So you'll notice (or maybe not!) that I haven't done my menu reviews for the last couple of months. I have been cooking but we've been doing some experimenting which means that much of my carefully planned menu has been put on hold.
We've had food issues with The Princess since she started eating solid food. Basically, the issue was that she wasn't really interested in food. Her intake was so minimal that I really wondered sometimes how on earth she could actually be growing. There's never been an extra ounce on her.
We found a small menu of black beans, peas, carrots and fruit that she liked and stuck with it. Other options were hit or miss. Then we hit the potty training stage. It's been really rough, I'm not going to lie. There have been many tears on both sides and a struggle to keep things positive and pressure-free. We eventually ended up seeing a specialist. There is a mix of fear and relief when your worries are finally affirmed and someone super qualified is called in to help - it's not just a parenting failure or over-reaction. There's also the sit-in-your-gut worry that walking into a children's hospital is tantamount to admitting that something serious is about to turn your life upside down.
We got some answers and some guidance and some reassurance that the very real problems we were having were not insurmountable and, very soon, we started to see a difference. She tested negative for celiac disease. However, she was very low on the scale and below normal so a question kept niggling in my brain. Should we experiment with gluten free eating? I was discouraged from even trying - the evidence isn't there, it's expensive, it's a pain, its very unlikely that it'll make a difference... So, I set aside the idea. After all, the specialist should know best.
Then...we ended up in the ER with a screaming toddler. Sweetpea, after x-rays, ultrasounds, and other more invasive procedures, ended up diagnosed with the same issues as The Princess. Well, it was time to do SOMETHING, and the logical thing seemed to be the gluten free thing.. After all, it fits with the symptoms and there were those eyebrow raising blood test results...
So, we've been transitioning to gluten free eating and the change is, truthfully, shocking. The Princess is eating, a lot. She's inhaling so much food that I find myself scrambling to find another course for her because I didn't make enough of what I originally served her. She's filled out a little, her color is better, and, on her own, she's constantly checking with me to make sure what she's eating is gluten free. She's feeling better and made the connection...
My cooking has taken a back seat in order to relearn how to bake - bread, muffins, even a birthday cake. While it is a little more expensive, it's worth the added cost. Plus, as I continue to make things from scratch the cost continues to go down. We're eating well. We're eating whole foods. We're eating!
I got an email a few days before Christmas from a friend. Her daughter is in elementary school and already (ALREADY!) she's dealing with that difficult phenomenon of Mean Girls. What did she ask for for Christmas? Some advice from Santa regarding how to deal with it all.
Ugh. Why are girls so mean? Why do we pick, pick, pick until our chosen victim crumbles into a pile of self-loathing and hurt? Why don't we form little cliques of protection and positivity rather than exclusion and superiority? I don't know, but I'm sure we've all been there; on the outside AND on the inside. Perpetrator and persecuted.
The email, though, was such a lovely thing. My friend was emailing every woman she knew, the significant women in her life, and asking us to write a little note to her daughter. Something to encourage her, strengthen her, impart some love, wisdom, laughter and courage as she makes her own path into adulthood. I haven't heard how many letters she received but I know that it hit a nerve from the conversation between the women she emailed. I loved that this email suddenly formed a community of women, separated by thousands of miles but united in purpose for one little girl.
I don't really like the phrase "It takes a village..." It's too utopian for my cynical mind. BUT, the meaning behind it is real. What are our relationships for but to help each other carry burdens, strengthen each other when one is weak, offer our experiences when asked in hopes of providing a little encouragement in this confusing walk we each must take through life?
Dear Little One,
I heard that you are having a hard time with some mean girls at school. I’m so sorry. I remember how difficult it is to hear those mean things said about you, to never know if you’re going to be liked or disliked on any given day, to feel like you’re always behind in knowing what the cool thing of the day is. It’s so hard to be on the outside looking in.
Here’s the thing. I was a mean girl once. I was also a girl who was picked on by mean girls. See, it’s hard to figure out who you want to be, who to spend your time with, and whose words to believe. Sometimes we make the wrong decision and end up hurting someone else because we think it will make us more popular and happier. But it doesn’t, not in the long run. One of the things I’m most sad about when I think about when I was a girl is when I chose to be mean. Not when I got that C in math, or had to ride around in an old rusty van with my mom and dad, or lied to get out of a basketball game. What still makes me sad is the time I said that I thought brown eyes were ugly; knowing the girl with pretty brown eyes was standing right behind me. Or when I gave a girl ex-lax instead of chocolate and then pretended it was a funny joke during a slumber party. When I think about those two girls and who I was when I chose to be mean I want to hide. I’m so disappointed in myself.
But, then there are the times when I made good choices. Like when I chose to be friends with the quiet girl that didn’t wear the trendy clothes but had the best imagination, we would write stories together. Or when my best friend was girl with red hair and freckles and we would spend hours building forts, collecting marigold seeds to plant fairy gardens, and collect crawdads from the stream in the church grounds. I’m so proud of myself for making friends with girls who were positive, fun, creative and unique. We made each other better because we helped each other find what we loved to do and how to do it well.
You have the best example of being a good friend when it’s not popular in your mom. I moved to your mom’s town from Africa. I didn’t know anything about Maine. I didn’t know any of the popular music, I didn’t know some of the foods that everybody ate, I didn’t know the cool toys, the lingo, or clothes. I was awkward and shy and didn’t have any friends. But your mom decided to be friends with me. She didn’t make fun of the strange things I liked to do (like play trivial pursuit or watch old tv shows or play games outside even though we were in high school and supposedly too mature for that.) She was my friend no matter what. She didn’t make the easy choice to just ignore the strange girl that was hanging around; she wasn’t mean to me in order to make herself more popular to those around her. She looked into the heart of people to find their worth.
Its really hard sometimes making the choice to not be popular, to ignore the mean things people say because you’re choosing a different path, to be ignored even though you have great ideas and things to share. It will continue to be difficult; I’m not going to lie. But keep practicing. Practice will make it easier and, later, you will be so proud of yourself. You’ll be as proud of yourself as your Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles, and all the other people in your life who love you, are right this very moment.
With Love, Sarah (your adopted aunt from far, far away)
New Years. It's becoming a tradition - visit Multnomah Falls. It's good to get out of the house and get some fresh air. This year the air was very fresh - high wind warning fresh, forming ice on anything that stood still. We didn't last long before heading off for warm food and giant windows overlooking the Columbia River. A great New Years Day.
I almost didn't recognize her the day she chose to wear her black leggings and her brand new Angry Birds shirt (OBSESSED with that game doesn't even cover it!). Luckily the light pink hat helped soften the gangsta' thing she had going.
Christmas Eve morning we piled into the car, since it wasn't actually raining, and drove to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge for a morning hike. It was a gorgeous morning, quiet, serene, and brisk. The sun even broke through and the light was stark and beautiful. The pictures I took would have been masterpieces if only I'd had the card in the camera... I did it again.
Anyway, to get into the refuge you have to walk over a bridge that is tall and steep and spans the long straightaway of four sets of railroad tracks. As we reached the top we heard the whistle of an oncoming train so we waited and watched it approach, slower than some but still fast enough to whip up the wind around us and simultaneously scare and excite the girls.
Standing up there as the train moved underneath us reminded me of college. I don't do a lot of wild things, I tend to err on the side of safe and responsible. Sometimes I wish that I'd let loose a bit more, other times I'm happy I've avoided a lot of regrets in the stupid decision department. (Not that I don't have a lot of regrets in other departments; that's a different series of blog posts) On many lists, this wouldn't even crack the top 100 of wild and crazy...
I went to school in the Midwest where trains have the right-away and long, flat stretches of land to really open the throttle and chew up the miles. We grew used to the sound of whistles day and night, the rumble through the ground, and climbing between cars when the train stopped for hours in the middle of campus.
One late night, a group of us went out of town to a long straightaway where the trains picked up breakneck speed and we snuck down the tracks to one of the towers that holds the signal lights. Everyone else seemed relaxed and was having fun; whispered laughter and jokes ricocheting between us. I, on the other hand, was alternating between terror and terror-filled excitement.
We climbed up the cold skinny metal and sat side-by-side in a row of anticipation suspended in the cold night air. The train came barreling towards us, the light cutting the darkness, the air tunneling around us before the roar and rumble arrived, shaking our perch and filling our ears so that our screams of terror and delight were muffled and swept away by the cars rushing just feet underneath us.
I have no idea what we did afterwards, all I remember is shakily climbing back down and tripping through the dark to the waiting car, all the while giddily hugging myself for doing something so completely out of my safe, controlled nature; for breaking rules and screaming with abandon.