Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Years of the Locust


People are always talking about how the years get away from them. It is always startling, nevertheless, when you wake up and realize that you're one of them. The years are flying by. Before having children, things were rather timeless. When you don't have short people standing beside you who begin to measure themselves against your height, it is easy to forget the passage of time. These days, every time I look at one of the Hobbits, I am astonished at how much they have changed since the last time I looked at them...even if it is just five minutes before. And the things that they say and do are equally astonishing. I keep having to remind myself that I can challenge them with more responsibilities, because they are certainly equal to more than I ask of them.

I'll admit that I was a bit nervous with the director/producer of our homeschooling group's drama department asked if Dog would be willing to step into a part that had been vacated by an uninterested teen. But since she asked, knowing fully well what she was asking...she lives down the road from us, after all...I agreed to put it to Dog and see if he was interested. He was. Big surprise there. Not. Heh. Playing Jackie Gilbreth in our version of Cheaper By the Dozen would be his first opportunity to do something more than don a bathrobe and carry a stick as a shepherd in the Christmas play. He accepted the part with alacrity and didn't even mind sacrificing gym time to go through the months of prep time and rehearsal. I did wonder if he'd be able to stay focused and involved for the three hours of being a supporting role, Jackie's part being only a small speaking part, but a frequent presence on stage.

I kept having flashbacks to the first time he stepped on stage in front of a crowd, five years ago. As all of his age mates filed obediently off the stage, he stood at the head of the steps facing the auditorium, raised his arms in Rocky Balboa fashion and leaped off the stage, bellowing, "I'm the CHAMPEEEEN!" It was in that moment that I became intimately acquainted with the underside of our pews and was able to take a complete census of the fossilized gum left there for archaeological purposes. The next year, he haunted the narrator's steps and, despite repeated redirection from both the directors and his parents, seemed unable to refrain from stalking the podium for a peek at what the narrator was reading. This would be a step forward indeed.

As the play loomed closer, the rehearsal schedule stepped up. Twice a week and late nights, too. Dog, who has a usual bedtime of 9pm, was staying out until 11pm two nights a week, rolling home via the generosity of our neighbor director. It was amazing to watch a new maturity settle over him like a new set of clothes. No grumping the next day. No attitude problems...well, nothing that wasn't there before. Can't have everything, can we?

The night before the play opened, I was spending some time online. Up late, I was emailing a friend and sharing with her what the past ten years had been like for Dog and us.

Parenting children who fall outside the box can have precious moments, but also moments that can be hideous. Actually, avoidance of that hideousness is the prime motivating factor for all of what I do. I didn't start out doing this for Love of Food. I've never been a foodie. Peanut butter and crackers sounds like a meal to me. Never did enjoy cooking. That's why I call myself The Unprofitable Servant. I've only done what was required of me. Meaning that I will do aaaaaaaaanyTHING I have to do to prevent that hideousness from rearing its ugly head. And that's why we never, ever, ever, ever, ever cheat. Nothing is worth that abyss.

Dog used to rage for hours while I tried to deal with him and get him calmed down. And as soon as we reached closure, he would loop back to the beginning of our conflict and it would be as if we had never had that two to four hour "conversation." That started when he was two and didn't disappear until we got off of gluten and later, after we'd eliminated all of the intolerances.

That's an abyss I never want to stare into again. My neighbor still hates my guts because she thinks I'm a terrible mother because my child/ren screamed all of the time. They told us that they had called the police and CPS because he needed to be committed to a mental institution. (We were never visited, so that may have been simply a threat.) Even after we got the diet cleaned up, every time there was the merest brush with a problem food, the world exploded. People would ask me what the symptoms of the "allergies" were and I would laugh and say, "Oh, their heads spin around and an alien bursts out of their chests." But that didn't feel like it was far from the truth.

We never had Dog evaluated for ASD. I don't know if he would have qualified for a diagnosis. Perhaps so. He was hyperlexic. He had no idea how to relate to other children. I don't know if my eldest would have been diagnosed as ASD as a child. I would take him to the playground as a toddler and he would stare at the other children without moving. I had to show him how to use the playground equipment and even then I had to guide him through playing with it...he never turned loose and took off and played. I would take him out into the yard to play, expecting him to
take off and do what kids do, run explore, eat bugs, whatever. He would stand there and look at me like, "Okay. What do I do now?" When my parents turned on their sprinkler, he just stood and stared, when any other child would have dashed into the spray....which he did a few years later, when we returned to visit--gluten free. But he is and always has been brilliant. Quick to connect the dots, understanding complex concepts at early ages. Practically a photographic memory.

A couple of years ago, he might have gotten an Aspie diagnosis, because he had NO clue about how relationships work, but he is losing those markers as well. He's doing social boy stuff with the other boys. He is recognizing when a friend isn't a friend, when someone is using him, when someone is lying to him. He's finding the courage to walk away. He's fitting in. He's stopped saying the weird, geeky things that used to make people stare at him. He used to stand out as a flake...he presented as someone a bubble off plumb. A stranger might not quiiite be able to put their finger on what didn't exactly click. Or maybe put him into a Computer Nerd pigeon hole in their mind. Now he looks just like any other kid.

And that's why I tilt the food universe. But I had to be beaten into submission. I didn't start out doing this because it was the best thing for my child and he needed the best nutrition. I'm The Unprofitable Servant. I did it to make the screaming stop.

This is Dog's favorite dish. It's mine, too, particularly since stir fry is something that allows you to throw in everything and the kitchen sink. Whatever your favorite vegetables are, they probably will taste even better in stir fry.

Asian Stir Fry

Whole chicken breast or beef steaks, partially frozen
Broccoli, chunked small
Sliced mushrooms
Carrots, bias cut
Celery, bias cut
Green onions, sliced
1 T minced garlic
small knob of ginger, minced
San-J wheat free tamari sauce
Toasted sesame oil

A day ahead of time, slice meat into thin strips. A mandolin is particularly helpful for this. Marinade in diluted tamari sauce...enough to cover meat...overnight. When ready to prepare, drain meat in a colander.

In a stainless steel wok or large skillet, pour enough oil to coat bottom and stir fry onions, garlic, minced ginger, and carrots, until the carrots are still slightly crunchy. Add celery and broccoli until medium soft. Remove all vegetables to a bowl. Add more oil, a dash or two of tamari sauce, and saute mushrooms until soft. Remove mushrooms to bowl with other vegetables. Add more oil and stir fry meat until done.

Sauce:

4 T San-J wheat free tamari sauce or to taste
2 cups water
4-6 T tapioca starch, dissolved in small amount of water

In heavy saucepan, bring tamari and water to a boil. Add dissolved tapioca starch to boiling liquid, stirring constantly until cooked and translucent.

Return all ingredients to wok and cover with sauce, adding a tablespoon or two toasted sesame oil for flavor. Stir until all ingredients are well coated. Serve over hot rice.

Opening night, I sat with all of us, including my parents, laughing and snapping pictures of the action on stage. Dunno how the rest of the kids did. I could only watch Dog...amazed at how well he did. And as I watched, I had only one thought,

"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten..." Joel 2:25

12 comments:

Jenn B said...

1) appreciate you explanation of the pre/post 'wacky diet'. i see a bit of my own son in there....the little professor, who charms adults with his knowledge & concentration skills, but causes most kids to find him somewhat (or very if they're older kids) odd. but he's 3 so it's hard to tell what's normal in a 3yo.

2) REALLY appreciate the "small knob of ginger" measurement. drives me BONKERS when recipes call for a "tsp" or whatever measurement of grated ginger...like i'm going to go through the trouble of getting it all grated then scooping it onto a measuring spoon. if i've grated more than i need, after all that work, i'm using it. i just guess most of the time. ;)

Deborah said...

Boy can I relate to making the screaming stop, lol. Great blog. I'm so glad I found it!

Loztnausten said...

Yes, Jenn, it sounds like our boys share/d a lot of the same characteristics...even when he was three.

WRT the ginger, I'm absolutely in love with fresh ginger and only use the ground stuff if I'm completely out. And all of my measuring is a pinch of this and a dab of that. Glad that fits your style of cooking, too! :)

Loztnausten said...

Yeah, Deborah, it's a major motivator, isn't it? ::rueful grin:: Thanks for stopping by!

Rachel said...

Interesting about the Aspie-gluten connection that you made. I don't know if you're a part of the GFCFNN yahoo group or not, but there has been a good bit of discussion about that topic at times. I'm blessed to have children who don't have the same food sensitivities that I've recently developed, but whenever I see children who are on the autism spectrum, ADHD, out of control, whatever, I always wonder how they'd fare if their parents would just consider cutting out the food colorings, preservatives and testing for food intolerances. Your children are fortunate to have a mother who's willing to do a lot of hard work instead of looking to medications.

Loztnausten said...

Thanks for the kind words, Rachel! :)

MotherLode said...

dxed? Aspie?

I must be out of touch!

cahwilson said...

I am so glad I read this. You summed up everything I have wanted to say about my daughter, but could never find the words for. I am making my husband read this when he gets home. This is exactly what my daughter has going on. Last year when I took her to the park, her playmate was running around having fun and she was clinging to my leg. I was thinking about pursuing the autism diagnosis and crying to my friend about it that day. Instead we went GFCF and this year at the park she was running around saying hi to everyone and playing with the other kids. It was kind of a full circle moment for me, though we are still dealing with MANY issues and food intolerances. Like you said I just want the screaming to stop. Everyone talks about how difficult it must be to be on that strict of a diet, but I will never ever cheat either. I am so glad somebody knows what it's like and is not just saying "oh hunny thats just normal toddler stuff."

Loztnausten said...

ML, thanks for catching that. "Dx" is an abreviation for diagnosis, but I meant to expand that before publishing...oops!

"Aspie" is an affectionate abreviation for those folks with Asperger's Syndrome.

Hope that clarifies!

Loztnausten said...

Cahwilson, you're right. It isn't just "toddler stuff." And they don't always "just outgrow it." I know. The "terrible two's" became the "terrible three's" and then the "terrible fours"...that's when it becomes apparent that this isn't an age/stage thing.

Thanks for sharing your story, too! It's encouraging and affirming for me to hear about other parents in the same situation. :)

Amanda said...

My daughter was recently diagnosed with PANDAS and sounds much like you describe your children. We have done food eliminations in the past (in the form of Feingold for salicylates) but we are going grain/most starch-free, sugar/most sweetener-free, and dairy-lite starting next week to see if anything changes.

If you're interested in learning about PANDAS (for which the treatment is IVIG, and has much to do with IGG and strep/viruses affecting the brain instead of what they are SUPPOSED to affect) then here is some great reading:

www.webpediatrics.com
(by a treating doctor)

www.pandasnetwork.org
(by another mom)

www.latitudes.org
(visit the forum- there are various sections for alternative methods for treating aspergers, PANDAS, etc.)

Lastly, thank you for this blog. It is VERY helpful.

Loztnausten said...

PANDAS popped up on my radar pretty late into our food journey, so I never pursued it deeply for them, but I've heard parents talking about it helping their children. Thanks for the links and thanks for the kind words! :)