A naptime story for Kai

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes.

We’re in a park, lying on a blanket beneath a tree. We just finished a picnic lunch. What did we eat? We had cheese sandwiches and chips and…strawberry shortcake? No? How about apple pie? Okay, cookies then. Cookies and ice-cold milk. We had a picnic lunch of sandwiches and chips and cookies, and now we’re lying on the blanket resting.

What do you smell?

I smell beautiful flowers. And trees. We’re in the shade of some of those trees, on our blanket. I smell warm earth, cool green grass, clean air. Do you smell that? It smells so lovely. I smell sweet cookies on your breath.

What do you feel?

I feel the soft blanket we’re laying on, spread across thick green grass. How comfy it is, laying here. I feel you, snuggled up against me. I feel how comfortably full we are from our picnic lunch. I feel a warm, gentle breeze.

At this point, I blow gently on his hair. It makes him smile.

What do you hear?

I hear birds singing in the trees above us. Far off, I hear children playing. I hear the wind ruffling the leaves. I hear the water in the lake lapping at the shore. I hear fish splashing at the surface. Is there a turtle in there, as well? I believe there is.

What do you see?

The sky is bright blue with fat, puffy clouds; it’s so bright that almost hurts to look at it. The trees sway gently in the breeze. I see the blue blanket beneath us, spread out on the green grass. I see the light glimmering on the water. I see flowers — pink and orange and purple and yellow. I see you closing your eyes against that bright sky, dozing off.

We have nowhere to be. We have nothing to do. Nobody’s waiting on us. We can lay here as long as we want, smelling the flowers and listening to the waves and feeling the breeze in our hair. We are in no hurry. We are warm, and fed, and comfortable, and nothing hurts. Mommy is here. Mommy will keep you safe.

Just rest for a while. When you get up, we’ll play.

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“I suck at gardening” shelly beans (GF, vegan)

I’ve been trying to grow a vegetable garden for a few years now, but I keep losing everything to birds, bugs, stray cats (at least I’m telling myself it’s stray cats), and powder mildew. This year it was bugs, mostly; they ate up my fledgling veggies before they even ripened. Because my gardening style is of the Hunger Games sort (“May the odds be ever in your favor”), I picked and shelled the poor green beans on the spot, tossing the seeds back into my container garden and giving the dirt a little stir. And damned if they didn’t take off. But I’ve been busy with back-to-school, after school, a suddenly hectic workload, and sick kids, so I didn’t notice I even had beans until this morning. At which point they were ripe to overripe.

I didn’t have enough to feed the fam, but let’s be honest: The kids likely wouldn’t have eaten this anyway, and R may or may not have enjoyed it. For my part, it was a welcome break from canned green beans. I may have to do more stuff with fresh green beans. Just not homegrown green beans — not this year — because this was pretty much it.

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I cooked these hours after I picked them, so they cooked up quick. As such, there was no gravy to speak of. But I didn’t feel like they needed any.

 

“I suck at gardening” shelly beans (GF, vegan)

Fresh green beans, half ripe and half overripe (you’ll be able to see the outline of the inner beans clearly from all angles)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 cup water
1 tablespoon white cooking wine
salt to taste

Prepare the green beans: Wash all beans and snap off the ends. Break the ripe (but not overripe) bean pods into 1.5-inch pieces and place in a bowl. Split the remaining bean pods down the seam on the bean pod and push the ripened beans out into the bowl; discard pods. If not using right away, refrigerate until ready.

Pour olive oil in a medium saucepan; add bay leaf and sage and heat over medium until the herbs are fragrant. Add the beans, water, wine, and salt and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until beans are tender. Remove the bay leaf, drain, and serve.

The doctor’s visit that wasn’t

Last Friday, I was beyond ready to see my GP. The day before, I’d taken my daughter for allergy testing, which was so traumatic for the both of us that I indulged myself with a small order of fries. I realized at the time that what I was doing was akin to “treating” myself to overindulgence in alcohol, as my younger self was wont to do, and the outcome was every bit as pleasant: I awoke in the middle of the night that night in excruciating pain, and that pain didn’t loosen its grip on me until the following Tuesday. (So, yesterday.) Because apparently all I have to do is eat food that has touched something that touched gluten to react. Sheesh.

Friday morning, I got up, knocked out my freelancing (fwoosh), ate, dressed, fed me and my sick little boy (whoosh) and buzzed on down to the doctor’s office, arriving a mere 3 minutes late (zoom). Only to be told that I had no appointment that day. My appointment was Monday. I had two confirmation emails stating that I was right and they were wrong, but whatevs. Could I come back Monday, when they had me down?

No, I couldn’t. I had extra work scheduled on Monday — it’s one of the reasons I opted for the Friday appointment in the first place. Nor could I come Wednesday at 9, or Thursday at all (Thursdays are my insanely busy days, and like Monday, I was also covering for a coworker). And that was it. They had no other openings in the coming weeks. They tried instead to get me in with one of the nurses. Who I like, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll gladly see if I have a sinus infection or something. But this is a bit bigger than that. So no, I’ll pass.

I was livid by the time I got home. What the hell good does it do to make an appointment if they refuse to honor it? I love my doctor, and his nurses, but this was pretty much my breaking point. I’ll just find a new GP.

But that doesn’t help right now; I’m not breaking in a new GP on this. I decided instead to skip straight to the dietitian. I spent an hour and a half researching local offices, reading reviews, and then confirming coverage with my insurance…only to be told they won’t see me without a doctor’s recommendation.

“But I can’t get in to see my doctor,” I told the lady, after she’d put me on hold for 10 minutes with some of the worst hold music I’ve been stuck with in my life. “He diagnosed me with idiopathic chronic constipation back in April; does that help?”

More hold music. A few minutes later, I hung up in disgust.

So. Now I don’t have a GP or a viable dietitian option. And I’m still hungry.

I’ll sort it out. I always do. It just would have been so much easier if I’d had medical help.

But no more fries for me. They are simply not worth it.

Pumpkin soup (GF, vegan, and damned delicious)

Unlike a lot of my recent soup recipes, this did not have its start in a recipe I can’t eat at present. With the exception of the peanut butter, the whole idea for this soup started in my head. I was going for a salty/sweet/spicy combo, because I’ve been eating baked potatoes for days and I miss flavor. Once I had it together and had tweaked the seasonings, though, I still felt it was missing something. Then I remembered a smoothie recipe my mom shared on my FB recently, which involved bananas (barf), pumpkin, and peanut butter. My head had that pounding ache that I’ve come to learn means I’m running low on fat, so I dished out a cup (so as not to ruin the pot if this was a horrible idea) and spooned in some peanut butter. As Emeril would say, bam! All of the flavors came together. So I’m estimating the PB in this recipe; I didn’t measure a precise amount or anything, but rather spooned it in until it looked the same as the soup in my cup. Your mileage may vary.

 

Pumpkin soup (GF, vegan, and damned delicious)

1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
2 cups strong ginger tea (I use Yogi) plus 1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter

Heat 2 cups of water to boiling; add two bags of ginger tea and steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on your desired level of spice. (I stopped at 5.) When the tea has reached the desired strength, combine with the 1/2 cup of water and the pumpkin in a saucepan and whisk together over medium heat. Add the ground ginger, nutmeg, salt, and sugar; stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter.

Maybe Heihei has IBS, too

Those of you who keep track of this blog, particularly the recipes, may have noticed a trend over the past few weeks. Specifically, a shift from actual food that people might want to eat to…soup. Soup with 5 or fewer ingredients. Glorified baby food.

There is a reason for this.

Remember back when I found out that I’m full of it? Since then, I’ve been on a mission to eat healthier — more fresh fruits and vegetables, less cheese and pasta. And I succeeded. I, an avid, lifelong fruit hater, managed to consume fruit on the regular. Even grew to like fruit. (Okay, some fruit. Let’s not get crazy here.) But it didn’t help.

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I drank enough water to sink the Titanic. Exercised. Meditated. Did yoga. Abdominal massage. De nada.

So I started doing research. Discovered this lovely autoimmune disorder called irritable bowel syndrome. And these foods called FODMAPs. The internet tells me that if I eliminate FODMAPs for a month or two, I should go into remission, and may then be able to eat food again.

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I began to experiment. I discovered quite quickly that gluten is a highly probable trigger for my symptoms — the last thing I ate before I wound up in the ER all those months ago includes gluten as a main ingredient. So I eliminated gluten. And dairy (another common trigger). And, as I began noticing reactions to them, almonds, oats, corn, rice, then pretty much all grains. Eventually, I was down to eating these foods:

  • avocados
  • mangoes
  • honey
  • strawberries
  • pomegranate juice
  • potatoes
  • apples
  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • celery
  • peanut butter

I stuck with that for a month. And it didn’t help.

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Back to the FODMAP drawing board. Turns out a lot of what I considered to be “safe” foods aren’t low FODMAP-friendly. (Depending on the list you are consulting; I’ve found them to conflict.) So while I do believe I’ve resolved the original impaction (I still need to go back to the doctor to verify that), I have not yet corrected the cause. Which means that I still swell up like I’m 8 months pregnant nearly every evening. I still wake at 2 a.m with excruciating back/abdominal pain. And I’m still hungry pretty much all the time.

So I’ve cut things back even further. And continue to eliminate foods. I’ll give it a month. If I can’t sort this out with another round of low-FODMAPping on my own, I’m consulting a dietitian. Because I am still breastfeeding. Because I’ve begun losing my hair, and have had to start taking B12 as a result. Because I’m a wife and a mother and a business owner, and I don’t have time to be run down. But mostly because I’m becoming depressed every time I try to cook or eat or buy groceries; the joy has been sapped out of eating, and what I’m left with is a pinless grenade of a digestive system. I’m miserable, and I’m making everyone around me miserable.

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Sorry the food’s been so boring. Believe me, this isn’t what I want to eat, either. With any luck, I’ll get this glitch under control and go back to eating at least some fun foods. Or, less fun, I’ll start posting IBS-friendly recipes. I just have to sort things out first. Thanks for hanging in there while I do.

Mashed potato cakes (GF, vegan)

For when you have a lot of leftover mashed potatoes but want to…y’know, chew. Quick, easy, endlessly customizable — just stir in whatever spices and add-ins strike your fancy. I bet these would be amazing with chives and a dash of sour cream, for you nonvegans.

These are not 100% kid approved — Kai refused to taste them. But Anya said they were good, and that’s not nothing.

 

Mashed potato cakes (GF, vegan)

Leftover mashed potatoes*
flour (I use potato flour, but regular flour works well if you’re not GF)
butter/oil (I use vegan butter)

Heat your butter or oil in a skillet until a drop of water sizzles. Sprinkle your mashed potatoes with flour and stir; repeat until the mixture is a bit dry (wet mashed potatoes don’t patty well). Scoop up small quantities (no more than 1/4 cup at a time) and gently form into patties (1/2 inch to 1 inch thick), then place in the pan. (Do not overcrowd the pan; you need room to flip these, as they’re a bit delicate.) Cook for 5-10 minutes or until browned, then flip and brown the other side. Serve with the condiments of your choice; also good as pictured, with just a sprinkling of salt.

*To make vegan mashed potatoes, sub vegan butter for regular butter and use reserved cooking water in place of the milk. They taste every bit as delicious as the real deal — promise.

Keep it silly, stupid

The snark is strong with my firstborn.

As is a deep-seated hatred of homework. But let’s be real — nobody likes homework, do they? Aside from the occasional fun assignment, anyway. (I thoroughly enjoyed any and all creative writing assignments, and even some term papers when I got to choose the topic. But writing’s always been my thing.) Still, she’s in first grade now, and has had daily homework since pre-K. (Which is a blog rant for another day.) Plus speech practice, because she’s still in speech. Too much homework too often to endure head-to-head battles over it, in other words.

It’s not just homework, either. Whereas most kids her age love to be read to, she stopped loving story time early on — somewhere around 4 months, I’d say. Every once in a blue moon she’ll bring me a book, but usually she’d rather watch YouTube. I’ve gone through the stages of grief on that one and finally, quietly, resigned the battle. Perhaps my son will be a book lover, but my daughter isn’t — I’ll just have to live with that.

(I sometimes read Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Lorax and The Poky Little Puppy all by myself. I still like them, darn it.)

Every day, we do this: I pick her up at school and ask about her day. She tells me about recess. Sometimes PE. We arrive home from school, where I review her conduct grade plus any notes from her teacher while she eats the lunch she didn’t eat at lunch. (Um…okay.) I also review her notes from speech, and sign everything that needs signing. I put it all back in the backpack except her homework, which I put in a little pile.

“Okay,” I tell her. “Let’s get your homework out of the way.”

Commence yelling, screaming, pleading, bargaining, and general bitching.

“C’mon — it’s not much. Let’s knock it out so you can play the rest of the day,” I say gently.

More fussing.

We proceed to bicker back and forth for 20 minutes. Over 5 minutes of homework. These sessions usually end with me saying something stupid like “YOU WILL SIT HERE AND DO THIS HOMEWORK AND YOU ARE NOT BUDGING FROM THAT CHAIR UNTIL IT IS DONE.”

“But what if I have to pee? What if the house catches fire? What if I don’t finish before bedtime?” says my little lawyer-to-be.

Every. damned. day.

Five minutes of homework.

At this rate, I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to get her to do her homework in high school.

It doesn’t help that her speech practice is so…boring. We’ve been working on TS sounds since last year. Same exercises, same words — we’re both over it. They’ve introduced a daily calendar of practice suggestions this year, to try to shake things up a bit, but it’s still saying words with TS in them several times. Fruits fruits fruits fruits. Bats bats bats bats. Kites kites kites kites. Yawn yawn yawn yawn.

The other day, the practice suggestion was to pick three words and say each in a phrase 10 times apiece. We’d done this exercise for a few days running, actually; while the sheet differentiates the location of the target sound (at the beginning, middle, or end of the word), we just have the one list of about 12 words because, well, there aren’t many words that start with TS, are there? Anya, understandably, was giving me the full foot-dragging treatment: moans and groans and sloppy pronunciation, punctuated with plenty of outbursts along the lines of “This is stupid! I don’t want to do this!”

And, really, how excited can you get about saying “flying kites” ten times, for the third day in a row?

Then inspiration struck. Rather than “cooked carrots,” which was the phrase I was going to suggest next, I went with “I hate carrots.”

She does. With a passion. Her eyes lit up.

“I hate carroTS!” she shouted, with relish. “I hate carroTS! I hate carroTS! I HATE CARROTS!” Every TS — indeed, every syllable — perfectly, crisply enunciated. I had to stop her after 10 iterations; she was prepared to keep going.

“I have no pants,” I prompted.

“I have no panTS! I have no panTS! I have NO PANTS! I! Have! No! PAAAAANTS!” she giggled.

I felt the key to end our homework battles settling into my palm. That night, at bedtime, I selected some of our sillier books. Dragons Love Tacos is a favorite. The Pigeon Needs a Bath is another. (We battle over bath time now, too.) That night, she thoroughly enjoyed our story time. And read the books back to me — her idea, not mine.

I’d forgotten that kids thrive on goofiness. Keep it silly, stupid.