Friday, February 13, 2009

More Hard Things

The Hobbits have it rough. No two ways about it. A veritable laundry list of food sensitivities, but there's no stopping there. They've also inherited Tool Guy's sensitivity to wool. A point which is no small source of chagrin now that I've picked up my pointed sticks and am tasting the delights of what artisan yarn has to offer. Pout. Okay, it can be argued that Fun Fur is artisan acrylic. But a Princess only needs so many pink Fun Fur boas in her wardrobe, you know?

On top of that, they happen to be born into my gene pool, which doesn't seem to add to the food list, but certainly adds a respiratory allergen component. These Hobbits can't catch a break. They say the first child you have is the test model and you get to throw it away. Poor Dog. He seems to be the locus of the more challenging genes that Tool Guy and I contributed to his make up. He's the most food sensitive and the one who coughs and sneezes the most. Sigh. We're starting to swap notes, he and I, on which pollen remedies are most effective. He's even becoming a dab hand at using a Neti pot and even gave Tool Guy the tutorial on how to do it. Intrepid kid.

So when spring rolled around last year and he started coughing, we didn't think too much of it. I was sneezing and coughing, too. And when summer rolled around and his coughing continued, I was a bit uncomfortable myself and chalked him up to having a "bad pollen year." And indeed the pollen counts were up from previous years. Then when autumn rolled around and he was still coughing, well, it was goldenrod season, after all. I was pretty stuffy, too.

By October, however, the coughing hadn't stopped and the wheezing started. And nothing was touching it. Well, infusions of fresh ginger helped get the gunk up, but still he coughed. Things kind of came to a crisis on a Sunday night when he had to struggle to breathe and was even kind of blue around the lips. We were in the doctor's office pronto.

This was the first time we'd seen this doctor, our former pediatrician having moved on to some practice in one of the other seven rings of Dante's HMO inferno. I decided that I particularly liked the new doc when he turned out to be rather knowledgeable about gluten issues. Try finding one of those models in just any doctor's office. After we'd received a diagnosis of non-bacterial pneumonia, he started writing out the scripts and that's usually when the fun really begins. Just try finding corn-free anything. He was very cooperative about getting this worked through with our compounding pharmacist. And then when he started writing the script for an inhaler, I sort of wobbled, "I'm not really comfortable with steroids," having only been exposed to inhaler-speak during interpreting doctor visits for heavy duty asthmatics. He looked at me and said--and I quote--"Are you nuts?! I'm not about to prescribe a steroidal inhaler for him." Okay, I'm definitely keeping this one.

But even after running Dog through the course of medication and treatments to solve the immediate problem, low grade cough persisted. At last, a friend whispered in my ear a Hard Truth. You know. The ones you don't want to hear? Those. Her suggestion was that it might be a dairy thing. And you know the only dairy thing on our menu, right? Yeah. That would be the ghee. The ghee that disappears at the rate of a pound a week. Sigh.

It was with much wailing and gnashing of teeth that the ghee went on hiatus. The big rub was then what to have on toast. Favorite snack. Favorite spread. Cinnamon with ghee on toast. This is the Hobbit who looks like a famine refugee, so I don't want him to lose calories. Once again, desperation drove me into the kitchen for some Cooking Dangerously. (You have to love the friends who, when they speak Hard Truths, also help kick around ideas for dealing with the Hard Truths!) I didn't come out until I'd come up with

Cinnamon Spread

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup palm shortening
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla extract
1 t maple syrup
2 t vegetable glycerin
10 drops stevia

Blend softened palm shortening with all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth and well-incorporated. (All of the sweeteners are tweakable to accommodate your favorite.) This mixture is liquid at room temperature, but will achieve the consistency of margarine when refrigerated. Can't give you a holding time, because this stuff doesn't stick around long enough to be able to have determined an expiration date. Score!

Granted, it isn't ghee and Dog still mourns the loss of it, but at least it fills the hole, tastes something like what he remembers and gets some fats into him. I call that a winner.

It's very hard to follow a path that takes us a couple of steps forward and then requires backtracking. We want to set our faces in the direction we want to go and plow ahead. The Hobbits have regular conversations about what dishes they will have "when we can have xyz again." And ghee now figures into the list of wistful foods. I suspect that the progress we make will continue to be pockmarked with such landmines and regressions. Here's to learning to do the Hard Things gracefully...even the second and third time around.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your (and Dog's) challenges. My son doesn't know many other kids with food allergies so I'm going to read him this entry. It will help him feel less alone in our ongoing battle.

Loztnausten said...

I'm glad it's helpful for your son. The isolating aspects of food issues are hard for adults to deal's particularly challenging for children, I think, especially as they get into the teen years. It has helped Dog tremendously to talk by name about the people we know who have the same struggles. There's a sense of solidarity there.

Here's to keeping the faith in our battles!