Category Archives: Food

Diabetes blog

Haven’t figured out how to put the widget in my sidebar yet, but I started a side-blog to chronicle our adventures in low-carb cooking (might sound boring to you…I’m having a great time).

In case you wonder about the spelling of “diabeetus” on the blog…

I intend to reorganize Hypervigilant into a better resource, and part of that process is weeding out extraneous information and putting it where it belongs. I’ll be moving fiction to a side-blog as well sometime in the near future.

Here’s the first recipe, if you’re interested. 🙂

https://beatingdiabeetus.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/cheesy-cheater-taters/

 

Misadventures in Eating

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Photo Credit: Chris Piascik

The photo may seem incongruous. Just wait…

During our first year, our girl ate like a wild thing. She and her brother were undernourished, so I allowed them to have seconds and sometimes thirds.

Since “thirds” seemed to help them feel secure, I made portions smaller once they reached a healthy weight—they were eating the equivalent of maybe one-and-a-half helpings. As they settled, third helpings became unnecessary.

Then, one school day she neglected to finish her lunch. I mentioned she needed lunch to fuel her brain for the afternoon. She asked lots of questions. We spent about thirty minutes discussing nutrition.

I thought we’d made a breakthrough; it was our first real connection. The inaugural Mother-Daughter Conversation of True Meaning.

The next day, she’d eaten even less, but then we had another great conversation.

By the next week, she’d stopped eating lunch.

Within a month, she barely ate anything. Every meal was a struggle. Some days, we actually resorted to spoon-feeding her to get her to finish a meal. She was eight.

We went to the psychiatrist and pediatrician and ended up in a Children’s Hospital feeding program (outpatient) after six months. By that time, she was emaciated.

I was terrified she was developing an eating disorder. Foster children are at high risk for eating disorders; one study found a quarter of the foster children monitored engaged in “aberrant” eating behaviors.  Others show similar numbers.

Their psychologist is an understanding genius. She helped me understand what I’d done, though inadvertently, to foster the behavior—and how to reverse the process.

Ignore the negative behavior and make it inconvenient for her. Reward ANY move toward positive behavior.

She patted my shoulder. “You can’t blame yourself. You didn’t know. But you can’t EVER give attention to a behavior unless you want it continued. It’s her way of controlling her world.”

She recommended that we ignore her eating issues altogether and substitute the worst-tasting Ensure-type product I could find. Give her only the meal substitute for a few days, then put both a meal and the bottle in front of her.

“Tell your daughter, ‘we don’t have a preference for which you ingest; either way, whatever you eat needs to be finished within half an hour. If you are finished when I return, you can go to bed five minutes later.’ Walk away,” the psychologist said, “then come back in half an hour and remove anything left over, without comment.”

Our girl was eating again within a week.

This was only the beginning. Now, I am always on alert…hypervigilant, if you will…in my quest to protect her from scheming against herself.

As parents, it’s easy to make mistakes. Here’s the great secret: almost no inadvertent mistakes cause permanent damage, as long as you make changes.

The best way to avoid those mistakes:

  • Surround yourself with individuals who are experienced with similar situations.
  • Find a mentor in an adoption professional you trust.
  • Talk to a counselor (either the child’s or a separate one for you) about your tactics. Ask them to be honest about whether they recommend what you’re attempting. Beforehand, make sure the counselor is experienced with foster/adopted children and their issues.
  • Read blogs and articles and medical journals and social work websites.
  • IGNORE (or be selective* in taking) advice from anyone who has never adopted or fostered. *Instances may occur in which one of these individuals brings an epiphany.
  • Don’t allow others to guilt you into anything (e.g., “She fell down AGAIN? And you didn’t pick her up to soothe her? You totally missed a bonding opportunity.” No, in my case, I prevented seventeen more falls).
  • Go with your gut: as you learn this child’s triggers and nuances, you’ll know when to avoid certain situations or try a tactic others might consider ridiculous. If you think it will work, try it. Trust yourself.

And finally, if you have been through the wringer, SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE. Someone needs help.

Yes, you. Right now. Start typing. 

Can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Add your advice below.

 

Ah Ha Ha Ha Stayin’ Alive…

Prior to looking up the lyrics, I never noticed the “Ah ha ha ha” bit (always just thought they were saying ah-ah-ah). Laughing in the face of death? Maybe I’m reading too much into this.

I’ve never watched the video before. Have you ever wondered what inspired a bunch of guys with lion’s mane haircuts to sing like schoolgirls? Until now, neither had I.

And because now you can’t get the song out of your mind, I give you…the Bee Gees.

You can sing it all day and drive your coworkers and family crazy. You’re welcome.

I like stayin’ alive. Furthermore, I like Hubby to stay alive. Without him, I wouldn’t have survived HellOnEarth (also know as Adoption Year One). Based on the pre-teen ‘tudes we’ve seen thus far, TeenHell is right around the corner. His presence is necessary and required.

We received a bit of a shock this week. Doctors. Don’t you love them?

Phone message:

Hello, sir, we’d like you to come in this week to discuss your recent blood tests.

When lab results are hunky-dory, these types of messages just aren’t necessary. My blood pressure went up a bit. I called, made his appointment and (since they wouldn’t give me information over the phone) joined him for the appointment.

“So,” the doctor smiled, “did you see the information I emailed you on the patient portal?”

Blank stare from both of us.

“No? I gave you some information up front to make this less of a shock.” She squinted. “You didn’t see it.”

We shook our heads.

“Well…then. Your test results are…not…great.” She sighed. “You have diabetes.”

Shock.

Hubby has always known his hypoglycemia could turn to diabetes, but neither of us were prepared.

“And,” she continued, “I don’t mean to scare you, but the numbers are very high. So I don’t want to frighten you but we need to get this under control now. I don’t want you to worry, but we’re going to start you on medication immediately and you need to start eating small meals every three hours.”

Translation:

Yeah. “I don’t mean to scare you, but.” The seven words you never want to hear from your doctor.

We know diabetes is manageable and many of the now-necessary life changes are ones we’ve planned to make anyway.

Having those changes imposed upon you…feels intrusive. Stupid diabetes. Stupid doctor. (Okay, okay, right, it’s not the doctor’s fault.)

We’ve been tossed into a world of checking labels and eating at certain times and pricking fingers for bloooo-oo-oo-oo—

Oh, sorry. I passed out. All good.

I think the hardest part of all this is recognizing that Hubby is human. He’s always been the stronger one. He’s my superman. Marvel Comics heroes have nothing on my guy (except Wolverine. But even so, Wolverine is my second choice AFTER Hubby). He has always been able to do anything.

He has maintained a full-load 4.0 GPA while working full-time and taking care of elderly parents, won horse shows (jumping), constructed buildings, rescued animals from city sewers, taught karate class, and put up with me for a loooooong time.

He can weld, cook enchiladas, create award-winning ads, restore old cars, connect with traumatized children, stunt drive, fabricate pretty much anything from metal, teach a college Bible study, lead a Scout pack and—did I mention—he puts up with me. Oh, and he’s a Black Belt.

And this isn’t even the entire list.

Of course, nothing has changed in the last 72 hours. He still spent the afternoon welding. Yesterday, he helped organize, set up and grill chicken for an annual Scout event. He went to work. He played with the kids. We went out with friends. He can still do everything he’s always done.

The only thing that’s really changed? We’re eating fewer carbs. (Finger sticking begins tomorrow and a visit with a dietitian is upcoming, so additional food changes may be on the horizon.)

But still.

I think I’m having a harder time with this than he is.

Wait.

Every superhero has an Achilles Heel, right?

Maybe sugar is his kryptonite.

I KNEW IT! This proves it.

He IS a Superhero.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Chocolate. Bad Advice. Part 2

 

Continued from Part 1

Get lost on purpose.

Sure, candy company. This is a great idea.

Let me disconnect my GPS, toss my phone and just start driving.

Forget about picking up the kids from school or assisting clients or happy greetings from me and the four-leggeds when Hubby arrives home.

Sometimes I do get lost, but not on purpose.

I have no maps in my head. I’ve tried. TRIED. Again, I blame books. From childhood through my early twenties is buried in books. Blessed with an iron stomach, trips to the grocery store or dentist were escapes to islands of treasure or conversations with diminutive females. (See what I did there?)

On annual expeditions up winding routes through mountains to see the glorious autumn red, gold and purple leaves, my mother called out every thirty seconds, “PUT YOUR BOOK DOWN!” Nothing deterred me from a good read.

Unfortunately, this also precluded me from the company of my slightly-more-motion-sensitive sibling, six years my junior, who paid attention to the road and could find his way home when he was approximately thirty months.

I still have trouble remembering…is it right? Or left?

Hubby still laughs at me for getting mixed up in the woods behind our house. In my defense, I couldn’t see anything but trees.

I traipsed out to give him something, then turned to head back to the house. He stopped me, then asked our (then seven and nine year old) children, “Which way is the house?” They pointed. Not the direction I’d started walking.

Do you need me to embarrass myself further? You get the point. I have no sense of direction. Getting lost on purpose would not be difficult.

But if I were to lose myself (especially—as so many times during our first 24 months with wild hyenas—when I feel the urge to do so), how would disappearing help? I submit to you that it would NOT.

“Getting lost,” whether a literal or figurative disappearance, is not the answer.

I can say this with unequivocal, earnest passion because for about a year, I followed this bitter chocolate advice. I buried myself, my dreams, my emotions, my yearnings. So worried that I would attach too deeply to these insanely wild creatures, only to be torn from them, I distanced myself. I got lost. On purpose.

I became an automatMom, going through the motions. On the surface, I appeared as happy as every other adoptive mom of kids with behavioral needs. We all smile in public.

Side note: Speaking of smiling in public, I just read about a couple who adopted a sibling group of five, then added a bio child. Their story is similar to our own (plus four kids) and when I read the upbeat, sappy parental commentary, I couldn’t hold back the sardonic laughter. Either 1. they’re putting on a front for the media, 2. they’re still in the honeymoon stage and the kids are doing everything they can to not screw up, or 3. (for all their sakes, I hope this is the case) it’s really a fairytale story. If it’s either of the first two, and you know them, feel free to direct them here. I can at least let them know survival is possible. 

Reality slapped me the day our son hugged me on his own (this is big) and I didn’t react. I hugged him back, of course, but on the inside…no spark of maternal warmth. Looking back, I can see that Hubby and I were both pushed to our limit and exhausted. If I could go back to give “pre-adoptive us” some advice, it would be this: FIND RESPITE. USE IT.

We weren’t aware of many resources available to us (and were too overwhelmed and spent to look for them).

The day he hugged me, I realized I’d been holding back on our kids. Being lost—to myself and to them.

For the record, leaving to “find yourself” is ridiculous. The best way to find yourself, if you notice that you’re lost? Take time in your situation to measure your reactions, your thoughts, your interactions. Decide what you want “found” to look like…and then work toward those goals one step, one moment at a time.

I am no longer lost to my children—and I do not EVER intend to get lost on purpose.

Stay present. On purpose.

You want advice?

Here’s mine:

Enjoy the chocolate. Recycle the wrapper.

Or, if you prefer, track down a vintage Esmerelda machine. Be careful though…it’s been twenty years. That”tall, dark stranger” might be stooped, wrinkled and bald by now.

I’ll just stick with chocolate.

Great Chocolate. Bad Advice. Part 1

I’ve learned not to listen to my chocolate.

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I don’t know if your chocolate presumes to advise you on daily matters, but mine does so with the dogged intensity of a foil-wrapped yenta.

Admonitions and exhortations, bagged and available for purchase in your local supermarket. Or at least, in mine.

Some of these gems put me in mind of the suspect guidance provided by the chintzy gypsy machine in our local arcade back in the late 80’s. “Esmerelda” bullied all the pre-teens into feeding quarters into her slots on our way to the PacMan and Centipede consoles.

She never delivered on her promises, unless her “tall dark stranger will bring money to your universe” prediction referred to the leering, greasy-haired arcade attendant. He replaced quarters eaten by Galaga, so…I guess that counts.

 

Dove, I appreciate your attempt to bring moments of peace and happiness to my existence. (And with that new Salted Caramel line, you may claim absolute triumph.) However, it’s time to either

  1. find new writers or
  2. stop presuming what’s best for my life.

No offense.

Because, let’s be serious. If I followed most of the wrappers’ advice, my life would be in shambles. (Also, if I followed most rappers’ advice…but that’s a homonym for another day.)

Let’s pause to consider a few of these nuggets.

Keep the promises you make to yourself.

Right. On the surface, sounds like a great plan. This, of course, depends upon the flavor of your declaration.

During a recent conversation with myself regarding a child who shall remain nameless, I didst covenant with mineself that if such shenanigans as were occurring should perdure, said urchin’s nether regions would soon benefit from the application of velocity plus acceleration plus mass (also known as The Swatter).

Before you string me up and send me to Child Protective Services, please note that The Swatter is a plastic toy paddle that bends in half. It is a noisemaker.

AND, getting back to the point, although I promised myself that a swat was in order if crazypants did not cease and desist singing opera past bedtime, no paddle made appearance.

BECAUSE I DID NOT LISTEN TO MY CHOCOLATE.

If I listened to my chocolate, all manner of horrible promises might be kept. “If that kid doesn’t quiet down, I’ll…” “If they don’t stop throwing spaghetti at each other, I’ll…” “If my child trips the principal one…more…time…I’ll…”

Okay, that last one never happened. Thank goodness.

The assistant principal did tackle the five-year-old hyena to prevent yet another school-building escape, but he did not trip her.

A plethora of threatening parental promises stream from our consciousness all day.

Don’t give me that look; I know I’m not the only one. We don’t mean to keep them; it’s almost a habit. A tactic to manage the stress.

I like this better:

No one should keep all their promises.

Especially when you work with hyenas.

 

Indulge in dark.

Yes, the intent is convincing me to buy more chocolate. I get that. But let’s think about this one for a moment.

My kiddos love night-lights.

When I’m ready to sleep, I much prefer darkness. Even as a child, the only time I wanted light at night was to read Little House on the Prairie and Narnia under the covers.

Books are the reason I spent four years in braces; all that time spent reading with a flashlight between my teeth so I could use both hands to hold the book. These new-fangled headlamps available in the DIY store…my eight-year-old self would have cut off a big toe to get one of those. Probably even my own big toe.

For sleeping, I love dark. Flashing lights from a computer or cell phone drive me nuts; I have to cover them with a sweatshirt or other article of clothing dropped bedside (because yes, I do that).

Sometimes even a light outside my room is too much. At my aunt’s house, we leave the bathroom light shining in case of mid-night emergencies. The glossy wood floor reflects the light under the door and casts more light than you’d expect. I sleep with a pillow over my face to block the glow.

Following choc-advice, I could flip the light switch and sleep in blessed pitch.

And then, after sunup, I’d have to clean a bedside puddle because one of the kids couldn’t navigate through the blackness.

Keep your light shining.

 

How about this one?

Do what feels right.

Parent or not, I’m sure you’ve experienced that moment in which you think, “I really can’t live through another moment of _______________.”

Of course, we can and do live through it, but we don’t feel that we can.

Think of the last time you experienced the end of your wits. The frayed rope of nerves unwinding just a bit more…

  • you lose your job
  • he/she/they cheat (on a game, on a test, on you)
  • that child sasses you ONE. MORE. TIME.
  • he pushes
  • she yells
  • baby’s still wailing and you’ve changed and fed and burped and rocked
  • they scream and bicker and fight
  • your eye begins to twitch

In that moment, be honest—what do you FEEL like doing? Scream, yell, slap, hit, walk away, self-medicate, drown (yourself…others…all of the above) in alcohol or bad behaviors or the bathtub.

Nothing good.

This advice, excuse my French, is CRAP.

We must not do what feels right.

We must do what we know to be right.

Always.

And especially when our nerves are jangled and unraveled.

 

The last one is my favorite.

Continued…

What I Learned at WordCamp Part 3

Continued from Part 2

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Photo Credit: John Uit

The third thing I learned at WordCamp 2015: I’m a closet Vegan.

My first exposure to being vegan occurred over twenty years ago. While working at a summer camp, I noticed one of my charges had dry, cracked lips, so bought her a Chapstick at the camp store. (Vegan readers…wait for it…)

When her mom arrived for pickup, she took one look at her daughter’s healing mouth and turned to me. “Did you give her something to put on her lips?”

I smiled and handed her the lip balm. “Yes, Ma’am; don’t worry—I bought her a new tube.”

She. Went. Postal.

Shocked beyond words, I stood mute as she blasted me for not calling her first. A naive eighteen, it never occurred to me that she’d be anything but happy her kid’s lips were no longer bleeding.

“We’re Vegan. This is against our beliefs. Bees made the wax.”

I didn’t know what she meant.

Vegan…like Spock on Star Trek? No…wait. That’s Vulcan.

Searched mental files…nope, nothing.

After she relaxed a bit, I asked her to tell me more about it. To me, a committed omnivore, the vegan way sounded a little crazy.

Two decades later, I still consider eating a TRYathlon.

If it’s edible, it’s fair game. New food? I’m in. (This is why I gained 15 lbs during a month in Trinidad.)

Lovers of all things fuzzy, close your eyes for this next sentence: in Peru, I checked out a local delicacy—guinea pig ravioli.

I say this not to induce death threats from PETA but to prove that I will, in fact, taste almost anything once. Chocolate covered ants are high on my “try it” list.

If you told my camp-counselor-self that I’d someday adore vegetarian or vegan dishes, I might have laughed. It’s true, though. This try-all-foods-at-least-once attitude has led me to love meatless meals.

Attending WordCamp US brought me to a life-altering culinary discovery.

At lunch on Friday (FYI, the food was FABULOUS), I spooned a couple different Philly-cheesesteak-style meats onto my plate without checking the tags.

One of them was the most tender, fall-apart-in-your-mouth beef I’ve ever had.

I raved about it to my friend Ruth, who laughed.

That meat…wasn’t.

Apparently there’s this thing I’d never heard about. Seitan. Ruth, attempting to assist me in pronunciation, explained that it sort of sounds like “satan.”

Me: “So. Somebody chopped the devil into little bits and it tastes like heaven. Who knew?” 

Ruth: Eye roll. (All my friends have this same weird tic. So strange.)

Per Google:

sei·tan
ˈsāˌtan
noun: seitan
  1. a high-protein vegetarian food made from cooked wheat gluten.
Origin
origin uncertain: perhaps from Japanese shokubutsusei tanpaku ‘vegetable protein.’

I understand “cooked wheat gluten” and “vegetable protein” don’t sound enticing—or, for that matter, even palatable. But trust me on this one. Go back and look at that picture above. Yep, seitan. It’s mouth-watering.

Friday evening, I had seitan prepared to taste like chicken. MMMM. At Saturday’s lunch, seitan barbecue. SO good.

I ate a LOT of seitan, skipping “real” meat for the rest of the weekend. Having had…occasional issues…with new foods, I had concerns about potential…repercussions. I’m happy to report that all systems remained in proper working order.

Unless you’re allergic to wheat/gluten, you’ve gotta try it.

Researching my new obsession, I’ve found several recipes to make seitan at home. I haven’t attempted yet (mostly because my kitchen has been upside-down for the last month, but that’s a post for another day). Although you can buy it prepared, DIY sounds more fun.

Check out the Post Punk Kitchen for an apparently foolproof recipe. Isa has a number of other vegan recipes that look incredibly yummy.

For many reasons, I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to attend WordCamp US 2015 (and if you’re interested in attending next year, click here for a 2016 ticket. Trust me; the food alone is worth the price).

Finding a unique new fare might not be a major motivating factor for you, but it’s just one of many great reasons to attend.

I mean, where else can you cut the devil into tiny little pieces and chow down?

Wait. Did you just roll your eyes?

You should totally get that tic checked.

My Truffle Likes Me Back

I’ve always had a thing for Lindor Truffles by Lindt. This is the first time one had a thing for me. And for the record…I didn’t do anything but crack the shell.

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