Ingredients

  • 2 cups cranberries (wash in cold water)
  • 3-4 cups sliced apples (Granny Smith)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal (I use gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup flour (I use almond flour)
  • 1/3 cup butter

Faith Berens – Gluten Free


CranApple Casserole Bake

Our family makes this recipe every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a traditional side dish, lovingly prepared and served each year at family gatherings when my Aunt Betty was alive. Aunt Betty had the gift of hospitality and she absolutely loved hosting for the holidays. Sadly, she passed away due to kidney cancer several years ago, but one way we help keep her traditions going is to make some of her favorite recipes.

 

Directions:

Sprinkle lemon juice over apples. Combine cranberries, apples, granulated sugar, and salt and place in a Pyrex baking dish 9×9 or 9×13.

In a separate bowl, make a crumble out of the brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, and butter and spoon on top of the apple mixture.

Bake for 1 hour

Image provided by: https://www.needpix.com/photo/945891/cake-streusel-cake-baked-cake-mould-bake-sugar-coffee-party-streusel-sweet-dish

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baked sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup corn flakes

 Jace Clark – Sweet Potato Skeptic


Sweet Potato Casserole

This is a traditional recipe that I received from a lady at church. I have been making it for over 20 years and it’s always a popular request. I didn’t even like sweet potato casserole until I found this one!


Directions:

  1. Mix together the sweet potatoes, eggs, regular sugar, nutmeg, milk, and cinnamon.
  2. Place in 9×9 buttered dish.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
  4. Mix topping (butter, brown sugar, pecans, and corn flakes) in a separate bowl.
  5. Spread topping over  potato mixtre and bake an additional 15 minutes at 350 degrees

 

 

Ingredients

  • 4 apples
  • 4 oranges (seedless)
  • 2 bags of cranberries
  • 2 cups raw honey

 Peggy Ployhar– In-the-Raw


Raw Cranberry Relish

This cranberry relish recipe is one my grandmother and mother made every holiday season and one I have incorporated into my own family holiday cooking schedule. Not convinced yet? My husband used to hate cranberry relish, now he looks forward to it every holiday season.

 

Directions:

  1. Wash, seed and cut the apples into wedges (leaving on the skins)
  2. Wash the oranges and cut into wedges (leaving the rinds on – trust me)
  3. Wash cranberries
  4. Using a food grinder, grind all the fruit together
  5. Mix the honey into the ground fruit
  6. Let sit at least 8 hours before serving

Hint: This recipe freezes very, so I make a double batch before Thanksgiving and then freeze the other half for Christmas.

Image provided by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbrons/5216172956

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb diced smoked sausage
  • I can corn or other veggies
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can black olives
  • I can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 4 cups of rice
  • 4 1/2 water

Cammie Arn – Instant Pot Meal


Sausage Rice Casserole

Makes for a great meal when you are tired of Turkey.


Directions

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and place in a large rice cooker or Instant Pot. 
  2. Use the white rice setting on my rice cooker or the rice setting on my Instant Pot.

 

Ingredients

  • Chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Dawn Spence – Sweet Finish


Toffee Fudge

This is what we had when we got together for Christmas Eve. My mom always made finger foods and this wonderful toffee. It reminds me of my grandmother who was an avid cookie and candy maker. But, now that I eat low-carb and sugar-free I have added some substitutions as well below.

 

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle the bottom of a 9″ square pan with chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews.
  2. In a saucepan combine the brown sugar and butter.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. Stir constantly for 7 minutes exactly.
  5. Remove from heat and spread over nuts.
  6. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and cover for 5 minutes.
  7. When chocolate is melted spread evenly and cut into squares.
  8. Refrigerate until cool and set.
  9. Remove and break into squares.
  10. Keep in an airtight container.
    Omit nuts if desired.
    Omit chocolate for tender nut brittle.

Low-Carb Option: Substitute 3/4 cup brown Swerve for the brown sugar, change the butter to Earth Balance and use Lily’s dark chocolate chips or Enjoy dairy-free chocolate chips.

 

 


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Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 4 oz. coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup carrot, cooked and mashed
  • ¾ cup plum, peeled and processed in a blender
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

sweet potato pie

Dr. Jan Bedell – Low-Carb Alternative


No-Crust Sweet Potato Pie

My support person, Michelle, created a cookbook for her son when he was on the Spectrum Balance Protocol diet. This came from that book.

  • This recipe is for children and adults who have multiple food sensitivities.
  • This recipe is gluten-free, corn-free and processed sugar-free.
    If you are also dairy-free, leave out the cream cheese.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with a hand mixer and mix well. Pour into pie pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until firm. Serves 6. (Recipe submitted by Michelle Thompson, author of Dinner for David.)

 

gingerbread men with tea

Ingredients

  • ½ cup margarine
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ½ cups flour (or 1 ½ cups flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Kathy Kuhl – Traditional Holiday Favorite


Gingerbread Men 

This is our favorite for Christmas. I have a reindeer cookie cutter and add a red hot to create Rudolphs.


  1. Cream (or partially melt) margarine, sugar, and molasses. If melted, let the mixture cool.
  2. Add egg.
  3. Sift in remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir.
  5. Chill.
  6. Roll out ¼ inch thick and cut.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
  8. Cool on cooling racks.

Yield 2 trays.

Tip: roll all the dough to the same thickness, or thinner cookies will be overcooked before others are done.

 

Ingredients

  • Gluten-free pretzels
  • White almond bark
  • Yellow M&M’s

Cammie Arn – Gluten-Free Fun Treat


“Eggs & Bacon”

We are a little non-traditional at our house!

  1. Place 2 pretzel sticks next to one another on a piece of waxed paper or baking mat
  2. Top with melted almond bark
  3. Place 1 yellow M&M on top
  4. let it set up

Enjoy!

 

apples image

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies
  • Apples
  • 1/2 cup butter

Hint: Use a cooking apple that will not turn mushy when cooked, such as Macintosh, Granny Smith, Jonathon, etc.

 

Dawn Spence – Gluten-Free Fruit Treat


Baked Cinnamon Apples

One smell of this apple dessert and I knew that the holidays had arrived. I miss my grandmother but this recipe helps me remember fond memories.


In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, water, cornstarch, and red hots to a boil.

Fill a 3-quart baking dish with sliced apples

Pour the hot liquid over the apples

Dot the top of the apples with 1/2 cup butter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour, let cool 15 minutes.

chocolate biscotti

 

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup lentil flour (green, red or brown – it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup Sucanat (or brown sugar)
  • 6 large eggs 
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (divided)
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil

Peggy Ployhar – Hidden Healthy


Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Before our family even started down the road to healthy eating, this recipe was one of my children’s favorites – actually not this exact recipe as I have modified it over the years to make a more healthy version. I have really been surprised that no one has even noticed the changes, but then again with this much cocoa powder in a recipe, you can mask a lot of ingredients.

I make this recipe at least three times every holiday season plus multiple times throughout the rest of the year.

 

Instructions:

  • In one bowl mix all the dry ingredients – flours and powders.
  • In another bowl cream together the butter and Sucanat.
  • Next, add in the eggs and the vanilla to the butter mixture.
  • Now slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, add in the dry ingredients. First off by adding in 1 cup of chocolate chips. (You will need a really heavy-duty mixer to handle this dough.)
  • Now dump out the dough and finish off the mixing by kneading the dough with wetted hands until the dough gets glossy. (This is also a good upper body workout!)
  • Next, separate the dough into two pieces and then roll each piece out on parchment into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, 4 to 5 inches wide and as long as you need for length.

Then bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

When the 25 minutes are up, remove the cookies from the oven, cut them again, separate each slice and lay them on their sides on two baking sheets.

Then return the cookies to a 275 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour to dry.

 While the cookies are on their final bake, heat the remaining 1 cup of chocolate with the coconut oil in a double-boiler until melted

Once baking is done, spread the melted chocolate onto the tops of the cookies.

Let cool, then eat…if you can wait that long.

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

The special demands that naturally occur during this time of year can make celebrating the holidays with special needs children difficult. From food to family, each event can be a minefield of potential reactions, meltdowns, and misadventures. Or, with the right perspective and a few adjustments, the holidays can be as meaningful as they are meant to be. Hear from our SPED Homeschool Team Members as they share their tips for celebrating the holidays with their special needs children.

 

 

Dawn Spence

Family and holidays can be a complicated adventure. From medical needs and allergy needs, I used to find myself apologizing for needing things a certain way. Fast forward 8 years and I realized that no apologies are needed, and I meet our family’s needs without skipping a beat. I had to allow myself to be okay with the way things were before I could expect anyone else too. I know when my daughter has had too much, and we leave guilt-free. We bring foods that meet our allergy needs and even make extra for everyone else to enjoy. Being with family can be stressful, but at the same time, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the life you have been given.

 

Although we are very busy this time of year with all the parties and so forth, we handle it by guarding Friday night as “Family Night.”

 

 

Cammie Arn

The holidays in our home aren’t typical. We don’t have large extended families to travel to or to visit due to either distance or death. Instead, we have created new family traditions such as making a birthday cake (both regular and gluten-free) for Jesus at Christmas or homemade Belgian waffles with homemade fruit syrup.

 

We participate in a “feast of nations” at church the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Some dress in modern-day clothing representing their home country and bring a dish to share. Having an international church does help with this for sure. There have been times when this was thanksgiving for us.

 

One really neat idea is to do Christmas around the world in December. You can learn about a different country every day, study how they celebrate Christmas, and possibly try a special Christmas treat from that country. End your study by praying for that country.

 

How do we handle the food for all this fun? We find out what food is being served and modify from there. At potlucks, I always bring food tailored to our family’s needs to eliminate reactions. So far so good.

 

Holiday chaos? Not us. Although we are very busy this time of year with all the parties and so forth, we handle it by guarding Friday night as “Family Night.” We watch a movie at home and have pizza. Pretty much no exception. We also have a “no work” rule on Sunday that helps our family decompress and prep for the next week.

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

Our family dynamics are a bit different than most, and because I am the oldest of 14 with 10 adopted siblings, we don’t often have to explain anything to our family about how to deal with atypical behaviors of our children. Recently, we spent a few days with extended family at an indoor waterpark resort in the Wisconsin Dells and at one point my youngest sister went missing. Immediately our family flew into action with various members each immediately stepping in to stake out the campus, contact security, and canvas the facility. It didn’t seem out of place at all to switch from “vacation mode” to “search and rescue” mode, and once the call came in that my sister had been found and was being returned to her room by a helpful Good Samaritan, my husband stated nonchalantly to me, “Just another vacation with the Prenosil family.”

 

I don’t share this story to make it seem like this episode wasn’t a critical undertaking for everyone involved, but over the past 30 years, our family has developed a culture of caring for one another where no one asks why we just respond in love and concern. We are all in this together, whether it is caring for our adopted siblings or for each other’s children who also struggle with extreme food allergies and difficult to handle diagnoses. If you are just getting started on this special needs journey I want to encourage you that over time you can develop the support team you need just like our family has, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Little by little your immediate and extended family will learn the most by following your lead, so gently show them the way. Pray for their hearts to be softened towards the circumstances that surround the needs of your child and what you feel convicted to do as their parent and teacher for the best possible outcomes for their future. In turn, they will follow, but do understand it may take many years for them to come around and be the supportive family you desire for them to be for you right now.

 

 

Celebrating the holidays with your special needs children does not have to take the magic out of the season. Careful planning, simple celebrations, and supportive family can make all the difference.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Holidays are tricky for families dealing with atypical situations, but that doesn’t mean holidays need to magnify these areas of your family life. Follow these DIFFERENT steps to ensure you won’t miss out on a joyful holiday season with your family.

 

D – Develop a plan

No matter how many activities your family would like to do over the holiday season, take a critical look at your schedule, at what is essential and what isn’t. Purposefully blocking in margin around these essentials reduces stress and the pull towards over-booking holiday activities. Then, discuss as a family what traditions or activities matter most to each of you. Finally, match open dates and times in your calendar with these top traditions/activities.

 

Also realize every year will be different and just because you may only be able to schedule in three or four activities this year, this doesn’t mean next year you will have to do the same.

 

I – Individualize acceptance

Holiday activities are often accompanied by vivid memories and biases on how they should be done or enjoyed. But, when you have a family member who has a disability, sickness, or other struggles that require a holiday tradition to be modified it can be difficult to make the necessary adjustments if you can’t be flexible. Yes, your family tradition may take on a new flavor, but that doesn’t mean the new flavor is worse than the original. It is just different.

 

Over time your family member may be able to adjust to the original way you remember enjoying this holiday activity, or over time the modified activity may become more favored by you and your family than the original.

 

F – Focus on strengths

Holiday celebrations and traditions often stretch relationships, sensory thresholds, and much more. Unfortunately, this stretching can cause contention between family members who only see the weakness others possess in comparison to their strengths. On the other hand, these differences in strengths can be beneficial, gifts that complement other family members in need.

 

Especially during this season of giving, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss individual strengths and weaknesses of each family member, create awareness, and purposefully work towards strengthening each other by better supporting one another.

 

F – Frame togetherness

Just because your family may want to spend more time together creating memories and doing your favorite holiday activities, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to spend all their spare time together doing these activities, especially when considering the needs of the more introverted and medically fragile members of your family.

 

Framing holiday time together with family members who must build rest into their daily schedules should be prioritized by setting aside not only specific days of the week but also the specific times of day for that rest. For instance, if the morning is the best time of day for your child, then booking a matinee for your family to attend the Nutcracker would be better than holding out for an evening performance like you remember enjoying from your childhood.

 

E – Embrace forgiveness

No one is perfect, and yet we often fantasize about having perfect holiday experiences with our imperfect family and less than perfect self. Realistically it is better to aim for ideal and build a larger buffer of forgiveness and understanding into our holiday planning.

 

Sicknesses, miscommunications, forgetfulness, and the general confusion and chaos which happens during the holiday season typically remind us we need to be okay with allowing wiggle room into our “perfect” holiday plans. This way, we don’t ruin our entire experience because we struggle to see beyond the imperfections and to simply enjoy the experiences we have been given to share with our family.

 

“If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities”

 

R – Remember to love

The greatest gift we can give any time of the year is to love others the way we would like to be loved ourselves. It’s not about the gifts we work so hard to hunt down and buy. Sometimes the pursuit of the perfect gift ends up sidetracking us from being anything but loving.

 

If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities. Many times, this means we have to sacrifice our wants to love, but this is the exact love that Christmas is all about.

 

E – Enjoy the journey

Joy is essentially the bi-product of where we determine our enjoyment or fulfillment will draw from. If our joy rests solely on the product of our day, or even the season, we do not find fulfillment because life’s twists and turns can keep us from reaching these goals on time or how we had imagined them to turn out. But, if we instead seek to rest our joy on the journey towards reaching our goals, we can more readily find joy in our progress as well as in our relationships we might have otherwise overlooked.

 

During the holiday season, focusing on the joy of the journey can require even more intentional concentration as our days, weeks, and even months have checklists for things we don’t normally prioritize in our lives. This is when getting done what the day allows without sacrificing the joyful journey alongside our family members needs to become an even more intentional practice as well as something we intentionally celebrate throughout the season.

 

N – Non-negotiable relationships

Loving others is difficult and the holiday season often brings our lives closer in proximity to relatives we don’t always associate with regularly. And, while it is important to set boundaries with others, proper boundaries always leave room for any relationship to continue to grow if these individuals make positive changes and establish more healthy habits and boundaries.

 

Everything we can do on our end to leave a relationship open, even if we have to mostly close out a family member because of their personal choices or extenuating circumstances, leaves room for that door to widen once again in the future. We can’t always take on the full weight of what another family member is going through or allow the harmful or unsafe choices immediate or extended family members have made into our homes, but we can show there is always room in our hearts to love beyond these extenuating circumstances.

 

T – Take action

 

Finally, it is important to remember to act and put these practices to work. A plan and good intentions will never lead you to where you want to go. Only by stepping out in faith to approach this holiday season differently and move beyond various obstacles that in the past may have held you or your family back from experiencing joy will the season be the most joyful one you could experience.

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team


As our kids are counting down the days to Christmas, we special needs homeschooling moms have our sights elsewhere. We’re not only looking forward to the end of the holiday season, and a return our family’s version of normal, but we’re also looking towards the goals we have for our kids.

With that in mind, the team members of SPED Homeschool have put together our own special needs homeschool mom Christmas wish list. This list is meant to be fun, but at the same time highlight the biggest goal we have for our children…godly character.

As you read through this list, and the accompanying character traits, we pray you are inspired this Christmas season to see beyond the educational goals you have for your children and also see their attitudes and actions moving them towards much more lofty goals.


 

12 Days of Christmas – Special Needs Homeschooling Mom Version


On the first day of Christmas, my child gave to me..a homemade angel on top our Christmas tree! (Creativity)

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2


On the second day of Christmas, my child gave to me..2 completed assignments. (Determination)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8


On the third day of Christmas, my child gave to me…3 chocolate candies. (Generosity)

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6


On the fourth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…4 “lost” items. (Truthfulness)

“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’for we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:25


On the fifth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…5 sloppy kisses! (Love)

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3


On the sixth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…6 prayers for my patience. (Sensitivity)

“ Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15


On the seventh day of Christmas, my child gave to me…7 respectful responses. (Respectfulness)

“…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:5


On the eighth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…8 sharpened pencils. (Resourcefulness)

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” Luke 16:10


On the ninth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…9 correctly answered questions. (Wisdom)

“The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15


On the tenth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…10 painted toes. (Caring)

“ For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:20-21


On the eleventh day of Christmas, my child gave to me…11 minutes of silence. (Self-Control)

“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24-25


On the twelfth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…12 hours without complaining! (Contentment)

“And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8


 

May your Christmas season be fruitful and filled with the joy of seeing your children learning and growing in their ability to walk in God’s truth and His light. – SPED Homeschool Team

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 1:4

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Although sugar plums are mentioned in “The Night Before Christmas,” and there is a Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker Ballet, not many people are familiar with what a sugar plum really is.

Years ago, when our family did a Christmas unit study, we discovered this versatile Christmas treat.  Since then, it has been my go-to recipe for holiday gatherings and a personal healthy indulgence during the holiday season.

Here is a video my daughter Maggie and I made to take you step-by-step through the recipe.  In the video, we not only show you how simple this recipe is to make, but also how you can easily change the ingredients to work around any of your family member’s food allergies.

 

 

 

 

Allergy Friendly Sugar Plum Recipe

 

Equipment, Ingredients and Instructions

 

Equipment:
Food processor
2 plates

 

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups base ingredient:  any variety of nut, oatmeal (gluten-free if needed), or coconut
  • 2 cups dried fruit: raisins, dates, cranberries, figs, apricots, or prunes
  • 2 teaspoons spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, ground anise, etc.
  • Approximately ¼ cup of a wet ingredient: honey, maple syrup, maple cream, nut butter, molasses, brown rice syrup, etc.
  • Extra chopped base ingredient, or cocoa/peanut butter powder, for coating

Directions:

  • Measure 2 cups of your base ingredient (or mix of base ingredients) into the food processor and chop to a fine meal.
  • Measure 2 cups of your dried fruit choice (or mix of dried fruit choices) into the food processor, with the base, and chop again until the fruit is minced.
  • Measure in 2 teaspoons of spices into the mixture in the food processor, and chop to distribute.
  • Slowly add the wet ingredient into the mixture in the food processor until it forms a ball.
  • Dump the mixture out on one plate and place your desired coating on another plate
  • Roll the mixture into gumball-sized balls
  • Finish by rolling the ball in the coating

 

Extra Recipe Tips

  • Keep a wet towel nearby to clean off sticky hands
  • Store finished sugar plums in the refrigerator

 

 

 


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Dyana Robbins

 

The holiday season offers many wonderful things to us: time away from work, more time with friends and family, traditions, and expressions of love. For many, this truly remains the happiest and most-anticipated time of the year. However, there are years when the holidays seem much less joyous. Deaths, losses, difficult circumstances, broken relationships and other factors can threaten the joy we want to experience.

 

Here are some thoughts that I hope will encourage you if you find yourself facing a difficult holiday season.  Some of them are humorous, others more serious, but all have helped our family celebrate the holidays in difficult years.

 

1.  Treat Hallmark movies and Christmas sentimentalism like a plague
Please don’t call me Scrooge; I know how committed people are to their Hallmark Christmas movies.  I have even liked a couple of them myself. However, when we are battling discouragement or even despair, the idealized versions of Christmas, love, and family that are peddled to us can intensify our pain.
Movies and many Christmas songs’ sentimental version of life can highlight places in our lives that don’t reflect the same perfection.  Instead of providing help, they actually create larger wounds.  If you must indulge in these entertainments,  make sure you balance them with movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol.”  They have some good old adversity and life lessons that balance out the schmaltz.  And for music, immerse yourself in songs that offers real joy and hope.  My favorite is “O Holy Night.”

 

2.  Simplify
We hear this advice everywhere, but what does it actually look like to practice simplicity?  It differs in families, but simplicity rests on the following principles:  contentment, pruning of useless or harmful things, and a grateful perspective.
Even in the most difficult times, we can practice simplicity.  As we rid ourselves of fruitless thoughts, useless energy expenditures, taxing social engagements, and burdensome traditions or expectations, joy can fill the space they vacate.  We can appreciate the beauty of what remains, the graces of each day, and enjoy rest.

 

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” ― Henry David Thoreau

 

3.  Do something new
One of life’s greatest joys, is to experience or learn new things.  Whether you create new traditions, learn a new game, skill, or song, take a different route for Christmas light viewing, or bake something different, your venture into the unknown affirms life and fresh beginnings.  The scope and cost of these changes need not be great; just doing them brings happy feelings and memories.

 

4.  Avoid or limit negative influences
This may be the most difficult of my recommendations. Often, negative influences come from our closest  family members, or others we’re pressured to spend time with over the holidays.  If you feel guilty avoiding them entirely,  do all you can to limit your exposure to them.  
You can do a shorter visit, make sure others will be around to dilute their impact, gather in a place you feel most comfortable, or have the nearest exit mapped out for an emergency evacuation.  We need to show love to difficult people, but during dark seasons in our own lives, we might need a break or limited engagement to care for ourselves.
Likewise, give yourself permission to rest from considering or deciding about stressful or negative things.  Even a short break from decision-making can help you recharge and focus on the joy of the season.  Truly, our problems can almost always be put on temporary hold, instead of demanding all of our time and attention.

 

5.  Celebrate Christ
If you find yourself in the darkest of times, my other recommendations will ring with inadequacy. There are some problems we cannot change, fix or remove; they simply must be borne. Even bearing those burdens, hope shines and lights a path for joy.
Isaiah 9, in the Bible, talks of Christ the Savior.  Consider this beautiful passage with me:

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

 

One dark day, the God of Heaven sent his son to us.  His arrival fulfilled many prophecies, God’s promises to man, to provide a Savior from ourselves, our condition, and this broken world.  He walked our paths, suffered our griefs, experienced our fragile joys, and purchased for us a joy that can never die.
Because of this gift, every trial, grief, injustice, betrayal, loss and inadequacy will one day be completely overwhelmed and overcome.  No matter what we face, even the most horrible and trying things, they only have temporary power and effect.  As we wait for that day, we enjoy Christ’s presence and help.  He is all to us that the verses above promise: our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Every lesser joy can be extinguished. Life’s burdens can smother them all.  But, the joy of Christ, God’s guarantee to man, has never failed me or anyone who has trusted in Him.
Whatever your circumstances this year, I pray you will find and know joy.  If this season is painful for you, know that you are not alone in your struggle or in waiting for better days.  May the joy of this season overwhelm your struggles and bring you hope.  

 

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


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This article

was reprinted with permission from Dyana Robbin’s personal blog,

Ambling Grace.
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Peggy Ployhar

Christmas, and the holiday season in general, truly is the most wonderful time of the year…for most things.  But, when it comes to homeschooling kids who have special needs, there is a fine balance to maintaining your child’s basic daily routine while adding in additional holiday tasks.

One way to cut down on the stress of trying to fit it all in, is to ease back from regular curriculum work and add in themed activities instead.  Many times, these types of learning activities are more easily embraced by a child than their typical school work.  School seems less like school and more like fun, helping lessons get done more quickly. 

Over the years many of the holiday learning activities our family did as part of our homeschooling lessons have become wonderful yearly traditions.  We make international treats discovered through various unit studies and have favorite books my adult children have fond memories of us reading over and over again.

Here are 20 holiday-related free learning activities you can use to add some cheer into your SPED homeschooling days this season:

  1. Christmas Gross Motor and Brain Break Ideas – 14 activities for adding some holiday movement into your homeschool day
  2. Christmas Fine Motor Crafts and Sensory Play Activities – Fun Christmas sensory play activities and fine motor skill building craft ideas
  3. Elf on the Shelf Sensory Taste, Smell and Sight Activities – Use Elf on the Shelf for helping your sensory child improve their aversions to texture, taste, smell, noise and light
  4. 30 Montessori Christmas Activities – Activities covering language arts, math, sensory, and life skills
  5. LEGO Nativity Set Instructions – Build Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus in the manger, and a shepherd with two sheep out of simple LEGO blocks
  6. Christmas Counting Puzzles on a Light Table – Simple Christmas themed counting puzzles you can make yourself to use on a light table
  7. Simple Sewing Christmas Tree Decorations – Turn felt, buttons, yarn, and stuffing into an easy to sew Christmas tree decoration
  8. 8 Upper-Level Math Christmas Activities – Add some seasonal twists to geometry, algebra, and thinking skills lessons this Christmas.
  9. Christmas Skip Counting Games – 3 holiday games to reinforce simple skip counting
  10. Christmas Candy Chemistry Science Experiments – Have some science fun with all that yummy Christmas candy…it’s STEM learning made fun and festive
  11. “Santa Claus, Santa Claus, What Do You See?” Emergent Reader – This print and assemble book reinforces 14 sight words within a Santa themed story
  12. 25 Days of Fine Motor Christmas Activities – Simple themed activities focused around building fine motor skills
  13. STEM Holiday Light Circuits – Use old Christmas lights and a few common household supplies to teach a lesson in electrical circuits
  14. 30 Awesome Christmas Games – Games perfect for family time or lesson boredom busters
  15. Holiday Speech Therapy Activities – Holiday speech therapy activities that are hands on and interactive
  16. Nativity Activities and Educational Resources – A mix of 35 activities, crafts and printables all focused around the nativity
  17. A Very Merry Occupational Therapy Christmas – 25 activities that address a variety of occupational skill areas
  18. Christmas Journal – Free printable to help you discuss and capture all the special moments and memories with your child this Christmas
  19. Candy Cane Activities for Upper Elementary – Activities for writing, science, history, and math all related to the simple candy cane
  20. Christmas Scripture Copywork – Work on handwriting skills while keeping the true meaning of Christmas as your lesson focus.

If that list does not meet your needs, or you still want more activities, make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Christmas Pinterest Board

You will find lots more free or inexpensive holiday-themed learning activities to fill your entire month of December.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


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Cammie Arn

 

The holiday are upon us. So, the question at hand is: “How do we deal with all the shopping and prepping that goes into this time of year when it can be so overwhelming?” 

 

Here are some things that worked in our family, when daily life caused sensory overload from the heightened seasonal activity. 

 

  • Shop online and with catalogs, it just keeps things simpler and away from crazy crowds.
  • Drive thru neighborhoods known for their decorations. Not only is it better on the pocketbook, but noises can be controlled and lights tend not be be as overbearing from the inside a vehicle. You can also make this adventure a special treat by picking up hot chocolate (or bring your own) and cookies.
  • Decorate the tree with simple white lights instead of flashing colored ones.
  • Try to keep your routine as much as possible, the normalcy of your days can help prevent many a meltdown.
  • Use festive fabric to wrap gifts. By replacing paper with fabric no one gets overstimulated with the constant tearing of paper. Plus, the fabric is reusable. Decorated pillowcases work great!
  • Use one gift box per person. Place all of that family member’s gifts in the one box and you save on the chaos of opening lots of little gifts.
  • Limit sugar.  Even if you already do this, ’tis the season to work on it all the more. Too much sugar can cause any kiddo to get grumpy and meltdown (adults included).
  • Ensure your family gets enough rest
  • Pick and choose your activities. You don’t have to do everything…every year. 

And, if things do go awry, take a deep breath. Tomorrow is a new day.

Happy Holidays. 

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

When my kids were younger, I was not the type to be cooped up inside, especially during the holiday season when there was so much going on. But, even though I loved getting out and enjoying the holiday sights, my oldest on the Autism Spectrum was a bit of a scrooge about it all. 

Instead of allowing my son’s bah-humbug holiday attitude to keep us all home, I decided to create sensory-friendly field trips that would limit crowds, lights, and noise.  So, if you are looking for ways to get everyone out the house this holiday season, here are my top 10 holiday homeschool field trip suggestions.

 

#1 – Historic Sites
Visiting a historic home, fort, or site is a great holiday outing, especially on a weekday. Many of these sites go all out with decorating for the holidays, and although they are very busy on weekends, they still maintain hours during the less busy weekdays.  To find the historical society in your area, and the local sites they maintain, you can search the Preservation Directory by state and region.

directory

 

 

#2 – Hiking and Geocaching
Geocaching is an awesome family activity, and one that can not only become a new holiday tradition, but a fun family pastime.  Hiking alone makes for a wonderful field trip, but when you turn the hike into a treasure hunt, it becomes an over-the-top adventure. 
Caches on or near hiking trails are very common, so plan a holiday hike near a cache or plan to hide a new one on the trail.  The largest website devoted to this pastime is Geocaching.com. On this site you will find everything you need to know about finding and hiding caches.

geocaching.com

 

 

#3 – Christmas Tree Farm
Cutting your own Christmas tree is a lot of fun, and a very festive activity. And although tree farms can be rather busy during the holiday season, they do maintain less busy hours amidst the holiday tree-buying frenzy.  The key is finding less busy times, and it usually just takes a quick phone call.  Most of these farms are family-owned and more than happy to help you make your visit enjoyable and accommodating to your family’s needs.

 

#4 – Ceramic Shop
During the holiday season, local ceramic shops are usually equipped for kids’ groups to come and paint ornaments, nativity sets, and even items kids can personalize to give as gifts.  A quick search on Google will give you a list of your local ceramic shops and their hours of operation. 

 

#5 – Library
Your local library is likely to have at least a few holiday events; some of them during  daytime hours or as ongoing holiday season activities.  Check with your librarian, or on your local library website, to find out if your library is offering any sensory-friendly or quieter daytime activities your family could participate in.

 

#6 – Parks and Painted Rocks
Painting rocks and leaving them for others to find is a trend cropping up all over the United States.  No matter how artistic you are, or how capable your kids are at painting in general, this activity can easily become a new family holiday tradition.  To find out more about how to paint and leave rocks for others to find, you can visit the Kindness Rock Project website.

kindness rock project

 

 

#7 – Winter Sports

If you have an active family and live up north, winter sporting options abound. For those who like going fast, skiing and snowboarding are great options. Most ski resorts offer homeschool days when you can rent equipment and get lift tickets at a reduced rate during the less busy weekdays. Plus, many ski resorts also have equipment to accommodate children and adults with disabilities.

If you like to go at a slower place, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing may be better options.  Local park and recreation departments often have trails and rentable equipment for both of these winter sports. Local parks are also a great place to go sledding, and their sledding hills are guaranteed to be empty almost days when public school is in session. And, whether you live up north or not, there is still one winter sport almost anyone can enjoy during the holidays: ice skating.  Temporary ice skating rinks in the north can be found outside most of the winter, and during the holiday season many southern cities also set up temporary ice rinks indoors, fully stocked with rentable skates.

 

#8 – Holiday Daytime Performances
School groups as well as homeschool families can access daytime holiday performances.  Most children’s theaters, ballet companies, and orchestras offer discounted tickets for these performances which are geared to the younger audience.  If your child has specific needs for accessibility during the performance, make sure to call the theater directly to book your tickets so they can arrange for seats that meet those needs.  Bringing earmuffs to muffle noises can also help children who are easily distracted or who may be anxious about loud noises during the performance.

 

#9 – Nursing Home Visit
Local nursing homes love to have kids visit. Plus, what kid doesn’t like having a few extra grandparents?  If your family has never considered visiting your local nursing home, the holiday season is a perfect time to start because there are always so many activities planned throughout December.
Most nursing homes have a volunteer coordinator you can call to find out how your family can get involved. By letting the coordinator know the specific needs of your kids, they will be able to determine which activities would be the best suit your family’s involvement.

 

#10 – Tourist Attractions
Many tourist attractions decorate, or have special exhibits, for the holidays.  And, while these places may be busy on evenings and weekends, they also have lower peak times you can take advantage of with your homeschooling schedule.  Museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, and tours (caves, factories, etc.) are great places to check out. Call ahead to find out when the attraction expects visits to be lower in volume, when there will be less groups visiting, and if any of the special exhibits have hours that differ from the general admission times.

 

General Homeschool Field Trip Advice
You might be a pro at homeschool field trips, but if not, this video will help you think through the most important things you will need to consider when taking your special needs child on a field trip.

 

 

 

 

Most important of all, have a great time making memories with your kids this holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 


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