Monthly Archives: June 2010

Olympic diving and obnoxious Christians

My friend Nicole posted about a week ago on Christian culture and speaking “Christianese.” As the slightly derogatory term “Christianese” infers, she’s not in favor of loudly exclaiming, “Hallelujah!!  Praise Jesus!” in the produce department when you discover that, to your joy, peaches are less than a dollar a pound.

Similarly, a couple of months ago, my husband and I watched (in my case, re-watched) a DVD of the testimony* of the dear and departed John Wimber, entitled I’m a Fool for Christ.  Whose Fool are You?.  In it, he hilariously tells of early encounters with other Christians, who would speak to him in conversation peppered with stock Christian phrases like, “How are you brother?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” and John’s confused reaction was something like, “What??  That’s gross! And YOU’RE NOT MY BROTHER!!”

I do totally understand what Nicole and Pastor Wimber were communicating.  I think the speech of those immersed in the Christian culture can be confusing and off-putting to those who aren’t.  And, it’s not like I disagree with their stances.  Well, not totally.

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Weekend Update with Karen Joy (book-writing, flu, grout, glassware, birthing, friends, birthdays, sleepovers…)

This has been a good week.

  • I’m working with my friend to submit her manuscript to a variety of publishers, rather working like an (inexperienced) agent.  One down, others yet to come.  It’s exciting, and quite the learning experience.  The Christian Writer’s Market Guide is my close friend.  If you’re a pastor and have some interest in seeing prophetic art implemented in your church, or are already a published author, and are willing to review the manuscript and write an endorsement, leave a comment or e-mail me.
  • We are OVER being sick.  Four of the seven of us (including myself) got the flu this past week.  Even “just” 8-12 hours is a long time, when one or more people are puking.
  • I have worked hard this week on scrubbing five years of accumulated black gunk from about 800 square feet of ceramic tile grout.  It feels very satisfying to have it done.  I cleaned it with a paste of baking soda and water, scrubbed with a big scrub brush and an old toothbrush, then rinsed it three times both by hand, and with the bare floor function of my (Craigslist) carpet shampooer.  The results are like night and day.
  • Above the microwave. Still needs a plant of some sort on the right hand side…

    I was thinking this week, how I’d really like to infuse my home with some additional/ better/ updated decorating, especially my kitchen and bathrooms.  However, we don’t have the budget for it.  So, I prayed.  Literally, less than 24 hours later, someone offered some “decorative glassware” on Freecycle.  The location of the offerer’s home coincided with a grocery store to which I needed to go.  The glassware had a good 10 years of grease and pet hair gummed to their exteriors, and I was more than a tad grossed out.  However, I attacked them with baking soda and dishwashing liquid, refilled some of them (with white vinegar & small, fresh rosemary branches, or dried beans), repaired one of them, and they look like new.  Ten large jars, many bearing original price tags from Cost Plus and Pier One, for a total of at least $100 worth.  I combined the jars with other things I already had… I’m really pleased with the outcome.   God answers even silly prayers, and is so ready to bless His children!

  • I am now the mother of a teenager.  My oldest, Ethan, turned 13 on June 23.  I love him so;  he is such a blessing to our family, and I greatly anticipate seeing God continue to mature him, and to see how he grows…  I really enjoy him as a person, as a son.  (I had a birthday, too, but at this point, they aren’t quite as celebratory as they used to be.)
  • My friend Annie came over on Thursday, with her now-4 week old baby boy.  She came over after a nearby La Leche League support meeting (good for her!).  We spent time discussing her birth, with me reassuring her that she did great (she really did), even though the outcome wasn’t quite what she wanted.  She didn’t anticipate how pressured she would feel by the suggestions of the doctor and nurses, plus she had been so exhausted from 3 days of back labor, accompanied by virtually no sleep…  I assured her that for most EVERY birth, there is *something* that the mother wished had gone differently, that she had handled better, that had turned out more pleasing, etc., and that rather than beating herself up about it now, just file it away and say, “Next time, I now know I want to….”  She concluded that if she had another child, she would birth at home.  🙂
  • My dear son Wesley is going to a sleepover tonight.  This is just the second mother in our history who has braved Wesley’s food and health difficulties, and I am giddy with pleasure both for Wesley, and in the mother herself.  We spent 20+ minutes on the phone discussing menu plans and other accommodations.  Honestly, I think it is her history as an elementary public school teacher that makes her so ready and experienced to do whatever it takes to keep Wes safe, and I’m really thankful for that.

Autistic kids, other parents, and divine appointments

Grant.  What a unique kid.

I’m considering getting him re-evaluated this summer, as it’s been a couple of years since we’ve regularly seen his developmental pediatrician.  When he was four, he was diagnosed Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which, according to the developmental pediatrician, even though it is not classified as such in the DSM-IV, is considered by most “experts” to be on the autism spectrum, as a high-functioning autism.  (NLD is very much akin to Asperger’s, only without the fixations/obsessions, but with fine and gross motor skill problems.)

One of the questions that the doc always asks is about whether or not Grant’s behavior interrupts family life.  I never know how to answer that.  The way I see it, for better or worse, Grant’s behavior is part of our family’s life!  Still, on days when he’s not present, like today, when he spent the night at a friend’s house, our home is markedly more peaceful.

Grant is… inflexible, and his focus is nearly always* on himself, so there tends to be an  uproar when he enters a room in which other people are doing things that aren’t Grant’s idea;  he wants all games to those of his choosing, with his own “special” rules that favor himself;  he wants all TV shows to be of his favorites;  when something happens that has even a slightly negative impact on himself, he’s sure that the offender purposefully set out to harm him;  people have private conversations and he inserts himself in the middle, sure that either a) the conversation is about him, or b) he has something of value to contribute…  His reactions to situations that aren’t to his liking are generally of the “fit” variety, more suited to a preschooler than to an intelligent young man of nearly 11 years — lots of noise, tears, lashing out verbally, accusations, stomping around, scowling, arguing, etc.

So, yes, all of that is disruptive, but it’s not like it’s out-of-place in our home;  we’re used to it**.  And, I rarely feel unequipped to deal with him, so it’s not like it’s a problem.

So, from the “we’re used to it” mindset, I typically don’t proceed through my day being really aware of the things about him that are different from most other kids.

A couple of interactions happened,  recently, though…  Grant wasn’t even present on either occasion, but in both events, I was struck with the realization that, yes, Grant does have autistic tendencies.

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Closing in…

…on half a million hits.

As I write this, the counter stands at 480,328.  That seems like an awful lot to me.

Most people just glean their info and depart, but some stay to chat, and some become regular readers, which I really appreciate, and which still has me in awe.  I still remember when I started a blog on MySpace (eons ago — don’t look for me on there any longer!!), and was ecstatic about eleven hits in one day.  Now, it’s roughly 350 per day, which I find truly amazing.

So, thanks to readers old and new:  You’re not unnoticed, and I appreciate all of  you!!!

Kinnikinnick’s Donuts — Chocolate-Glazed and Vanilla-Glazed Review! (GFCF)

I used to live a few miles away from a Krispy Kreme donut shop.  Before my son Wesley was born, my older two boys and I would spend a good hour+ there, at least every other week or so, watching through the giant plate glass windows as the donuts were being made, often receiving free, fresh, hot donuts as we waited in line.  Then, we’d linger over another sweet morsel or two, washing it down with milk.  Mmm…

Almost eight years ago, when Wesley was 13 months, he was diagnosed with celiac disease.  On one hand, this was GREAT news, because he had been horribly ill for his entire first year of life, and I felt like CD was something very controllable, and with a good prognosis;  he did, indeed, rapidly and beautifully gain health that he had never had, on a gluten-free diet.  On the other hand, after I explained to my older two boys what it was that dear Wes had, and what it would mean for our family, Ethan burst into tears, “Does that mean we won’t go to Krispy Kreme any more??”

Yes, his first concern was for the donuts.  He was only five years old, bless his heart, and a loss of donuts seemed of much more imminent concern than his infant brother’s health.

Anyway.

Even though Krispy Kreme is best-known for their raised glazed donuts, my favorites — back to my own childhood — have always been cake donuts.  This is an especially serendipitous thing, as the best gluten-free donuts are of the cake variety.  At least, the ones I’ve made, and the ones I’ve tried.

The best of the readily-available ones are most certainly those made by Kinnikinnick.

My stepdad works very close to a local gluten-free bakery, and he picks up a treat for us from time to time.  Once, it was a 4-pack of their Insane Chocolate Donuts.  While my inner-chocolate-lover was very satisfied by the triple-chocolate gooeyness of the donuts, even as I was enjoying them, I thought, “They’re not as donutty as Kinnikinnick’s.”  The local donuts are more like tubular-shaped muffins or cake, topped with yummy stuff;  they just didn’t have a donut texture.  Plus, they’re more expensive.

Still, Kinnikinnick’s donuts are too pricey for regular consumption by my one-income family.

They have four flavors, and each box has a six-pack, for a total of 11.30 ounces, and locally, they run about $6/box.  (They’re available at Fry’s, Sprouts, and Whole Foods in the Phoenix area — least expensive at Sprouts.  They’re probably at other stores, too, but I’m certain that the donuts are at those three stores, at least.)  So, we buy them for an occasional birthday, or as a treat on the road to kick off a family trip, or something like that.  Honestly, we only buy about 2-3 boxes a year.

So, when Kinnikinnick’s PR company contacted me, asking me if I wanted to review the donuts, I quickly agreed.  I was honest:  I let the contact person know that I already knew that I liked the donuts, but that normally, they’re not in my budget.  Still, it’s hard to turn down “samples.”

I was surprised at how well the donuts shipped.  They’re shipped FROZEN from Canada, and even though it was in early May when they arrived, Phoenix is smack-dab in the Sonoran Desert, I was sure they’d be a melted mess.  They weren’t.

Chocolate Glazed Yummyness

And, it turned out my “samples” were FOUR BOXES, two each of vanilla glazed and chocolate glazed.

For texture (which can be really hard to get “just right” in gluten-free products), Kinnikinnick hits the nail on the cake-donut-head.  They’re the way cake donuts should be, with ample chewy/breadiness;  they don’t have the super-soft texture of a muffin or cake.

They’re sweet, but not too much;  some baked goods that are supposed to be breakfast foods are so cloyingly sugary that I would never consider them as breakfast foods — only for dessert.  Each Kinnikinnick donut has 17 grams of sugar, which is more than we’d normally consume for a breakfast, but certainly not an unreasonable amount of sugar.  Or fat — each donut has five grams (from unhydrogenated palm oil).

It appears that Kinnikinnick uses the same donut base, then adds the topping — they have cinnamon sugar and maple-glazed, in addition to chocolate and vanilla.  Oddly enough, even the chocolate donuts have a distinctive nutmeg flavor.  My four-year-old said, approvingly, “They taste like egg nog!”  I checked the ingredients, and nutmeg is the very last ingredient.  Now, I love nutmeg, but it seemed a slightly odd choice of spices, especially for the chocolate donuts.  The nutmeg flavor worked better in the vanilla donuts, but I still wish it had MORE vanilla, and less nutmeg (or no nutmeg).

My lone wish for the improvement of these donuts is to make the flavors more distinctive:  Make the vanilla ones REALLY vanilla-y.  Make the chocolate ones with chocolate dough, not just brown, chocolate-like frosting, whose last ingredient is cocoa powder.

The good news about the ingredients, though, is that it appears that Kinnikinnick is making significant improvements in their choices of ingredients.  For YEARS, it has been my opinion that the company consistently produces the best-tasting gluten-free foods.  However, they were also quite liberal with the odd, chemically-derived ingredients.  Now, though I still don’t think these donuts fit the “whole foods” category, they’re at least markedly improved.  I only had to look up one ingredient (glucono delta lactone – a “naturally-occuring” food acidifier, according to Wikipedia) to find out what it was;  everything else was known to me and more or less natural.  Even their maple-glazed donuts — which I usually RUN from, as fake-maple turns my stomach — do not contain artificial colors or flavors, which is a fairly recent improvement.

Had I paid for the donuts myself, with shipping, my four-box shipment of donuts would have cost me $36.36 (Kinnikinnick has a flat-rate $10 shipping fee).  To me, that seems insanely expensive.  There is no way I would ever pay that.  But, for someone in a far-flung rural setting, who hasn’t had a proper donut in a decade, due to celiac disease, that may seem like a great deal.

So… the short version of this review is:

Texture:  5/5 stars
Taste:  3.5/5 stars
Cost:  1.5/5 stars

The donuts are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, trans-fat-free, and produced in a dedicated facility that is gluten-, peanut-, and tree nut-free.

So, I got the boys’ test scores back…

…from taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  This was the first time, in eight years of homeschooling, that I’d had the boys tested according to the standard of anyone other than myself.

There was one thing that all three boys faltered in.  (Cue the fanfare!)  Dum-dum-dee-dah!!

Capitalization

😮

If there’s one thing that’s going to be a gaping hole in their education, I guess I’d prefer it to be something that is easily remedied.  I see a little unit on capitalization in the boys’ near future.

A few things were confirmed to me — suspicions that one son is lacking here, or excelling there, but other than the “capitalization” thing, there really weren’t any major surprises.  Well, strike that.  I guess I was very surprised at exactly how well they did.

Score one for the homeschoolers, I guess.  😉

There were 19 areas for which each boy were given test results.  The one that I’m listing here, though, is their “Complete Composite Total” which is an overall score of everything tested.

  1. Wesley, aged 8 (3rd grade 9th month) had a CCT that put him in the 73rd percentile (he did better than 73% of the same-grade students, nationally, who have taken the ITBS), and has a grade equivalency of 4th grade 7th month.
  2. Grant, aged 10 (5th grade 9th month) had a CCT in the 99th percentile, and a “13+” grade equivalency (past high school).
  3. Ethan, aged almost-13 (7th grade, 9th month), had a CCT in the 91st percentile, and 13+/past high school grade equivalency, as well.

So, does that mean I can just graduate the older boys right now from high school???  Just kidding.  It is food for thought, though, for their continuing education.  AND, I don’t think I need to stress out that we STILL haven’t finished Sonlight’s Core 4.  It looks like slow and steady does win the race.

(Special thanks to Brewer Testing Services, from whom I “rented” the test materials, and who processed the tests.  Everything was done in such a timely manner, with grace and great communication — Southern accent included!)

Family, baseball, book-writing, and God’s provision

  • Taking Fiala off of potatoes was so beneficial, I hopefully thought, “Maybe what I thought was a corn reaction was really potato!  Maybe she can really have corn!”  So, last week, I tried her on corn for three days.  That was dumb.  Ever since, she has been SO itchy, poor girl.  New lesions developed on her face, which she then scratched into oblivion, and are now infected.  So, for the third time in less than six months, she’s back on antibiotics (Septra), as I wasn’t able to contain/control/heal the infection with topical bacitracin.  😦  Bummer.  But, at least we know how to treat it, and at least I know now for SURE that corn is totally off-limits.  Every couple of months, I try it, and I’m just not going to do that again, for a very long while.  Though it would be so handy if she could eat corn, it’s just not worth it.
  • Ethan’s Little League team lost in a very close game last night, their first loss of the end-of-year tournament.  The final score was 3-2.  It’s a double-elimination tourney, so they have at least one more game.  If they win tonight’s game — and they should! —  they will play again on Friday.  If they win THAT game, they will play again on Saturday for the championship, because the team they will potentially meet on Friday (which is the team to which they lost, last night) is undefeated.  (Double-elim tourneys are confusing, but I think I finally have it figured out!!!)
  • Our dog, Tally, is recovering SO WELL from this most recent bout with Valley Fever.  She is still on twice-daily fluconazole, but it is so encouraging to see her have her energy back, and she’s building muscle tone by eating extra food and zipping about the back yard.
  • I’m in my final hours of ghost-writing the book I’ve been working on since February.  Even though it seems like there has been continually “one more thing!” there really is light at the end of the tunnel now.  Even though I have very much enjoyed work on it, I’m ready to be DONE with it.  I hoped to be done yesterday.  Then today…  Nope.  Still need work, probably 2-4 hours on both tomorrow and Friday.
  • God provides.  A few weeks ago, after assessing the girls’ summer wardrobes, and finding both paltry, and being in greater need than what we have the budget for, I prayed that God would provide.  Within a couple of days, I got a phone call, “What sizes do your girls wear?  I have a bunch of clothes, size 18 months through 4T…”  Which is exactly what we needed.  Thank you, Jesus.  Another mom tentatively approached me at church on Sunday about some hand-me-downs for my 8yo son, as well.  She kind of danced around the topic, and when I finally figured out that she was trying not to OFFEND me by offering me second-hand clothes, I told her gushingly that I LOVE hand-me-downs, and was very thankful, and completely NOT offended.  🙂
  • My husband’s brother, after not living on his own — EVER — for his first 40 years of life, moved to Colorado a couple years ago, and all but disappeared.  But, after leaving a message for him at his church last week, we finally were able to get a hold of him, and are delighted that we will be able to see him later this summer during our family’s vacation.

Baseball woes, family sadness and joy, donuts, and Colorado

  • Dear Diamondbacks bullpen/closer(s):  You’re breaking my heart.  Or making me mad.  Or making me tempted to be resigned to a really milquetoast season.  Or something.  Still, I watch, sort of like how I am compelled to crane my neck at the results of a car crash.
  • Sad/happy:  Seeing the family of the church step in to at least partially fill in the gaps when a real family disappoints.  (Not my own family;  I’m observing this in the life of a friend.)
  • FABULOUS NEWS:  My sister, who is 31 weeks pregnant, has a serious genetic condition called Marfan Syndrome (that’s not the “good news” part), which can adversely effect the aorta.  A normal aortic root is 2.5 cm diameter.  Due to danger of aortic dissection, mandatory c-section threshold for Marfan patients:  4.0 cm.  Robin’s:  3.2 cm.  NO c-section.  The only “bummer” is that with a scheduled c-section, we’d be able to plan my trip out to be there for the birth with advance notice.  However, the importance of her not having a c-section is much greater than my “need” to be able to plan in advance.  Still, I don’t want to miss the birth.  And, by the way, she finally was able to get some real prenatal care, bless God!  (Kind of a long story, but she’s high risk, so needed an OB, but does not have the $6-8K that all of the doctors required in advance for patients paying cash, yet she makes too much money to qualify for low-income/free health care.  However, as if hearing her plea, just about 6 weeks ago, Texas A&M decided to open up a sliding-scale medical clinic in Austin, and it’s a perfect fit for her needs.)
  • I need to write up my real review of how-could-you-not-love-them Kinnikinnick donuts.  The fact that the company sent me four boxes, for free, is weighing heavy on my conscience, when I have not yet repaid them with a review.  Ack.
  • *FINALLY* got our reservations made for our trip to Colorado.  While we let things pend for a week and a half, a number of people swooped in and reserved “our” time at the cabin-of-choice, so now we’re stuck with plan B.  Oh, well.  Still, it’ll be good.  And we DO get some nights at “our” cabin, just not the solid week or so that we’d been planning on.  So, it’ll be three nights here, then three nights there, then back to the first spot for a couple more nights.   It’s not really a trip whose main purpose is to visit family, but we’re hoping to be able to coordinate time with various family members around the lovely state of Colorado…
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