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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Art With Friends

One thing I love about homeschooling is art with friends.  We have a lot of fun, and it's neat seeing what each kid creates.  We use the Home School Art Studio DVDs and like them.  We used a different curriculum last year that was more expensive, but I really wasn't a fan.  Here are a few pictures from one of our recent art days...


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Learning Tower for Two

The girls LOVE using our learning tower when they are in their leg braces, but we had a little problem.... they couldn't both comfortably fit any more!  I was hoping not to have to buy a second one for space reasons, but also because I couldn't put them right next to each other, due to the feet on the bottom, and it would make cooking/baking with them harder.  Our neighbor, Jerry, does wood work, and does a great job, so we asked him to help us modify the tower to fit two.  Basically, we added the length of about another half of a tower, so it's about 1 1/2 of a learning tower.  He took it all apart, and then made new, longer planks for the front and back, and made a new base as well.  He worked hard on it, and it looks amazing!  Oh, and then they spoiled us by inviting us over for a yummy turkey dinner.  We are pretty lucky!!  The learning tower is perfect.  The girls have already used it and are loving it!  Her a few photos of our new (and improved!!) learning tower.... 


Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Ballerina Party for a Princess

Today was Madi's friend party.  She had picked a ballerina theme, so we decided to have a small, girls-only party so that they could learn a little dance.  My friend, Vanessa, from Church taught them a dance to a cute song that Madi likes from one of her Tinkerbell movies.   They loved it!  Here are some pictures from Madi's special day.

Our Girly Princess Feast

Making cute hair bands for our ballerina buns

Conner got to invite a friend, but they like super heros much better than ballerinas :)

Present time!  Yeah!

A silly (and pretty) goose!

I think she's concentrating really hard...

(Pardon the music cutting out at the end of the video ;))

Monday, November 11, 2013

Five Things I Love About Madi

Today my sweet girl turned five.  FIVE!!!  Can you believe it??  I think I am still in shock.  When I look at my little girl, I am in awe of her perfection.  She truly is an amazing little gift from God.  In honor of her fifth birthday, here are five things I love about Madi:

1)  Her heart that overflows with love.

Madi doesn't just love.  She loves with her whole heart.  She literally overflows with love.  She is fully accepting of others and has a deep compassion for those around her.  She likes to help people and feels saddened when they are sad.  She sees the beauty and uniqueness in others.  She is also so very, very loved by so many.

2)  Madi is full of Joy

Madi's middle name is Joy.  She was named after my mom, who also has the middle name Joy.  Madi radiates joy. When you look at her, you see eyes that sparkle, a smile that is always lit up, and you don't have to be around her long before you will hear giggles and laughter.  It doesn't matter what situation she is in, she will find a reason to be joyful.  When you are around Madi, you can't help but be joyful yourself.  Her joy is contageous!

3) This girl is full of personality!
Madi has such a huge personality for such a small person.  She cracks me up.  She is always making up little songs about what we are doing, where we are going, how much she loves us, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  Songs about vasectomy's?  Yup, we have those.  Songs about going to the grocery store?  She's sung those before.  She is such a ham, and very creative!  She is also so very sweet, loving, compassionate, spunky, hard-working, intuitive, smart, and..... the list goes on and on!  She is a uniquely crafted little one and is so full of life.  She is a like brightly shining star!

4) She always finds a way.

When Madi looks at a challenge facing her, she doesn't say "I can't".  Instead, she finds a way.  She is creative and smart, and she doesn't let any obstacles stand in her way.  When she decides she is going to do something, she does.  She is determined to live life to the fullest and will not let anything, or anyone, stand in her way.  Madi does not miss out on life; she does not sit on the sidelines.  She is involved in everything going on around her, and wouldn't have it any other way! 

5) Madi loves herself.

If you tell Madi she is beautiful she will either say, "yeah, duh!", or "yeah, I know."  Where the world looks at her and sees limitations or differences, Madi does not.  She loves herself and is proud of who she is.  She knows that she was perfectly made and does not let anyone feel sorry for her.  If someone asks her why she uses a wheelchair, she tells them she was born with spina bifida and her legs aren't as strong.... then she asks them if she wants to see a wheelie or wants to see her race. She is confident of her abilities.  A few weeks ago I was helping Madi fill out a student of the week paper and it asked what makes her special.  Her answer was, "I am a rock star", and those words couldn't be truer.  She is a true rock star!
(showing off her pirate smile)

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
- Pslam 139:13-14

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gluten Free Dairy Free (and yes, vegan) Apple Crisp

I just realized I've never posted my gluten and dairy free apple crisp on here.  Considering I made it today (and am smelling it right now.... YUM!!!!), I thought I'd post the recipe I modify for us.  The original recipe came from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  I'll put the recipe, as well as my modifications to make it gluten and dairy free below.  Enjoy!

- 5 cups sliced, peeled and sliced cooking apples
- 2-4 tablesppons granulated sugar (I use 3, and use an organic cane sugar)
- 1/2 cup regular rolled oats (I use Bob's Red Mill gluten free)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I use a coffee grinder dedicated to non-coffee items (flax, chia, etc....) and grind up some Bob's Red Mill gluten free oats in to a fine powder.  I use this instead of flour.)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (a dash of nutmeg is good too!!)
- 1/4 cup butter or margarine (We use soy-free earth balance)
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts or coconut (I usually skip this but walnuts would be sooooo yummy!!!)

*****  I always, always, always double the topping part of this recipe.  David loves the top, and this recipe only makes a very thin layer.  It tastes so much better with a little "extra".  When I'm doubling the whole recipe, like I did today, I usually triple the topping, instead of just doubling. 

1) Place peeled/sliced fruit in a 2-quart baking dish.  Stir in the sugar.

2) For topping:  In a medium bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon/nutmeg.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the nuts.  Sprinkle topping over the fruit.

3) Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden (when it's golden and bubbly, that's when I take it out).


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dairy, Gluten, and Egg-Free (Vegan) Cupcakes for Madi's Birthday

Tonight we made gluten, dairy, and egg-free (making them vegan as well ;)) cupcakes for Madi to bring to preschool tomorrow (can you believe she turns FIVE on Monday!?!?!?!?!).  I had "Googled" for a recipe that was vegan and gluten-free, and wasn't coming up with much, so I decided to take a vegan recipe that looked yummy and alter it.  We also made the buttercream frosting.  Yum!  There was a little batter left over, so we made a few mini cupcakes to eat after dinner.  Everyone really loved them, so I thought I would share the recipe.  They were slightly crumbly, but the texture/consistency was actually pretty good :).  The recipe I altered came from

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1 cup soy milk (we don't do soy, even organic and GMO free when we can help it, so I used coconut milk instead)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (we use Braggs)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I just used an organic cane sugar)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil (Canola oil is another thing we don't use in this house, so I used an olive oil blend I have.  I would have used organic unrefined coconut oil, but I didn't leave the milk out long enough to be room tempeture first, so the oil ends up getting clumpy and not distributing correctly) 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (make sure it's gluten free!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract (we used almond)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (We used 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill gluten-free mix, and 1 teaspoon of xanathan gum)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting
**  We also crushed gluten, dairy, and egg free chocolate cookies and mixed a cup of the crushed cookies in to our batter, which is a variation suggested on the website the recipe came from

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
  2. Whisk together the milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).
  3. Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes (I tend to take things out to early and they fall, so I actually did about 21 or 22 minutes, but it worked well :)), until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening (the store I went to only had crisco.  Bleh.  Nasty.  I used it because I didn't have time to go to a natural food store, but I recommend Spectrum)
  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margarine (We used the soy-free Earth Balance)
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer (I wanted it to taste like cookies and cream, so I used 1/4 cup of coconut creamer in french vanilla (So delicious brand)
*** We added 1/2 cup of the crushed cookies to our frosting too

  1. Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.
  2. Add the vanilla and milk, and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.

**** Update.... I made these again today, but tried a different frosting recipe.  This time I found the one found here, but instead of butter I used earth's balance spread, and instead of milk or cream, I used French vanilla coconut creamer.  OH MY GOODNESS was it good!!!

My cute little helpers

She sure loves baking!

Such a ham....

The "before" picture so you could see how they rise....
(P.S. If I am modifying a recipe, I always add apple cider vinegar to help it rise normally.  I didn't have to for this recipe, though, as it already called for it :))

Everyone comes running when you say the word "frosting"!

Ramya has discovered the joy of licking the beaters, and can barely contain herself waiting for it to be time!

This is how much the rose...



Monday, November 4, 2013

In Honor of National Adoption Month....

I thought I'd share a little blurb I wrote for WACAP (they wanted something small for there blog) in honor of National Adoption month.  It's been almost 9 months since we brought Ramya home, and we are so blessed to have her here!

Ramya has been home with us for about 8 months now and I still look at her in awe and disbelief that she is finally home.  At the same time, though, it feels as though she has been here with us all of her life.  We read so many different books on adoption to try and prepare for her arrival, yet we had no idea what it would feel like to welcome a 5-year-old, from another country, in to our home. While the books we read did help us prepare for different scenarios we may encounter and did provide practical and effective strategies for building attachment, they didn't prepare us for the immense amount of love we would feel for her.  Through the waiting, anticipation, prayers, tears, and advocacy we went through before she even came home, we began to bond and attach.  We fell in love.  Though she didn't grow in my womb, she grew inside our hearts and quickly became woven in to our family.  As with anything in life, there are harder moments and easier ones, however, Ramya is such a blessing to our family, and we are honored to call her daughter. 
You can see the feature at...

Pumpkin Carving 2013 Edition

The kiddos had a blast carving pumpkins this year.  Ramya really loved it.  She was a little confused as to why we drew a face and then had to cut it open, but once she got the hang of it, she thought it was a blast!!  Here are some photos of our pumpkins....

I think Madi's face shows exactly how she feels about carving pumpkins ;)