Artichoke Lover’s Lasagna (gluten-free, of course!)

Here’s to a lack of ingredients and creative thinking!  A new recipe was created because of this combination… Hope you like it as much as we do…

IMG_1532Ingredients:

  • 12 GF lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cans (13 oz) artichoke hearts, rinsed, fully drained and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic (1 tsp crushed garlic)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp italian seasoning (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 4 cups (2 jars) pasta sauce

Directions:

  • Boil noodles for 10 minutes, carefully rinse and drain noodles
  • Set noodles side by side on tin foil or parchment paper to cool
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix together all above ingredients except pasta sauce to make filling mixture
  • Spray pan with Pam cooking spray
  • Divide filling mixture roughly into thirds
  • Pour half a jar of pasta sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish
  • Put 3 noodles on top of sauce for your bottom layer
  • Spoon 1st third of mixture onto noodles and spread around evenly, followed by 1/4 jar of sauce on top
  • Put a second layer of 3 noodles on top of that and spread the 2nd third of the filling mixture evenly on top, followed by 1/4 jar of sauce on top (that will use up your first jar of sauce)
  • Put third layer of noodles on top of that and spread the 3rd third of the mixture evenly on top, followed by 1/2 jar of sauce on top
  • Put fourth layer of noodles on top, cover them & all noodle edges up with remaining 1/2 jar of pasta sauce, plus sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top
  • Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, then uncover and bake another 5 minutes
  • Allow time for it to cool and firm up before cutting
  • Even better if you can make it the day ahead…the flavors of any lasagna seem to mesh even better when you put it in the fridge for a day. Leftovers are awesome, too, and can easily be frozen and re-thawed for a busy night.  Enjoy!
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Book review and giveaway: Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party

IMG_1396Kids love books. Kids who are into dinosaurs or fairies or animals or trucks should have lots of books about those subjects on their bookshelf at home, right? So, alongside other topics of interest, our g-free kids should have children’s books about being gluten-free, too, don’t ya think? The photo above shows about half of a wall of books in my daughters’ room, with 4 of these books in front. Books can be enjoyed over and over, are easily lent to friends & relatives, or brought into school to share with teachers and classmates. What better way for g-free kids to spread awareness and help others understand why they need to be on a special diet than to share their books?

Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party by Michelle L. King is one of an increasingly large number of books that will help children come to terms with the fact that they can still be happy even though they’re on a special diet, work through their feelings on the subject, and help them feel less alone when it comes to watching what they eat…

IMG_1403My 10 year old daughters and I all read this book separately before discussing it together, so here is an honest review of the book from our perspectives…

What this book is like:
Size-wise, this 28-page softcover book is a little under 6″ x 9″ and the computer illustrations are cute and colorful. The story is about a first grader with “celiac sprue” who faces feeling insecure, jealous and angry when friends at school start to question such things as why he had a birthday pie instead of a birthday cake and eats a muffin for lunch instead of a sandwich. When a classmate brings in mouthwatering cupcakes that he can’t have, it upsets him so much that he refuses to go to school the next day. Of course he ends up going, and is happy to meet a confident new friend with a milk allergy. Other kids chime in to say they have asthma, a sister with diabetes, etc. and he realizes being different isn’t so bad. He and his classmates make dairy-free ice cream in class together and by the end he starts to feel less alone, more proud of how he eats, and begins to understand that Celiac is part of what makes him special.

Bonuses:
After the story ends, recipes for Homemade Vanilla-Coconut Ice Cream and Banana Muffins are provided, and a free audio book digital download is also included!

IMG_1406A few minor things:
Overall, my daughters and I liked this book and enjoyed the story. Our biggest qualm is that the back cover reads, “…Barrett learns he has celiac sprue, which means he can’t eat cake and bread or even drink milk.”  Right away my celiac daughter asked why he can’t have milk because he has celiac. I double-checked with the author on this, and the book was supposed to say that he had other food sensitivities besides celiac. Unfortunately her publisher did some last-minute editing that slipped by and they had the final say, so she wasn’t able to make it more clear.  I just felt I should make note of it here because I don’t want newbies to be confused, thinking that milk, eggs and soy (also mentioned once each) aren’t allowed on the gluten-free diet. Please note: These minor issues should not deter anyone with “just” gluten-free kids from buying this book, as there is still a positive message for all kids on special diets, and parents can always clarify. The mention of additional foods might also prove helpful for some kids reading this book…

Our family has always been super positive about being gluten-free, so my girls couldn’t personally relate to the negative emotions the boy showed in the beginning. But, understandably, there are many kids out there who do battle with feelings of jealousy, feeling excluded and just plain mad about not being able to eat like everyone else. I have heard many accounts of this from parents who have gotten in touch with me through this website. If your child has ever felt like this or currently struggles with these emotions, this book will surely be helpful, since it shows how Barrett gets past his negativity and moves on to more productive, healthy feelings about himself and his diet.

To read 13 more reviews on this book from different perspectives, please take a moment to look up Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party on Amazon. Currently it is $8.99 and if you have Amazon Prime, shipping is free!

Now for the giveaway:
The author has generously offered to give away two copies for a giveaway. To win one of these books, please comment below saying why you think your g-free kid would enjoy this book or why it’s important for kids to have books about being gluten-free in their library…

Giveaway ends at midnight on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. If any winners don’t respond within 24 hours, new winners will be picked to replace them. Good luck!  -Katie

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[ Disclaimer: The author sent me a free copy of this book and the opinions I expressed are my own, honest feelings about the book, as well as my daughters’.  ]

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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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

The road ahead

The road of parenting is a long one…..and for a parent of a child on a special diet, it may seen endless…

Aside from their diets, I sometimes feel like my daughters’ “phases” are endless, and I’m helping them “work on” certain things for years at a time…. Right now they are both trying to focus on a Fruit of the Spirit: self-control for one and kindness for the other.

This morning I was trying to get some advice from online articles about children and maturity, when I came across a phrase that hit home. It went something like this: “Prepare your child for the road, rather than prepare the road for your child.” Right away I could see how this would apply to so many things in life, and I felt moved to create a graphic reminder for myself. This is what I came up with:

PREPAREroad

How many aspects of life does this simple phrase encompass?

Can we clear the road of bullies — or can we prepare our children with how to deal with them?

Can we eliminate the risk of stranger danger — or can we teach our kids what to do if they are ever approached?

Can we protect our kids from getting their feelings hurt — or can we teach them how to keep everything in perspective and get past it?

Can we get rid of all gluten in our kids’ world — or can we teach them how to be prepared and deal with different food situations?

You get where I’m going with this…

When you first find out your child has to maintain a gluten-free diet for life, your first reaction is to get out there and totally clear the road for him or her….to make sure all bases are covered and everyone in their life knows about every last detail. That is all very necessary for a young child and one who is new at eating gluten-free. There’s a lot that comes with the new territory…

But as they grow, you won’t always be there to plow away the snow, salt the icy spots, and maneuver them around the road hazards. Little by little, you will want them to learn to become self-sufficient. There is no magic age at which this happens — it is just something to keep working towards….

For specifics on how you can prepare your child for living in a gluten-filled world, please read this article on helping your gluten-free kid gain independence.

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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter,
and be sure to check out the online photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.

Supporting the Center for Celiac Research through “Making Tracks for Celiacs”

About this time last year, my family and I participated in “Making Tracks for Celiacs” along with extended family and friends, most of whom join us every year for this event which means so much to us. We have been doing this twice a year for 5 years now — forming a team for the Buffalo walk and going just as a family to the Rochester walk.

2013 is the 12th year for “Making Tracks for Celiacs,” which is an annual fundraising event, organized and managed by the Center for Celiac Research at Mass General. These events around the country have raised almost $2,000,000 to date. The money is used to increase awareness and support research (75% of funds) as well as national and local celiac projects (25% of funds).

This year there are events held in these states: AL, MD, MI, MN, NY and VA, and are usually planned by a local gluten-free diet support group such as the one I belong to.  Check out the main website for “Making Tracks for Celiacs” to learn which cities hold events, which locations are walks versus run/walks, and how you can get involved! Some will be happening soon but others aren’t held until Autumn, which leaves you plenty of time to put a team together — or just enter yourself and/or your own family.

We choose to get a local team together because it is a really great way to show support and love to g-free kids, and it’s important for them to see the “regulars” who attend and donate year after year.  It’s cool to show them how the numbers don’t dwindle off, either — last year we collected the most money we ever have, and had more walkers than any other year, including many who join us annually. My girls know they are not forgotten and that they are backed by many friends and loved ones on their gluten-free journey. It’s something they look forward to every year.

Our team last year was called “Team G-Free Kid” and together we raised $545 to donate to the Center for Celiac Research, along with entry fees paid by over 20 team members. Even though that seems like a lot to us, other “go-getters” have already collected thousands of dollars each for their teams! If you’d like to collect donations (it’s not mandatory) you can easily start your own personal donation page or team page through CeliacWalk.org, and email your friends and family about it. Registration is simple as well. Everything you need to know is in the green column on the lefthand side of that site.

For the first few years, Morgan was the star of our team, but now Lindsey shares the spotlight, too, since she’s been gluten-free for over a year now. We also had a newly gluten-free and casein-free friend (below) and his family join our team for the walk last year, plus dozens of other kids in attendance.

At both of the walks we attend, there is always a ton of stuff for kids to do….clowns, balloon artists, face painting, fake tattoos, stickers, bounce houses, games, local mascots in attendance, special kid goodie bags, story time and all kinds of things. Obviously, different locations will have different activities, but from what I hear, most, if not all, are very kid-friendly.

At this year’s walk, the organizers were also selling these awareness bracelets which support the Center for Celiac Research. For more details on these, please read this post.

There are also a good number of local and national gluten-free food vendors at these events as well, giving out free product samples, coupons and learning material… Many thanks to the generous companies who donate goods towards these walks!

And if the other events are anything like the two we attend, rest assured that you will bring home a crazy amount of gluten-free samples, bars and full-sized product packages. And, if your friends and family are anything like ours, much of their food (from their own goodie bags) will be passed back for your family to enjoy.

All in all, we get a lot out of these walks. When you are among so many other gluten-free folks, there is a huge sense of camaraderie, and you know you are supporting a great cause: celiac disease (and non-celiac gluten sensitivity) research and awareness. Our daughters feel special — especially at the walk where we form a team, and they are always excited about all of the samples they get to try and take home, knowing everything is gluten-free and there’s no need (for once) to question anything. The walk itself is good, healthy family time that you can really soak in and enjoy, knowing that you’re making a difference and that your kids are swelling with pride.

If you are nowhere near any of these walks, you still have three options…
#1: Get some people together and start one (see “How to start your own walk” on CeliacWalk.org) in a new location; #2: Donate online towards the cause; or #3: Try something different: Join Team Gluten Free for any race around the country. How does it work? Read more about one family’s experience here.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit back and let everyone else take action…

As we like to say, “Celiac disease isn’t contagious, but awareness is.
Please help spread it!”

Helping your gluten-free kid gain independence

When your g-free kid reaches a certain age (which is different for every child) it becomes time to start easing them into being independently gluten-free. Here are some tips that will help boost your child’s confidence and know-how:

Teach them to read labels:
For very young kids who don’t know how to read, send along a list of offending ingredients for caregivers, along with a list of naturally GF items such as fruit and raisins. If you’d like your little one to be able to refer to the list, include little pictures of acceptable foods to give him a better visual idea of what’s allowed. Help little ones learn how to spot the words “gluten free”, the certified gluten-free logo or other prominent labels. Once they start to read, you can show them more things to watch for on packages, and to also read the bold allergy warnings at the end of the ingredient list, as in “contains wheat.”

labelsWhen older kids begin looking at packages, the terms “multigrain” and “whole grain” can often be confounding (even for adults) so be sure to explain to them that just reading those words on a package doesn’t mean it is automatically ruled out. My girls used to think that, until I saw their confusion and explained how corn and rice can be considered multigrain or whole grain, too, yet those are still acceptable grains & flours for g-free kids. Teach them that oats need to be certified gluten-free to be considered safe, and other similar tips.

Start label-reading lessons small, by going to Grandma’s house and showing them offending ingredients on labels. Then go home and have them read labels on their own gluten-free products so they can see what is okay.

Guide them through the grocery store:
If your child is old enough and has a long enough attention span, spend some time together in a grocery store (at a slow time of the week) and go through it aisle by aisle, explaining which kinds of food are gluten-free or not. Be matter-of-fact and show them how entire sections of entire aisles are off-limits, but linger in the areas that are full of safe foods and marvel at all of their choices. Show them how most yogurts and ice creams are GF except those with cookies, brownies, sugar cone pieces, etc. Show them all the naturally gluten-free foods and the special area where the gluten-free products are. I do this with my daughters every now and then to test them on what they know, and they, in turn, always love to demonstrate their growing knowledge.

If this sounds too overwhelming for a younger child, then just do it in small doses on a regular basis as you do your weekly shopping together. It may take some time, but it’s very beneficial for your child — and something to be proud of  — for them to be able to show you what he or she knows.

Let them speak up for themselves:
When eating out, kids of all ages can learn to speak up for themselves to varying degrees. Young kids can learn how to ask, “Is this gluten-free?” or “Is this safe for me to eat?” Let your child order for themselves in a restaurant and have them politely inform the waitstaff that their meal needs to be gluten-free. Even if you plan on discussing details with the waitress, manager or chef yourself (which I would advise in order to avoid cross contamination) it is important for your child to get in the habit of always making sure people know that he or she needs to eat g-free.

menuIf your child is old enough, test them to see if they can correctly name the gluten-free options on menus at restaurants by themselves. Explain why they can’t eat certain things like french fries, which are deep fried in shared fryers with gluten-containing foods like breaded chicken fingers. Let them ask if there is a dedicated fryer or not. The older a child gets, the more he or she needs to have these habits set in place. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will get with the necessary dialogue. Your child will be filled with pride as he learns these life-long social lessons.

Can you think of any more ways to help your g-free kid gain independence? Please comment below if you have anything to add…..thanks!

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5 ways to make your g-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 at the bottom of 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’re 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!

School Presentations Help Teach Classmates About Celiac Disease

When a new school year rolls around, how do you make things as easy as possible for your g-free kid? How do you make peers and a new teacher understand why your child has to be on a special diet?  It is helpful for a child if people are understanding and sympathetic (in a positive way) of why he or she is on a restricted diet and not able to eat certain birthday treats that are sent in, etc.  One option is to write and send everyone letters and lists and hope that they read and understand everything you’re alerting them to. A better option is to get right in there yourself — with a simple classroom presentation — and teach them what Celiac and the gluten-free diet are all about. That is what Erin A. did for her daughter, Eilea, and we both hope that her positive experience provides inspiration for more parents to follow suit.

Erin is one of those stand-out Moms I have met online — through g-free kid’s website, Facebook page and by email. Erin first got in touch with me when she sent in her daughter’s photo for the g-free kids’ online photo album, and one of the things she mentioned was a classroom presentation she was putting together. I could already tell she was an amazing advocate for her gluten-free kid, so I asked her to let me know how it went. I hope you enjoy her summary and photos below. She writes:

“My daughter and I were first inspired by the “Super Celiac costume that you created for your daughter, Morgan, last Halloween. I made a similar costume for my daughter, Eilea, who enjoyed choosing her favorite colors of material and gemstones to decorate the costume with. She also wore one of the Tribandz awareness bracelets to complete her ensemble.

I then took it a step further and decided to make a presentation to my daughter’s first grade class, to let them know a little about Celiac and being gluten free. As I was thinking about what to do, I realized that most of the information that Eilea and I wanted to share with the kids was included in the children’s book, “Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?” so I decided to make it the focus of our presentation.

I first got in touch with my daughter’s teacher to arrange the presentation date and time. (A presentation like this might take all of 15 minutes, give or take, so it should be easy enough to fit it in).  When it came time to make the presentation, Eilea was excused from class for a few minutes so I could help her put her costume on over her school uniform.  Eilea then waited in the hall until I gave her the signal to come in.

I went back into the classroom and helped the teacher gather the kids around for the presentation.  I pretended to wonder where Eilea was, then decided to start without her, welcoming the kids and thanking them for letting us share this information.  Eilea came in the room then and I said, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s SUPER CELIAC GIRL!!”

Eilea came to sit next to me and we proceeded to read, “Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?” together to the class.  (The book is written with a dialogue so that a parent can read their lines and a child can read theirs, too, if you wish to read it aloud together.)

When we finished the book, we answered any questions the kids had and helped explain some of the things in the book.  Everyone particularly liked the part where the grass being flattened down is like the villi in her intestines.

Super Celiac Girl then served some gluten-free snacks to her classmates and teacher.  Everyone was able to enjoy a small Dixie cup full of Snyder’s GF Pretzels, Annie’s GF Snickerdoodle Bunny Snacks and Annie’s GF Chocolate and Vanilla Bunny Snacks.  The snacks got rave reviews, especially the Snyder’s pretzels.

I also created a handout for the kids to read over and bring home to share with their parents about Celiac disease and being gluten free, which Eilea proudly handed out to her classmates.

The presentation was a hit, Eilea felt so special being the center of attention, and her peers and teacher learned a lot about Celiac and the gluten-free diet through the book, our Q&A session and the handout. It was totally worthwhile.

We hope that we’ve been able to help spread awareness about Celiac and the gluten-free diet. This year I also plan to give all of her teachers a letter explaining her diet and the need for diligence in keeping her snacks safe.  She’s very good about not eating something questionable but we can use all the help we can get.  I’m planning on leaving a box of non-refrigerated GF snacks that can be left in the classroom for those unexpected treat days.  I also plan to communicate with the teacher in order to get a list of birthdays and planned celebrations so that we can be ready with treats when they’re needed.”

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Many thanks to Erin for sharing her experience. Please comment below if you have done something similar for/with your g-free kid — or if this gives you just the push you needed to get out there for the first time and do it yourself!  🙂  You can do it, and your child will thank you for it!

As we like to say,
“Celiac disease isn’t contagious, but awareness is. Please help spread it!”

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Please note:  As a mom of a daughter with Celiac and another daughter with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) I also believe that helping spread awareness of the latter condition is equally as important as Celiac. Just because your g-free kid is GF for reasons other than Celiac doesn’t mean you couldn’t hold a presentation like the one above. There are a number of other children’s books (that don’t focus on Celiac disease) that you could use instead. The most important thing is that you are helping those around your g-free kid to better understand why he or she is on a special diet. I will continue to try to fill this website with helpful resources that will allow you to do just that. Thanks for the support.