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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yummmmmmmmy Brownies (both gluten and dairy free and regular) Recipe

We love love love this brownie recipe.  I'll post the original recipe, then my changes that make them gluten, dairy, wheat, casein free.  Enjoy!!

Double Delicious Chocolate Brownies (Taken from

1 1/2 cup flour (for gluten free, use Bob's mult-purpose.  I have tried other blends that I have made myself, as they are cheaper, but I just don't like them as much.  They come out best with the Bob's Red Mill multi-purpose gluten free flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter (We use 1/3 cup Earth's Balance vegan butter, the soy free version, and 1/3 cup organic unrefined coconut oil.  Olive oil also works pretty well)
1 1/2 cup sugar (we use raw organic sugar)
1 (12 ounce) packages of chocolate chips (If you need dairy free, make sure you read carefully as many brands add milk fat.  We don't get ones labeled "dairy free" but make sure there are 0 dairy ingredients.  They are usually the ones that are 60% or higher in cocoa/cacao.  We get them when they are on sale and store them in the freezer)
1 teaspoon vanilla (make sure to get GF :))
4 eggs
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
4 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon xanathan gum for GFCF brownies
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar for GFCF brownies

In a saucepan combine butter, sugar, and water.   Bring just to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add in 1 bag of the chocolate chips and the vanilla.  Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.  Put in to a bowl (we never do this, we just leave it in the pan but remove it from the heat) and add the dry ingredients (including the xanathan gum for GFCF) and mix.

Add eggs one at a time, beating after each egg.  Also add in apple cider vinegar if making GFCF brownies.  Stir well.  Then add in the second bag of chocolate chips, and nuts if you want those.  Spread in to a 9 x 13 pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

We like the taste of the GFCF ones much better after they have sat for a bit of time, then been refrigerated.


Friday, July 29, 2011


A few weeks ago, I ordered our Redefining Spina Bifida shirts.  I have a photo I am planning where I want us all to wear them, but I did not want to spend the money on them right now.  I saw a sale on second quality shirts, and nabbed them up.  Heck, we'll stain them anyway, so who cares if they are second quality!

I was so excited when I got our shirts, but was a little taken back when I read the back.  I had read it before I bought it, but it didn't really resonate with me until I saw it on my little gal.

Fear.  Right in the middle of everything I feel about my amazing daughter and spina bifida is the word "fear".  Fear. 

It really made me pause and think.  Am I afraid of spina bifida?  Is Madi?  Is our family?  The answer, simply, is no.  We are not afraid of spina bifida. 

Now, when I first heard that Madi had spina bifida, I was afraid.  I was afraid because no one could tell me what life would look like.  I was afraid because I did not know if I would be able to hold my little girl in my arms.  I was afraid because no one could tell me what Madi would face.  There were lots of guesses, but the fact was, no one knew.  I hear the fear in the posts and questions of new parents.  Terms like "mentally retarded", "no quality of life", and "brain dead" get thrown around, and yeah, it sounds scary!  Doctors tell parents the only human thing to do is to terminate the pregnancy.  They tell them spina bifida is incompatable with life.  It saddens me to no end that doctors STILL describe our children and their lives that way, and it could not be further from the truth!  Madi is not your "best case" of spina bifida.  She has a fairly high lesion, needs a shunt, had a clubbed foot, and cannot move from the waist down.   But guess what, to us, she IS the best case.  She is just perfectly perfect and we are so thankful for the opportunity to get to see and be part of her greatness every day

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
-H. P. Lovecraft

Seeing Madi and the astounding little blessing that she is, there is just no way I can fear spina bifida.  She is not her spina bifida.  It does not define her.  It does not rule, nor ruin, our lives.  I truly do not think Madi is afraid of spina bifida either.  I see her looking spina bifida in the face and saying, "Hey, get out of my way!  You don't stop me!"  Sure, sometimes it annoys her (or 'bannoys' as Conner would say ;)), but she is a bright and determined little girl, and she finds a way. 


I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.
-William Allen White

So take that spina bifida, we are not afraid of you!

P. S. My friend said that "fear" is smaller on the shirt because we are overcoming it.  That is exactly my prayer.  I hope that by wearing our shirts, keeping up our blogs, and being open with the rest of the world, those of us that are touched by spina bifida can reduce fear for new parents.  We can reduce that fear of the unknown.  Now if we can just figure out a way to work on those darn doctors and get them to be more fair in how they describe our kiddos.....

P.S.S. You can buy the shirt here  It is a great shirt!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We have a swimmer

I just have to brag on Conner a moment.  My little dude is finally swimming by himself!  He took 8 swimming lessons this summer, which helped him learn the basics.  He was not quite swimming on his own yet, but I knew it would be a matter of time.  All he had to do was get comfortable putting his head under water.  This weekend he figured it out and now we are out in the pool every day, multiple times a day!  I told him I was so proud of him for trying even though he was scared and for sticking with it.  He grins from ear to ear when I tell him that.  He talks about how proud he is of himself.  It is so cute!  I took a good video but don't have it uploaded yet, so for now, here is a crummy video from my phone.   Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mark Your Calendars!

On October 29th, we will be walking (and zooming) in the local Spina Bifida Association's Walk-N-Roll 2011.  Please join Team Madi in supporting the local organization, which we are part of and have gotten much support from.  We would LOVE to have you walk with us!  You can also support Team Madi by donating to the cause.  All donations will go directly to the Spina Bifida Association of Arizona and can be made online through the Team Madi website.  THANK YOU for your support!

Click Here to Donate

Let there be latches.....

Tonight my awesome hubby got to work on the door latches.  They worked!!!!  We officially have self-closing, self-latching doors!  I sent word to Oasis, our homestudy adoption agency, so that they can notify the judge.  Fingers crossed that they accept it!  We used the Watchdog Latch(es) that we had bought (the ones that were hand delivered) and they were a pretty easy install and very easy to use.  Conner is a bit confused as to why he can no longer operate the doors, but we'll all adapt soon :).  Yeah for a simple solution!!

(A totally unrelated but funny picture ;))

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just the little blessing I needed tonight...

We think we found the solution to our pool situation.  As you know, we have a pool net, but the state will not approve us to adopt (except a child over 6) with the net.  The law is written you have to have either a pool fence or self-closing, self-latching doors, so that is what is needed to adopt.  Our doors are self-closing, but the previous owners did not put in a latch that meets city code, meaning one over 58 inches high (or something like that).  If you have a sliding door, you can find about a million latches.  It's not so easy, though, to find a latch that will work on the types of doors we have leading out back (double doors).  David and I think we found the solution; latches sold at

We ordered the latches this afternoon, and I realized there was no way to choose a shipping method.  We had planned to have them expedited so that we could get them on quickly and notify the judge so that she could continue with our paperwork.  I had to pay through paypal, so I decided just to add a note that we needed them ASAP for our adoption approval and that we would be willing to pay for expedited shipping if we could get it.

Guess what came today?  Yes, the SAME day we ordered it.  Our latches.  The company is apparently based in Tempe (which is about 40 minutes away from where we live) and they DROVE the latches to our house for us today.  I am in awe and so touched that they would take time from their day to do that for us.  Talk about AMAZING customer service!!  With gas prices they way they are, there is no way it was cheaper for them to do that.  They did it out of kindness, and it was just the blessing that I needed today.  So, thank you, to the amazing latch man on the motorcycle.  Your kindness brought tears to my eyes!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Pool Fence Answer

Well, it turns out we do need a pool fence.  Though I know it's better to be overly-cautious, I am just bummed that we have to fix something not broken; something that takes a good chunk of money to fix!  Statistically speaking, a pool net (which we have) is safer than a fence, but the law is written that we need a fence, and the judge is holding us to that.  Bummer.  And they won't approve us until we get it.  Big bummer.  Well, they WILL approve us, but only for a child over 6, and Ramya is only 4.  The fact that she might very well be 6 by the time we get her home does not matter, as it goes by their current age.  Sigh.

There is a glimmer of hope, though.  IF we had self-latching, self-closing doors on all doors leading out to the pool area (3), then we would NOT need a fence.  It just so turns out our doors are self-closing, so all we need to add is some sort of self-latching mechanism (that has to be up 5 feet or taller).  We have calls in to  some pool companies and have been searching the internet for an answer.  We have found many latches for sliding doors, but we have double wooden doors.  They have wood frames with glass panes in them.  Our goal is to get this all taken care of by the beginning of next week, so that our adoption can proceed.  If anyone out there knows of a product or has any ideas, please please send them our way!

(You can actually see our net in the pool in this picture.  That's not typical... David was just lazy that day ;))

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A very small and uneventful adoption update

Today I talked to Oasis to check up on our home study approval through Arizona (there are only 2 states that require you to be approved in your state first for international adoption, and we live in one).  They called the courts to check on it, and found out the court wrote them a letter requesting more information about our pool fence, and possibly other things but since Oasis hasn't gotten they letter yet, they aren't sure.  We have a pool net, but the law is written that you need a pool fence, because it was written before nets came out.  We have lots of reasons for using a pool net instead of a fence, so we wrote a letter to the courts asking them to approve our net since the goal is to have a safe pool, and we do.  I'm really praying they will accept it, as the last thing I want to do is spend money on a fence we don't need, since we do have a safe pool.  We'd appreciate your prayers in that as well.

On to happier news.....

My friend Stephanie that I used to teach with came by with a very special gift today.  Before I tell you what it is, I'll tell you a fun story about Stephanie.  She and I taught at Desert Horizon Elementary School and had a lot of fun being silly together.  We would hide funny things in each other's rooms to find at random times.  One time I stuck a huge wooden bird that was on a stick in her library center.  Her kids loved him and they named him Diego.  Last I talked to her, Diego still graced her with his presence.  Anyhow, back to our special gift....  Stephanie made Ramya a quilt that matches the girl's room perfectly.  It is absolutely beautiful and it's so nice to start collecting things for Ramya, as it makes it feel much more real.  Thank you Stephanie (and Stephanie, if you are reading this, I forgot to ask you how Diego is doing ;))!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I am no good at waiting

When I started working at a daycare, I thought God was teaching me patience.

When I got married and all of a sudden life didn't revolve around me, I thought God was teaching me patience.

When I started teaching and had large class sizes in a Title 1 school where many kiddos didn't speak English as their native language (or at all yet), I thought God was teaching me patience. 

When I had kids of my own, I thought God was teaching me patience.

When Madi was diagnosed in-utero with Spina Bifida and no one could answer my questions, other than to tell me we'd have to wait and see, I thought God was teaching me patience.

And now, as I sit here waiting for adoption approval, I can see that I really have not learned any patience at all.  Maybe this is my time to learn.

Every day I rush to the mailbox to see if we have an approval letter.  Every day, I am disappointed.  Every day I have to resist the urge to call or e-mail our agencies about our paperwork and (hopefully) approval.  The waiting game is really hard.  I expected to wait after our approval, while things went to India to get approved, but I was really praying things would go faster here in the states.  Wacap has had our paperwork since May, and still have not approved us.  The state of Arizona has had it since May too, yet we are still not approved.  I KNOW that all of this waiting is for a reason, even if I cannot see it, but man am I struggling!  I know I should be enjoying the calm before the (paperwork) storm, but I'm not.  I just want to know if that precious little girl that needs a home will be ours.  I know it won't be easy to bring her home, but I know she will be a blessing (please remind me I said that when things get rough ;)). 

So since I'm no good at waiting, will you please all join me in praying that we get approved here quickly?  Ok, ok, I get it, I know I need to be patient.....

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.
-Galatians 6:9

Happy Fourth of July!

This year for Fourth of July, we went to my parent's cabin in Flagstaff, as we do most years.  We had a nice, relaxing weekend, and it was great to have a change of scenery.  My parents, my older brother, and my sister-in-law came as well, and we had a lot of fun spending time with them.  We even ate a yummy Thanksgiving in July turkey dinner.  We are so very blessed!  Here's a few (ok, ok, more than a few) photos from our little getaway...

Looking for tadpoles (we didn't find any...)

The only decent photo I've had taken of myself in a very long time!

Showing off their Fourth of July outfits.  Madi's came from a great local consignment store, Hissyfits, and Conner's shirt was made by Joyful Tye Dies.

At the farmer's market and arts and crafts show

 Showing off their dance moves

In Williams, attempting to ride the train (apparently there were only rides on the 2nd and 3rd, not the 4th.  Oh well, there is always next year.)

 You can see round 2 of Madi's 4th of July outfits here.  This is Conner's shirt from last year, combined with her skirt from last year.  Last year the skirt was too big, and this year, it fits great!

 Today we came back to the cabin to see our crazy dog, Titan, running of the roof of my parent's cabin!

“May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God's blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you're seeking wherever you roam.”
- Irish Blessing