11 November 2010

wheat free and me

Johan's out of town on business this week, so I decided, heck, why not make life extra hard and use the opportunity presented by his absence to give up wheat? I've been wanting to take on this little experiment for a while because I've been feeling chronically, anemically tired, and feeling just generally unwell off and on for, oh... forever. I mentioned this to my regular doctor and I get the feeling she thinks I'm borderline crazy (or a full-fledged hypochondriac) to think it could be diet-related. But I also know from experience seeing a naturopath, and from friends who have gone down that path, that one of the first things they suggest when a patient comes in with the sort of general malaise that afflicts me is to cut out wheat. Oh, and sugar, and caffeine. But I figure, why not just start with wheat and see where that leaves me?

So here I am, on my fourth day of wheat-freeness (third, actually, if you count the stale hot dog bun and beer I cheated with on the first day--so NOT worth it in case you were wondering). I feel no better. But it's still early. What I
do feel is a little like someone who is giving up some other, more "serious" vice, like smoking, drinking, or hard drugs. I stare at the cookies I'm handing to the kids and wonder if my will power alone can get me through the moment, or if I will break down and then scarf down half a dozen when they're not looking. It's unbelievable, really.

I'm guessing that, regardless of whether or not I'm actually gluten-intolerant (or have a gluten sensitivity), I WILL be feeling better because, along with cutting out the wheat, I'm also cutting a lot of the crap that goes with wheat out of my diet. I had no idea just how many foods containing wheat I was putting into my body every day. I ate wheat at every meal. And for just about every snack. And I feed my kids even more wheat than I consume myself. It seems a little... unnatural.

At the moment I'm doing double duty preparing meals and snacks. The kids still get the standard: bread, pasta, crackers, muffins, cookies. I get none of that. Their meals are easy compared to mine. Buttered bread and sliced fruit for breakfast, for me a bowl of oatmeal with yogurt, fruit and nuts. English muffins and eggs for them, and
huevos rancheros for me. The other night, they ate tortellini with bacon, peas and cheese, while I filled up on beans and rice. I keep telling myself that in Mexico I ate beans every day for weeks at a time, and I liked it. Still, I'm going to need to expand my repertoire soon.

It feels a little indulgent, being a short order cook for myself. Of course it will do my energy level no good in the long run to keep this up, but for now it's kind of fun.

On day two, feeling more curious than deprived, I made a loaf of gluten free ricotta potato bread in our bread machine. It was seriously vile-wet, spongey, with a strong aroma of glue. And the kicker was that I had to buy about $35 worth of ingredients to make something that ended up in the compost bin. It turned out to be more of a failed chemistry experiment than an exercise in baking. But practice makes perfect. Soon I'll work up the courage to try again. Or I won't. Who needs bread, anyway?

ME. Oh, really, I do. And cookies, and scones, and muffins, and those lovely buttery pastries they make at the bakery down the street. Deep down, I'm hoping that I won't feel immensely better after this little experiment, because a wheat-free life is immensely more complicated. I'll have to be very conscious of every morsel of food that passes my lips. And that sounds exhausting. But the idea of being (even more) purposeful about what I eat also feels a little freeing. Of course I can take that lesson with me either way.

I'll let you know how it goes.

04 November 2010

boo. chuckle. grunt. sparkle. *shazam*

Today we stripped our house of all of our Halloween decorations. It feels a bit like the end of Christmas to me, doing this. I always have such a hard time saying goodbye to Halloween. At our house, we've turned it into a month-long celebration that starts with raiding the storage boxes to dislodge skeletons and witches and ghostly garlands, continues with a parade of spooky drawings and lots of talk of creepy things (and even creepier talks about death and decay and mummification), and ends with another parade: of costumes, as Jules and Kasper (and their mama) decide what to be for each party, carnival or trot down the block we've signed them up for.

It fills me with glee to say that Jules shares my enthusiasm for Halloween, though keeping up with his racing imagination was a little exhausting for me this year. A lot of my energy these past few weeks was consumed in trying to gently steer him into
not being a pirate, or a knight, or some other manlier-than-manly-man that I thought my little four-going-on-five year old had no business wanting to be. Why couldn't he pick a cute little animal? A bumbling clown? Even a creepy skeleton or a dragon or dracula would have been better than the sword-wielding characters Jules kept throwing at me.

In desperation, I took him to a local costume store, just in time for the crush of Halloween crowds, with the only rule being that he could NOT choose a costume that accessorized itself with a weapon. I'm pretty sure he hated my guts that day. But he ended up choosing a glittery crown (which resembled, no doubt, pirate treasure) and cheesy "velvety" robe and dubbed himself a king. He loved that costume for all of half an hour. We tried to convince him that it was good to be the king, that kings were the bosses of knights, the looters of pirates. He wouldn't buy it. He wanted that sword. He even tried cutting a picture of a dagger out of one of his pirate coloring books and taping it to a pencil. Confiscated. We have a "no weapons" policy in our house, mostly to protect the eyes of Jules's little brother, but one that has eroded enough to allow floppy cardboard cutout swords from time to time.

A few days before Halloween, we lost the royal battle (but not the weapons war, which still rages). Jules announced he would not be a king and instead scrambled upstairs to hi-jack
MY Halloween costume. "I'm going to be a pot-bellied gnome," he decreed. Brilliant, I thought. And so worth giving it up to my pint-sized pal. I'm good at sharing. Sadly, this gnome was anything but jolly. But he warms my heart just the same.

Kasper, in the meantime, spent a total of twenty seconds in his costume, a hand-me-down from his brother that I'd bought in what can only be described as a Halloween-induced moment of shopping insanity. A ridiculous full-body gorilla costume. There's a gorilla-head hat that goes on top, but he ripped it off in a fit of rage before I could snap the photo.

To our great astonishment, Kasper decided that it WAS good to be the king, if only for the fact that he got to carry around a big whackable stick, er... royal scepter. Too bad Jules hadn't thought of
that, eh??

And, quite naturally, I suppose, just minutes before we needed to leave the house on the spooktastic day itself, Jules and Kasper teamed up to perform one last last minute costume switch: presto change-o: superheroes x 2.

I am slowly, ever so slowly, giving up my attachment to being the kind of mom who spends a month hand-crafting her childrens' costumes, the one garnering the "oooohs" and "aaaaaahs" of all her friends. I love her, that mom, but she most certainly does not have my kids. And my kids? Well, I love them most of all. Which is why next year, I'm thinking of being a bowling ball for Halloween. Maybe then I'll really be able to roll with it.

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