Over a decaf cappuccino and pitted prunes…

A couple months ago, I was describing to my good friends this book I am planning to write. Something funny yet serious, a four-part meditation on family, community, food, and justice through the lens of my personal life experience, integrating in my theological and social work training. And of course with copious amounts of funny-children-stories (like that time my children were swinging around bags of chocolate chips at the co-op and one burst and they started eating them off the floor…)

“Of course that will never happen,” I said, “since I can barely put away the laundry, much less commit time to write a book.”

Then Clara and Owen, both skilled bloggers themselves, suggested that I start with a blog, because the back-and-forth feedback can be helpful for keeping you motivated to keep writing.

I’ve been mulling over this. In reality, I want to wake up early and spend an hour writing longhand by candlelight. I spend all day at work in front of the computer, why would I want more screen time? Plus, in general I feel like the internet has changed our lives in ways that are usually not for the better. Do I need to broadcast these thoughts about life to all who might want to see, or would my time be better spent writing musing letters to long-distance friends and having heart-to-hearts over coffee with confidantes nearby?

However, Clara and Owen are right. I won’t be motivated without some sort of writing routine and peer feedback. And Lord knows I will never be able to get my thoughts organized without writing them down first! For those of you who remember back to college vacations, or the summer I was in Kenya, maybe this will bring you back to those novel-like mass emails.

So I have ten minutes left on my internal timer for this first post. My in-laws, who are visiting for the weekend, insisted that they supervise Cyprian’s quiet time while Shane is at work and Rose naps. It took me a long time to fight my guilt enough to get out the door, and I promised myself that I would also do some office work while I’m here, so blog time is limited.

Tomorrow is the third Sunday of Advent. Gaudete Sunday (pink candle!!!). Joy. I’ve been trying to think of having childlike joy, which leads me to think of children on Christmas morning, and then I get a little apprehensive at the thought of Cyprian having opened his gifts on Christmas morning and realizing that no, he did not get the short-sleeve baseball shirt and baseball pants and baseball socks (long long ones, but not over his knees), and baseball hat, and basketball shirt and basketball shorts and basketball hat (and long long basketball socks), and the brown football (somehow better than his blue football?) and black and white soccer ball with black pentagons and oh-don’t-you-already-have-a-black-and-white-soccer-ball and no-mommy-it’s-not-the-right-kind-it-needs-black-and-white-alternating-with-pentagons. Because we have gotten to the age where we understand that we get presents at Christmas and we can ask for them, but we are not yet at an age where we understand that stating the desire does not automatically equate into a present, and for those of you who haven’t spent a lot of time with Cyprian and might think oh, he’ll forget about it, I will just say that his most desired Christmas present is a stomp rocket that he saw when we purchased a birthday present for him three months ago, and he has mentioned it at least once a week since that day. (Spirited child lingo–not stubborn, just persistent!)

So, childlike joy. Sometimes hard to imagine right now with my two kids currently in very emotionally volatile stages of development. (Kind of like my current stage of development…I guess it never ends!)

Two weeks ago, I had two days in which I felt like a veil had been lifted. I was still very stressed, and had a couple of mom-stress-brief-explosions at the kids, but I felt like all of a sudden I was able to be joyful in the midst of it. I have struggled with chronic depression for a long time, and this past year has been particularly difficult as I wrestled with being in a new place with few friends and no job. But our lives are becoming more settled now, and we seem to be moving away from a couple years of transition and imminent crisis to becoming rooted in a place I never thought I’d be.

It’s been easy to see the stress of fall simply freezing into the busy-ness of Advent and feeling that once again I’ve failed at the season. It’s nine days til Christmas and I don’t even have a spiritual focus! I’ve wasted away two beautiful weeks of Advent and only have nine more days to get joyful!

Maybe I will have more days of intense joyful emotion. But I remember that two years ago, the experience of being pregnant during Advent reoriented my idea of joy to equate it with the waiting. It is in not-quite-there-yet-ness that the joy of hope lives. I’m not ready to go further than that right now. I will live there this week.

Black Rook In Rainy Weather, by Sylvia Plath

On the stiff twig up there

Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Lean incandescent

Out of kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then—
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); skeptical
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you dare to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.


I wrote this over a week ago–finally posting

Well, it has been over a month since I last posted, and you are about to find out why. It really became impossible for me to blog without revealing a major aspect of our lives that we just weren’t ready to reveal yet online: namely, we are pregnant with our second child!

We found out the same week that we started the GAPS diet. I know the idea had been to heal my gut before I conceived again, but…you know, sometimes these things just happen! J Anyways, even though Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends that already pregnant women without digestive issues go straight to the full diet, and also eat potatoes and sourdough bread and soaked grains, I decided I still wanted to all do the intro together.

After realizing how horrible it made me feel, I felt guilty. What if I had harmed the 3-week-old embryo inside me? Most likely it was fine and I was the one getting the brunt of the harm, but still. This is one reason that the intro diet slammed me as hard as it did.

Then I got the bronchitis. Before I knew what it was, I was worried it was hurting the tiny fetus. It was great that they couldn’t really prescribe me anything for it since I was pregnant, but I also knew that my immune system being down was not ideal for early pregnancy. The bronchitis, the tiredness, the stress of the diet—everything was really not helping my early-pregnancy state.

Then morning sickness hit as early as five and a half weeks, beginning while we were traveling to New Haven and just getting worse and worse. I had been planning to wait to introduce sourdough and soaked grains until after we told family and friends at the end of July, but I was quickly getting to the point where I could hardly eat anything because of the nausea. My close friend who is expecting her third told me about how she had been on a low-carb diet but when morning sickness hit with this one, all of a sudden she could pretty much only eat everything bagels and cream cheese. I began to daydream about everything bagels. And one morning after dropping off Cyprian, I just went to Monuts and got an everything bagel sandwich. I could not handle it anymore. It was so good to eat something I wanted to eat. So for the next week or so, Shane went to Monuts to buy me day-old bagels and made me sandwiches. I needed the carb to be the carrier for the other food. But soon I became unable to handle fermented foods. Shane completely took over broth making because I could not handle the smell or sight of broth. I still gag when I come into the house and smell the broth in the crock pot. I can no longer eat stewed chicken.

In fact, I can’t really write about everything that is making me miserable right now because I might toss my cookies all over the computer. Suffice it to say that while I have not been completely laid up, it has been a constant struggle. Shane has been incredible, forcing me to take naps and spending most of the time in the kitchen.

I will try to catch up with some themes that I’ll be exploring more in the blog: Guilt. Relief. Stress. Coming to terms with the fact that this is just not the right time. Although at first I really wanted to keep Cyprian on the diet, the stress and pressure, not to mention kitchen prep time, is overwhelming. We’ve returned him to cooking things in olive oil, eating oatmeal soaked overnight, and having potatoes, sweet potatoes, and black beans. I am not stressing when he has ketchup with sugar in it, and if we go to Locopops and they are out of the stevia-sweetened ones and he has to get a sugar-sweetened one. His diet is already so limited that I need to be able to not think about GAPS right now. It was a short experiment, and I am pushing away thinking about it because I just can’t right now. I will still blog, but it will be different than I anticipated.

In Week 3

Sorry it has been such a long time since I posted! And this one will be short because Shane is mandating a prompt 10:00 bedtime because I have been feeling so bad.

Last Friday my friend Christa came over to help me do some food prep, which was great! It was nice to just be in the kitchen together. We made sauerkraut and I put together lentil loaf for Cyprian to see if we can reintegrate lentils.

I am not sure about the lentils; in general his eczema has been pretty bad, especially when he gets home from school. We haven’t been keeping a good journal of exactly what he has been consuming, which we need to start doing. It is just so hard–was it something he ate? Was it the bubbles he just spilled on himself? Is he allergic to the cocoa butter I have been using on him? Aaaaargh so hard to know.

Monday I finally went to the doctor and got diagnosed with acute bronchitis. Fortunately, the resident I saw said that they don’t even prescribe antibiotics until people have had it for six weeks or something (I’ve only had it for two). I really appreciated that because I didn’t want to wreck all my good bacteria! But the coughing is pretty miserable, and Cyprian’s been struggling some with it, too.

Tonight I finally made Cyprian these flax crackers I have been wanting to try. FOUR CUPS of flax seed! I had to split up the recipe because the Ninja couldn’t take it all at once. Now all four layers of the dehydrator are on, so we will see how they turn out.

Trying to find a new “normal”

Whew. Well, the trip was absolutely exhausting, and I felt pretty bad through most of it. Shane’s and Cyprian’s coughs have pretty much subsided, but mine seems to have settled into some sort of respiratory something. I am hoping it will go away but Shane is threatening to make me a doctor’s appointment.

Shane and I did end up having ice cream with our friend at Ashley’s in New Haven. I couldn’t decide how I felt about it–this is not the kind of diet in which you reward yourself; cheating just slows down your own healing. But it is also hard when I am wanting to heal my gut for our future babies but I have no idea what that feels like because I don’t have any obvious symptoms. If I got a stomachache each time I cheated, that would be different. Anyways, I felt a slight sugar rush but it was fine. We gave Cyprian his first banana with some sun butter. He has enjoyed having bananas again but is not obsessed with them the way he used to be, which is great.

Sunday night we stayed with some friends in Greenwich and Shane and I just ate the Indian food she got, including some naan. It was good, and it was so nice to not have to stress about what to eat. Then on our looooong drive home (I-95, the bane of all interstates), Shane and I just ate at Panera. One of the salads I got was probably decently GAPS-legal (I am sure the bacon was cured with sugar, but whatever). The quinoa lentil bowl I got later wasn’t (and it wasn’t the best, either…I should have gotten the salad again). Anyways, we only really had enough food left for Cyprian, who was very happy to eat soup and beef patties and broccoli. What a sweet boy. So, we were flexible. And it was such a relief.

Since getting back we have been pretty faithful. Shane has decided that he is going to have some cheats, and I am totally fine with that. He doesn’t seem to need any gut healing and the important thing is that we are united in trying to do it with and for Cyprian. If I don’t feel better soon, I may start having some soaked oatmeal or something to see if that helps my body.

Cyprian had white beans for the first time tonight at dinner when our housemate made white bean-carrot salad. I was SO thankful for the extra starchiness of the beans, but Cyprian got hives after dinner. 😦 I am not sure if it was the beans, or perhaps the raw onions greens, which he hasn’t really had before. Two hives appeared on his face right before bed, after I had given him a magnesium salt bath to try to draw out toxins. Sigh. It is so hard not knowing! I guess I will try again with white beans tomorrow and see if it provokes the same reaction.

Cyprian slept SO badly during our whole trip, which made us all exhausted. He has also been waking up a lot to be changed because he has a sore in his underparts that stings. Last night he slept until 5:40. I try to make him not nurse until 6:00 to try to train him not to wake up so early. Of course he was very upset, but while I was in the bathroom Shane went in and slept next to him on the floor and he slept until 7:30! At that point he zoomed into the kitchen and said, “Sausage? Dinner?” And then we didn’t nurse! It was the first morning ever of not nursing. I am hoping this is starting us on our journey of weaning; not that I want to lose that with him, but I am feeling that it is time, and my supply is running out. It will be an emotional time for both of us.

Shane got a call today to pick Cyprian up after his nap because his teachers think he has pinkeye. Sigh. Of course! So now he has a doctor’s appointment in the morning. I was relieved to see online that most pinkeye just goes away without treatment (viral), and Shane said that his teachers mentioned drops, so I hope that if he has to have antibiotic that it is just drops and not anything oral that will get into his gut and slow down his healing.

I am overwhelmed by all the things I need to do: Make more kraut! More ginger carrots! Soak all the seeds! Soak all the nuts! Lentils! Ahh! I am trying to just do a few things a day. Today I made coconut butter bread for Shane and me for the morning–ooh la la, looks good! And I made raw brownies out of pecans (oops, cheated, didn’t soak first…oops), cocoa, salt, dates, and honey. Le noms! And I toasted seeds. Tomorrow so much more to do…but one step at a time!


Friday lessons:

Why did we ever, ever, EVER decide to try to drive up 95 on a Friday afternoon? We’ve been in the south too long to realize our folly! A 5.5 hour drive became an 8.5 hour drive, although blessedly Cyprian slept from the Tappan Zee to around Milford! We knew that would make for another hard night, but let’s just say that when his terrible sleeping is combined with the diet and regular travel stress, this trip is starting to feel like a very long bad dream. I don’t feel good, which makes it hard to focus on anything, and it is hard to not be able to get anything comforting on the road.

Saturday reality checks:

Around 6:00 p.m.: Cyprian has had four poops today, two of them quite soft but not diarrhea. It must be the increase in fruit. At the wedding today I let him have quite a bit of applesauce, but he had already eaten both his pork patties and his broccoli and squash and there was nothing left for the hungry monster but applesauce (or soup, which we were not about to attempt inside the chapel!).

Shane and I both took communion, which was bread. Because it is Marquand tradition, Shane helped consume bread afterwards, which was important for his soul. At the reception, someone walked by with a chevre-chive stuffed mushroom and even though I know chevre is on the no-no list I gobbled one up because I was so hungry. Even though we had brought some food with us, I went on to eat a hunk of aged cheese and some dried apricots (GAPS-legal), some pulled pork (maybe GAPS-legal), and one tortilla chip with chicken, avocado, and sour cream (definitely not GAPS-legal). I have been afraid to say, “Sure, let’s relax a little because we are traveling,” because then I feel like I will then always want to “relax” for some reason or another. I also don’t want to go back to square one with my body and have to readjust all over again to not having starches and sugar.

However, life happens. Weddings happen. We travel and it is stressful. It is Cyprian who really needs the healing (well, at least as much as outward signs can tell) so we need to be the most careful with him. But if he overboards on applesauce one day, well, it’s okay. The recommendation is for 85% of food to be savory and 15% sweet on the full diet. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fruit, but it does leave some, and he has already eaten soup, a ton of broccoli and squash, and pork patties today.

Will we head down the slippery slope of going to enjoy a small ice cream at the classic shop in town? Will we wreak havoc with our bodies if we do? I don’t know…I am just trying to eat on the diet the best I can and realize that sometimes I won’t be able to. And it is okay.

The low-carb flu has been affecting all of us; Cyprian’s cough is about gone, but Shane and I are still hacking away and today I had complete laryngitis and couldn’t even sing at the wedding. 😦 After some time at the reception, I took Cyprian back to where we are staying to take a nap, which never happened. He reached his second wind. Of course the moment he got in the car to pick up Shane he fell asleep. :/ I just hope he sleeps better tonight.

The end of the first week

Whew. We made it to our friends’ house in DC! We pulled into a rest stop to eat our soup because we left 1.5 hours late (surprise surprise!), but a sudden thunderstorm involved getting drenched on the dash to the car and trying to eat soup in the car, which was more successful than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, Cyprian and I still ended up with a lot of soup all over us.

We let Cyprian eat some applesauce (roasted apples in coconut oil) in the car today–his first fruit. He asked for more about 10 times, but we were firm in only letting him have some. It was hard to see if it affected him; his eczema already seemed inflamed (perhaps from wearing daycare shorts washed in different detergent? or traveling in the carseat?). Our evening soup also had tomatoes, so it was hard to track if that gave him eczema, too. We will have to keep experimenting with tomatoes.

Last night Shane and I just transitioned straight to the full diet. I needed cheese and the blueberries that came in the CSA. We are feeling a little better, and Shane said that he is starting to have fewer cravings.

A few days ago Cyprian had a bad hives reaction on his legs right before dinner. It was strange because we couldn’t tell what he had touched or possibly eaten in the kitchen during dinner prep. We would usually give him benedryl in that bad of a reaction, but I don’t know how that will affect his stomach so early on the diet, so I just put long pants on him and that seemed to stop him scratching.

We found out that our co-op sells reverse osmosis filter water for 39 cents a gallon. Reverse osmosis filters (which get out fluoride) are about $200, which we didn’t feel like we could do right now, so it is nice to have a source to get some jugs to take to daycare for Cyprian and then in the car. We won’t use it for everything, but I want Cyprian to drink it as much as possible.

I am feeling a little guilty about moving Cyprian through the intro diet so quickly–I told him we could probably start fruit tomorrow. He hasn’t had any diarrhea, but he does have some undigested carrot, sunflower seeds, and fat in his poop. I am not really sure what to do about that. I am reminding myself that we can always go back to the intro diet if we feel like he needs it. We can try the full diet with him for a while and see if we need to go back to soups (maybe in the winter!). Also, I am frustrated that I didn’t order our cod liver oil and probiotics earlier, because I am still waiting for them to come. However, I hope that with those supplements (if Cyprian can tolerate cod liver oil…he might react to it), increasing broth consumption, eliminating starches, and eating something probiotic three times a day, his gut will hopefully start healing.

I am thankful that our friends had a lot of room in their fridge and freezer for all the meat, frozen stock, veggies, and homemade yogurt we are transporting. Traveling on GAPS is quite the ordeal!

Sad thing I discovered: Maple syrup is not allowed on GAPS. Lame.

Happy thing I discovered: Recently cocoa powder has been approved for people who don’t have digestive problems…so maybe after we get more “regular” I’ll try some GAPS-approved chocolate recipes!!

Days 4 and 5

Yesterday started out rough. We kept Cyprian home for breakfast because we had the time, and then as I was preparing his lunchbox I realized that when I put the butternut soup in the crock pot to keep warm overnight, I had plugged in the coffee grinder instead of the crock pot, so the soup was room temperature. I pretty much broke down at that point, not so much because of the mistake, but because of the stress of trying to do everything and the frustration from efforts wasted. The whole reason we are trying this is to try to find our baby some healing, and there he was without a lunch!

Yesterday he did pretty well at daycare but today he ate “great” and even drank up his broth from his breakfast soup. So proud! We really appreciate that his teachers are being understanding and giving him his filtered water, etc.

In general, Cyprian is adjusting much better than we are. He is already used to being on a limited diet, even though he misses his fruit and “chocolate cake” (black bean brownies). As Shane pointed out last night, it is not just losing the food for us, but losing the emotional connections we have with food. When I am feeling down, Shane gets me a surprise chocolate bar or latte. When we want to do something special, we go out for tea and a tasty snack. We eat a Ben and Jerry’s when we watch a Netflix TV show. Now we are having to find new ways of showing our care for each other, ways that used to be exercised in certain types of food. For us, this diet is temporary. I do plan to not eat as much sugar and to integrate more traditional preparation techniques into cooking, but I also want to be able to enjoy food out with people…and the occasional Ben and Jerry’s.

I wonder, though—will Cyprian ever get to do that? We can only pray that he will.

Shane and I were mostly on Stage 4 today and may move to Stage 5 (RAW VEGETABLES!) tomorrow. Today after I ate my soup for lunch I mixed up chicken, egg poached in broth, avocado, and yogurt into a little salad and it was SUCH a relief from all the soup! We have also been having pancakes for breakfast—peanut butter, eggs, honey, and zucchini all mixed up in the Ninja. They are actually quite good. I feel like we are cheating a bit because we are not using homemade or organic peanut butter, but the ingredients are just peanuts and sea salt, so that is good. I am toasting almonds tonight to make us almond butter, and I already made Cyprian some sunflower seed butter. The pancakes I made for him this morning actually turned out all right even minus the eggs. He ate one (which is all you should start out with…Shane and I ate three each our first time lol) and loved it. I would have let him eat another one if he had drunk another shot of chicken juice, but he decided to pour his into my broth so too bad for him!

It is hard to have the energy and time to plan more creative menus than just the soup now that we are getting into the later stages. I am so sick of soup, though.

Cyprian’s eczema was better today, which was encouraging. He also pooped twice today! This morning I saw some undigested fat in his poop. I don’t really know what that means so I need to investigate.

Neither Shane’s nor my poops were ideal today, and I felt kind of sick (a die-off reaction, maybe?). However, we tried out the juicer I got on craigslist for $20 and it was SO COOL! It just gobbled up those carrots and made oh so tasty juice! I drank some and immediately started feeling a little better. Unfortunately Cyprian didn’t really like it…but he does love beets so I will try mixing in some beet juice tomorrow.

It was heartening to see Cyprian shovel in almost three servings of chicken soup tonight and then eat about 5 pieces of broccoli and 7 brussels sprouts that had been cooked in broth. I mean, he really is the ideal GAPS toddler, even if it is hard to get him to drink his broth plain.

I am getting very nervous about traveling this weekend. We leave Thursday afternoon. We are staying with very understanding friends, but I am nervous about having enough food and about having enough time to prepare it all. I spend my time before going to sleep at night thinking about how and when to prepare everything. I am used to always thinking about Cyprian’s food, but now it is even more intense.

Shane and I should have done more prep work tonight, but after 45 minutes of doing dishes, we needed to have some together time and watch a Netflix episode, which I am very glad we did.