Monday, April 23, 2012

Our Favorite Gluten Free Bread Recipe

        When I first started eating Gluten Free, the thing I missed most was bread – soft, warm from the oven bread that tasted like bread and not Styrofoam or white glue. I tried several recipes, but I ended up frustrated with the amount I’d spent on ingredients and the dismal results. A few years ago, a gluten free bakery opened locally, and sometimes I treated my GF kids and myself to an $8 loaf of bread, but not without great pangs of guilt for spending so much on something so simple. Udi’s bread was a nice option when it became available, but more food restrictions took all of these off of my menu – it was impossible to find a gluten, dairy and corn free bread ready-made.
          Finally, my friend Debbie came to the rescue with a recipe her family uses and loves. The original recipe called for sorghum flour, which you may like (and it may be more nutritious), but it doesn’t agree with me. I’ve replaced it with rice flour in my recipe, and made a few other small adjustments. She makes it in a bread maker, for a 1.5 sized loaf; I make it the old fashioned way, in my Kitchenaid stand mixer. We are so happy with how it turns out.  Perhaps you will like it too?

Our Favorite Gluten Free Bread
1 1/2 cups rice flour (white, brown or a mixture)
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup tapioca STARCH
1/2 cup potato STARCH
2 1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1 1/4 tsp sea salt

1 packet rapid rise yeast OR 2 1/4 tsp
1 1/4 cup very warm water
½ tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 eggs, beaten

Combine yeast, warm water, and sugar, to let the yeast start working.  Mix all other dry ingredients while you wait. When you’ve got a bubbly cup of yeasty water, add to it the oil, honey, vinegar and eggs, and then mix it all into your dry ingredients. Beat for several minutes, until it’s all well blended, and then turn it all out into a well-greased loaf pan. Cover it loosely (I use foil) and set it in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes or so.

Bake in a 350 oven for 45-60 minutes – it slips easily out of my pan, and I check by tapping on the bottom for a hollow sound. It can be tricky to tell when it’s done, but do try not to under bake. The loaf will brown on the outside before the inside is ready, so I tent it with foil after 30 minutes of baking. When it’s done, slip it out of the pan onto a cooling rack, and try to wait until it’s cooled a bit to eat it – bread is always gummy when you cut it too soon.

Wishing you a blessed day, and

Trusting in Him,

Friday, April 20, 2012

On Being Image Bearers

          I’ve been thinking and hearing a lot about the term “Image Bearers” lately, but I'd never thought much about how it applied to me. Charlotte Mason taught that children are not merely containers into which we dump information, but rather, persons and image bearers of God. This sounds so simple, and yet can radically change our approach to education and parenting, once we dwell on it. Then recently, I read an Aesop’s Fable that hit me so hard in the head that I could scarcely stop myself from giving a sermon to my 8-year-old. Luckily for him, I managed restraint and am sharing it here instead.

          The fable was about a donkey carrying a sacred image to a temple (only the word donkey wasn’t used, and we’ve had some talks about the appropriateness of this other word in everyday conversation). The donkey was all decked out with “garlands and gorgeous trappings,” and led a grand procession of priests and pages through the streets. As they passed, the watching people reverently bowed or fell to their knees before the image. The donkey, seeing their adoration and assuming it was for him, “became so puffed up with pride and vanity that he halted and started to bray loudly,” bringing a prompt beating from his driver, along with the admonition,

          “Go along with you, you stupid donkey. The honor is not meant for you, but for the image you are carrying.”

          Whoa – that’s where I got hit in the head. Perhaps to understand why reading this affected me so, you need to know that I’d been struggling with something for which I would have liked recognition. Ever have something you’ve worked really, really hard at, and you hoped that someone would notice it? It’s a people-pleasing tendency to be sure, and a desire for outside input to validate worth; not something to be proud of, but there it is and I’m guessing I’m not alone in it.

          And yet here, in this children’s story (which was really written for adults), was a moral for me: “The honor is not meant for you, but for the image you are carrying.”

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1.27)

          As image bearers, we get the enormous privilege of representing God, and the option of choosing to bring Him glory. Shouldn’t I always hope to be clothed in Him, rather than my own skin and self, so that what shines through is God, and not the “garlands and gorgeous trappings” of external things or achievements? Sometimes, I forget, and want a pat on the back. Sometimes, I forget that privilege of carrying something so precious and profound.

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 Isaiah 61: 9-11

          What a crazy honor to be given! We’re not defined by where we came from, what we’ve done, how we look, choices we’ve made or what we’re thinking right now, today. We’re image bearers of God. Wow. I’m hoping to remember the picture of that donkey foolishly braying, the next time I’m longing for an “atta boy,” and praying I might, instead, direct the attention to the image I'm so blessed to carry.

Wishing you a beautiful day, and

Trusting in Him,


Friday, April 13, 2012

Bearing With One Another

            In my devotional last night, these words stand out:

          “It requires far more of the restraining love of Christ to love our cousins and neighbors as members of the heavenly family, than to feel the heart warm to our suffering brethren in Tuscany or Madeira. To love the whole church is one thing; to love - that is, to delight in the graces and veil the defects – of the person who misunderstood me and opposed my plans yesterday, whose peculiar infirmaties grate on my most sensitive feelings, or whose natural faults are precisely those from which my natural character revolts is quite another.”

                   -Elizabeth Charles – Daily Strength for Daily Needs 

          I think on this long and hard, about how easy it is to feel deeply for the suffering of the orphan in China or Russia, the persecuted in the underground church, the impoverished or enslaved – and yet how hard, sometimes, to live with those where we are planted.

          There is, perhaps, the clerk at the grocery store more interested in her conversation with a coworker than her customer, the friend whose words have stung, a spouse whose tired spirit needs space to breathe and isn’t intentionally ignoring. There are children with needs – perhaps a whining or bickering – that grate nerves and make edges raw, and there are young people trying to find their own way, sometimes stepping on others in the process.

          Oh, how much easier it is, to love those others from afar, than to love those around me sometimes – how much more of me it requires! Can I listen, nurture, and be patient, instead of judging, snapping angrily or holding a grudge?

          “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another. If anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do. But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

                             Colossians 3:12-14

          To get rid of the judgment and impatience, I need substitutes – tender mercies, kindness, humility, patience and forgiveness. Strongs defines forgive as to do a favor, show kindness unconditionally, give freely, grant forgiveness, forgive freely. The word is from the same root as charis, “grace”.  Freely forgive – as I have been forgiven, can I forgive? Some hurts are hard to pass over, and yet how much I’ve been forgiven.

          There is more:

          “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deeds, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:15-17

          Thanksgiving - there it is again! How much better each day, and each relationship, progresses when I look for the gift in each person and each circumstance, taking my eyes off of the far-away and trying to see the beauty in what is around me.

          And so today, let’s start with thanksgiving. The boys near me, they’re playing cards and there’s a bunch of noisemaking and some good-natured bickering. I’m thankful for these growing young men and all they bring to my life; thankful for the husband up early and off to meetings; thankful for the dishes in the sink that meant we enjoyed late-night snacks and a family movie last night. I’m thankful for the little one waiting to play “Sleeping Grump” with me, and for dog lying on my feet. As today progresses, I’ll get irritated, annoyed and grumbly about something and I hope to grab onto thankfulness and forgiveness again, putting on the love and patience of Someone much stronger than me – but one who amazingly, never gives up on me. For this, I am most thankful.

Trusting in Him,


Thursday, April 12, 2012

When it is so hard to sit still and pay attention

      It is so hard, when you want desperately to pay attention – the story is really interesting –

and yet before long, your eyes glaze over, begin rolling back in your head,

and the yawns start bursting out of you before you can stop them. 

            My children have my empathy on this one: I remember so clearly feeling this way during long lectures in college, or at meetings as a working adult – looking around the room wondering whether I was the only one biting the inside of my cheek, or pinching my wrist under the table in an effort to stay alert and focused.

            To his credit, the little one pictured has made lots of progress. When we first began homeschooling, sitting still for any length of time was nearly impossible; it seemed this child needed either to be moving incessantly, or drooping dramatically, as if he’d suddenly lost all bone mass and muscle-tone. His efforts at concentration seemed directly proportionate to the amount of movement he produced; as I read him a story, he’d sit with one foot raised above his head, toe of his sock in his hand as he jerked the foot back and forth (it makes me giggle to think of trying this at a business meeting). Or perhaps he might rock, or bounce, or wriggle, but it was either movement or drooping, with very little in-between. This doesn’t even touch the pencil losing, book misplacing, wandering tendencies that happened in-between sessions of wiggling.

            This one, more than any other, has encouraged my push further into Charlotte Mason’s methods, and shown me how effective they can be with learners of all types. The first thing both Littlest and I needed to work on together was habit training, and that, I’ve found, is continual – when we master one habit, there’s another to conquer, and we have to keep an eye on the first bad habit to make sure it doesn’t return. So we began to work on replacing things – dawdling with focused work, complaining with cheerful effort, zoning out with small periods of concentration.

            Reading Carrie's blog post this morning, I realize we’re not alone in this, and I thought I’d share some of the things we’ve found most helpful in combating this problem of wiggling and wriggling and having trouble paying attention.

Sleep - getting regular sleep, and lots of it, is a first defense.

Nordic Naturals DHA:  DHA is a wonderful thing for brain function, and when we began using this natural supplement, we saw really dramatic increases in the ability to pay attention, and in language. DHA levels may be lower in kids with ADHD, according to one of the articles below, and I’d posit that kids who were born quite prematurely, like my littlest, didn’t get DHA those last months in utero, and may really benefit from the boost of a supplement.

Diet: We’ve found our wiggler to be particularly sensitive to artificial colors and flavors, as well as nitrates and other chemical additives. Keeping the diet simple, natural and full of protein has helped here.


-          Get Moving - we start the day with something kinesthetic – a walk, a bike ride, piano practice. Somehow, piano lessons have had a fantastically unexpected effect of calming my wiggler, who is able to jump into math with far more concentration if he’s practiced his piano first.

-         Short Lessons - Charlotte Mason’s advice of lessons that last no longer than 15 minutes has been a Godsend here. This is a huge break from the traditional and classical paradigms I started with, but it’s just about the amount of time that can be tolerated. I've found much more is learned in a focused 15 minutes, than in an hour of me reading as people zone out.

-     Watch the Dawdling, Switch up the Lessons - if dawdling occurs, a warning is given and we switch to a subject as unlike the first as possible – but we always go back to that first lesson! (We just don’t want to develop the habit of dawdling).  Throughout the day, the types of lessons are switched regularly, so we might go from math to reading, from history to handwriting, with breaks in between for fun group subjects like music or poetry, or for some exercise.

-          Wiggle seat – we looked at expensive therapeutic discs at an online sensory store, but ended up buying an exercise disc that sits on a chair, requiring a small amount of constant movement just to keep level and seated. Too much movement – you’ll tip off, so it’s subtle, not distracting to others, and much less fun to toss around the room than an exercise ball would be!

-         Busy Hands - something small is kept in hand during read-alouds – a small woolen waldorf doll is a favorite listening companion. He is soft, not distracting and he can do cartwheels on the child’s lap without interrupting the story. Somehow, that allows the child’s feet to stay out of the air, my hair, or the book!

-          Drawing – one of my children had trouble attending during read-alouds, but if he could draw while I read, his comprehension increased dramatically. My rule: he had to be drawing something related to the story or historical time period.

-          Me – I need to be available, redirecting, keeping stimuli down, sensing when the eyes are rolling back and moving on to something else.

-          Narration – breaking reading into small chunks, and requiring regular narrations (telling back) of the story has been huge in the practice of paying attention. It’s been a process and lots of work, but it’s been lovely to see the progress. More on that in another post!

Has wiggling and difficulty with attention been an issue in your home or school? Come on in, and let us know what’s worked for you and yours.

Trying to pay attention, and

Trusting in Him,


Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Friday...But Sunday's Coming!

Growing up, Good Friday was a solemn day; between 12 and 3, we sometimes went to church, sometimes read quietly at home, but never played with friends, or watched television or the things we might otherwise have done. It was a special day, we knew, the day our Savior had given up his life for us. The night before, we'd have gone to Mass where we'd process past the cross, and later, we shared grape juice and matzo in the fellowship hall.

Grown now, and part of a non-liturgical church, we've hungered to add back in some of the structure of the church year remembered from those days. Somehow walking through the year and these holy days with Bible readings and special attentiveness takes us out of the busy preparations that threaten to engulf us otherwise.

Our Lenten/Advent wreath has been lit every night at dinner, and we watch the candle and wooden Jesus figure move forward each day - just three spaces left now.  Last night, we shared a simple Seder and read Matthew: 26. Today, we'll read Matthew: 27, and the children will want to watch this video we watch each Good Friday. As early as Monday this week, the refrain could be heard here, "Sunday's a Coming'!"

I'll watch it again with them, and cry to realize the love poured out for us. Could you imagine doing this for someone, maybe your own child? Awful, but for my child, yes. Allowing your child to do this for someone else? No, not that. But that is the gift, the sacrifice, the wonderful, terrible, amazing thing we remember today.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

I wish you a blessed Easter with those you love, and the offer the prayer that we may all realize, amidst the candy and visits, and sweet potatoes and ham, the great love of a Father and Son, who said, "you are worth it."

Giving thanks, and
Trusting in Him,