Friday, August 28, 2015

Still Here, Still Eating

It’s been a while since a menu post.  Honestly, I have given myself four more weeks to finish the first draft of the novel, and I think I can do it.  However, it’s a time consuming task if there ever was one.  Some days I feel really good about what I’m writing; some days I don’t even want to look at the words on the page.  I’m also trying to work out a bit, read because it helps give me inspiration to write, work on my Spanish (49% fluent, though in reality I am still not sure that is true except in the world of DuoLingo).  Certain aspects of the blog have been left lonely and sad.  I don’t want it to be that way.  When I look back at the blog, I’m glad I’ve kept a record of what’s been going on.  I only have so much memory storage in my brain, and so I’m pretty sure that failure to record events somewhere would result in them just being lost in whatever is left of my mind. 

With that, I’m going to menu post a bit, though it will just be a general list since I can’t remember what we ate each day.  Keeping up with what we eat helps me grocery plan and may be an invaluable tool if we have to start cutting out cross reactive food in January.

I’m pretty proud of this list; after the Celiac remission test fail, I was prepared to feel the overwhelming ick of dealing with food when food was not what I wanted to think about.  God really changed my heart in that area, and I accepted the crazy kitchen challenge with a much more grateful heart than I expected to.  

Paleo Empanadas-We used this recipe even though it’s not for empanadas.  I baked them instead of boiling.
Slow Cooker Paleo Orange Chicken with snap peas and carrots-This was not my favorite, but it was edible.
Naked Burritos with the Homemade Refried Beans from the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook
Potato Soup from 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook
Chicken Enchilada Casserole-We didn’t use corn tortillas, but we did sprinkle a few corn chips on to give it some crunch.  The homemade enchilada sauce was AMAZING!
Turkey burgers with chia seeds and spinach mixed in
Arrowroot flour tortillas used as crepes with the chocolate sauce from the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook

Sides and snacks included:
Raw veggies
Potato bites cooked in olive oil with salt and pepper
Tons of fruit
Banana swirl

The 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook has been interesting.  Five years ago, I would have freaked out over this book.  Now I think it’s got some great recipes, but if you have food allergies, there is a bit of modifying that needs to be done.  If you are coming off a highly processed, eating out diet, this cookbook is great.  If you have a ton of food allergies, it’s still worth a look.  The writer has done her homework.

I'm ready for the Texas weather to calm down so I can figure out a way to incorporate pumpkin into all of our fall meals.  In fall, I like to cook and get fluffy.  It is my favorite season!  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back To School or the Same Thing We Do Every Day

I’m finding this back to school thing is pretty chill for us right now in the homeschool department.  That’s a blessing since, even as a certified teacher, I had doubts about my capabilities as a teacher to my own kids when we decided to start this journey.  However, I’m finding at this stage it’s only as hard as I make it.  Basically, if I don’t get in the way of everything, it’s usually smooth sailing. 

We never completely implemented the modified summer schedule, which means we’ve never quit going to school for at least four days a week this summer.   There is no big gear up for the school year; we’re already living it.  The biggest change for us will be that all those off-for-summer children will evacuate our beloved libraries and we will have them back until next summer (that sounds so awful and elitist, and I don’t care because the day in June when I walked into the library and there were 400 hundred people there and the twins, who were both suffering major social anxiety at the time, lost their crap for the world to see and hear, I cursed summer break forever.) 

I anticipate our biggest challenge at this point being balancing my extros with intros.  It’s obviously early to know for sure how the kids are going to land on the extrovert/introvert chart, but there are definite trends right now.  Wren and Asher(at least most of the time Asher) will greet the world with open arms, talk to strangers, and just generally draw energy from other people.  Sammy and Eowyn, not so much.  Sammy is fine once you get him to where he’s going.  Sunday School?  Totally awesome once you get him there, but he will tell you the whole way he doesn’t want to go.  Same with AWANAS, the park, the library, anywhere that is not our house.  And once he is finished being social, he’s finished.  He’s not rude about it, but he will just kind of find his own space and hang out.  That works for him.  Eowyn, well, she is still in the middle of all out social anxiety, and it is hard.  We’ve seen improvement over a period of weeks, but then last weekend she lost her mind because a kid she didn’t know walked near her.  I had to leave the library with her flailing so the other kids could hang with Dennis and finish what they were doing.  It’s frustrating.  I’m not sure where this comes from, but it makes planning for outings difficult. 

My goal is to have the outings and events for the week planned in advance, and then try to do it.  Sammy and Eowyn will have to manage, and hopefully have fun, while we make new friends and try new things.  Wren and Asher will have to be content with some at-home de-stress time, time their other siblings desperately need. 

We’ll see.  In every test I was ever given at all the jobs I had, I landed right in the middle of extrovert and introvert.  I’m talking dead center.  I am either all about socializing and drawing energy from others or I don’t want another human being within five feet of my personal space.  It really depends on the day you see me.  So, I empathize with all the kids.  Relationships are fun and hard and quiet is nice, but so is a big playdate with lots of people.  We’ll make it work.  And if not I’ll just build a perimeter and go hide until we have to try again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Gift of Quiet Anger

I have simmered down a bit since the Celiac remission fiasco.  Here’s what I did not do:

Break all my dishes and scream until the neighbors called the police.

That’s really what I wanted to do, but let’s be honest:  I have little people underfoot so I would have been teaching them to do the same thing and then who’s going to have to clean up that mess?  Me, of course.  Instead, I blogged and talked on the phone to a couple of folks and used the crock pot for 24 hours straight, prayed and went to bed. 

As I have aged, I’ve found that sometimes not feeding the fire really does help it die.  Yes, I talked to D and answered some questions from family.  However, once I had written about the disappointment and then kept my self-control in-tact for a few more hours in front of the kiddies, I didn’t have a desire to really rage.  Without the time spent getting wound up, I had time to reflect and that was nice.  D and I chatted and made a plan, then another plan in case the first plan doesn’t work and we have to regroup after blood draws in December.  We prayed.  I read scripture.  I thanked God for all the good and ordered certified gluten-free brazil nuts (source of selenium).  I managed a fairly steady calm. 

 For a long time I have given myself permission to verbally vent, and I am a talker so I can make that a job.  And I’m not saying it’s always the wrong thing to do if it’s done the right way.  But lately I’ve found if I can step back and take time (when I say “can” I mean when I am forced to by circumstances beyond my control) I usually feel better if I don’t let my voice rise and my words jump forth untethered to my usual standards and rules, rules like not dropping the f-bomb or saying the same sentence twenty times, louder each time for emphasis.  For example:  We don’t eat gluten.  We DON’T eat gluten.  WE DON’T EAT gluten.  WE DON’T EAT GLUTEN!!!!!!

I’m also learning to sit still in the broken places.  There’s a strength in stillness, and I don’t have it.  Though I’m not a super busy, must-run-around person, being mentally calm in the in between is not my strong suit.  God keeps reminding me it’s never too late to learn.  I mean, what are we living in if not the in between, between this life and the next, between justice deferred to justice served, between broken and fallen to whole and complete?

I’m learning to wait for whatever comes, even if doesn’t go my way.  And it’s hard.

So far, I haven’t lost sight of everything in life and pursued this one issue obsessively.  I’ve checked out some research, made sure there was nothing I was missing, called some manufacturers.  But I haven’t ONLY done those things, and that’s big for me.  We’re not drowning in this.  Life is going on.

For the most part I would say I’m back to steady, except for one small thing:  the day I was on the phone with the nurse who was reading me the blood test results and giving me directions for what to do, I wrote all the instructions in my planner in a somewhat steady hand.  Now, when I look back at those planner pages to verify how much vitamin D or selenium I need to give Wren, I get teary eyed.  It’s involuntary.  I just can’t quite see those words without catching my breath. 

But it’s a small thing, and we all have our broken places.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Case for 16 Crayons

Art is more than a hobby around here.  It’s an indispensable part of our lives.  Art supplies and handmade creations adorn much of our house, and the ones that aren’t hanging from the walls, the fridge, or all available doors are stuffed in a holding box ready for rotation.

This is why we somehow accumulated about 472 crayons. 

Crayons are the best, really, and coloring is a soothing activity.  However, the crayons were struggling.  Overused and under cared for, they were turning into greasy inch long blotches of color thrown all over the carpet.  Dennis had a novel idea:  replace them with new crayons, one box for each older kid, 16 crayons for each child to love and tend to, to keep up with and put back in the box until the death of the crayon by breaking or just being used up.

This idea was genius.  Now instead of losing, breaking, or just overall not caring about the million crayons, Wren and Sam are using 16 crayons a piece for everything.  They can locate them at all times; they take really good care of them.  We are preparing to dump the other 400 crayons, and we expect that no one will even notice. 

I decided to test this theory a bit further when we went to visit family out of town last weekend.  Instead of packing a ton of just in case items, I went minimal:  six people with two outfits a piece, one of which they were wearing on the ride.  Nanny has a washer so we washed.  The kids lived in their bathing suits (is that considered a third outfit?) most of the weekend.  Guess what?  Nobody cared.  We just kept rotating clothes and it was fine.  I mean, my kids didn’t bathe for four days and didn’t notice.  Why would they notice they were wearing the same clothes the whole weekend?

This confirms what I’ve thought was probably true all along:  we have too many things.  Our kids have too many things.  Our lessons about taking care of what you have and about how material items don’t lead to happiness have been overshadowed by all the crap leaking out of closets and toy bins. 

I’ve been hesitant to go all out and claim Armageddon on most of the things we own, mainly because my default mode is extreme.  I’m working on it, but grey is not even a color I understand.  While cleaning out the hall closet, I started throwing what some might see as “sentimental items” in the give away bin and D stopped me.

“Those are from your childhood!”

“I’ve got tons of stuff from my childhood.  Can’t keep it all.”

“Okay, that’s fair, but maybe keep some of it.”

“It would be liberating to get rid of all of it though, right? Just imagine all that empty shelf space!”

“I’m going to supervise this closet binge.”

I didn’t get rid of all of it, but I want to maintain some level of control over what comes into our house and what stays in our house, what takes up our space and therefore tries to attach significance to itself that isn’t real. 

As a minimalist, this shouldn’t be a hard battle to fight.  But as a minimalist, how did we end up with all this crap? 

I’m going to keep fighting the good fight in all of our closets, the garage, all the places we stuff things we don’t have a place for.  I’m starting to think if we don’t have a place for an item or a specified use for it, it probably needs to go.  This will satisfy my minimalist tendencies, teach my kids about need versus never ending want and help this constantly disorganized mommy have less things to manage.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Trying to Avoid the Funk

The funk is not a sexually transmitted disease.  The funk is something I felt last year about this time.  The funk usually creeps up on me right after I get the call that Wren’s Celiac remission tests are in.

Last year, her TTG IGG level was still elevated, but no one was concerned.  Those can take a while to go down in a kid as sick as Wren was.  We thought it would be better this year.

This year her TTG IGG level was higher.  So much for that.

The good news:  None of her other Celiac tests were elevated, which is a vast improvement. 

The bad news:  I’m still thoroughly pissed about the one that won’t go down, and I want to break things.  This elevated score puts Wren at risk for about 150 other problems and implies she is still somehow consuming gluten.

Honestly, I get that the fair is just that carnival looking thing with fried Coke that comes once a year, but I am having a very hard time with the lack of fairness I see surrounding this situation.  It’s been four years.  My kid doesn’t eat gluten.  The cross-contamination avoidance prep we go through when eating outside of our own home is insanely thorough.  What the hell, gluten?  Are you sneaking in the windows at night and just floating around the air waiting for us to breathe you?

Right now the assumption is that Wren’s body is doing this thing called cross-reactivity.  She will eat something that has a similar molecular structure to gluten, and so her body thinks it is gluten and starts fighting a war against everything it can reach.  Now we have to stop eating ghee, the only thing even a little like dairy in our lives.    

We also have to do the following:

Stop eating out at all.   The two places we used to could go are now off the list, possibly forever. 

Start preparing all food in our gluten-free environment.  We do this anyway, but when we go to Athens I have this beautiful 3-4 day period where my Nanny cooks.  She de-glutens her kitchen, buys everything certified, and I eat pork chops for breakfast and feel like a kid.  No more.  Dear Celiac disease, I’m going to murder you over this one.

Comb through every inch of food in our house again, just in case.  Call every manufacturer again, just in case.  Hand over a few days worth of time to do all the things we’ve already done all over again, just in case.  Because I have four kids under the age of 7, so you know, all I got is free time.

The biggest one:  go back to non-normal thinking.  See, D is a “normal” Celiac.  He still eats at restaurants with GF menus and partakes in the occasional consumption of dairy.  His Celiac remission scores were fine a year after he was diagnosed. 

Wren is not, and apparently will never be, a “normal” Celiac, and that is the unfair part I can’t quite deal with right now.  That is the part that is making falling into the funk so very tempting.  This year alone she’s been tested for cancer (her thyroid scores are better, but now she has to give up iodine for three months, even iodized salt) and started dealing with blue days about six weeks ago.  Blue days were when she would just be sad, unexplainably so, and couldn’t even verbalize it.  D and I knew depression was a big problem for people with Celiac, and though she was not depressed, she was showing signs of things being not quite right.  I knew when she came home from VBS, which she loved, crying every single day over the one thing that went wrong that she couldn’t shake that we weren’t in normal territory anymore. 

We contacted her naturopath, started more supplements.  The blue days stopped.  We found out today she is low in selenium, which explains her emotional issues as well as her thyroid problems.  Fixable, that’s how I’m trying to look at this. 

But one thing that probably can’t be fixed:  Wren’s body is super sensitive in a way most people with Celiac aren’t.  It doesn’t look like that’s changing.  After four years of extreme effort, four years of somewhat healing, we are still here.  She won’t be the kid who goes out to eat with her friends and just orders off the GF menu; she’ll be the kid who brings her own food.  She won’t be the kid who skips her vitamins and doesn’t realize it; she’ll be the kid who suffers nutritional deficiencies if she does (somehow we are STILL low in vitamin D, and we never skip that.)

She’s worked hard, and there is still no celebrating remission.  D and I have worked hard, and we still feel like we’ve failed.  I feel like the funk is circling the sky, waiting to land on me, but I don’t want to give in.  Once I’m in the funk, I can’t see anything else.  All the silver linings, the major accomplishments, they disappear.

So here’s what we’re holding onto:

We can see physical improvement.  That counts for something.

An adjustment in supplemental support seems to help with blue days, stomach aches, cramping.  Knowing where to look gets us to where we need to go to fix the issues.

The Lord says not to stress, so I’m going to look at avoiding the funk as a way of being obedient to Jesus.
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:31-33

It’ll be okay.  There is so much good.  I will not quit writing, exercising, being around adults, all the things that help keep me sane and all the things I quit doing when the funk lands.  Soldier forward.  More tests in 3-6 months.  Wait.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Three Things

In light of yesterday's decision by the Senate, here are three things you can do to help with the fight to protect human life.

1.      Vote
While I’ve been fairly vocal about not placing a ton of faith in politics, we do have an opportunity to vote for our representatives and not vote for the ones who don’t represent our values.  To see who voted against defunding Planned Parenthood, look here.  Vote wisely.

2.      Donate
Organizations like LifeTalk and Feminists for Life offer women help and solutions that do not include abortion. Since the government wants to bank roll Planned Parenthood, use the money they don’t take from you to support organizations who care for the health of babies and women and use practices you believe in.

3.      Pray
It’s disheartening, to say the least, when so much awful can be put in the face of Americans and they remain apathetic about human life, refusing to grant that life the dignity of even being called human.  There’s a quote from a Lumineers' song that says, “the opposite of love’s indifference”, and that has always made sense to me.  Apathetic indifference.  It’s disgusting.

Praying and seeking Christ in the middle of such horrific realities in our country is essential.  Jesus knows the end game, He’ll get us there.  Pray for His discernment and courage to follow His will during these times, and always.  Pray for those who refuse to see these atrocities for what they really are.  Pray for the babies.  Just pray.