Releasing the Snake, and getting ready to face the Horse…

Dear 2013,

We are about to part ways forever.  Our relationship is nearing its denouement.  In a few hours (less than 12 hours,) you will be another memory, a period of time we think of at times fondly, at times with relief that it’s over, at times with nostalgia.  A part of me is sad to see you go; you are, after all, the year of many red-letter moments, many steps forward, many happy surprises.  Another part of me can’t wait to see you out of here: you’ve brought with you quite a bit of strife, some very bad teeth, and so forth.  We all got a year older, and we’re (hopefully) working on repeating the process again this year…

This was the year when J learned that he can be patient if he can communicate.  We were very grateful for that development.  This was the year that we stuck to ONE Slinky…like the One Ring…he’s still around…slightly bent, pretty dulled by overuse, but “THE Slinky” nonetheless.  The whole guardianship kerfuffle got taken care of, and so did J’s bad teeth.

All in all, 2013 was the year of the teeth, guardianship, the iPad, storybooks, more ASL, a new doctor, less med, and beet chips…and yogurt…and pear chips…and vegetables…and exercise…  It is also the year of the return of the random tantrum.  It is the year that J got taller and stronger, and more opinionated.  In a lot of ways, J has broadened his scope, and in others he’s sought the comfort of all that is familiar to him.  Both things have been, oddly enough, perfectly fine for me.

The move to our new home was the most-organized-chaos I’ve ever experienced, and -let’s call a spade a spade- it beat the crap out of us.  Moving was, however, one of the best decisions we’ve made in a while.  We are more comfortable.  We have more space.  We got our couch back.  J has his bedroom for sleeping, and his TV room for everything else.  I got chased down the stairs by the ginormous bean bag he bought for himself, but that -too- has been a good choice.  That oasis he’s put together includes everything he loves to do, and it also includes us…four times now J has invited us to watch movies in his TV room.  Furthermore, J has actually sat down with us in the dining room to watch movies that, generally, he would not want to watch: Alastair Sim’s Scrooge, two separate episodes of Hornblower, and Bill Murray’s Scrooged.  We know he’s done it for the company, but we’re thrilled nonetheless…J actually wants to spend time with us, and is willing to meet us, as it were, halfway.  We’ve sat in his movie for Katy Perry’s movie, two Shirley Temple movies (The Littlest Colonel and The Little Princess,) and Annie.  We can now invite him to the garage to exercise, and he will work his way through very simple routines we’ve put together for him…all while having a great deal of fun.

Looking back on 2013 I see a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of sidewinding.  That’s ok.  That’s the way it’s supposed to work, I guess.  I had an uncle who used to fly to Spain every year for Christmas.  He traveled alone, relishing the experience of seeing the friends he’d made there while working on his many degrees.  He was a handsome and brilliant man, and I named my firstborn after him.  Tonight I will be filled with longing for all those people I’ve lost over the years, and I will look at my crazy little family and hope that -if there is such a thing as Heaven or a an After Life- the fruit of my labor as a mother and wife will be clearly visible from where they’re perched.  I am getting older, and these are the days when one feels time has to be running out…clearly, it is no longer unlimited…

So I leave you with this: whether 2013 was good or bad for you, it’s nearly over.  We have a whole new chance ahead of us, and it’s very likely that -like every other year we’ve encountered throughout our lives- it will have some really good crap in it, and some pretty bad crap.  We can’t give up on it before it starts, and so we forge ahead with enthusiasm and caution, hope and trepidation.  The main thing is that we don’t have unlimited opportunities, and we don’t know the number we have left…so we need to just live.  Every day is blank, and we carry into it what we want, or what gets stuck to the sole of our shoe…  Undoubtedly, we will have 2013 aftershocks following us into 2014, and that’s fine…  It’s all good, even when it’s not.  It’s all possible, even when it doesn’t seem to be.  Regrets over what we’ve done are preferable to regrets over what we haven’t even attempted.

Onwards.  Upwards.  Sideways.  Catch you on the flip side…may you have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve, and may 2014 be as full of possibilities as you want it to be…

 

Advertisements

The Christmas Tree has left the building…

Christmas was a chore this year…  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t the easiest Christmas ever either.  J is desperate to go back to school, and until he saw BACKPACK and BUS on his board for next week, he was pretty annoying.  When I say that I mean that he was up at 5 in the morning calling out for COFFEE when we were all just ready to keep sleeping for another hour and a half.  No sooner did I put BACKPACK and BUS on the board last night than we got to sleep in until 8:30 today…  Call it a belated Christmas miracle…we’re taking it as such…

Of course, it helped that last night J got to have some serious hang-out time with TGG.  They went to see Frozen.  They got to eat popcorn.  They went to Five Guys (where J is recognized, for crying out loud, and his order is anticipated because, well, he orders the same thing every single time.)  By the time they got home, the surly kid who hates being at home was chirping happily and we (the mean grown-ups who make his life oh-so-tedious) were pleased to see the results of a little brother-bonding, AND “mom-and-dad alone time.”  It was a win-win situation all around.  No complaints here.

The reason for Christmas being a chore was, mainly, the early start to J’s vacation time.  Dada and I had planned a day off together to relax before the onslaught of togetherness and that didn’t happen, so we were basically thrown into vacation mode without that brief respite we’d hoped for, and J was not particularly pleased with this development either.  We have baked, crafted, hung-out, read stories, and so forth even more than we would want, and J is ready for Thursday and the start of the school’s second semester.

On the plus side: yogurt continues to be a daily thing; J actually sat down and had a celebratory lunch with two people he knows, but who aren’t “family” without so much as a whimper, and Katy Perry continues to be a Prime Mover in his exercise routine.  Today I bought him a pair of “aspirational pants;” that is a smaller size in a style he likes so we can work on wearing those without discomfort over the next few months.    Another interesting development?  J (he who thinks we’re annoying) has missed our company enough to sit down and watch (not necessarily in this order) Bill Murray’s Scrooged, Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood and Alastair Sim’s Scrooge…all these while asking to have the same blanket I have thrown over my shoulders shrouding him and actually paying attention to the movie rather than interrupting our viewing of it…  When I say this is a first, I am not hyperbolizing.  When I say we’ve been warmed to the cockles of our heart by this, I’m not kidding at all.

Yes, Christmas was a chore.  It has to be when hot-flashes and Autism are ruling the roost.  But Christmas also brought some unexpected pleasures: J sitting with us to watch movies in the dining area (where WE usually sit,) or in his TV room (where he usually doesn’t let us linger unless a glue gun and felt are involved); J socializing with acquaintances in a way that denotes an approximation of social niceties previously unheard of from him; J enjoying (yes, yes, yes) movies that we’ve bought him on a whim because, hey, who knows what he might think of them…and now we often find him watching Singin’ in the Rain with the same enthusiasm he used to reserve for things like The Muppet Movie.

I am ready for Thursday.  J is ready for Thursday, too.  This has been one long, climatologically-challenged Christmas break (we had temperatures in the high 60s last weekend,) and we’ve been too close for comfort most of the time (because with disrupted plans comes anxiety which, in turn, breeds OCD that leads, inevitably, to irritation and contempt,) but we’ve managed quite nicely…in spite of the odds.

I’ll tell you the best parts of it: J loves Gene Kelly, and beet chips, and yogurt, and cheeses other than Cheddar, and working on his dry-erase workbooks without us looking over his shoulder, and Nutella, and making cakes from scratch and using a mixer that is not powered by electricity, and he now kisses Ms. Zelda even though he still wants her out of his TV room, and he wants Dada to read The Little Red Caboose, but I get to read Miss Spider’s Tea Party, and we’re sure he’ll love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when he gets it for Three Kings’ Day, and he argues about the late afternoon family session of exercising in the garage, and Spring Break is only a few months away, but it doesn’t matter because…because…

It all works out in the end.

It really does.

The holidays ARE a chore.  And we open our gifts and laugh at the odd choices, and discover we’ve grown this year, and we’ve learned more about ourselves…and it’s almost a new year with no dentist visits, tantrums, upheaval, disruption, frustration in it…yet…

And it’s been a good and bad and ugly and good and surprising and fun and miserable holiday season, but we’ve spent it together, and J has figured out that if we say “hey, J, get dressed…we’re going in the car!!!” he can say “WHYYYYYYYY????” in a whiny tone and we’ll laugh and tell TGG about it later.  And “OH MAN!” is J’s favorite new expression, and he says it in different ways depending on what he’s trying to convey…joy, annoyance, frustration, boredom, surprise…  And the Twelve Days were fun, but J wasn’t getting all he wanted, and we’ve got some pretty funny photos of him reacting to everyone else getting cool stuff that -to his mind- trumped whatever he was getting…

Yeah…

Christmas was a chore…a fun one…a memorable one…and the year isn’t quite over yet…is it???

Yogurt and root chips and fruit…OH MY!

The New Normal involves a snack of yogurt and either pear chips or Fat-Free Fig Newmans (as in Paul, people, not Newtons as in Isaac.)  If you don’t find this encouragingly mind-boggling, then I don’t know if your memory serves you right.  Allow me to refresh: J used to NOT eat anything that had fruit in it…unless it was Froot and the word Loops followed closely in its heels.  Now, just like that, J actually ponders whether he wants to put home-made pear chips or Fig Newmans in his snack box.

Also on the rotation: veggie chips.  Specifically, chips made from root vegetables and seasoned quite scrumptiously with herbs and sea salt.  They are not only colorful, but also very tasty and, surprise!, J actually likes them.  There is ONE can of Pringles in this house, and it’s almost gone, and J will accept either as a snack.  J also has discovered the joys of hummus on whole grain crackers.  Furthermore, he really hasn’t had cheddar cheese in weeks, and doesn’t even seem to miss it.

So…what HAS happened?  Has J learned to eat better, or have WE learned to feed him fearlessly?  Maybe it’s a little bit of both.  Maybe he has learned that not everything that looks healthy is yucky, and maybe we have learned that not everything that IS healthy will be off-putting to our son, he of the formerly-exceedingly-narrow-taste-in-food.

The strangest thing that has happened is that our attitude to this whole new way of eating (for J and for everyone else in the household) is quite relaxed.  For once, as we approach something that is for J’s good and not necessarily his cup of tea, we are not agonizing over the process and the details.  The moment I caught myself about to do just that, I actually paused, took a deep breath and said “it’s just food…he’s been eating food all his life…this is just new food…if you are calm, he’ll be cool with the whole thing.”  Instead of trying to sneak healthy things into his meals (which is what I had planned on doing,) I’ve boldly grabbed handfuls of spinach, cupfuls of wheat germ, bags of “good” chips, packages of quinoa, cups of yogurt and actual fruit that J can see and touch and experience.  On Tuesday morning, J was instrumental in making pear chips; not only did he get the fruit for me from the basket, but he also helped slice, sprinkle with lemon juice and set up the trays on the dehydrator.  In the evening, when it was time to store the chips, he happily picked one here and there, munching away while we worked.

That we are not going over-the-top with our praise is important.  We want J to learn to make the right food choices, not to eat right to get praise.  As with reinforcing learning to choose how to react to anxiety (when this is possible, because we know it isn’t ALWAYS a matter of choice,) we want J to know we support him through the process and that we’ll go back to Square One with him as many times as he needs to re-learn how to choose what’s best for his health.

Yes, you read right: going back to Square One is totally OK with us.  J’s entire life has been a constant back and forth from different advanced points on the game board back to Square One, and this process is no different.  The thing is that this is REALLY how one learns; it’s not just the “oh, taro root chips are awesome and I will never, ever, ever want any other type of chip.”  It’s the “I ate these pepperoni pizza-flavored chips and I LIKE them, but they don’t taste REAL…the root vegetable chips in the other bag, the ones with herbs and sea salt…I like those and…they taste really good…I don’t feel yucky when I’m done eating them…I think next time I’ll have some of those instead” that actually signifies learning.  If we don’t get J the chips he asks for and push only the ones that are good for him, he won’t learn to choose…he’ll learn that we are pushing healthy things that make the “other” chips even more appealing.

This would probably work faster if we didn’t let J in on what’s going on, but the thing is that we want him to assume some of the responsibility involved in the process of re-learning food.  In fact, our entire household is re-learning food, and it’s quite a joy to see that J gets enthused when I make couscous for him rather than pasta, and that he is willing to taste things we offer him with little to no hesitation involved.  I remember the time I offered J a wedge from a tangerine and, after screaming as if I’d just offered a limb torn off a small child for him to taste, stuck his tongue out and barely licked it before making a face that said “that is the grossest thing I’ve ever experienced.”  Now, if I offer him something that he would have previously eyed with a certain degree of suspicion, he is game to try it, even if he ends up rejecting it…

Tonight the menu calls for fish and chips…we will be having baked flounder and sweet potato fries along with a vegetable side dish…something lusciously green, I believe.  It’s all part of this new initiative, and we’re all happily falling in line with J who, as he has often done in the past, seems quite pleased with the opportunity to prove to us all that we are cotton-headed ninnymugginses who don’t trust him as much as he rightfully deserves.

It works for us…surprises of this sort are good; the kind condescending looks that we get from him are  not only funny but also heartwarming.  Our kid, the one who is a walking cypher, likes the air of mystery he conveys, and the fact that he can “show” us, blow our expectations out of the water…

Yes, it’s quite nice this being the “silly parent” whose son rolls his eyes impatiently and sigh as if to say “oh, ye of little faith.  Don’t you know by now that I totally rock????”

A comedy of errors has a happy, happy, happy conclusion…

The phone rang at 5:30 this morning and the voice on the other side of the line informed us of a 2-hour delay for J’s school district.  Joy of joys…there went, quite unceremoniously, the planned shopping day for J’s class.  At 5:53, J’s teacher called to confirm that, indeed, the trip was deep-sixed, but that the kids would have fun activities for the day.  Sadly, because the request for transportation for these outings has to be made a month in advance, there will be no Christmas shopping for J and his classmates this year.  We tip-toed around the house, skulking as quietly as possible until it was the right time to launch the usual school-day routine.  I walked down the stairs in the dark (blessedly unthreatened by the furry ball of black cat that has it in mind to cause me bodily harm,) fixed J’s PECS board to reflect the delay, and slowly made my way back to bed.

J was surprisingly happy when he got up, and didn’t seem to be bothered by the a) sudden snow fall, b) sunlight streaming through the glass doors, c) later hour and d) the bags of treats that he had to carry with him to the bus stop.  No sooner had J and Dada (who foolishly scheduled today off to “stay at home and relax”) that the phone rang again.  This time it was the bus aide: they were running half an hour behind because of traffic…bad traffic…snow and traffic…she’d call me when they got closer.  I called Dada on his cell phone, and then J’s teacher…she, too, was stuck in traffic.  Boxed in, is what she said, and surrounded by cars and cars and cars and…she counted…SEVENTEEN school buses.  The phone beeped.  Another call coming in…the front door opened…I clicked from one call to the other…the bus aide again: “we’ve been told to return to depot…school is cancelled.”  I called out to Dada, sent J upstairs, and switched back to J’s teacher who, understandably, muttered some choice words in front of her children even as she profusely apologized to them, to me, to the Universe for her lack of composure…

I didn’t hear from her again until nearly 11 a.m. when she told me she’d finally made it home.  Poor woman.  I don’t envy her.  J, in spite of our concerns regarding the sudden start to his Christmas Break, was quite happy with the notion of changing into his pajamas, grabbing his movies and migrating to the basement.  Dada and I dove into our rather large cups of coffee…it was already nearly 9 a.m.

At two o’clock, with the weather slightly better, the roads cleared out, and J still happy about the way the day had developed, we headed to his appointment with the psychiatrist.  Here is the thing: we were hoping that, at least, his weight hadn’t increased.  With the little changes we’ve been making, we were hoping for either the same or a little less weight.  We got what we wanted…

J has lost 2.43 pounds (1.10 kg) since his visit to the Urgent Care last month.  This doesn’t sound like a lot.  In fact, it isn’t a lot, but…the doctor was truly impressed.  Especially since we told him that this was all because we had started changing J’s diet to whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and such because the Primary Care Physician thought a Mediterranean Lifestyle Diet would be best for him rather than the medication he had suggested to us.

Not only has J’s weight started to go down at a prudent rate, his blood pressure is much improved.  The doctor was quite happy.  I would’ve cried, but I was pretty sure it was not the best thing to do in front of a psychiatrist.  J was calm and happy, and while he wanted to leave (of course,) he wasn’t as insistent, vocal or rude as he has been in the past.

Look…I know this sounds pretty hyperbolic, but J has made huge strides.  He eats yogurt voluntarily.  He eats home-made pear chips.  He had vegetable chips today…a bowl of them…seasoned with olive oil and garlic…without batting an eyelash.  I’ve checked his TV room, the trash cans in the laundry, the bathroom and the living room; I’ve checked the boiler room.  He’s EATING these things, not hiding them like I used to when my mother gave me lumpy pancakes that no amount of syrup could make edible.  J is eating fish.  J is eating Parmesan cheese, pesto, whole grain crackers…it’s like he’s a whole new person…and yet he’s very much himself…

J has not…I seriously mean this, and I’m not making it up or hyperbolizing…had ANY CHEDDAR CHEESE IN TWO WEEKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The child who basically sustained Wisconsin’s cheese-based economy by his single-minded, solitary effort to eat cheddar cheese hasn’t had any since right after Thanksgiving.  That, my friends, is some sort of record right there…

And we haven’t been truly bold yet.  That’s the whole thing right there…we’ve made the easy, tiny, gradual changes.  Wheat germ to coat this, phasing out butter, phasing in cheeses that are NOT cheddar, veggie chips that make the world seem oh-so-colorful, pesto…and J the Rotund has started to lose weight…little by little…

I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but this is looking like a very promising tack to take…

So the day started in a less than stellar way…with phone calls, broken routines, disruptions to plans…and ended up with a huge pat in the back…and renewed energy and enthusiasm for the future.

Off to do the Happy Dance…with J, of course, while tossing a ball around, and listening to -why not???- Iggy Pop…let’s bounce around with happiness and relief because the little things are working for now…and they might not next week, but today…we do the dance of joy…  😀

HOW did we get to Friday????

Sweet crazy week…it’s the First Day of Christmas, we’ve had couscous, and oodles of pear and sweet potato chips, we now eat yogurt voluntarily AND regularly, and I haven’t posted a THING about all this…

I apologize if I left you hanging, but it’s been a little on the loopy side around here.  Buckwheat pancakes are a no-no unless they’re drowning in maple syrup, and that just won’t do.  Oranges…no thank you.  Chicken roasted with a balsamic and honey glaze is a hit.  Couscous, surprisingly enough, is totally doable.  Wheat germ in breading…totally fine.

Every afternoon, the four of us go “running” in the garage, and then we toss the ball around, and then we do some calisthenics.  J actually looks forward to this, and likes running to things like Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit…of course, he also requests things like Elton John and Kiki Dee singing Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, but because it’s all in the spirit of getting him to move, Dada and TGG bounce as energetically as anyone.

And…it’s doing the trick.  J has lost a few pounds.  Nothing to write home about, but enough to be encouraging because, yes, it’s about the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race rather than the flash-in-the-pan results.

Now I have to get ready to head out and grab J from the bus stop because it’s an early-release day.  We are going to start baking cookies for all the treat boxes we’re handing out to the guys that work here in the construction site, and then we’re going to run out for a couple of quick errands before the snow starts.  It has been bitterly cold, and it seems like every two days we get some sort of advisory.  Tomorrow, of course, we have snow coming.

I will, in light of this lull in outdoor activity and the presence of my wingman Dada, have time to write more then.

Happy First Day…may your days be low in sensory overload…

Winning a little…losing a little…scratching our heads all the while

So…

J likes spinach and Parmesan cheese.  J likes halibut.  J is on the fence about walnuts…he likes them better when they are chopped to the size of dust.  J is totally onboard when it comes to pesto.  J doesn’t complain if the chicken he eats has been marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and then baked.  J likes whole wheat naan bread.  J eats garbanzos and rice.  

J has a lot of gas.

There’s the losing.  There you have it.  J has a lot of gas as a result of all this new food he’s encountering all day long.  For an individual who, for the longest part, was the stuff of legends for not ever passing gas in public, J has now realized that sometimes it’s inevitable.  On the plus side, he hasn’t needed his probiotic all week.  So: winning a little.

J also has NOT asked for a timer on snacks in a few days, and he seems to be getting used to the sparse amount of “goodies” we offer him.  Either he is so hungry he will eat anything at this point, or he is humoring us while hatching a fantastic plan to overthrow our current way of managing meals.

I finished reading Mediterranean Diet for Dummies this morning, and am expecting delivery on another book on Tuesday.  This will give me a fairly good window of opportunity to try several things I read about over the weekend, and before our visit to the nutritionist.  I am encouraged by the fact that these are fairly easy adjustments to what we currently do, but I am also filled with trepidation about the more drastic changes.  One thing I know will give J pause is that these ingredients form a very different picture from the one he’s accustomed to seeing on his plate, but that’s something we can slowly introduce by having him help us with the preparation of meals.  Another thing is the wide variety of vegetables that he loves to look at when shopping, but hasn’t really wanted to taste when we bring them home.  At first, I’m guessing, we will have to disguise things in some flimsy way until he realizes he likes them, and then show him where they came from…

I am very excited about next year’s garden.  I see a wealth of possibilities ahead of us, and I think this will help J become even more involved in the process.  The idea of “from farm to table” might be significantly reduced by the space available to us, but I think we can make a fair go of making this a part of J’s involvement.  How truly Mediterranean we can be in our food choices and use remains to be seen, but we are all on the same page…we want to give it a go for J’s health above all.

Movement, exercise, physical activity form an important part of this transition, and we’ve decided to put J to the test.  Running is boring for him, so we’ve thrown in music, a slower pace and interjected random moves into the mix.  He seems to like this better…one of us has to keep the Wii remote in hand to set the pace (because J loves to see his Mii running on the screen and reaching the goal,) but the other can change the pace, add arm movements, knee bends, throw a soccer ball back and forth with J.    At this point the focus is not on speed as much as on developing habit, and that’s one thing that can be a problem where J is concerned; he LOVES routine, but is easily bored by it, and he likes to be the one who determines “what” routine actually is…

And that is how we arrive at Friday.  The weather is about to turn on us, and we are about to turn J’s diet a little farther away from his comfort zone.  His reward will come in the shape of our Christmas tree, a treat that -we are 100% sure- will make any experimental eating worth his while.  The day has been dreary and cold, and I’ve spent most of it researching recipes (avocados in chocolate cake!!!!) and trying to figure out a workable progression for introducing things.  As babies we were introduced to cereals one at a time to determine if we were allergic…rice, oats, wheat, barley…  I don’t know if this is how it’s still done, but that’s the way it was when TGG was a baby.  J was breastfeed and didn’t go through this…he basically went from breastfeeding to occasional snacks of arrowroot cookies, cheerios crushed into breast milk and made a mush of, and so forth.  Puerto Rican babies start eating actual rice as soon as possible and, I will admit with a bit of shame, no one sees (or, at least, saw when I was a young mother) any issues with throwing a bit of the sauce we stew our beans in into the bowl…for flavoring.

Now, the kid whose experience of cereal has been mainly Kellogg’s, Post, and General Mills is about to be introduced to the richly flavored varieties that do not include a toucan, a tiger, a leprechaun, or any such other animated creature to back up their nutrition claims.  We’re going basic, whole grains here…and then there’s the nuts, legumes (a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine, I might add,) and all the colorful vegetables one could possibly find…  There’s nothing to scoff at in this plan, but there’s plenty of trepidation involved because, well, it’s not The Routine, and J can be unpredictable in his positive AND negative responses…

I’ll let you know about the avocado in the chocolate cake…I seriously doubt this is a bad combination, but an experimental run is necessary.  What you don’t know won’t hurt you, right?  If we have to be underhanded and then make a big reveal, it works on TV shows, doesn’t it????  Truth can be stranger (and more unpredictable) than fiction, and let’s just hope that the surprises are -for the most part- of the pleasant variety…

 

A garbanzo by any other name…

J doesn’t know it, but he’s eating a lot less cheese.  He’s also eating “green specks” that used to send him running for the hills before.  Namely: he’s happily eating pasta that has been tossed with pesto or olive oil, garlic and parsley.  The amount of Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top is ridiculously small, and he’s not asking for more.  He also consumed, albeit unbeknownst to him, garbanzo beans that I had stewed for last night’s dinner…  When he gets home from school this afternoon, I’m making him some halibut.  I might be pressing my luck, but the world belongs to the brave ones, and to the crazy ones who don’t know any better, right????

The one thing we have noticed is that J no longer requests snacks after meals.  The other thing that we have noticed is that he will try whatever we put in front of him, and not just that token attempt that means one bite and then BYE, but rather actually tasting and thinking about what he’s experiencing.  There are things he has liked, and there are others he hasn’t been thrilled about, but we’ve yet to get the “spit it out and rinse your mouth” reaction.  This, as you can imagine, is encouraging and has filled us with some bravado, but we keep reminding ourselves (and each other) that slow and steady wins the race.  So I’m going to throw caution to the wind and make him some halibut…

And then, tonight, I’m going to make matters worse by making a pasta casserole with butternut squash in it.  I like to live dangerously.  No, I don’t really like to live dangerously, but I think I have to implement this as aggressively as possible (without scaring J into total rejection) while I still have the gumption for it.  If I tell myself that we’ve done enough for now, I will become less proactive about finding out how to make the kid eat lentils.  (My only experience with lentils was in 1971 Spain…I didn’t like them.  I was only six and had never before seen, smelled, touched or tasted lentils, but was very familiar with gandures (pigeon peas…look ’em up!)  They sort of look alike, and I bit into the lentils expecting the familiar deliciousness of gandures only to be unpleasantly surprised by what I no longer remember what it tasted like.  I steered clear from them since…I’m about to get us all reacquainted with them.)

Other ingredients are more of a mystery, and I haven’t quite figured out how to introduce them into our meals without a chorus of Doubting Thomases airing their concerns.  Outright rebellion is another concern, but that’s why I’m reading and researching and planning a reconnaissance trip to the grocery store this weekend, and another one to the library.  If I can not only COOK with these unfamiliar items, but also persuade my family to not call the authorities to express concerns about my sanity, I’ll be happy.

One thing I’ve learned is that we have been very close to implementing the Mediterranean Style Diet, but that we’ve also fallen prey to our love of sweets and beef, and haven’t been boldly adventurous when it comes to grains.  That we’ve let J get away with not diving into the ocean of vegetables out there for his consumption is rather shameful, and I think that -as with all rehabilitation- admitting we have a problem with that is the first step to recovery.

On my list of things I need to figure out before the pickaxes, pitchforks, and spades come out to declare a revolution to overthrow me from my perch as the Kitchen Captain:

– What is bulgur and what can I do with it?

– If it’s unrecognizable in a soup or casserole, does it count as a vegetable (think camouflaging through liquefying)?

– Do raisins count as grapes, and are dried pears just as nutritious as fresh pears?

– How many uses can I find for walnuts and other nuts short of handing them to J and telling him “here, eat this!”?

– If I grind things, do they mean anything?

– Can I drink the suggested amounts of red wine as a reward for having attempted this?  J IS underage…

So…there you have it.  We’re doing a bit of exercise every evening, introducing new ingredients, being very nonchalant about J’s reaction (if he sees we’re anxiously awaiting his response, he might realize that this is IMPORTANT!,) and trying our best to be practical about this.

The positives so far?  J is open to it…and that’s a HUGE plus.  He hasn’t asked for popcorn or crackers.  He hasn’t insisted on adding cheese to anything we’ve served.  I know I can do more than just stew garbanzos, or chick peas or garbos or whatever people call them (TGG referred to them as butts when he was little, but that’s not a very appealing name after a certain age, is it?)  The negatives: I still don’t have the hang of what I can do with bulgur…and, believe me, I’ve been researching.  And it’s not yet time to garden so I need to run to the store to see what’s in season or, at least, available.  Otherwise, all is well…

Onwards and upwards, people…  I’ll let you know if the fish flies or if it crashes…