May 31, 2012

Napping Saves Lives

My father, bless his heart, whenever he comes to my house for dinner will always end up fast asleep on my couch after the meal. I'd like like to think that it's from stuffing himself with my fantastic cooking. But really, deep down, I know it's not that...mostly because he's been like this as far back as I can remember.

It's not just after meals that he needs a nap, either. When we worked in the same office I caught him frequently with his head down next to his keyboard. Occasionally, he'd be sprawled out on the couch next to his desk. I'm pretty sure he gets up in the morning, gets ready for the day and eats breakfast and then needs a nap. Kind of reminds me of my baby Kira. She does the same thing.

When I was just a girl, my dad and I were coming home from an event very late at night. Dad was drowsy. He's never been fan of sleeping while driving and no amount of talk radio or rolling the window down was keeping him alert, so he pulled off the highway. We were ten minutes from home and he took a nap.

At the time, I thought that was strange...until I found out that the son of a family friend had fallen asleep while driving home one night. He went off the road and lost his legs in the crash. He now gets around with prosthetics. More recently, my parents told me about their long time friend who'd been on a road trip. It was late at night, she was driving and her husband was in the front seat sleeping as were the children in the back seat. She fell asleep at the wheel. Her husband had taken off his seat belt and was ejected. He didn't make it.

When my father pulled over to take a nap just ten minutes away from home, he wasn't just taking a nap. He was really teaching me that bad things can and do happen to good people. To our friends. To us. And even to me. What I didn't fully understand back then but am fully aware of now is that following my dad's example would save not only my life but the lives of my children, as well.

Fast forward about 25 years later. I was driving home from Canada with four of my children in the back seat. It was late, we'd had a long day and I was tired. My eyes were open but my brain already on auto-pilot had begun to partially check out. I became aware of some twinkling lights and my mind became alert in an instant. I thought a policeman was pulling me over. Turns out it was just the star burst effect of the headlights on the other side of the freeway. But something in me had changed. I committed to making it to the next rest stop, which was a few miles down the road. I pulled over and took a nap.

As I was waking up from my nap, I felt good and alert. Confident I could make it home. Just as I put my key in the ignition, my 6 year old started struggling to unbuckle his seat belt. He was groggy. Totally out of it. I soon realized that he needed to use the restroom. I got him out of the car and pointed him toward the men's room. He couldn't move. Just stood there confused. Where were we? Why's it dark out? Go where? I walked him to the restroom door and pushed it open for him. He slowly walked in.

My eyes quickly scanned the parking lot. There were very few cars and I decided to quickly use the restroom, too. I was back to the car in less than two minutes. My son had not yet returned. I wasn't surprised. He'd been very sleepy and I wondered if he was even able to get his pants down. Maybe I should have just taken him into the women's restroom...though I know he hates that.

After a few minutes I started getting worried. What was he doing in there? Maybe I could just crack open the men's room door and call out his name. Though if he was asleep he wouldn't answer. Maybe one of the guys in the coffee booth would go in after him. Or...maybe I could. It was after midnight. How many men could there possibly be in there? Maybe one. Probably none. I quickly assessed the parking lot. All was quiet and my prospect of going in the men's room undetected was high. As my eyes came to the car next to us, which was actually three spaces away, I noticed the strangest thing. My son's reflection was in the car's window. Had he come back without me seeing? Was he really in my car? My brain then understood what it was seeing. No, my son was not in my car. I was not staring at a reflection. He was actually sitting in the back seat of a stranger's car. What?!

This just got very awkward. What do you do when you kid is sitting in a stranger's car? I prayed no one was watching and I walked over, opened the door and pulled out my son, who was still groggy. How does this happen? That car was a hatchback wagon. Ours is an SUV. That car was full of cleaning supplies and junk. Ours is full of car seats and sleeping children. Uh, yeah, he told me they were both black so he thought that was our car.

Of all the things that could have happened that night, I'm incredibly grateful that the embarrassment I felt getting my son out of a stranger's car was the worst thing that happened.

May 30, 2012

Cupping Motion

Two nights ago, I was standing in the kitchen and all of a sudden my bladder let me know it was full. I couldn't move though. I would have peed my pants. So I braced myself against the counter until I could gather up enough control to walk to the toilet.

Jocelyn was in the neighboring family room and saw my distress. She immediately comes to my aid with her hand in a cupping motion. "You want help, Mommy?" She's motioning that she will hold me just like she holds herself when she runs to the bathroom.

Um. No. No help needed. Thanks, though.

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May 26, 2012

Beyond My Father's Diet: Allergy Detection

I used to think people with allergies were weak.
Throwing around the phrase,
"I can't eat X, I'm allergic."
Like having an allergy is a choice they made.
They just didn't want to eat something.

My cynicism may come from the fact that
I used to say the same thing about seafood.
Because the smell turns my stomach.
And I want to hurl.
One day, I found out I really was
Allergic to shellfish.
As in, swell up and die type of allergic.
That's convenient.
I didn't want to eat that crab salad anyway.

Something that isn't discussed very often
Is that food affects us
Not just to give us energy
But it has the power to heal
And the power to afflict

From our family hike this morning.
After reading about one of my friend's battles
With her child's behavior
I started cutting food-dye out of our diet
My boys hated that
Since that meant I didn't buy pickles
Would you believe those have yellow #5 in them?
But I found some good little gherkins at Trader Joe's
So we're back and business
And my pickle tangent is over

My sweet little Graeden was an angel
For the first year of his life
Then he turned on me
I thought he was hypoglycemic
The pediatrician told me to feed him frequently
Um, yeah

Over the years the defiant behavior got worse
But sometimes I had my sweet boy back
I had him tested for allergies a couple years ago
He had antibodies for wheat
Indicating a possible allergy
I ignored that
Because really
Wheat is the staff of life
(Or is that bread?)
Cutting out wheat is hard
I know
Because I've done it all week
And Graeden's been a nice kid
Except after eating Tymon's birthday cake
And after the birthday party in school on Friday

We'll keep up with the no wheat
And my gluten-free bread recipe will be perfected
Oh, the days of crappy bread are back
But maybe spelt will be okay...
We'll experiment this summer
When I have total control over diet

My niece is doing gluten-free this week
We made corn tortillas together on Monday
What I thought was teen acne
Was really eczema
And after a few short days
Her face is clearing up

Allergies show up as more than swelling up and dying
Jocelyn is blotchy with milk
Graeden has LOUSY behavior with wheat
Cousin has eczema bad
I've had eczema my entire life

I wonder what other allergies
Are lurking around our house
Just waiting to be discovered

May 19, 2012

Not Really My Father's Diet: Gluten-Free Pancakes

In honor of Tamara, my sister-in-law, we had a gluten-free pancake morning. She's looking for gluten-free recipes and since I don't really cook gf on purpose, I decided to give it a whirl and figure out what my family likes...I'm also trying to do some wheat-free cooking for Graeden (I'm hoping it'll solve some of the behavior challenges we've been having with him) so this was a good opportunity to experiment.

My family loved doing a taste test. I didn't tell them any of the ingredients, only that each plate had a different type of pancake on it. They couldn't tell the difference between my homemade gf flour and plain rice flour...until I pointed out some subtle differences in the texture. I loved the corn flour version....but that one was Tymon's least favorite. My boys gobbled up the buckwheat flour ones and voted it best of show. Which surprised me since it's definitely on the bottom of my list.

Just to mix things up a bit, I offered anyone a dollar if they could tell me what kind of flour I used in each of the four varieties. I nearly had mutiny on my hands. They wanted to have choices and make it multiple-guess instead of fill in the blank. Ha ha. My dollar. My rules. Graeden and Tymon each got the corn flour pancakes right. Not bad. I'm going to do this again with some of my other grains.

What's really interesting to me is how differently each grain behaves. The gf flour is super thin...those pancakes were crepe-like. The rice flour was a little thicker and definitely had a fluffier crumb...though it wasn't as smooth. The corn flour gobbled up the liquids at 3 times the amount the white flour recipe called for. When cooking, it also had a ton of bubbles go through it and cook that way. The pancakes in the top corner of the photo are made from corn. Buckwheat also likes liquids...but not as much as corn. I used about 3/4 cup milk instead of 1/2 cup like the recipe calls for.

Next time, I'm going to try some barley, quinoa and rye. Oooh and in a muffin recipe, too.

GF Flour Recipe:
2 cups brown rice flour (250g)
2/3 cup sweet potato flour (100g)
1/3 cup tapioca flour (35g)
Store in an air-tight container.

Pancake Recipe:
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup flour (increase liquids depending on type of flour used)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

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May 13, 2012

Turning In My Stretch Marks

When being a parent wasn't fun anymore, my mother used to tell my siblings and I that she was turning in her stretch marks. I used to think that was a funny expression. As if that would really be possible. Ha ha ha. But I'm not laughing anymore. I completely relate. Life has been hard for me the last couple of weeks (I'm including some photos of activities we did below). Tymon was in Bahrain for a week and flying solo as a parent isn't very fun. He's back now but I'm still tightly wound. And ready to turn in my own stretch marks. Ugh. Happy Mother's Day to me. Bleh.

Jocelyn, Elliott, Jett, Cousin Ethan and a random kid in back at the park.
Sometimes, I have the best kids ever. They're smart, funny and oh so cute. Other times, a lot of times, they are rude, belligerent, disobedient and blow me off. And now they curse. I'm not just talking about the sh word or biatch. Those were used last week. This week, they've taken it up a notch. Jett dropped the f-bomb the other day while tattling on what Graeden has been saying. Of course none of the boys knew what it meant or how strong of a word it is.
Jett and Ethan
Playing at the beach.
My sister and younger brother and our children on a hike.
A hike isn't complete without at least one case of stinging nettle.
Reminds me of my youth at the Dog 'n Deli, the video arcade and deli my parents owned and operated for a few years when I was five. I loved that place. We got to eat all the hot dogs we wanted and filled our pockets with video game tokens and played all afternoon. Centipede and Ms. Pacman were my favorite.

Spending quality time with teenagers every day gave us an education that my mother didn't anticipate. We  got an advanced street smarts education from the regular customers (street kids). I have one strong memory from when I was five. I had heard a lot of bad language. I knew those words shouldn't be used. All the same, I wanted to try it out. In a secret place. Where my mom would never find I went to the restroom just a few feet away from the deli, where my mom was serving customers. Then I proceeded to spew out every foul word I'd ever heard. At the top of my lungs. So much for no one finding me out. Everyone heard. Wow. 

Remembering this story brings a smile to my face. I don't remember getting yelled at or spanked or anything like that. The memory fades quickly after my mother burst into the restroom to stop the filth coming out of my mouth. 

Maybe my kids aren't so bad after all...
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