Sunday, May 29, 2011

hands of love #20...

Really? 20 Hands of Love's?!? Had you told me a year ago I'd be posting FOOD pictures on my blog, I'd probably laugh my head off. And now, 20 Hands of Loves? Praise God! What began as a huge, overwhelming feat to cook gluten free (AND at at times dairy-free, soy-free, etc.) has now become a delight!

And since it's Memorial Day weekend, we're probably all thinking about FOOD, right?? So, made for my sweet family with hands of love...

If steak is on your menu anytime soon, THIS was the best steak I'd ever had. I am not joking. It was even delicious as leftovers the next day. TRY this and you won't be sorry... (measurements are somewhat approximate, sorry! But it'll be delicious. Don't worry.)

First, make this steak seasoning (below) & store the extra in an airtight container for future steaks.

Steak Seasoning

Combine the following ingredients and mix well. (makes 1 1/3 cups, which will last for several more meals if stored in an airtight container)

1/2 cup Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1/3 cup Black Pepper
1/4 cup Lemon Pepper
2 Tbl Garlic Salt
2 Tbl Garlic Powder
1 Tbl Onion powder

Rub a liberal amount of seasoning into each side of the steak to coat it. Then, combine the following ingredients for a marinade:

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 red wine
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/8 cup of fresh lemon juice

Combine all in a gallon-sized plastic bag with (thawed) steaks and let marinate in the fridge for a few hours. (turn the bag over halfway through if you think of it...) When you're ready to grill, take the steaks out of the bag & discard the marinade. Grilling is hubby's job in my house. Honestly, I don't even know how to work the thing. So Marc said he used these tips to make the perfect steak. And they were pretty darn near perfect. I'd put this up against a steakhouse any day.

Baked salmon with sauteed veggies over quinoa. Don't know what quinoa is? (pronounced "KEEN-wah") Neither did I. It's similar to rice and tastes great. (plus it takes less time to make!) I like to use homemade broth instead of water to cook it in because it enhances the flavor and packs in lots more nutrition. Quinoa is a good grain to eat because it's got more protein than others like rice. I decided to cook a little extra. One batch to eat with this meal...

...and then use some leftovers the next day for lunch with this meal- a quinoa salad with pears, baby spinach, toasted walnuts, and chick peas in a maple vinaigrette. DELICIOUS! Got the recipe here. (of course mine doesn't look even HALF as good as hers, but it tasted great!! I also just saw the "gluten free goddess" as she calls herself made a quinoa taco salad, so that'll probably be next on my list to try...)

One thing that becomes much more special & hard to come by when you're gluten free is BREAD! (unless you want to shell out the big bucks, you gotta make your own, and by the time I'm done cooking a main course & veggies, I don't usually have the time to worry about bread. Sorry honey.) But THESE biscuits were simple and quick. Great for you gluten free folks out there. (got this recipe from

Gluten Free Biscuits

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup of butter (softened or melted)
2 eggs
1 tbsp agave nectar

1. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, salt, & baking soda.
2. In a large bowl, blend together butter, eggs, and agave.
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until a nice dough forms. (you can dust the dough with extra almond flour if it is sticky and/or misbehaving)
4. Roll into balls to a parchment lined or greased baking sheet
5. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, until biscuits are browned on the bottom edges
6. Serve with gravy, jelly,or whatever your heart desires!

I know, I know... I always put up a pic of a greek salad, but it's just so beautiful and so delicious I can't help it. :) So take that.

And thus concludes our 20TH "Hands of Love!" Wow! Who'dda believed that the gal who was in a TOTAL PANIC on day one of gluten free to 20 "Hands of Love" gluten free entries?! Only by the grace of God!
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Friday, May 27, 2011

heart check...

I realize I've posted several alopecia blog posts in a row, and as much as I DON'T want alopecia to be what defines my family or especially my daughter, I think it is just where we are in life right now. Between meeting Brittany (the 13 yr. old in our town with alopecia totalis) and completing the alopecia registry, I guess it's been more "in my face" this week than usual, and thus it's caused me to reflect some more about it.

The last time I (Amy) posted, I believe I used the word "acceptance" to describe where I was emotionally in our journey with alopecia. (and may I add that it was a HUUUUUGE leap to get to that point, so I know that the Lord is carrying us through this) But I don't know if my acceptance of it means I have to always be happy about it.

Truth be told, right now it saddens me and it scares me. Not necessarily for today. We're fine for today.

But for the future.

For the day that comes when being bald isn't so "cute" anymore.
For the day when she realizes that people stare at her because they wonder if she's sick.
For the day that other kids will tease my precious daughter because of nothing that she has chosen or done.
But just because she has alopecia. (I seriously think you'll have to physically hold me back the first time I hear laughter or teasing coming out of someone's mouths... and I'm not joking. I love my daughter and you DON'T mess with her.)

I'm fearful about how alopecia will weave into her story. What will her story be? I see many options of stories for her in my head... Oh, but I pray the Lord will use it to grow her and shape her into a godly woman who truly understands things like beauty, and acceptance before the Lord (justification), and that it will provide motivation to truly love & serve people who are different from us. As much as I don't want it to define her or keep her from doing anything that she wants to do, I am not so naive to think it won't be a large part of her story and identity. But I pray that both her adoption story AND alopecia story will only make her a stronger and more beautiful woman in the end. I pray that Caroline's adoption and alopecia are simply ways that the Lord uses to grow my daughter in grace like He has used them to grow ME already.

I'm sure these fears are no different than any of you moms out there as you think about the future of your young children. We all generally want the same thing for our kids, I'm pretty sure. So as I'm tempted to cave into the fear of the future like I am now, I am reminding myself to live one day at a time. (tomorrow has enough troubles of it's own, eh?) And I'm reminding myself that the Lord has and IS using this alopecia to lavish His love upon us. As crazy as that may sound, it's true.

Another thing that I find strange about my heart at this time is how much connection(?)-- is that the right word?-- I feel with kids who have cancer & leukemia. I see their images on posters and TV and my heart BREAKS for them. It's weird, because in a way, that's my kid, but in other ways, it's not at all. We know what it's like to live with the hairloss part, and that by itself is heartbreaking enough. But everywhere we go people think of us and treat us like we are them, so it sorta becomes more difficult to just be "normal," do you know what I mean??

So because people perceive that my daughter is a cancer patient, they tend to go above and BEYOND for her. (It's actually a little ridiculous, if you ask me & while I appreciate all the extra kindness, we just want to be treated like everyone else!) I know people's intentions are great, but it's seriously got my daughter believing that she's a rock star everywhere she goes. She can't walk out of a single store without getting handed a piece of candy or stickers or WHATEVER! :) I know I shouldn't complain, but I can't tell you how many times a clerk or worker at a store will ask me if they can just give her something. (maybe I should start a list of these things to show Caroline in years to come! ha!)

She knows she gets honey sticks at the vegetable stand, a peppermint patty from the pizza shop, oodles of stickers from the grocery store, etc. etc. You get the drift! I know this is also pretty typical for ALL kids, but I sincerely think the alopecia makes it worse. Because if MY kid's asking me for some candy in the grocery store and I say "no," I've got people looking at me like I'm the most cold-hearted mama on the planet and then offering to buy it for her themselves! My prayer right now is that all of this extra attention will not lead Caroline to a complete sense of entitlement. (though I feel like that's a losing battle when it's Mommy & Daddy vs. the entire world...hmmm...)

It's helpful and somewhat therapeutic for me to write these alopecia reflections every so often. (Don't know if it's helpful to be the reader OF them!) It's good to give yourself a heart check every now and then, admitting what is worrying you and what you hope will come to pass... oh, our crazy hearts and how they can mislead us so far from what is true sometimes. There is a wonderful, wonderful hymn we sing in RUF that comes to my mind about accepting the things God brings us, and I think I'll camp out here as I think about alopecia...

Whate'er my God ordains is right,

Holy His will abideth.
I will be still whate’er He does,
And follow where He guideth.
He is my God, Though dark my road.
He holds me that I shall not fall
Wherefore to Him I leave it all

Whate’er my God ordains is right,
He never will deceive me
He leads me by the proper path,
I know He will not leave me
I take, content, What He hath sent
His hand can turn my griefs away
And patiently I wait His day

Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Though now this cup in drinking
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it all unshrinking
My God is true, Each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart

Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Here shall my stand be taken
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken
My Father’s care is round me there
He holds me that I shall not fall
And so to Him I leave it all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It's finally complete! The package has been shipped off and I (Amy) am breathing a big sigh of relief...

You see, a few months ago, we decided to participate in the national alopecia areata registry. It's a 10 year study being done through MD Anderson in Houston to collect information and blood samples from alopecia patients of all ages for future research and treatments in the alopecia world. In Marc's words, this was a way we could "love our neighbor" by completing this process and potentially help other kids in the future with alopecia.

As silly as it sounds, it's really been weighing on me. I haven't filled out that much paperwork since we were adopting Caroline!! It involved taking photographs, scheduling & paying for a doctor's appointment to complete some of the paperwork, and getting 3 tubes of blood. (yikes!) The bloodwork was obviously my biggest hang-up when I had doubts about whether I wanted to do this thing. In my heart, I have wrestled back and forth with the question: Should I subject my child to unnecessary pain for the good of others??

But it's done. And I'm glad we did. And I'm sooo proud to say my daughter was the BRAVEST of girls today when her blood was drawn! Just a few tears initially, but then she found great interest in watching the tubes fill up with blood. (of course Mommy wasn't looking...) :) I'd like to say Caroline's motivation was to help all the other kids out there with alopecia, :) but I'm sure it was most likely the promise of ice cream afterwards! ha ha... I am still beyond proud of her for how still & cooperative & mature she was. The lab workers were so impressed with her that they gave her a $10 Wal-Mart gift card and some fun necklaces! (not a bad deal, eh?)

So now this blood will head to Texas overnight and all the forms will be processed and reviewed. If there are treatments that arise in the future, they will be able to contact us to see if we're interested in trying one. But more than anything, we are praying that this might be of help to the scientists who are diligently studying and working even now to find a cure for this autoimmune disorder. (and since this past year has been an exciting time in alopecia research, perhaps this will help it along even more, right?) Who knows.

But at least it's over and done with. And it's nice to feel like maybe we've done something for the other kids and parents who will one day experience what we've already been through.

And now, back to racing Thomas the Train engines... :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

mini me...

Meet our new friend Brittany. She'll be turning 13 next month and she lives in our town! She also has alopecia totalis just like me, and through mutual friends we were able to meet her last night and watch her softball game. Brittany lost all of her hair very early in life, too. (I think she was 9 months old?) She is extremely well-adjusted and sweet. She doesn't want to wear wigs because she says they're uncomfortable and feels like no one would recognize her if she did! Her mom says that kids around her have always been great and accepting of her alopecia-- it's the adults that sometimes aren't so accepting...

When Brittany met me, she said, "She looks like a mini me!" :) I said I thought Brittany was "cute."

Not to mention, Brittany is a STAR catcher and definitely a leader on the team. At this game, we watched her throw out 2 girls on second as they tried to steal a base.

She was just as good at batting as she was at catching. (probably helps when your dad is the coach!)

While it was an encouragement to meet Brittany and watch her alopecia play NO part in how people treated her, it was also somewhat emotional for Mommy. I don't think Mommy is ready to think about me at 13 with this... but that's okay. One day at a time, right?

And these days aren't so bad. :)
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

air show...

We are home! Exhausted. But home nonetheless.

And who knew that living in little ol' Lynchburg, Virginia, could be SO cool? Apparently it's the perfect place for a popular annual air show, so all the locals were telling us about it the minute we got home from Florida. So everywhere you looked, people around town were stopped in parking lots in order to watch!

And since they were giving a repeat performance this afternoon, our family (like the rest of Lynchburg!) decided to check it out from the back of our truck. (I mean, who needs to go buy tickets-- all we had to do was look up!)

And I (Amy) am probably the farthest thing from what you'd call an "air show enthusiast," (Lord knows, I am a very anxious flyer in the first place) but this was seriously the coolest thing ever!! (You can imagine Caroline's reaction, too! She loved it!) Here's a few pics I snapped as these jets flew around us EXTREMELY fast! (SO fast that you didn't even hear the incredibly loud SOUNDS they make until they were long gone-- faster than the speed of sound...)

STRAIGHT up. It was unbelievable what those guys can do. I know I would be puking at this point.

Upside down, still in formation.

Six of 'em.

Amazing stuff. Way to go, little Lynchburg!

p.s. Birthmommy Megan, we wish a VERY happy 5th birthday to Brayden (Caroline's full sibling) today! I kept thinking how much he would've LOVED this air show if y'all were here!
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Friday, May 20, 2011

summer conference 2011...

I'm at the beach everybody!

We've taken a great group of our RUF students from Lynchburg to join up with hundreds more students for RUF's national Summer Conference in Panama City, Florida, and you had better believe we are having a GREAT time!

Especially me! I'm a busy girl at the beach now! This year I loooove playing in the sand and water more than ever.

You might be a fan of this swim cap, but trust me- for whatever reason, I AM NOT. :) Mommy was lucky it stayed on me for a few minutes. I'm much more comfortable with my head lathered up with sunscreen in the pool.

I am absolutely LOVING playing with the other RUF campus ministers' kids!!

I am fast at making friends! Lots of kids, pools, the beach, our students-- this is a dream come true for me!

Look! Baby Grace & I had matching outfits!! (So cute!)

We don't want it to end! Wish you were here!

Now I'm off to the beach!
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Friday, May 13, 2011

at 39 months...

Life is really tough when you're a 3 year old gal, lemme tell you. TONS to learn about & tons to discover. (including what kind of tone and volume level is appropriate to use with your parents... ahem...) Here's what's going on in my world at 39 months...

  • I am ALL about trains right now. (particularly Thomas the Train, of course...) Mommy & Daddy picked up all this track from a yard sale last weekend, and I've spent hours playing with the thing. I like to re-enact my favorite Thomas scenes (from memory, of course).
  • I'm a gal who likes to have a plan. (hmmm... kinda sounds like her mama...) "Mommy, where are we going today?" is always the morning's question. My favorite places to go?? The VEGETABLE STAND to pick out a sweet potato for myself (ha!), the library, and the grocery store where I get to push a little cart. I especially like when the "vegetable stand man" (as I call him) gives me a honey stick to eat.

  • I looove my Sunday school class. Every week I come home telling Mommy a new story about Jesus, and this (above) was the craft we made for our mommies on Mother's Day. I don't know what made Mommy tear-up more- the picture I made or the way I ran up to her beaming with pride saying, "Mommy! This is for YOU!"
  • I'm starting to see words everywhere! "Look Mommy! I see a 'the'! And a 'it'!!" Words I can spell are: the, it, Caroline, Mommy, Daddy, can, car, cat, God, & bat.
  • I can count to 30. Well, probably 29, because I usually say "twenty-ten" after 29.

  • Okay, so we've just entered the dress-yourself phase, as demonstrated by this lovely ensemble I picked out. (don't you love the backwards pants?) I'll still let Mommy pick out my clothes to go out, but I'm getting particular about wanting to put them on by myself. (and if I can't get them on, there is much frustration and crying, you understand...)
  • The questions have certainly begun. "Why?" "Why, Mommy?" "Why do trees grow in the ground?" "Is God here in our house right now?" I have always been an extremely perceptive and verbal gal, so it's no wonder the questions have started early.
  • You know, when you're 3, things MUST go a certain way. And when they don't, the world falls apart. At least that's what I think.

  • Remember our poop-on-the-potty chart?? Proud to report I'm flying right on through it now! Woohoo!
  • I sang at church for the first time last Sunday on Mother's Day. I sang the first verse of "I am Jesus' Little Lamb" beautifully.

  • Need I say more? :)

Learning, learning, learning and being loved, loved, LOVED. It's a pretty good life if you ask me...
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Monday, May 9, 2011

mom's day getaway...

What fun! What fun! Our fam took a quick overnight getaway to Baltimore for Mother's Day!

Getting ready to eat a nice Mother's Day dinner on the harbor... look, Mommy! A helicopter!

All done with our DELICIOUS (gluten-free) meal! (and yes, that's me playing Angry Birds on Daddy's phone... no joke.) :)

Hotel fun!!! Daddy moved the mattress to an extra little room & I was ecstatic to have my own room!

And the main reason we went to Baltimore?? Keep reading!...
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national aquarium...

It just doesn't get any better than this. Take your three year old to the aquarium and they'll be in heaven! Especially when it's the NATIONAL aquarium in Baltimore.

Um, Mom, it's nearly impossible to take a picture when there's a SHARK coming right at you.

I loved seeing all the animals...

AND riding all the escalators!!

Watching the dolphins play...

Baltimore, it was awesome meeting you!

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