/Food Reviews. 11 Comments.

Brilliante Web Log Award: The Chosen Seven

MT at The Bon Bon Gazette has absolutely made my week by nominating me for my very first award!

(It’s almost made me forget about the rabid (?) squirrel languishing in a Huggies box in my back yard.  I actually got a shovel and scooped it up so my children could play, uncontaminated.  Lucky H can deal this when he gets home!  I’d take a picture but it’s less than uplifting.  This has been an excellent opportunity to discuss rabies, however, and why we do not handle sickly woodland creatures even when they are weak enough for us to force-feed them milk from a doll bottle in an attempt at resuscitation.

This was a serious suggestion. Here, you see it replicated with a stuffed elephant.  I always relish discussing those 6-inch rabies stomach needles…children’s eyes get so big with that one.)

I digress.

Anyway, MT has been one of my very best blog friends since I started blogging earnestly about a month ago.  Her encouragement and friendship have carried me through the days I seriously considered stopping.  Please check out her blog when you have a chance and I promise you will make a new friend!

1. Out-Numbered Two to One I left my very first blog comment ever on Mrs. Bear’s web site after I saw her on the NaBloPoMo list.  Since then, she has become such a dependable, encouraging friend.  Mrs. Bear has four children from toddler to teen, so she has wisdom for all situations.  Plus she is amazingly honest, sincerely funny and an incredibly talented writer.

2. Mom’s Ministry & More You’ve got to love somebody whose nickname is “Stone Fox!”  Heidi recently adopted a new baby, so now she has two children that are something like 6 months apart and a 6-year-old.  And if you think that’s tough, consider she is raising this group in Asia!  She has a fascinating perspective on life, and is profoundly funny!

3. Pancakes Gone Awry Patty and I are traveling some incredibly familiar roads in our search for the best way to help our sons with Sensory Processing issues.  She has become such a blessing to me.  But don’t think it’s all serious!  Patty’s son is incredibly gifted and makes the most intriguing and hilarious comments, which she chronicles with her own brand of contagious humor–you’ll be laughing!  Poignant and entertaining! 

4. Tara’s View of the World If you are looking for honesty and an authentic voice, you shouldn’t miss Tara.  She is not afraid to tackle the challenges of being a pastor’s wife with a refreshing Christian perspective that is rare.  P.S.  She also has giveaways!

5. Connor Cole’s Mom Since she has been blogging for almost 2 years, I’m sure Kim has already won this award once, (and possibly twice), but just in case, I’ll award it again!  Kim has been a dear friend for the last 9 years, and she has been one of my greatest “blogging encouragers!”  Her writing style is fresh, funny and peppered with lots of crazy pictures of her creative boys, who happen to be great friends with my innovative boys.  And that leads to some unforgettable stories!  (As well as a few you might want to forget!)

6.  Van Pan I wouldn’t be a good wife if I didn’t nominate my sweetheart’s new web site, which chronicles how ridiculously filthy the children and I render our Town & Country van.  Check out his site and leave a comment if you have a minute.  Fairly soon, I’ll have more details about how you, too, can become a “Van Pan Fan” and submit your own photographs to the site!  Sounds fun, eh?

7.  Good Enough Mama Kia is another kindred spirit I’ve met in my few short weeks in the blogging world.  And she has spectacularly highlighted hair!  Just visit her blog and you’ll see!  She is a fabulous mother–way better than just “good enough.”

So now I officially tag my Chosen Seven, and send you off into the bloggy world to make someone else’s day!  Have a grand old time!

1. The winner can put the logo on their blog.
2. Link to the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you’ve nominated.

Posted on 15 August '08 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 5 Comments.

These Are The Hands

These are the hands that were ready to eat dinner tonight just like this!

These are the hands that almost got the princess panties pulled down in time.  But didn’t.  And the “didn’t” ran all over the unsealed travertine tile in our recently renovated master bathroom.  And the two hands tried to rub in clean up the two types of “didn’t” with about $4.00 worth of “Kandoo” sensitive wipes before the queen was summoned.  So much for this sanctuary spa bath dream…

These are the hands that wrote a note to the rather proper single interior decorator friend of his mother thanking her for the opportunity to “learn more about roaches” in her home.  The mother of these hands did not bother to proofread the thank-you note before it was sent.

These are the hands that decided it made sense to bash a hard candy to bits (in order to prevent a small sister’s choking) yet chose the handle of a large kitchen knife for said bashing.  Miraculously, all fingers on these hands remain intact.

These are the hands that grasped a permanent green marker just quickly enough to make two largish green dots on a new Gymboree blouse.  (At least we wore it to preschool one time.)

These are the hands that will dig down in the greasy crevice behind a restaurant booth to excise a grimy penny with the same thrill as unearthing a Spanish doubloon.

These are my favorite hands in all the world.  I like them best when they are clean with trimmed fingernails.  But I’ll take ’em like this, too!

Except not in my kitchen.

Posted on 13 August '08 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 11 Comments.

The “Yard Butt” and Other Bizarre Observances

Strange things occur every day.  And so much of the time, I forget about them.  Lately, however, I have been texting them to myself in the van so I will not forget.

Here are a few.  Troubling Fungus?  Yard bottom?

OK, I’m just saying that if you found this growing in your back yard, would you not feel compelled to take a picture and write about it?  Would you not feel absolutely privileged?  Would you not seethe in anger, as your children did, when a red-headed neighbor beat on a cheek (with a wiffle ball bat) until it popped?

This leads me to recall a recent repartee with my mother-in-law.

The following is an actual transcript of a phone call I received from my mother-in-law (whom I love, by the way; none of those typical MIL issues here.)

“Oh, and you will need to be aware that Joseph was introduced to the word d**k at Space Camp this week.  He asked us what it meant but we told him his Dad would tell him all about it when he got home.”

Great!  That means he probably ran around the rest of the week using that word indiscriminately, and now (as if it wasn’t already), it is permanently seared into his brain and will pop out around the elderly and my parents.

Joseph returned home from Space Camp determined to drink “Moon Milk.”  It’s milk with black food coloring.  (Who has black food coloring?  We do.  Because we love cupcake artistry!)

It might also amuse you to know that when I first signed up for the Mom Blogger’s Club and Blogger, this cupcake snake picture was my blogging photograph.  (It’s a 6-year-old birthday party cupcake snake!  Yet still menacing!)  NOBODY WANTED TO BE MY FRIEND!  Except a few Dungeons and Dragons aficionados.  I was heartbroken.  Then I changed my picture and people were friendly!

Edward’s Sunday School teacher motioned us over after class this past Sunday with the usual tell-tale finger.  We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again.

“We were asking about Jesus and the men who helped him.  We asked if anyone knew what these helpers were called.  He answered, “‘Jesus and the 12 Distributors!'”

Sounds kind of like a band.

Long live Kim!

Posted on 12 August '08 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 8 Comments.

Six Unspectacular Quirks

My dear new friend, Tara, at Tara’s View of the World, tagged me for this fun meme!  And it’s a good thing, too, because I am so exhausted from my first day of homeschooling that all I can do is sit and stare into my dining room, murmuring incoherently, as I gaze at at the two laundry baskets full of unfolded, wrinkled laundry topped with a Twister game and dirty football pads.

Embrace the Rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks you possess.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

1. Self-Styled Restaurant Critic: I am a fearless critic for my tired, chain-restaurant-obsessed Southern town.  I actually dream of starting a restaurant review web site or publication for this sad sister of a town.  To that end, I take pictures of food and restaurant interiors in the event that one day, my dream comes to fruition.

Here is an example of a photograph I took three weeks ago in a local Mexican restaurant.

Can someone please tell me how a restaurant meets health and hygiene standards by requesting patrons throw used toilet paper into open slop buckets instead of the toilet?  Maybe there is something I do not understand.

(As Sue, my newly potty-trained 3-year-old noted, it “smelled” in there and she could not use that “yucky potty.”)

2. Illness Photography: I feel it is only responsible to chronicle my children’s illnesses or injuries through photography, which I can then share with my over-worked, but extremely patient, pediatrician.

“Well, it may not look like much now, but THIS is what the rash looked like three hours ago when I could not get an appointment with your fair office!”

(Turns out, it was not Measles, as I feared, but that Fifth Disease contagion that always looks like something quite serious but only matters if you are pregnant.)

Still, it looks menacing!  (Wouldn’t you have called?)

3. “Sleepy M:” I can only sleep with this grand product, the Sleep Mate by Marpac. Yes, Marpac. (I have nicknamed it “Sleepy M.”)  I purchased it from the JC Penney catalog for $50.00 in 1990.  It is dependable, reliable and only occasionally releases black, fuzzy debris from its side vent holes.  Yet that is unimportant.  What counts is the numbing tone it produces which is the BEST WHITE NOISE on the market.  If it dies, I am toast.

4. White Board Technology Explanation: I’m obsessed with using the “Green Board” to explain complicated computer and video-game related intricacies to my children.  Here I am explaining the many layers between them and the insidious Pirates of the Caribbean Video game which they downloaded and has rendered their PC unusable ever since.

5. Food Peculiarities:  When I make Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, I throw out half the noodles, double the water and add all the cheese powder so it will be a cheesy noodle soup.  No one else likes it this way, which is good for me!

6. Children Can’t Have Too Many Costumes:  I can’t turn down the purchase of a reasonably-priced costume.  No, seriously. Many of my friends don’t bother to buy Halloween costumes for their children.  “Why bother?–We’ll just go get one of Elizabeth’s.”

Look at these and see if you don’t agree:

And now for the drumroll…………

1.  Outnumbered Two To One

2.  The Bon Bon Gazette

3.  Mom’s Ministry & More

4.  Another Piece of the Puzzle

5.  Pancakes Gone Awry

6.  Good Enough Mama

You’re it!  Savor the fun!

Posted on 11 August '08 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 7 Comments.

Free At Last, Kim the Velvet Ant Runs Free Again!

All is right with the world tonight.

Yes, after overwhelming concern regarding Kim’s well-being, we decided as a family that Kim should be set free!

As so many readers have pointed out, the velvet ant is nomadic.  And it’s tough to be nomadic in a 6 by 11 plastic Kindergarten Graduation Fish aquarium.  She did suckle at the sugar-water nectar H made last night, but we sensed it was not sufficient.

So, we all congregated this evening to allow Kim to taste, yet once again, that sweet smell of freedom.

She scampered.  She burrowed playfully under leaves.  She was utterly filled with joy!

And so were we.

Posted on 9 August '08 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 7 Comments.

Chloe’s Perspective

Through a prayer chain at church almost two years ago, I heard about a dear 3-year-old name Chloe who had been diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, an insidious form of childhood cancer.  She lived near me, I found out, and I soon learned we had mutual friends.

I began to follow Chloe’s story via email updates.  I prayed for her.  I thanked God that I wasn’t in her parents’ shoes.  I marveled at her mother who amidst all this chaos, still managed to homeschool.  At every pediatric well visit when no lumps were found in my own children, I was a bit more thankful than I might ordinarily be.

I thought about calling to see if I could make a casserole or deliver something.  I thought about emailing or sending a note.  I thought about doing a lot of things.

But I did nothing.

During May of 2007, my best friend, who designs her own line of invitations called Prints Charming, invited me to help her at the New York Stationery Show.  I jumped at the chance.  I was desperate to get away.

When it came time to leave, I hopped in the airport shuttle bus, still feeling a bit nervous about leaving my three for the first time ever, slid over on the bench seat, and started to cry.  I cried because I felt selfish and guilty for leaving everyone.  I cried because I was abandoning my still-nursing toddler for a week.  I cried because I wanted to go to New York and feel like someone important for a change.  In truth, I wanted a break from my life, and maybe for more than just one week.

As I sat there with tears dripping into my purse, I felt someone slide over the seat next to me.  I got myself together enough to glance over at this person and she greeted with an inviting smile.  That’s when I noticed the large button on her sweater.  I froze.

“That’s Chole!  I know Chloe!  I pray for Chloe!”  I cried.

“I’m Chloe’s grandmother,” the woman replied.

For me, a special intimacy develops when I read a person’s writing day after day, month after month.  It was the strangest feeling to finally meet this person.  There were so many days when I would be having my own private pity party but I would read those email posts and have my vision completely re-focused.  So many times the verses quoted in Nana Becky’s emails were verses I had just read that same day…verses God wanted to make sure I had truly heard.

I knew God had put us together on this shuttle bus, at this exact moment, for some reason.  But I didn’t know why.

“You’re Nana Becky?  You’re the author of all those email updates?”

I learned that Nana Becky was headed to New York on an incredibly expensive last-minute ticket to help her daughter who had been with Chloe in New York for weeks and, understandably, was simply spent emotionally and spiritually.  She knew what her daughter needed, and she was determined to be there for her. 

Nana Becky and I visited during the two hours to the airport.  I shared notes I had taken during a recent Beth Moore conference where Beth discussed James 1:12–persevering during life’s most fiery trials.  Here was a woman, her daughter and granddaughter (and entire family) who were living this verse every day of their lives, and doing so with such a fierce, victorious spirit.

When it was finally time for Nana Becky to leave the bus, we hugged like long-lost mother and daughter.  As I watched her drag her luggage toward check-in, I began to feel unusually grateful.

So that was over a year ago.  I have prayed for Chloe and Nana Becky, and I have tried to stay current with the latest medical updates.  Still there were times when my own burdens grew so heavy, I couldn’t open those emails.  I didn’t think I had the energy to be fully part of Chloe’s battle.  I never stopped to realize that energy wasn’t supposed to come from me anyway.

I failed.

Fast-forward to today.  After meeting Sue’s preschool teacher, we decided to have lunch and play in the large, outdoor, fenced Burger King near her school.  After I got everyone settled, Edward a coffee lid full of ketchup and a hamburger patty, I glanced up at the bridge to the playground.  And standing there surveying the scene was a little girl with gleaming brown eyes and a sprinkling of hair.  My heart jumped.

It was Chloe.

A few minutes later, Nana Becky headed over to the table next to me, her arms laden with trays of food.  I rushed over to her.  I hugged her like she was my long-lost mother.  I’m sure she was a little shocked, although she acted as if it was the most natural kind of behavior for someone to have in a Burger King playground.

I could tell Nana Becky was enjoying the children and the day, but I could tell she was heavily burdened.  She asked me if I was still homeschooling. As I answered “yes,” a combination of fear and slight dread trickled down my spine as I thought about the year ahead.

She then told me that since her daughter would be spending two weeks out of the next several months in New York for Chloe’s treaments, there was no way she could homeschool this year.  The other children would be starting school this Monday.

It wasn’t their first choice; it was their only choice.

Almost the entire time Nana Becky sat there, her cell phone in hand, she was obviously involved in serious phone conversations regarding Chloe’s next round of treatments in New York.  Every few moments, she would put down the phone, look out over the playground at Chloe, who was playing happily, and I’m sure say a silent prayer of thanks for this day.

One day of normal.  One day that most people would never even think about as being anything remarkable. One day that some mamas (like me) would complain about later.  (Oh, Burger King again.  If I have to eat one more hamburger and listen to them fight over those stupid Kid’s Meal toys.)

Just as I was about to leave, I felt this overwhelming pressure to say one more thing to Nana Becky:  “Would it be OK for me to write about Chloe, put her picture on my blog, and ask people to pray for her?”  Nana Becky’s eyes got misty, “Yes, yes please do that.  And please pray.  She needs those prayers…now more than ever.”

During the last two years, Chloe has been through major kidney surgery, 7 rounds of chemotherapy and 2 stem cell transplants.  The treatment she begins next week, 3F8, is described as the most painful yet.

I’m taking up my sword this time.

Would you please pray for Chloe, too?

I’ll end this post the same way Nana Becky ends all of hers:

“Chloe will live and not die, she will tell of the works of the Lord.” Psalms 118:17

If you would like to read more about Chloe, please visit Nana Becky’s Care Pages and search for PrincessChloe.  Thank you.

Posted on 9 August '08 by , under Faith is the Evidence. 10 Comments.

GF/CF Friday Product Review: Pamela’s Chocolate Cake Mix

Every Friday, I will review a Gluten Free/Casein Free (GF/CF) product from the perspective of my 6-year-old, Edward, who has been on the GF/CF diet for 6 months.

(HelloKittieMama from the BonBonGazette will also be posting reviews on her site, so please check her out! )

I planned to make two cakes for my brother’s birthday–one GF/CF and one Betty Crocker.  I prepared this Pamela’s Chocolate Cake Mix first.  It was as easy as Betty Crocker–I just added eggs, water and oil.  Since I was a tad concerned about dryness, I decided to make one large bundt cake.  I just iced it with a glaze made with powdered sugar and water.

This easily came out of the bundt pan, and when I tasted the edges, I decided this was so spectacular I did not need to waste my time on Betty Crocker.  The cake was smooth and moist with a perfect chocolate flavor.  I am seriously picky, but even I would not have known this was GF/CF.

I did not announce that the cake was GF/CF, but everyone raved about it and asked for as second piece.  I waited until the next day to tell my brother and his girlfriend that the cake was gluten-free.  They had a difficult time believing me!

Edward absolutely adored this cake.  His take?  “This is the best cake I have ever had!  Thank you for making it.  Now, can you make another one?”  (That’s the only negative.  Now every day he begs for me to make another cake.)

I believe this would be the perfect cake for school birthday cupcakes!  I am so relieved to find a cake mix that I can use for everyone.

Watch out Betty Crocker!  Pamela’s on the move!

Posted on 8 August '08 by , under GF/CF Diet/Food Reviews. 9 Comments.

Meet Kim, Our Velvet Ant

This morning, I was hastily loading the dishwasher, drinking tepid coffee, washing a sticky grits pan (’cause I live in the South), and twittering madly when I heard, “Hey Mom, you gotta get out here and see what we fouunnd!”

(I had forced them my children into the back yard before it reached 100.)

“This is the greatest one we have ever found because it’s so BIG and RED,” Joseph beckons.

I mentally breezed through the possibilities:  bloody mole, toxic mushroom, poison-arrow-dart-tree-frog-that-has-somehow-migrated-from-Nicaragua.

(Granted, we had a 3-year-old neighbor boy over.  Otherwise I probably would have ignored him.)

What does he hold in his calloused 8-year-old hand?

A Cow-Killer!  Yes, a velvet ant!  A creature with a sting slightly more painful than a wasp’s, but with an incredibly deadly appearance that in no way deters my son’s desire to allow it free reign about his hand.

I gave him a serious look–not enough to alarm–but enough to know I was not joking, and said, “You know they do sting.”

All the other children recoiled in horror.  But Joseph gingerly dropped the creature into a plastic Shoney’s cup, because he’s cool like that, and generally not one to panic.

(I mean this is a child who suffered a spider bite to the “private area” at the age of two that caused his “private part” to swell up within his Blue’s Clues pullup like a large kiwi, spent two nights in the hospital for “observation” and intravenous antibiotics, and never ever once whined or cried.  Not to mention playing an entire youth football game with an arm unknowingly broken in two places.)

So instantly the velvet ant is dubbed “Kim,” proclaimed a pet, and given the recently-vacated home of the Last Living Kindergarten Fish who departed this transient existence about two weeks ago.

The boys did a little research to determine Kim’s needs and found she delights in nectar.  Here you see the “Miss Huff” lantana they carefully chose for her:

So H walks in the door, glances at the aquarium on the kitchen counter, and rolls his eyes.

I counter, “Obviously, you were not following me on Twitter today.  You know nothing about “‘our Kim.”‘

Posted on 7 August '08 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 14 Comments.

Creative Joy & Mutual Incomprehension

This Summer has been different.

As I approach the dawn of homeschooling everyone together, I do so with great fear and trembling.  The only factor that meagerly bolsters my weak confidence in this new education plan is that something rather profound has happened during this Summer: My children actually play together.

Is it because, in turning 3, Sue is finally a worthy playmate?  Perhaps Joseph has finally accepted that Edward knows more about science than anyone, yet still struggles to catch a football?  Or maybe Edward acknowledges that Joseph is a fast, mean middle linebacker, but completely ignorant of and disinterested in the periodic table?

Is there something about sleeping like slaves that bonds children?

I don’t know.

Yet I can tell you that the three have steadily slouched toward a mutual acceptance of one another this Summer.

They know they don’t understand each other, and they are cool with it.

We are Spies:

“Come with me smallish, younger girl spy who knows nothing about being a spy.”

Yet now instead of getting angry and frustrated with her for the cherubic innocence that accompanies having just turned three, he gives her a spy toboggan and a job she can understand.

“Go over there by that tree and select 5 small stones.  We will use those to be spies.”  She nods happily.

She doesn’t understand what this means, and he knows she does not understand.  Yet both play along peacefully.  Believe me, this is big, big, big for us!

Even after eight years of having boys, I am still continually surprised at a boy’s capacity to make a weapon out of trash.  Here you see a handy weapon made “on-the-spot” with items found during one grocery store visit:  Rubber Band, Coffee Stirrer and Pencil.

Makes a fine bow & arrow.

I don’t understand why boys must make weapons out of everything.  I don’t even understand what compels an 8-year-old to hurl a basketball at a bird.  Yet finally I appreciate and accept this creativity.

Today, I walked by and noticed this on my kitchen counter:

I can just imagine the conversation:  “Look up there behind the ice bucket–there’s an old box of fudge–let’s eat it with a Christmas cheese spreader!”

I don’t understand why my children search the dark recesses of the pantry in the wee hours of the morn in an attempt to find some post-date specialty food item given to us by a relative who works at Steinmart.

Yet I embrace the creativity of a child who would seek out a Christmas cheese spreader in the china cabinet instead of using a common butter knife.  There’s something special there.

We press on!

Posted on 6 August '08 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 7 Comments.