Friday, May 29, 2009

Never Underestimate the Power of WAIT

"Wait for it...
Wait for it..."

"Hold on a minute"
or even

"Time heals all"

You've heard them. You've hated them. You've railed against them. Me? I'm LOVING them. I'm nominating them for a freaking Nobel Prize. I am appreciating them.

Going off gluten was fairly easy. I thought. Food-wise it was really not a big deal. Until I realized it had been several days since I had a bowel movement. Until the clot of hair in my shower drain made it clear that I wasn't just 'losing my winter coat,' I was losing hair at a pretty rapid rate. Okay, now what? A frantic email to my doctor asking if these were normal (please, please say they're normal, please, pretty please) occurrences, fully expected when one goes off gluten cold-turkey.

She assured me that, yes, this was normal. My body was trying desperately to shed the toxins stored in my gut and it was on overload. She advised me to schedule an appointment to come in so that she could help me "get through this rough patch." I meant to. I really did. But I'm already taking Calcium and Magnesium supplements, Zinc and vitamin B. I can barely keep track of the capsules and pills I'm taking and the point of going off of gluten was to eliminate the need for most of these things.

So I procrastinated. And a few days later, I noticed my hair wasn't falling out anymore. By the end of the week, I felt perfectly fine.

If I hadn't waited, I suppose I would have credited my doctor's remedy with helping me feel better. If I hadn't waited, I would be struggling to keep track of even more supplements every morning. If I hadn't waited, I wouldn't have been reminded of the healing power of my own body.
In January, my fantastic, lovely, kind, perceptive editor returned my manuscript with her suggestions. I meant to work furiously every Thursday and Friday to rewrite the book and have it done by Spring Break. I meant to have a query letter ready for agents by May.

Instead I rested. I slept. I worked on my house and spent time with my kids. I filled in for a co-worker and created a terrific yearbook for the school where I work. And two weeks ago, I finally hit my groove on the rewriting. Last week, Obama got to choose a nominee for the Supreme Court and the sh*t that hit the fan was about abortion. This week, Planned Parenthood rolled out a new campaign to help teens avoid unintended pregnancies. This month, you can't sneeze in the grocery store without hitting a magazine that has Bristol Palin's unwed-mother picture on it.

If I hadn't waited, I wouldn't have been inspired to add all of those things to the intro of the book. If I hadn't waited, I wouldn't have hit my groove. If I hadn't waited, I wouldn't have gotten to spend my days on my sunny back deck with a glass of iced tea listening to the birds sing as I worked.

Think I'll go see what else I can wait on....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In the Groove

Three chapters away from finishing the second draft of the book, I've finally found my editing groove. I started off sloooowly in February, one chapter at a time. The work was painful as I second-guessed everything I'd originally written, worrying that working on one chapter at a time wasn't going to leave everything feeling as though it flowed.

In April, I abandoned the edits as I let other projects take over. I found myself wishing some miracle would happen and the book would rewrite itself so I could get back to work on the book I started in November. The one I'm having so much fun with.

Last weekend I picked up the loose pages of the manuscript, sharpened a couple of pencils and planted myself in a sunny spot on the back deck. Two hours later, I'd plowed through three chapters, two glasses of iced tea, managed to get a farmer's sunburn on my left arm and was left with a huge sense of accomplishment and a numb butt. I couldn't wait to get back to it on Sunday.

Yesterday afternoon I did three more chapters in the sunshine. Apparently sitting in the sunshine with a stack of papers on my lap and the dog at my feet is the perfect place to edit the book. The ecstatic and varied birdsongs around me are the perfect backdrop. The girls run from the playhouse to the swingset and back as I sit for hours and write. The pencils I sharpened become more and more dull and I'm loathe to interrupt myself to go sharpen them again. My butt is becoming numb again and I have to pee, but I am having fun. I am having FUN. Re-working this book. Making it better.

Even though I'm saving the hardest parts for last, I still woke up this morning wishing I could skip the morning routine and head right out to the deck in my slippers and robe with the remaining stack of papers. I'll get there. After toast for the girls and coffee for me, more sharpening of the pencils (maybe I'll take three today), and starting the dishwasher, I'm finding my groove again. Ahhhh.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Top Ten Things I've Learned in My First Few Weeks of Being a Gluten Free Mother

1.  If you need it, they will build it. Somewhat like Kevin Costner's famous line in Field of Dreams (if you build it they will come), I have discovered that there are gluten-free items of all kinds.  Trader Joe's and Safeway both have lists of items in their stores that are uncontaminated by gluten. Pages and pages of items.

2.  If you need to avoid it, don't rely on anyone but yourself.  Even though most stores will tell you their oats are gluten-free, if the label says they're processed in a facility that processes wheat, don't chance it. The stomach ache that will ensue is not worth it.

3.  No matter how much I have experimented and how many recipes I've found, baked goods will never taste like those made with wheat flour. The girls and I are beginning to come to the understanding that we'll just have to do without.  Although, they swear that the bread made with tapioca flour we can buy in our local co-op makes "awesome toast," the crumbly, dry texture of it hasn't convinced me to even try one bite yet.

4.  Salty snacks are easier to come by. Kettle Chips makes a terrific corn and black bean chip that doesn't have any gluten in it.  The company that makes Pirate's Booty also makes something called Tings that are crunchy and tasty and great for lunches.

5.  I don't mind doing without.  Somehow, once I stopped eating wheat flour and gluten, I don't miss it.  I miss the convenience of being able to slap together a PB&J for the lunchbox or order a pizza on Tuesday night after Tae Kwon Do, but when I walk into someone's kitchen and smell lasagne or brownies coming out of the oven, I really don't feel any tug. Honest.

6.  I now have a perfectly good excuse to leave bars of dark chocolate out on the kitchen counter. They're gluten-free.  The girls don't miss cookies or brownies (especially since the gluten-free ones we've tested so far all taste like they're made with cast-offs from the local sandbox) and are perfectly content with a square of deep, dark organic chocolate.

7.  Grocery shopping is actually easier now.  I only have to venture into the center of the store for a few select items and can stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, all the yogurt I want, and cheese.

8.  For Eve, giving up blue cheese is probably the most difficult part of all of this.  Apparently, the mold in blue cheese comes from bread (ick), so that's off the list.  Luckily, she loves all other kinds of smelly cheeses.

9.  I hate packing lunches and this was just the excuse I needed to delegate that task to the girls.  My job is to make sure there are enough things to choose from in the fridge and pantry. Their job is to clean out the lunchboxes after school and re-pack them the next morning, making sure they've got some carbs, protein, and fruits and vegetables in each one.  They love being in charge of their own unusual lunches and have rediscovered hard boiled eggs and apples dipped in peanut butter.

10.  There are some great recipes that I already had in my arsenal that never had gluten in them. Never. And those that I had have given me the excuse to de-clutter my cookbooks.

I'm really looking forward to this summer when we can harvest the vegetables from our garden and come up with new and exciting ways to use them to keep us all healthier.  

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Growing, Stretching...

Lola cooked dinner last night. Mostly. She wanted to help make a gluten-free dinner so I told her to pull up a barstool and roll up her sleeves. She started by measuring and mixing the marinade for the chicken.

"Mmm. This smells good!" She hopped off the barstool so she could be at the perfect height to poke her nose over the edge of the bowl as she stirred ginger, tamari and mirin together.

"Actually, now it's getting too strong." The little nose wrinkled up and she leaped back up on to the stool.

As I sliced the chicken thin, she used the butcher knife (!) to trim the ends from snow peas and cut baby carrots. She arranged the bits in a bowl so that the peas were hidden because she prefers carrots.

"Now what can I do, huh? I want to do something else, but nothing to do with that sauce cuz it's too strong now. I thought it smelled good at first but now it prickles my nostrils."

I pulled out a shallot.

"Can I peel that thing? It looks like a garlic but it's too big. I wanna peel it. Do the skins go in the compost?"

Halfway through slicing it, the knife clatters to the counter. "AAAh, my eyes hurt. You gave me something that makes me cry. This isn't a shallot, it's an onion. You tricked me!"

She cut the top off of the package of rice noodles and stuck the palm of her hand across the neatly arranged tops.

"These are poky! They look even but they're not. They're spikes."

While I sauteed the chicken and vegetables she mixed up the sauce: tamari and brown sugar. She chose the smallest measuring spoon she could find to make little 'sugar castles' and plop them into the tamari.

"How come brown sugar dissolves? I love this. Cooking with you is fun. Are we making a mess?"

I boiled the water for the noodles and she devised a new way to crush the cashews. She was soooo over using a knife at this point. It was more fun to make small piles of nuts on the cutting board and karate chop them with her fist. The dog sat eagerly under her barstool catching the flying bits as Lola giggled.

Dinner was a success. Lola garnished the sesame chicken with a sprinkle of crushed cashews and toasted sesame seeds and ate three helpings. Eve raved about the flavors and kept asking, "Are you SURE this is gluten-free?" Bubba was impressed. I sat back and looked at my family, proud of us for having this picture-perfect moment of family togetherness and harmony.

"What did you learn in school today? Anything good?" Bubba asked.

"Nah," Lola rolled her eyes, "but I burped 22 times while I was making your dinner, Daddy."

So proud.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I'm Free

Gluten-free, that is.
Going on five days now.
My pantry? Pretty bare. Amazing what you can find in there that contains gluten. Bye-bye boxed risotto mixes. See you later, teriyaki sauce, enchilada sauce, cereal, fettuccini, cornbread mix.

Lola's devastated. Nutella has gluten (not that there's any bread in the house she can put it on anyway). The hardest part for her? Ovaltine. Her daily drug - gone. We're switching to gluten-free chocolate sauce in her morning soy milk. Wish us luck.

Bubba's in shell-shock. His favorite weekend staples are hummus and pita bread. So much for the pita. No crackers to put that on, either, buddy. Guess you'll be dipping carrots and cherry tomatoes into your garlicky spread.

Eve's relishing the challenge. She likes the brown rice pasta from Trader Joe's (thank God for TJs and their seven page list of gluten-free items!!!) and likes the attention she gets when she tells people she can't have gluten. Most of her third grade friends act like she has four eyes and, doing her thing, she patiently explains with a light in her eye. An educator to the core, that one.

As for me, I found a great gluten-free granola bar recipe that I made over the weekend and the girls devoured it!! In fact, of all the posts I've ever put on Facebook that one was the one that drew the most impassioned responses. There were a few when I said Eve had chickenpox. Other people responded when I mentioned Lola might have broken her foot. But the one that pulled people out of their lurk-n-read state the most? The gluten-free granola bars. Who knew?

The gluten-free focaccia bread recipe I found wasn't quite the hit I hoped. I'll keep playing, but for now, it's kind of nice to walk in to a mostly-clean pantry.

The best part is going on three days without the hint of a stomach ache for Lola. Ahh, bliss....

Friday, May 01, 2009

Happy Zagabonsis Day!

Don't worry. You haven't missed anything. Unless you're part of Lola's world, that is. According to Lola, today is Zagabonsis Day.

This particular holiday was born about six weeks ago when Lola got a wild hair. Awakening at her usual time (6:15am), she leaped out of bed and ran down the hall to my room for a morning cuddle. Naked. She sleeps naked - she prefers to be completely "unmussed" while she's asleep except for her comforter.

After a speedy micro-cuddle she blurted out, "Mommy, have you checked the weather today? Do you know what it's like outside? Have you looked out your window?"

Umm, honestly? My eyes weren't open yet. No, my priorities were not weather-related at this point.

Lola leaped out of bed and headed (I assumed) toward the window to check and announce the results.

Rule 1: Never assume anything.
Rule 2: Lola's thoughts skitter randomly throughout her brain and rarely follow logical pathways.

The next thing I know, she is balanced precariously on the sliver of wood that is my bed's footboard - naked - and launches herself through the air toward me. Before the fear set in, my first thought was that this was what a flying squirrel must look like as it throws itself from one tree to the next. All four limbs splayed out into the air, spread wide to catch the maximum amount of air.

Then, fear.


Whoomph! She landed between Bubba and me.

As soon as my heart had descended back down into my chest cavity from my throat I was able to ask, "What is Zagabonsis Day?"

Think opera, now, people. Close your eyes and imagine a diva onstage in the spotlight letting go. Pretend that you can see the musical notes around Lola's next words.

"It's the day where you have to sing everything you saaaaaaayyyyyy."

She proceeded to do so, naked, through breakfast. Until I made her get dressed to go to school and her sister was about to kill her for singing every. single. word.

Apparently, Zagabonsis Day comes more than once a year. So, sing your heart out, people! Lola hasn't published the full calendar, but she assures me that there will be another opportunity to celebrate in June.
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