Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies: Variations on a Theme

Here it is…the original recipe — given to me over five years ago by my friend, Lori — named as such because you need “a cuppa peanut butter and a cuppa sugar.” (plus an egg!)  :) This recipe makes (what many think are) the best peanut butter cookies ever — whether you can eat gluten or not!  I was hooked on these even before I had to go gluten-free, and I’ve never bothered to try a new recipe since then…

Whenever someone eats these cookies, they inevitably ask for the recipe, and are baffled to hear how easy they are to make, and that an egg can actually hold the peanut butter and sugar together. They are always amazed at how moist these cookies are, how well they hold up and just how good they taste!

The photos below will give you an idea of how versatile this recipe is…I usually double or triple the recipe, and freeze some afterwards. Yes, they even freeze well!

As shown here, I often add m&m’s or peanut m&m’s into the mix before baking…

Candy corns and Hershey’s Kisses work well, too!  Just press candy on top of the cookies immediately after they have finished baking.

Below you will see the amount of cookies you can make when you triple the recipe. For most of these cookies, I pressed 3 m&m’s onto the tops before they baked. Just make sure you watch them — if they’re in too long the m&m’s might crack. Others I left plain and others had m&m’s mixed in with the dough.

And I bet you’re wondering about those peanut butter cups in the back row… These are my latest creation, and one which I will make again for sure. I pressed some of the dough into 8 greased mini cupcake openings (it was a trial so I only made a few) and forked the edges a little. Then after they were baked (for 8 minutes) I spooned Nutella into the openings. After they had cooled for a while, they twisted out of the cupcake tin very nicely — all except one. That one, I discovered, had too-thick dough at the bottom which hadn’t cooked all the way through like the other ones. That being said, make sure your bottom is just as thick as your sides, and you’ll be all set. Instead of Nutella, you can also try filling the opening with melting chocolate, chocolate chips, a Hershey’s Kiss — or better yet: chocolate frosting as another friend just suggested. No matter how you fill them, they are the perfect kid-size peanut butter cups!  :)

Some final tips:  (1) Let your kids help! You couldn’t find an easier recipe and the dough is very workable and isn’t sticky at all. (2) As I wrote in pencil on the recipe above, I don’t recommend forking them. Whenever I do this, they turn out too flat. Keeping your dough balls as round and high as possible when you put them on the cookie sheet to bake will give them the best shape. (3) Keep an eye on the bottom of your cookies so they don’t burn (mine are usually done in 7-8 minutes), and (4) let them cool on the cookie sheet before you try to move them. This helps solidify them so they won’t break apart. If you follow these tips, you should have excellent results!

Really — you must try these — even if you just do a single batch. You will be blown away by how good they are…  And, if you try any other variations with this recipe, let me know!

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Super simple gluten-free toffee brittle

Before Christmas, my Mom had tried a version of this delicious brittle (made with Saltine crackers) at church coffee hour and was instantly hooked. After she raved about it a number of times, she tracked down the original recipe, I went out and bought some Glutino original gluten-free crackers to replace the Saltines, and we got the other ingredients together. We whipped it up one night and this brittle was a huge hit over the holidays…especially with my daughter Morgan.

What you will need for this recipe (which is a good one to let kids help with):

  • 1 box original flavor Glutino original gluten-free crackers
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 cups of mini chocolate chips
  • toppings of your choice: toffee pieces, m&m’s, sprinkles, diced nuts, crushed peppermints, butterscotch chips, coconut — you name it!

(Please excuse the photos — we did this on a whim and I didn’t have my own camera.)

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STEP 1:  Empty the entire box of crackers onto an ungreased baking sheet, all in one layer. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

STEP 2:  In a medium size pot over the stove, cook one stick of butter and 2 cups of brown sugar together until gooey, then pour over crackers to cover them, and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes until bubbly. (Watch carefully so that nothing burns.)

STEP 3:  Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate chips over top, let it sit a few minutes to melt the chocolate…

STEP 4:  Then, after the chocolate chips are melted enough, smooth the chocolate layer over with a spatula and top with toppings. Put the tray in the freezer for at least an hour.

STEP 5:  After at least an hour has passed, remove it and break it into irregular pieces with the help of a stiff spatula. Voila!  A sweet treat for any occasion!

Let me know what you think of this recipe — we call it “toffee brittle” because the taste of it reminds us of toffee, even though we didn’t use any as a topping. After you try it (trust me — you will definitely be glad you did) let me know if you can think of a better name for it. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Happy once, happy twice, happy chicken soup with…pasta?

Ahhhh…..homemade soup.

I was sick recently and got the urge to make the first batch of the year. I was also actually feeling very patient that day, so I invited my girls to help me make it. Sometimes I get a response like, “But we’re playing!” but that day I got two bright “Okay!”s.

Now that they’re getting older, I let them do more work with recipes, which is probably part of the reason they were so eager to help. In past years they would only get to do a few jobs, but now they’re using sharp knives, operating an electric chopper, stirring things over the stove, and the latest excitement — learning how to use the new handheld can opener!

So, like it says in the book, we set out to make chicken soup with rice. However, we were out of rice, which is a rare occurrence. Instead, we used gluten-free pasta, using my sister-in-law’s recipe with a few modifications. The girls proudly wore their two (of many) aprons that my Great Grandma Bertha handmade for herself many years ago. And they brought me mine, too, since I always seem to forget to wear it.

Before we start, we always turn on happy music to send out good vibes for the process, and after a quick reminder to take turns without fighting, we are good to go. (The way I see it: nothing spoils KQT  – Kitchen Quality Time – for a Mom like quarreling kids.)

Here are some of the jobs my 8 year old daughters took care of with this recipe:

I kept a few jobs to myself like cutting the chicken up and dumping everything into the boiling water, but overall they were able to help with almost everything. And we were all in good moods, which definitely helped keep things fun. There have been times we’ve set out to do a recipe where there are arguments between my girls about whose turn it was to dump a tablespoon of something into a recipe, and I was feeling short-tempered and sent them out of the room crying. There have been other times when I was rushed for time and impatient with their attempts to help. Again: not a good combination. There have been memorable, happy times as well, of course. Good, bad and downright ugly — it’s all happened in our kitchen.

I have learned that, personally, there are two main prerequisites for making food with my kids: lots of patience and lots of time. If I don’t have both of those, it just doesn’t work for us. Thankfully, this particular soup-making day was one of the good ones, completely without incident. Those happy times are the ones I cherish with my girls, and I know they do, too.

I could list a bunch of reasons why it’s important to get your kids into the kitchen with you, but I won’t. We all know that learning to help with recipes will teach your kids lots of valuable things, like measuring skills, following directions, learning kitchen terminology, how to use different tools, etc.  But for me the main reasons I ask my kids to help me with a recipe are: the quality time it gives us and the pride they take in being part of a successful gluten-free food discovery. All of the other things are just icing on the cake.

For those of you who would like some more motivation to include your kids,
try these 5 inspiring articles from these helpful websites:

Get your kids in the mood to help make soup by reading these wonderful children’s books together. If you don’t have them, here are cute videos of Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup With Rice (sung by Carole King) and Marcia Brown’s Stone Soup.

If you’d like to see the soup recipe we followed, it’s the last recipe on the last page of this PDF: Gluten-Free Kid-Friendly Recipes

What’s your favorite kind of food to make with your kids? What factors come into play as you decide to let them help or not: time constraints, moods, number of ways they can help, etc.?  What are some ways you make kitchen time quality time? Feel free to post pix of your kids cooking on my Facebook page to help inspire others.

Illustration from Chicken Soup With Rice © by Maurice Sendak

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Jello experiments for g-free kids

Here’s an idea you can let your kids try if you have a lazy day at home: layered jello hearts from Family Fun. You’ll need several hours to complete all the layers, but you only need to spend a few minutes about every half hour to pour the layers and let them set.

My kids enjoyed pouring each highest layer of liquid over a spatula (good for coordination — see photo below) so that it evenly covered the layer underneath, and they thought it was pretty cool to see the jello dissolve in hot water, then go from a liquid to a firmer state in the fridge.

Unfortunately, even though my husband’s family used to own the Chalmers’ Gelatine Factory in the 1800s (every cent was lost long ago) a love for gelatin is another thing our family never inherited…  :)

The girls ate one bowl each (of the many scraps left over from around the cut-out hearts) and the rest we gave away to grandparents. Still, it was a learning experience for my daughters, it looked pretty, and the ingredients were nice and cheap.

If I were to do it again, I would just cut them into cubes like below (we used to call these “Knox Blox” when I was little) which turned out way better than the hearts, were much easier to cut, and would not leave “scraps” behind like the hearts did. I might also keep these in mind for a St. Patrick’s Day party using green (lime) jello instead of red.

If your family happens to loves jello, here are some other fun things to do with it, including frozen jello pops, a jello aquarium, jello cones and jello rainbow cake. And here is a really festive idea which would be great with heart-shaped molds as well: cherry jello jigglers from Living Locurto. Another idea shows you how to do something cool (“Crazy Jello” from Reading Confetti) with your jello waste (or scraps as I call them). And if you feel like going all out with jello colors, try these rainbow jello parfaits from Glorious Treats!

Do your kids enjoy jello?  Or not really?  Please comment below if you have any other experimental recipes for kids using the wiggly stuff.  Thanks!

Keep coming back for more things for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

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Gluten-free Valentine’s Day cards, plus a mini kid-size giveaway!

Hello!  I normally won’t be posting every day like this but I have a few more things I want to get out before Valentine’s Day, and wanted to give you a few days to enjoy them…

G-free V-day cards!
My favorite site for coloring pages and cards is Activity Village. They’ve got everything imaginable except for gluten-free cards (in fact, I couldn’t find any anywhere) so what else could I do but create my own?  I pulled out my old marker pad and pens and went old-school for this post, drawing everything by hand. (I had to get off the computer for a few hours!)  :)  So what I came up with is 4 little Valentine’s Day cards (with the help of dear ol’ Mom who helped me come up with some wording) — made especially for all the g-free kids out there. You can download the PDF here: 4VcardsHR, then print out copies of it for your kids to color, glue onto colored construction paper and give out for Valentines — or just hang in their room or on the fridge. Please let me know how your children enjoy these…I would love to hear what they did with their cards! (*Please note: the below preview won’t print out large enough — click on the blue link four lines above this for the printable PDF).

My first mini kid-size giveaway… I have a bunch of stuff like this that I’ll be giving away once in a while, just for kids. How often do your kids get things in the mail?  If yours are like mine: not often enough. These giveaways are just meant to give your g-free kid a little excitement by receiving a little surprise in a snail-mail envelope, along with a little note from a famous author (okay, maybe an unknown author)…  ;)

If you’d like your child to receive one of these coin purses in the mail, please comment below with your favorite thing about this website and/or something you’d like to see here in the future. I’ve got 3 of both styles, so 6 winners will be randomly chosen by midnight tomorrow (Sunday, Feb. 12th). At that point winners will need to send me their mailing addresses and I’ll send them out. Stay tuned…

Next up are some wiggly, jiggly jello ideas for Valentine’s Day. Keep coming back for more things for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

Simple ideas for your special, little gluten-free Valentine

Valentine’s Day brings plenty of opportunities to make your g-free kid feel extra loved — as well as show love to others — around the clock. A little creativity, some thoughtfulness, a cookie cutter and a few other supplies can go a long way in making your g-free kid feel like a very special Valentine by the end of next week…

Here are some quick ways we make things seem “Valentinesy” (as we say) for the weeks surrounding the big day:

FOR THEM:  One of our “go-to” treats — for any occasion — is chocolate dipped marshmallow pops. These couldn’t be easier and I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love them. We make and send them in to almost every class party and my girls always say they were a hit. All you have to do is stick a skewer into each marshmallow, dip them in melted chocolate, add sprinkles, put on wax paper and set in the freezer. Just change up the sprinkles depending on the holiday and they are a festive addition to any occasion.

With your handy-dandy cookie cutter, make heart shaped pizzas. For these we just rolled out part of the dough and cut them out, then topped them individually. Or even easier — just make regular pizzas and use a cookie cutter after it’s cooled. Moms like me are always happy to eat the leftover scraps!  :)

FOR OTHERS:  Make simple peanut clusters. Just fill cookie cutters up partway (depending on how thick you want them) with melted chocolate mixed with peanuts, decorate with sprinkles if you’d like, then let them set in the freezer for a while before you pop them right out.

Or let your kids make free-form peanut clusters, too!

FOR FUN:  Remember and repeat — life is not all about food. When each upcoming holiday nears, I let my daughters become designers extraordinaire… Decorations come up from the basement and I let them decorate this shelf in our living room however they want.

This is Lindsey’s most recent creation (she was sick that day and Morgan was somewhere else, so she was even more excited to do this one solo). Putting a bunch of decorations in one spot has a lot more impact than sprinkling them around the house, and my kids are free to revisit and rearrange as they see fit.

So many ideas, so little time… What are some simple things you let your g-free kid do for Valentines Day?  Do tell!  :)

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*Also, please stay tuned for 2 special things just for kids:  4 Valentines Day cards for g-free kids to color (as soon as I finish drawing them!) and a mini kids-size giveaway. Should be up in a day or two… thanks!

School holiday parties: will your gluten-free kid feel like one of the gang?

 

Be honest: does the thought of an upcoming school holiday party conjure up images of your g-free kid having Charlie Brown’s typical luck: being left out of all the fun and feeling like the odd man out? With a little planning and a pre-party attitude check, this certainly doesn’t have to be the case — in fact, it can be quite the opposite…

Most preschool and elementary school classes in the U.S. will be having a Valentine’s Day party next Tuesday (like it or not) complete with snacks, drinks and valentine card/candy exchanges. How you view your child’s party will probably reflect the way your child sees it, so it’s a good idea to think about how you’re going to approach it beforehand…

Pre-party list check
To kids, Valentine’s Day is mostly about the candy. The list of gluten-free candy is as long as that zigzag thing around Charlie Brown’s waist….it just keeps going and going. Sure, there is definitely candy that your child needs [to know] to avoid — like licorice or anything containing cookie pieces or “crisps” — to name the obvious. But with so many great lists of gluten-free candy out there, you really can’t go wrong, as long as you teach your child the differences between them.

My favorite, go-to list is from Celiac Family — I love how it’s organized by color and level of safety. It starts with candy (listed in green) that is safe, no question. The middle portion of this list (the type in orange) indicates label warnings about production lines, etc. Personally, I will buy candy in packages that read “manufactured in a facility that produces wheat…” but I will not buy candy that reads “may contain wheat” even if the ingredients appear g-free. But that’s just me. If that’s not strict enough for your family, then stick with the list at the top in green type. As far as the red list at the bottom goes, (if your child is old enough) bring him to the grocery store with you, (or look online) show him what all of those candies look like and explain why he can’t eat them. Then, of course, be sure to remind him that there is plenty of candy he can still enjoy.

Here are a few ways you can handle holiday parties, depending on the level of your desired involvement and your child’s personality:

“Sally”:  Some parents will print off a list to notify parents and teachers of the huge assortment of GF candy they can buy to accommodate all students, as well as a list of gluten-free party treat and snack ideas. They might send along a nice note saying how much they and their child would appreciate everyone making sure food is safe for the entire class. If parents really want to get involved with the party planning, they’ll call the teacher or room parents to coordinate what will be served. This might be a good option if you have a very young child who doesn’t yet understand what he can or cannot eat, needs a lot of direction, or has difficulty speaking for himself. This will also help to ease a new-at-gluten-free parent’s fears of the unknown, until they settle into the new routine.

“Peppermint Patty”:  At the other end of the spectrum are parents who just want to know when the party is so they can send their own food in. These parents choose to just prep their g-free kid to not eat anything he’s not absolutely sure about, and will send him in with any type of treat and a few pieces of candy. This way he has his own stuff to enjoy, regardless of whether or not there is anything served that is safe for him to eat. This will work fine for more independent kids, and those who are very comfortable eating their own food and don’t care that what they have might be different.This also works well for parents who don’t want to feel like they are rocking the boat but still want their kids to be safe.

“Lucy”:  A middle-of-the-road option is parents who check to see when a party is and ask what’s being sent in for it — making it clear that they are not trying to control anything, but that they just want to send in something comparable for their child. Other parents/teachers who are involved will be reminded of a child’s needs, but not feel like this parent is trying to dictate the plans. This works well for parents who are used to parties like this, knowing that there may or may not be some things their child can eat. It works for kids who are confident enough to know they can only eat certain things but who also don’t want to feel like they stick out with what they are eating, or feel left out with what they’re not. (Hence, sending in a comparable treat.)

*With any of these options, parents can also volunteer to send in a sweet, g-free treat for the whole class, like fruit skewers or chocolate-dipped marshmallows with sprinkles.

Pre-party reality check
Clearly, what works for your family may be a combination of these, or something entirely different. And you may find yourself moving from one extreme to the other as your child’s needs change. There’s no right or wrong. Every family must find their most comfortable way of handling things like this, and sometimes it takes a certain amount of adaptation to see what works best.

While we can’t expect the world to conform to our kids’ needs, you may find that, in time, as you and your child help spread awareness about gluten-free foods, that you might gain some new supporters. I personally believe that a lot of it depends on your family’s attitude and how demanding you are that other people accommodate your child’s diet. From my experience, politeness and sincerity go a long way to work in your favor, as well as gratitude for even the smallest gesture of thoughtfulness that is shown along the way.

Pre-party attitude check
As a parent, however you decide to handle school holiday parties, please remember to put on a happy face when discussing it with your child. G-free kids of all ages may already be a bit uneasy, especially if they are new at the diet. Show them that you are excited that they get to go to a party, remind them about what’s okay for them to eat, and let them know what they’ll be bringing in for it. Tell them you hope they have fun and that you can’t wait to hear all about it. Remind them that holiday parties are about a lot more than just food — and to just relax and enjoy their friendships, the decorations, music, games, Valentine cards and loot. Kids are much more resilient, adaptable and flexible than some people might think.

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Do you have any more thoughts on the topic that might help other parents?
Feel free to comment below with any additional advice. Thanks!

5 ways to make your gluten-free kid feel like a superstar

When children are first diagnosed with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy, their lives will change. So will yours as a parent. That is inevitable. Food is such a huge part of our lives, and being on a g-free diet means that you can no longer just go to any restaurant or party or social occasion without first planning ahead. Spontaneity may take a back seat for a while, but just until you learn the ropes and gain confidence.

The great part, though, is that how you view those changes is entirely up to you. You can either act like you feel sorry for your child and talk incessantly to anyone who will listen about how hard the diet is and how expensive the food is — or, you can make your child feel lucky and blessed to have been diagnosed, and show gratitude for all of the awesome choices of g-free foods that are now available. The #1 thing you can do for your child, right from the beginning, is to introduce them to their new best friend: a positive attitude. It is absolutely essential. If you haven’t shown one yourself, forgive yourself and just move on to helping boost your child’s morale and feelings about being g-free.

Here are some great ways to help your g-free kid feel like a superstar:

Start a “#1 Supporter” contest. Enlist all of your child’s supporters to help. Have them read about how vital they are to your child and start a contest to see who can win the #1 Supporter prize (whatever you deem the prize to be: a hand-painted t-shirt, a certificate, blue ribbon
or whatever). This gives supporters the chance — and extra incentive — to show how much they care by the positive words that they use around your child, and by
the actions that they take, like: writing the child a letter of encouragement, buying them a g-free treat, taking them out to dinner at a restaurant with a gluten-free menu, making them a gluten-free dish (with your assistance)
and other ideas listed in this article. Through this contest your child will feel so loved and cherished. Set a time limit on the contest (a month maybe?) and then encourage everyone to keep the support coming even after it’s over!

Try to find gluten-free replacements for all of their old favorite foods and celebrate each new discovery. I honestly can’t think of one type of food that we haven’t yet found a g-free version of. (Here are some examples: To replace Cheezits, try Wellaby’s Mini Cheddar Crackers; to replace fish crackers, try Schar’s Cheese Bites; to replace chicken nuggets, try Ian’s brand or Wegmans’ version if you are in the NE; to replace pizza crusts & breadsticks, try Chebe mixes; to recreate old favorite baked goods, substitute regular flour with a GF all-purpose flour like Jules.) With each success, celebrate with your child by giving a loud “woo-hoo!” and high fives (or however you want to express yourselves) and make sure you include the rest of the family in the celebration, too.
It feels so good for kids to know that their whole family cares about them and is happy for their successes — plus, their acceptance of the diet
will grow, knowing there are great-tasting GF alternatives to old favorites.

Let them be included in the g-free kids online photo album. Many kids feel like they’re the only ones in the world on the g-free diet — so let them know they’re not!  They will take pride in seeing their own face in the album, knowing that they are part of an ever-growing group of g-free kids from around the world. Imagine their face lighting up as they look around at all of the other happy faces, see where everyone is from and read about what they enjoy doing. They will begin to feel a sense of camaraderie and kinship with other kids who eat the same way they do and will feel included in something special.

Arrange to have your child be “star of the day” at school. Make plans with your child’s teacher for a special day of learning in his or her classroom. If your child is very young, bring in a children’s book to read to the class. If your child would rather do it solo, send a book in for your teacher (or your child if they are able) to read aloud. If you can be present, allow time for Q&A afterwards, emphasizing how lucky your child is to be diagnosed, how it isn’t contagious, how it differs from an allergy (if applicable), and that
his or her foods taste great, too. If your child is older (and comfortable with the idea) let him field the questions himself — as long as you know he is relatively prepared. Then let the class enjoy whatever delicious GF treat (giant cookie cake, cupcakes, brownies, etc.) you made and sent in, so that they can see how good your child’s food tastes, too. Your child will enjoy being the center of attention that day, and will feel good knowing that his peers now better understand and accept his diet.

Put your g-free kid front and center in a photo frame. Here is a printable frame that I designed for your g-free kid. You can download, print it and tape your child’s 4×6″ photo from behind. Buy one of those inexpensive clear, plastic magnetic document holders for your fridge and put your child’s photo in the middle. Every time he sees it, the words on the frame — “gluten-free is good for me” … “I’m a g-free kid” … “proud to be gluten-free” — will start to stick with him and grow his sense of pride. Plus it’ll remind everyone to be careful to avoid cross-contamination as well. Hope you and your child enjoy it!

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Before I close, let me just say that, as a parent, I am not one to spoil my children or let them act as if they are the center of the universe. But, if your child is struggling with being gluten-free or is newly diagnosed, I think it’s a fine time to boost up their self-esteem and do whatever you can to help them feel better about themselves. These 5 ideas should go a long way in helping your g-free kid gain confidence and begin to embrace the gluten-free diet and the changes that come along with it.

Have you tried any of these ideas already?  What effect did they have on your child?
Feel free to comment below about any of these ideas and add more of your own for other families as well. Thanks!

Welcome

Welcome to g-free kid!

I am the author/illustrator of the children’s book, Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?
My twin daughters and I are gluten-free for life because of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. I am excited to have this vehicle to share my thoughts and ideas to make your child’s gluten-free journey happy and healthy. Up until now there have been way too many things floating around in my mind with no real place to share them.

As this blog grows and evolves, you will find plenty of helpful topics here, all intended to help your gluten-free child thrive — not just survive. I will be posting all things related to bringing up a g-free kid and will try to divulge everything my family has learned in the past five years, along with easy recipes, book & food reviews (complete with kids’ opinions, too, of course), giveaways and other surprise features along the way.
I’ll also be sharing craft and play ideas, too, as I believe gluten-free kids just need to feel and act normal instead of being overly-focused on their diet and condition.

What you won’t find on this site (at least from me) is: whining, complaining, feeling sorry for ourselves, wishing things were different, swearing, blaming and bad attitudes.  Please join me by helping — with your comments — to keep the tone of this blog as positive as we should all be for our g-free kids. Thanks, and enjoy!

Sincerely,
Katie Chalmers