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Today’s Freewrite by the Four Year Old

Every so often (not as often as I’d like), I listen to the kids as they tell a story and I write it down for them. I remember my mom doing the same thing for me, and I’ve always cherished the funny little stories I made when I was little. These days, I get to type the stories, helping me write them down almost as fast as the kids can speak. A weekly freewrite is also part of the Bravewriter writing program, which I really enjoy.

I really liked today’s freewrite by the four year old:

Once upon a time there was a fishy. And then there was clownfish and she said “hi!”. So they swam into the sea anemones. And then there was a sea grape. They both shared it. And then there was a grape and they shared it too. And then there was another grape and there were actually two grapes and they shared it and they got one. And they ate it at the same time. And then there were two more clown fishes. There were four now. Now there’s four grapes. And then they eat the same time. They all eat at the same time. So, they got eight cherries. So they kept and then they saw a rock. And then they went in their sea anemones. And then there was a cherry and it hugged them. I’m done.

My favorite part is when she paused to count how many cherries she would need for each fish to get two.

Planning a Meal

This is what I have to go through to plan a meal. I have to think really hard about each and every ingredient… and that’s why it’s so hard to eat out.

Today I decided to have a salmon salad sandwich:

  • Bread — Not just any bread, but GF bread. Oh wait, most GF breads have some sort of FODMAP in them, such as pear or apple juice, honey, chicory, etc.. I like Schar white bread and I always toast the bread because GF bread is usually only edible when toasted.
  • Canned salmon — I use this now instead of tuna, because salmon is awesome and some tuna seems to have gluten or FODMAPs or something. It upsets my tummy.
  • Mayonnaise — I used to use Miracle Whip, but recently they replaced sugar with HFCS. Most mayos have HFCS, but there are some that do not. I use Hellman’s.
  • Relish — I’ve only found one type of sweet relish I can eat, Wegman’s Organic relish. Every other relish has garlic, onions, and usually fructose or polyols.
  • Mustard — need to find one that is GF, no onion, no fructose… I use a brand that is a Dijon mustard without any alcohol.
  • Worcestershire sauce — as long as you are in the US, it is GF. In Canada, it has gluten (or did last I looked).
  • Something crunchy — I used to put celery in my tuna fish salad, but celery has moderate amounts of FODMAPs so I avoid it. Now I use cucumbers. I eat a lot of cucumbers.
  • Herbs and spices — you have to make sure they are GF. When I first went GF, I repeatedly glutened myself with a really lovely paprika my mom brought me back from Europe. After that, I used strictly McCormick’s brand, and now Penzey’s. I usually add pepper (but not too much, it can aggravate GERD), dill, and paprika.
  • Tomato — I used to add tomato. Not so much anymore, because of reflux. The better I feel and the earlier it is in the day, the more likely I am to put tomato on.
  • Extra pickles — in the old days, I’d add fire pickles (spicy sweet pickles) from the farm down the road. Now, almost never, due to reflux.
  • Cheese — sometimes I add cheese. It has to be a non-lactose-containing cheese, so cheddar is acceptable as long as it is GF, but fresh or soft cheeses are not.

You’re On the What Diet?

This is a post for anyone who is wondering just what on earth is wrong with me and why I can’t seem to eat anything. It’s taken years to untangle my health issues, and I’m still not done yet… but at least I’m getting somewhere, finally.

I’ve always had health issues. From infant food intolerances, to repeated bouts of pneumonia, to migraines. I can handle a little discomfort. But after I had my first child, it got decidedly worse. I had near-constant, brutal migraines. My sinuses were swollen and in pain. After my second child, I had swollen hands, nerve pain, and muscle weakness. I had the inability to think straight, like my mind was in a fog. Everything was inflamed and hurt. I’d say that most days my pain level was between 6 and 8 on the pain chart. For those unused to the pain chart, that means it had a direct impact on my life, interfering with my ability to do tasks, sometimes even taking care of my basic needs. I ended up on antibiotics a lot. After seeing the doctor over and over, I had multiple medications to take, I had to clean my sinuses twice a day, I took Advil like it was a vitamin, and I was constantly hanging out in the bathroom with a steamy shower in order to try to get the pain in my head to get the slightest bit better. And this went on day after day, month after month, for years.

My regular doctor sent me to an allergist, who suggested it might be due to gluten. So, five years ago, I went gluten free. My symptoms got drastically better in just three days. It was hard work to get used to checking every ingredient and every meal I ordered at a restaurant, but it was worth it to finally get my life back. I still had good days and bad days, but finally the good days outnumbered the bad days. I had more bad days in the beginning when I wasn’t quite sure which foods tended to not be problematic (spices!), but I also had many friends and family who were also GF to help me. The great thing about the diet becoming trendy, even if it is for stupid reasons, is that many manufacturers removed gluten from their products, so it’s really only gotten easier as time has gone on.

But then other problems cropped up. Back when I was 19, I was diagnosed with IBS. It’s basically a catch-all, we-don’t-know-what’s-wrong-with-you and please-go-away diagnosis. It’s miserable, embarrassing, and even has a horrible, comedy-worthy name. One doctor gave me hydrocodone and told me to go away, another gave me a list of foods to avoid and muscle relaxants to help with the pain. I wasn’t really interested in being on those medicines forever and the list of foods never helped. But I dealt with it. After I went GF, my IBS got worse. So I re-dedicated myself to avoiding the foods I was supposed to avoid and ate fiber until I couldn’t stand it anymore! Still, it got worse. And worse. (Trust me, you don’t want a discussion of the symptoms!) Finally, when I just couldn’t take it one second longer, I went looking for a gastroenterologist in the area and found my favorite doctor, ever. I finally felt like someone was taking my problems seriously.

He introduced me to a new idea from Monash University in Australia — that not only does fiber not necessarily help IBS, it might make it worse! I was initially skeptical of a doctor giving me another new diet that would supposedly help me, but as soon as I looked at the lists of allowed and disallowed foods, I was ready to try it. The foods on the lists lined up perfectly with what I had already determined by experimenting at home. I knew carrots were always fine to eat. I knew green bell peppers always made me sick. And so did Monash University!

So two years ago, I embarked on the low FODMAP diet. It’s hard. It’s really hard. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how people without degrees in Biochemistry or Molecular Biology even manage to figure it out, because it’s so sciency! Basically, it’s like lactose intolerance, but on a crazy massive scale. With lactose intolerance, you can’t digest lactose, a sugar in milk, so when the undigested lactose reaches your intestines, the bacteria there throw a fermentation party… and symptoms result. Well, FODMAPs are just a bunch of other sugars and sugar-related molecules, such as fructose, that do the same thing when you don’t digest them correctly. The thing is, those sugars and other molecules are sprinkled liberally around the food web and there isn’t any easy way to guess which FODMAPs might be in which foods.

I had to reduce or stop eating most fruits, many vegetables (no onions or garlic is difficult!), sweeteners (no honey!), artifical sweeteners (no gum or most diet foods), many types of nuts, almost all beans (*sob*), and many other foods. Like many food-intolerance diets, you start by eliminating everything that might make you feel bad. I felt so much better in just one week. Then, after a month or two of the elimination diet, you slowly try to add things back in to see if you can tolerate them. I mostly failed to tolerate anything and while I was testing each problematic food, I felt bad again. It was a difficult summer.

(Chart thanks to Jeffrey Roberts from ibsgroup.org. It’s a little out of date — some of the foods on the “ok” list are only tolerated in small amounts, such as celery and grapes.)

Eventually, I even managed this crazy FODMAPs diet. I started making my own cream cheese (store-bought cream cheese is high in lactose) and made lists of FODMAPs-free meals so I could have an easy meal list for planning purposes. (List 1, List 2, List 3)  I searched for recipes online and stuck them in Pinterest so I could find them. My mom and I took old recipes and made them GF and low-FODMAPs. I made almost everything I ate from scratch, including chicken broth and pasta sauce, just like I did back when my babies were nursing. When they were babies, they had really bad colic, because they couldn’t handle the onions or garlic in food. I searched for alternate brands that used sugar instead of HFCS, brands that used no onions, brands that didn’t sneak in my mortal enemy, sorbitol. I used maple syrup in everything. I felt great.

But a year later (last spring), I felt bad again. Not just bad… horrible, as in “let’s get to the ER, I think I’m dying” horrible. We haven’t entirely figured out what happened to me last spring and summer, but one major thing I was diagnosed with was GERD. Reflux. I realized that I basically had the digestive system of an extremely colicy newborn. Even worse, it was my beloved low FODMAPs diet that was hurting me. When I lost so many fruits and vegetables, I filled those spaces in my meals with tomatoes, pineapple, citrus fruits… everything that makes reflux worse.

It was the worst year of my life. It was months of unpleasant testing with doctors. I lost 15 pounds because I couldn’t eat. Then I gained 15 pounds because I couldn’t do anything. I got out of shape. I was scared to go anywhere. I spent far too much time teaching the kids how to call 911 and quizzing them about our address, just in case. Heck, I was even injected with radioactive isotopes twice!

So now I take medicine for reflux. I cut tomatoes out for a while. I try to eat way way way before bedtime. I’m at a bit of a loss for what to eat. It would probably be easier to make a list of foods I *can* eat instead of lists of foods I can’t. I’m pretty sure it would be shorter. I still have bad days, but the bad days usually aren’t as bad. On the other hand, the good days are also never as good.

I’m not convinced we’ve figured out what happened to me last year. We’re a step closer, but we still don’t have the complete picture. All I know is that it’s correlated with my allergies and it’s spring again… and I’m scared.


Pi Day — This Friday

Just a quick warning that this very Friday is Pi Day! The day we celebrate 3.14.

I gathered together some fun Pi Day activities:

Other Pi Day activity lists:

And don’t forget to plan a really big party for next year — 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 will be amazing! (3.141592653…)

Day in the Life

When I was first thinking about homeschooling and even when I was a beginning homeschooler, I spent a lot of time looking for blogs of a typical day in the life of a homeschooler. I think a lot of people do. The thing is, there are so many different types of people and ways to homeschool that, of course, no two families have similar days. Heck, my days aren’t even similar to each other!

We do not have a typical day. Like I’ve said before, the second anything seems to regular or organized, my little beings of chaos get upset.

Anyway, here is an example of A day. Not a typical day, not a normal day… just a day. It’s a Thursday — usually we would go to co-op (I fully expected to!) but the kids decided to just stay home and spend time together. (Referring to the kids as BK, MK, and LK for big, middle and little…)

08:03 — I woke up, lay in bed reading email, Facebook until 8:30.

reading08:31 — I went downstairs to find the MK reading to the LK. Time for coffee!

hot chocolate08:47 — Coffee and hot chocolate time! We are so tired of winter.

08:49 — Kids are singing the “bottles of beer on the wall” song, but they started at zero and went negative. The MK just learned about negative numbers, so that’s fun practice.

09:06 — Reading history. The kids decided we were doing American History now (specifically the USA, not so much native cultures before that — we covered a lot of that when we studied world history). Today we’re reading about the Mayflower and William Penn. In the meantime, the LK played with an abacus.

teslaAndDrawing09:30 — LK is investigating Tesla coils more. BK doing a lesson in his online Minecraft mod class. MK decided to draw a still life of fruit. We talked about ways to make apples and oranges look different: shape, texture, and so forth.

09:45 — LK decides to paint.

draw and paint10:00 — MK now tracing horses to learn more about how things look in 2d. BK is setting up a mine craft world for his sisters. LK is telling a story about her painting.

fruit10:36 — Now we are eating second breakfast. MK is back to drawing fruit, making a picture of a picnic basket. The LK starts sketching things to be like her sister and works on her potty training.

fruitBasket10:48 — MK finishes picnic picture. Nice shading! Kids go play Minecraft while I read some Twitter.

11:11 — LK comes back to draw, I continue Twitter…

recipe11:33 — Twitter is really talky today. Big kids still playing Minecraft. LK is writing a recipe book on vellum.

hairPotion11:43 — LK has me trim her bangs and saves the clippings. For a project. A potion, apparently. It’s a potion recipe book.

12:03 — I finally decide to get dressed. Can’t find clean pants. Starting laundry! LK made hair portions in a big test tube with her hair and juice squeezed out of a juice pouch. (Wha?!) Big kids still on Minecraft.

12:15 — Big kids empty dishwasher, I start folding a week of clothes. Ugh. Also, I’m walking in place to please the Fitbit.

12:27 — Change a dirty diaper, remind MK to actually empty dishwasher. More laundry and jogging.

12:45 — Posted on the blog for throwback Thursday. Making more food for kids. The big kids tell me the LK drank her hair potion. (EEW!) Now she’s pretending to be a soot sprite.

13:15 — I paused folding laundry to update the blog’s CSS file because I hate serifed fonts online.

powdertoy13:45 — The girls are making sweet rolls. BK is playing with Powder Toy. He’s enjoying experimenting with gravity and orbits. Also, rubidium and making things explode.

13:51 — I guess I should do some dishes.

sweet rolls14:13 — Dishes and sweet rolls complete. Kids eating (again?!?) and making up stories.

curry14:54 — I cooked some curry for me. The girls are tracing fairies and making up silly stories. The BK is watching a YouTube video discussing the legality of who owns The Moon.

15:16 — Now that I’m done eating, it’s time to fold more laundry.

16:07 — …instead I read Facebook. I hate this sinus infection. I’m just so tired. The girls just came looking for food. How many meals do they eat a day?!? Husband just got home a bit ago, too. He’s roasting coffee and taking pictures of birds. I need to start getting MK ready for ballet…

laundry16:10 — Time to fold more laundry and get more steps for the Fitbit. I just got the Helicopter award for climbing 500 floors of stairs!

16:30 — Ended up with a migraine and sat down in bed. Taking Tylenol and medicinal Coke.

17:00 — Finished enduring a migraine, ready to take MK to ballet. This is when I apparently forgot to keep taking pictures.

17:30 — At ballet! Watching cute kids, chatting with amusing 4th grader who is the older brother of another kid in the class.

18:15 — Ballet is over, time to go home!

18:45 — Home. Kids all making random dinners of leftovers and easily cobbled-together items.

18:58 — Time to jog. The Fitbit demands it. Basically, we jog in a circle in the main floor of our house through the kitchen, hallway to the font door, then through the den. They all inter-connect. I’ll read twitter or RSS feeds, or chat with the husband.

19:46 — Almost done with my 5 miles. MK is eating ramen, BK is playing Minecraft with friends in California, LK is watching Clifford.

20:00 — Kids get dressed for bed, brush teeth, find their water, pick out books for bed.

20:30 — I snuggle with girls upstairs while BK watches TV with dad. Tonight the MK reads her first chapter book all the way through by herself! It takes an hour and a half. Her sister falls asleep partway through.

21:00 — BK goes to bed to listen to music, read, watch Youtube videos, and so forth. The girts and I are still reading…

21:30 — Still reading… though the LK has now fallen asleep.

22:00 — Finally done! Lights out, audiobook on, a few snuggles and MK falls asleep. I say goodnight to the BK. Husband still hasn’t finished his steps for his Fitbit (he does about twice as many as I do) so he finished those up which I watch Psych.

23:00-ish — We go to bed.

And that’s it! It’s a rather art- and Minecraft-heavy day. Not nearly as frantic as when the kids were a few years younger. I can’t wait for spring so we can get out more!


Throwback Thursday: Unschooling Minecraft

Here at Home Is Possible, we are certainly tending towards unschooling these days. This Throwback Thursday, take a look at a post from about two years ago. The Boy managed to cover most of his subjects himself, using Minecraft:

I Guess This is What Unschooling Is Like

And hey… right now he and his sister are playing Minecraft again right now.

Re-organized the Categories and Tags

WordPress, the blogging software I’m using, allows me to tag each post with both categories and tags. I just spent the past hour re-tagging and categorizing everything to make my old posts easier to navigate.

Categories are broad way of organizing things, for example: cooking, homeschooling, goals. If you click on a category name below a post, you are taken directly to an archive of all the posts categorized the same way. Fancy, huh? Also, the categories are listed down the right column of the blog, to make them easier to find. Maybe you just like posts about cooking and don’t want to see anything about homeschooling — now you can ignore the things I say that you don’t like! But, of course, you won’t do that. Right? Right??

Tags are a ways to drill-down into those categories. I have one for each homeschooling subject, a tag for gluten-freeFODMAPs, and recipes. I even have a tag just for items having to do with portfolio reviews. Once again, click on the name of the tag below a post to go to an archive of all the posts with that tag.

So far I’ve just roughly re-tagged everything. Over time I’ll probably notice things that are still tagged wrong. But I did the bulk of it and got rid of some of the extraneous categories which I thought made navigation from the right column a little too difficult.

Next up: fix the page design.

Hello World!

After being gently mocked by a local 4th grader, I decided to move to WordPress. Go me!

Going Out Is Possible Too

So the name of this blog is Home Is Possible, because it was part of my fun experiment in making things at home (yogurt, canned goods, whatever), doing home repair (we recently fixed our dryer! Amazing!), homeschooling, working at home… basically, doing all sorts of things at home! I like being home. It’s nice.

On the other hand, I don’t want to always be at home. Last year, however, ended up being way too much at home, mostly due to health issues. Stupid health issues. So this year is dedicated to making sure we get out of the house a lot! We have so much to make up for after last year.

So far it’s been wildly successful, despite the crazy winter weather that keeps polar vortexing and snowing all over us. The Boy is back in gym, The Girl is continuing ballet. We’ve managed to go to more than half of our Thursday co-op days so far. We’ve gone to birthday parties, a maple sugar festival, and a park. We made a snow fort, many snow people, and went sledding. We’ve even been to our new library four times in two months! We even saw musical lightning strike a man in chain armor playing Black Sabbath’s Iron Man on a tesla coil-powered guitar (ArcAttack).

I even went somewhere (bum bum bum) all by myself for *social* reasons instead of some sort of errand.

But the health issues raise their stupid face again. So it’s back to doctors. Last year’s word was “courage”. This year is “persevere”.

And the plan is to Get Out Of The House. A lot.

Ice Skate Decorations

On pinterest, I pinned a really cute looking ice skate ornament (or decoration). When I was ready to make it, I clicked it and, of course, the destination page didn’t actually have any instructions.

Pinterest sort of makes me crazy this way. It’s a great scrapbook for ideas, but sometimes the destinations are next to useless.

I decided to do a search — let’s find a way to make these things and maybe some different ideas for how to make them. I don’t have any procedures or instructions or anything, but some better ideas all in one place is nice, too!

First, an image that shows how to insert the paperclip, so you can an idea of how it’s made.


You can fill the ice skates with polyfill fluff.

I also like the little bell and the pretty gold thread.

Lace and embroidery makes this skate look very fancy!

You can personalize them for different people.

These also have minimal sewing, so might be easier for younger kids.

Using different colored paperclips is interesting, too!

How about matching mittens?

Or crochet them?

Or add glitter.

Or try other shapes!

I think we’ll have fun with this.