Week 4: Waiting

Standing in line for coffee this morning, I heard a repeated mumble to my right, “hi how are you hi how are you hey hi.”  At first, I didn’t even notice—it was mostly white noise amid the light chatter and 90s music playing over the speakers.  But then I realized the man standing next to me was talking to me—greeting me.  He was awkward-looking, overweight and sort of stooped, looking rather pointedly into my eyes.

“Oh!” I said, surprised.  “Hi.”  And I turned back inward, musing about whatever it was; in other words, something of no importance whatsoever.  Waiting for coffee, waiting for the weekend, waiting to see if a CF diet is affecting Logan …

Intuition?  Karma?  Something inside of me then felt profoundly sad, and I looked back toward the man, who was now—it seemed to be purposefully—looking away from me.  He was trying to be friendly, I thought, ashamed of myself for not being nicer.  Maybe he’s on the autism spectrum or has other struggles.  Why hadn’t I been more friendly?

I then thought about Logan 30 years from now, when he’ll be 34 and trying to navigate life without his mom, trying to live a normal adult life.  Will he be able to come down to the coffee shop for a mocha and muffin (Surely places will have GFCF muffins in a few years, right?)?  Will he be able to strike up a conversation while waiting in line?  Will he muster his all courage and try to remember his all he’s learned about social skills and attempt typical coffee-shop small talk?  And how will the girl next to him react?

Will he spend his whole life waiting for someone to talk with him?

Logan is lucky that he seems to be fairly high-functioning and I doubt he’ll follow completely the same path as the man I encountered this morning.  But even so, often he’ll approach people in odd ways, ways that are accepted because he’s 3 but in a few years will be seen as odd or rude, like the coffee shop man.  I hope Logan will have learned better approaches in a few years so he is accepted—but maybe more so, I hope all of us will have learned better reception of people who begin conversations awkwardly.

Feeling: Uncertain

Shameless plug:  While we’re waiting for that day, our family is walking to raise money for awareness and research for Walk Now for Autism Speaks!  Please support this cause by visiting our team page and making a donation: http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/minnesota/logansteam

And thank you!

Week 4: Effing muffins

The kids are in bed.  So I return to the kitchen though I still hear Sadie’s screams to pick her up ringing in my ear, and I still feel Logan tugging on me.  The dog is still begging for food left sitting out.  Two days’ worth of dishes are piled next to the broken dishwasher.  I clear this meal’s dishes off the table and counter, and the mountain grows ever higher.  Forty-five minutes I spend washing dishes.  Forty-five damn minutes.

Then I have to bake muffins.

Never, in a million years, would I have guessed I’d be standing with my hands in a lukewarm sink of greasy water planning how to bake muffins at 10 o’clock at night.  But that’s what Logan’s daycare is having for breakfast tomorrow, and I haven’t bought a CF alternative to send with him.  So apparently, it’s time to learn to bake.

I can honestly say I’ve never baked muffins before.  I opened my cookbook and assembled all my ingredients on the counter.  Baking powder?  Is that different than baking soda?  I’ll guess it is.  Luckily we have both.  Place muffin liners in eight muffin pan cups?  Are those important?  More importantly that that, why do we actually have some in a cupboard?

I dump in my GFCF baking mix as an alternative to flour—I have no idea what it actually is.  I mix in the baking powder and the salt and stir with a fork.  I add the water and canola oil, hoping I measured the oil right—my glass measuring cup doesn’t have ¾ marked on it, and I have no idea how much that is.  And on my plastic black measuring cups, the brightly colored measurements have worn off after seven years being jostled around a drawer.  I sigh, and randomly pick one.

“Add water, oil, and agave nectar sweetener.  Mix with a spoon.”

Mix with a spoon?  Didn’t it just tell me to mix the other stuff with a fork?  Screw that—my dishwasher is broken, and there’s no way I’m dirtying another dish.

I stir, add blueberries, and stir again.  I place dollops of mixture into cupcake liners (which, yes, is difficult with a fork and yes, would have been easier with a spoon).  I slide the tray into the oven.  As per the recipe, I return in 25 minutes and remove them.

They’re “golden brown” on the top, so I think they must be done.  I even go one step further–aren’t I clever–and insert a toothpick into one, as I’ve heard that people who bake do.  I pull it out and stare at it.  It’s supposed to look “clean,” if I remember right.  But what the hell does that mean?  How would it come out full of dirt?  It looks clean to me, I decide, and head up to bed.

IMG_0054

Muffins at their (and my) low point

The next morning my muffins have sunk to half the size they were when I pulled them out of the oven.  I pick up a muffin cup, and it’s basically turned to pudding.  Apparently, something went wrong.

“You were supposed to put a toothpick in and check if it came out clean,” my husband informs me later that night, after I’d hidden my shameful tears on behind a book or computer screen all day.  I’d been so upbeat putting the muffins in the oven, and seeing them wrecked the next morning just wrecked me.  “But, see,” my husband continues, “this toothpick comes out wet.”

Wet!” I yell.  “Then why the f* isn’t the saying, come out dry?  Why do people say it needs to come out clean?  That means absolutely nothing!  If I knew the toothpick was supposed to come out dry, I would have kept them in the oven longer!”

Angrily, I dump eight wet, puddingy muffin cups in the garbage.

Feeling: Hungry

Week 3: Wearing thin

Blah.  That’s what I feel today.  If it was good for anything, last week let me glimpse how life might be like without identifying emotions.  I’m finding it hard to decide just how I feel about GFCF.

When Logan was diagnosed with PDD-NOS about a week and a half ago, my husband and I mentioned to the clinician that we were trying a casein-free diet, and we asked her if she’d seen any results—positive or negative.  She both nodded and shrugged.  She had seen lots of positive advances with it, she said, almost always in language development and sleep habits.  But (and there’s always a but) Logan’s struggles are in emotional development and peer interactions—he articulates quite well and has always slept through the night.  So a CF diet might not be helpful for Logan, at least based on one expert’s opinion.

But we’d said we’d try it, and so we stuck with it … and somehow, it’s getting both easier and harder.  It’s easier to read labels and give Logan a different snack and it’s even easier to find dinner most nights (we’ve been having fish, steak, burgers, and other single-ingredient dishes.)  It’s harder because those items are becoming incredibly boring.  My husband is sorely missing anything sweet, baked, and ungodly horrible for your health.  He grumbles about it, and after knowing him for seven years, I can tell he’s about ready to give up completely.  He doesn’t believe any results will come from this diet, and probably never did.  Plus, he lives for food, as I’ve heard him say more than once.  I’ve often said that if I could simply take a vitamin and be supplied with all the nutrients and calories I needed in a day, I would.  Think about it:  no more stopping everything three times a day to think about what to make, cook it, eat it, and clean up afterward … God, that would be so much more free time.  But my husband loves food—bad food—too much.

He asked me yesterday if I could see any change in Logan.  I could tell it was a leading question, that he was trying to see if I’d say, “yes,” when obviously there hasn’t been any.  I told him no, but I didn’t think we’d been doing it long enough for there to be any change—plus, we still haven’t successfully ever had a week without casein.  We went from about 20 infractions in our first week to just five infractions in the third week, but according to what we’ve read, any amount is too much.

Speaking of yesterday … my plan had been to pick one recipe from The Autism Cookbook and make it for supper, as well as make a recipe for GFCF muffins.  I wrote down the ingredients needed and sent it to the grocery store with my husband while Logan and I went to church.  Here’s a shortened version of what we came home to.

“You wrote two cups of tomato.  I don’t know what that means.”

“Yeah, two cups of tomatoes.  You know, diced tomatoes or something.”

“Well, I bought a can of diced tomatoes.  But your recipe says cubed.”

“What’s the difference?  Can’t I just substitute one for the other?”

“No.  And you didn’t tell me to get basil.”

“Don’t we have basil in the cupboard already?”

“First of all, no—we’re out.  Second, even if we did, it wouldn’t matter—your recipe calls for fresh basil leaves, not dried, crush basil spice.”

“Oh.  Can I make it without it?”

“You can try, but it probably won’t be very good.”

Blah, blah, blah.  I’m actually quite attentive to details, but for some reason, not when it comes to food.  I simply don’t care.

So, despite having a wrong ingredient and a missing ingredient, I still planned to make my chicken-sausage-eggplant-whatever the hell it was.  But I had to work on homework again, and then the sun actually peeked out from behind the clouds, and I decided to take the kids and dog to the park.  I thought we’d be gone an hour, leaving enough time to come home and cook, but that didn’t happen, either.

“Do you know how long it will take to wash, peel, and cut all those vegetables?” my husband asked.

He might not have meant for it to sound pointed and accusatory, but it felt that way all the same.  We ordered pizza and cooked a frozen GFCF pizza for Logan instead.  We’d been craving cheese and pizza, and I was curious how the frozen version would taste.  Of course, it sucked, and because we deserved it, the pizza we ordered from a new place was awful, greasy, and delivered lukewarm.

And did I make muffins after the kids went to bed?  Nope.  More homework, and then when I finished, I realized my husband had gone to bed and not cleaned the kitchen—pizza was still sitting out, pear slices were browning on the counter, and kiddie cups with an inch of milk still perched in front of the kids’ chairs.

“It can stay like that,” he said when I woke him up.

He doesn’t care, I thought.  Can I do this by myself?  How could I cook and clean solo on top of everything?  Part of me wants to give up this stupid diet, and part of me wants to just try harder.  And most of me feels nothing at all.

Feeling: Worn thin

Week 2: Walking on

He’s ready!

Even as my world continues to feel scattered and hectic trying to piece together a GFCF–or at least CF–diet, Logan’s life steadily marches on.  Last week was his first week of pre-school, in an Early Childhood Special Education class for other 3-year-olds with similar IEPs.  I’m really so thankful we live in an area with a wonderful school district.

And although I may not be great at cooking (or even competent at it sometimes), I am great at walking!  I will be walking in Walk Now for Autism Speaks fundraising campaign to raise awareness and money for research toward fitting in the missing pieces of autism.  I continue to be amazed and dismayed at how many people are affected with this disorder–1 in 88!–and hope to do a small part toward treatment and prevention.  I know my family is incredibly lucky that Logan is high-functioning and does not have many of the struggles other children with autism do, so I feel I am walking more for others than for my son.  I encourage everyone reading this to join me either in walking or through donations!  Please visit our team site at
http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/minnesota/logansteam!  And thank you!

Feeling: Determined

Week 2: Starting over

As Logan would say, ba-ba ba-da-BAAA!

(Translation: general excitement and success)

Even though last week proved to be harder than I expected, I feel so much better halfway through Week 2.  For one, I’ve heard from so many supportive people with tips and encouragement.  For another, we finally had Logan’s evaluation with a psychologist today, so we can now say we have a medical diagnosis of PDD-NOS, or pervasive developmental delay-not otherwise specified.  It’s a mouthful, but it was helpful to hear her praise several of Logan’s skills and to know that he is actually advanced in some areas–just pretty much woefully behind in others, namely social interaction, empathy, and expressive language.  But everything she had to say seemed like good news to me because knowing what beast we need to fight obviously makes choosing how to fight it much easier.

And on top of that, I think I actually successfully cooked a meal tonight.

We went to the park after daycare, so by the time we got home, I was worried about being able to make something (anything–CF or “normal”).  I decided to try mac ‘n cheese another try, this time not from a box but from a recipe using just noodles, chicken stock, salt, and shredded CF cheese.  It was actually super easy; just as easy, in fact, as normal boxed mac ‘n cheese.  In fact, it might not actually count as “cooking,” since it was little more than boiling water.  But–little victories, right?

I made sure not to call it mac ‘n cheese, though, so Logan wouldn’t be upset that it wasn’t “real.”  I simply called it “funny noodles,” since I made it with whatever weird-shaped noodles happened to be in my pantry.  I also gave him raw green pepper slices, cherry tomatoes, and blueberries.  And — who would have thought — he ate it!

All in all, today was a great day going into tomorrow — Logan’s first day of pre-K!

Feeling: Strong

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