Friday, April 18, 2014

Again Once More into the Breach... Or Tummy Aches

This week has been spectacularly low on actual school work. Amber has had a whole week of stomach pain and we aren't sure of the source. We thought she might be sick, but then it looked like something related to her FM. After missing all activities prior to Thursday, Amber is marginally better but still in some pain and very puny.

Originally we had a hike with the homeschool group scheduled for today, but Amber can't manage it so instead we are having a calm day at home finishing some school items and baking. 

On the school front, Amber did complete her standardized testing this morning which means we are free to resume regular school next week. During her extended downtime Amber was able to finish the current literature book, The Tale of Troy. We've yet to have our last discussion on that book, but we are preparing for her final literatur book of the year, Famous Men of Rome. 

Amber also watched a few more episodes of Drive Through Ancient History when she started to recover a little. While it's not my favorite resource, it does give her a different perspective on her current history topic with a little humor included. 

(LEFT) Ready to serve at the confirmation dinner last weekend.  In two year's it's her turn to be confirmed.
(RIGHT - TOP) Pretty much how she looked most of the week.  Watching Warehouse 13.
(RIGHT-BOTTOM) Feeling a little better today.  Kitty cuddles make it better. Allergy shots still haven't started though.

Mostly Amber read lots of her fantasy books and we allowed her to watch Warehouse 13. I've been a fan since the pilot episode, but Amber was too young back then in 2009. Now that the final season has started we allowed her to watch the episodes from the beginning. It's been enjoyable to rewatch a series I love with Amber.  There has been quite a bit of pausing to explain numerous historical references so that Amber understood the "artifacts" on the show. 

I've been trying more new recipes this week to increase our catalog of safe treats, snacks and breakfast foods. With Easter this weekend, I needed a few special items for Amber to eat when everyone else has the standard Easter treats.  I still LOVE Gluten Free on a Shoestring. Just when I need a new recipe Nicole is there with the perfect one. I do usually need to make a few substitutions, but there is no way I could develop these recipes.  

As a baking tip, crackers apparently NEED sugar. Swapping dextrose for sugar results in "softers" not crackers. How do I know this? I attempted it with our tried and true sorghum-teff thins, otherwise known as Wheat Thin Copycat crackers.  I didn't bother to look up the chemistry of this little blooper, but after two batches of softers I gave up and returned to sugar.  Oddly enough the next batch was perfect. 

(LEFT) Just about ready for Good Friday services.  We played bells too.  Well, she played, I made a mess.  I'm getting worse, not better.
(RIGHT-TOP) Fructose Free peanut butter cups for Amber's Easter basket. 
(RIGHT-BOTTOM) Roll dough ready for overnight refrigerator proofing. This will be Texas Roadhouse style GF rolls tomorrow. Trust me, they will.  I've made them before.  :)

We met again this week with Amber's dietician who commensurates with us over the reactions and agrees that there is still something we are missing causing random reactions in Amber.  She laughed with me over the whole oats incident, knowing off the top of her head that they would have failed. We left the appointment with more recommendations for food trials and even the dietician's endorsement to participate in a drug trial. It's not a new drug and really is just a replacement enzyme. The only hitch is that it was originally developed for a different condition but might, and that's a big might, help FM kids tolerate more fructose.  Thus the drug is in trial status for FM patients, but in use for the original condition. Still since Amber had lost weight this time we need all the help she can get. Amber is supposed to gain a pound a month, not lose 2 pounds. We see the GI doctor next week and will go forward from there. 

On a positive personal note, I'm back to exercising 6 days a week (on average) and even have the resistance on my bike back up to the maximum level I ever achieved. I'm exhausted when finished, but am able to complete at least 60 minutes of cardio biking each session. I let my diet and exercise slide the past year while Amber has been sick and have now gained 8 pounds that I want to lose by my birthday next month. It's hard with Amber's carb and protein heavy diet to not join in the fun, but a healthy body that can keep up with the needs of our family is more important. I kinda forgot that along the way this past year. 

That's about it for this week. I pray everyone has a great Easter. Here's to hoping for a productive and tummy-ache-free week.

Happy Easter!

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Standardized Testing, Allergy Testing, and Genetic Testing

I'm going to tell you straight off that you'll notice that most of the pictures in this post seem to be from the same two days.  You would be right.  I completely failed to take pictures most of the week, but in my defense the week was mostly standardized testing and doctors.  I did try to remember to take pictures at the homeschool group enrichment classes, but you'll see that I was not a huge success in that either. 

Most of the school for this week was standardized testing.  We aren't quite complete either and will finish on Monday.  Amber had an appointment this week; Fred had an appointment on the same day.  That day was pretty much useless for school.  We also don't accomplish much on homeschool group day either. Then we had the added bonus of the fun homeschool Easter party today.   So, no testing again today.

Amber did learn a bit about allergies, allergy shots and genetics on Tuesday.  We visited Amber's allergist for the environmental allergy testing, again.  Same two trees popped up on the test as well as... cats.  Amber is allergic to her cats.  This explains much of the nasal issues and coughing of late.  Instead of finding new homes for our beloved cats, Amber is taking medication and starting allergy shots.  Life is never medically dull around here. 

(LEFT) Defiantly holding her favorite cat after returning from the allergist, who did recommend we give away our cats. 
(RIGHT) Two different days of standardized testing.  Such exciting times.

There hasn't really been any new food for Amber this week.  Yellow bell peppers passed the food trial over the weekend, but it was only one small slice.  We will try again sometime when she is feeling adventurous.  However, this gives us great hope that there are vegetables and fruits out there that she can consume in moderation.

I've been in a fog and feeling sick for a lot of the week and it's my fault.  Fred even warned me in advance; Amber told me I was making a bad choice.  Tuesday I had a pretty busy day because of needing to have Amber at the allergist early, then taking her to my mom's where I met Fred so we could drive into St. Louis for his geneticist appointment (all came out well)pic.  The timing was not ideal for lunch, so we grabbed fast food that I could eat while driving.  I chose to eat a wheat bun.  My body chose to explain what happens when a highly gluten intolerant person eats an entire wheat bun. 

Today was our homeschool group's Easter party at a local park.  The kids, of all ages, were able to hunt for eggs and play together on the playground.  Some of the older kids also played kickball.  Originally Amber was gung-ho to play kickball, yet when the time came she was enjoying herself too much to be moved from the playground.  She played so hard today and over did it, just a tad.  I thought she looked a bit worn out, still she would not admit to it until we were halfway home. Then she sorta fell apart into a puddle of exhausted and hot child.  She's resting in the cool air conditioning now and doing much better. 

(LEFT) New sunglasses and shirt.  She is really not happy about this cat allergy.
(TOP-MIDDLE) Homeschool group time: playing in the gym with the big kids.
(BOTTOM-MIDDLE) Easter egg hunt! (Green shirt w/ pony tail.. racing away)
(RIGHT) Assembling her goblin costume for The Hobbit - homeschool group play.

While this has been a fairly uneventful week for school, it was long and tiring in so many other ways.  We have a service event at church tomorrow for Amber and me, then more outside house maintenance if the weather holds on Sunday.  I'm actually looking forward to the rain forecast for Monday so that we can stay home and not have anything out of the ordinary to do. 

So concludes my very sleepily and groggily written weekly wrap-up post. 

Happy Weekend!

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Back To Almost Normal

This has been the kind of school week that we desperately needed.  Tons of actual bookwork was completed successfully with comprehension happening. There was no brain fog or anxiety from food reactions either.  

I decided to let Amber have several days to recover and try to find a good base with her body before trying more new foods.  She has had a few days of some weirdnesses, but I think that's because she's not having a reaction and we are using BOTH chia seeds and Miralax.  The original idea was to back off the Miralax and replace it with chia seeds, but we were never able to because of reactions.   We are ready to trial yellow bell peppers now, and even have the perfect looking pepper waiting for dinner tonight.  Amber LOVES bell peppers, so we are praying really hard that this one doesn't cause a reaction.  Red peppers have a higher chance of failure than yellow, so we are going to work our way up the colors.  

(TOP-LEFT) Goofing off with a Birthday kitty. 
(TOP-RIGHT) Snickerdoodle Chips. Yum.
(BOTTOM-LEFT) Storms.  She has one cat on her lap and one under the blankets at her feet.  Both in harnesses with a leash.  I had the big boy cat.
(BOTTOM-RIGHT) Loves her her Ponies.  New Rainbow Dash shirt AND socks.

I did make new snickerdoodle cookie chips this week, thanks to a recipe at Gluten Free On A Shoestring that I modified to remove the molasses and switch dextrose for sugar.  Amber simply adored those cookies and Fred even ate some. That is high praise indeed.   I also tried the Texas Roadhouse knock-off rolls from GFOAS.  They were.. not the same.  They were good and Fred again even liked them (what's going on here?), but they weren't Texas Roadhouse rolls.  I guess they had a vaguely similar taste, but not really.  I'm going to try again, because I did the most rapid rise method and perhaps I can get a better taste with a longer rise.  At any rate, they were good and easy enough to be put into our regular rotation.

Would you believe that math happened every day this week?  Astonishing, I know.  It's amazing what Amber can do when she doesn't feel awful all the time.  We also completed another science experiment this week.  We had done one similar to it last year, but only using the Earth model.  This time we had models for Earth, Venus and Mercury.  Now if only I could get Amber to write up decent conclusions. She seems to think that because she told me in detail what she learned that she can write a one sentence conclusion and all will be well.  She has learned otherwise.

Given three environments (similar to Earth, Mercury, & Venus) can yeast survive.  Nothing survived in our Venus bottle, but we got a little bit of air in the balloon from Mercury.  Earth's balloon just kept filling.
We were back to the homeschool group classes this week too.  Amber decided again this week to hang out in the gym playing games with the older kids instead of going to the extra art class.  To be honest, I was a little worried at first because I think she is the youngest in that group.  But they are all good kids and she really needs to burn off some energy occasionally.   

Next week we begin standardized testing using the Standford 10 test.  Testing is not required in our state; very little is required here.  Amber was always tested in parochial school and we have continued for various reasons and it really takes so little effort for us to test.  I am a certified tester for both the Standford 10 and Iowa tests, and as our state allows it, I am able to test my own child.  We may take longer than a week though because Amber has quite a few appointments coming up leaving us with barely enough calm days in a two week time span to complete the tests.  If only I had known what April would be like when scheduling the tests back in January.

We finally got Amber's room straightened out this week too.  The new bed that was to have arrived three weeks ago did come on time, but with the wrong box spring that left Amber sleeping up higher than her chest of drawers. Actually, she couldn't sleep in it all because she couldn't get into it, or out of it safely on her own, and neither could I.  It took them another eight days to get the low profile box springs out to our house.   In the mean time Amber decided she wanted to update a few more things in her room, including the addition of a vanity & desk combo with furry chair from PB Teen that arrived last week but we didn't get it assembled and placed in the room until last weekend.  Gone is the little girl padded toy box that doubled as a window seat. Sniff.  

(LEFT-TOP) New bed! I even found the same comforter set again, in a full size. Whew!
(RIGHT-TOP) New vanity / desk and furry chair.  She LOVES this set.
(BOTTOM) Remainder of the room that still needs to be organized again.
Yesterday was our first taste of this year's storm season.  There were thunderstorms, severe storms, and tornadoes in the area most of the day.  Our weather radio was going crazy at home and my iPhone was sounding off everywhere.  We safely kept our normal schedule without any car damage, but barely.  We had only been home 10 minutes from Amber's band practice before the tornado sirens went off here.  I had just enough time to microwave Amber some Annie's GF mac and cheese before we had to collect the cats and head for the basement.  Fred was still at work so he remained there with his car in a covered garage while Amber and I dealt with three freaked out cats and attempted to eat our dinner in the basement.    I have to say, the iPad was very useful to continue watching live streaming local weather from the basement where we have no local TV.

Wednesday was the first birthday of our youngest cats, Rosetta and Milori.  They are no longer kittens, but I don't think they realize this.  Someone needs to let them know. Soon.  Please.  This weekend I'm going to replace the living room and dining room sheer curtains that those two have torn up over the nine months we have had them.  Actually, they did all the damage in the first 6 months.  I simply refused to replace them until the kittens learned to behave. Biscotti never destroyed things like the youngest two do.  One (Rosetta) is a climber who is not front declawed, but has learned the sound of the spray bottle.  One (Milori) is a chewer that seems to be mellowing, but he is so meek that we just have to act a little irritated and he is contrite.  He's been the easier of the two to tame. 

(First Row) Rosetta in July 2013 (calico Angora)
(Second Row) Milori in July 2013 (gray / white Angora)
(Third Row) Rosetta & Milori (look at that tail!!!) in February 2014   ... and Biscotti on the side
(Bottom Row) Full grown April 2014: Rosetta (7 lbs)- her normal princess pose,  Milori (11.5 lbs) - just looking for a cuddle
That's about it for this week.  Thankfully, we have time for some household chores this weekend and maybe can work outside in the yard.  It appears that Spring is going to stick around here for a while and my landscaping needs help.

Happy Weekend.

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