Category Archives: diet

Invasion

Editor’s note: 

I wrote this post several months ago, but for some reason or another, I never published it.  October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month, so I thought this was a good time to finally put it up on the blog.  Even though this “Invasion” happened a while ago, it easily could’ve happened yesterday, and it  most definitely could happen today or tomorrow.

To learn more about sensory processing disorder, visit www.spdfoundation.net. A great book to read on the topic is “Raising A Sensory Smart Child,” and for personal insights from a Sensory Mama (i.e. me), check out my posts tagged with “sensory processing disorder” and “food issues,” including this one.  As always, feel free to ask me any questions. 

I’m not an expert, but I am a Mama.

* * *

“Yesterday was the worst day ever,” said my son when he woke up.  (For the record, he says that a lot. When you’re six years old, the world is concrete.  Up or down.  Black or white.  Good or bad.  Thankfully, he also often says, “This is the best day ever!”)

“Why was yesterday the worst day ever?” I asked.

“Because I cried a lot.”

He sure did.  The evening before, we went to the Food Truck Invasion that visits our neighborhood park every Tuesday.  I was really excited to take him because I looked online and saw that there would be a pasta truck there.  He recently faced his fear of spaghetti and decided he loved it (as he does ziti and elbows…but not penne because penne has ridges and ridges are scary…except for ridges on potato chips, which aren’t scary at all).

Adding spaghetti to his short list of acceptable foods was a mixed bag.  It was another carbohydrate when what he really needed in his diet was protein (and God forbid something green!), but it was new, and every new food he tasted chipped away at the brick wall he’d built up around himself.

My son was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder a few months before his fifth birthday. He spent the next year in intense occupational therapy – swinging, jumping, leaping, stretching, and strengthening – to find comfort in his own skin, overcome his fears and anxieties, lessen his sensitivity to sound and touch, and build confidence.  After treatment, he was, quite simply, a different kid.  My scared, listless, there-but-not-there child shed the skin under which he was trapped to illuminate his true self – a bright, funny, and outgoing boy.

Transformation aside, to say he’s cured would be false.  His progress has been nothing short of amazing, but he’ll always be sensory sensitive, and we work daily to help him overcome the fears and negative behaviors to which he still clings.  The biggest obstacle that remains is food, for which we have three goals: (1) introduce new food, (2) teach coping skills for when faced with unacceptable (to him) food, and (3) generalize (for instance, spaghetti home tastes just like spaghetti at a restaurant).  What we want more than anything is to help him succeed (i.e. eat) in as many environments as possible, including school, camp, birthday parties, friends’ homes, restaurants, and now the food trucks.

In the center of the Food Truck Invasion at the park was a bounce house.  Not surprisingly, we started our culinary adventure there.  After about an hour of bouncing, I said, “Okay, let’s eat.”

“Spaghetti?” he asked.

“Spaghetti,” I confirmed.

There was no prouder Mama at the park than me to be able to finally purchase food – plain spaghetti with Parmesan cheese – for my child, but when we finally sat down at a picnic table and I opened the plastic container that held his dinner, something had happened.  The plain spaghetti with Parmesan cheese morphed into plain spaghetti with melted Parmesan cheese.

He shut down.  He refused to eat a single bite.  Not even one cheese-free strand.  He threw his fork on the ground.  He threatened to run back to the bounce house.  He cried.  He screamed.  He cry-screamed.  He melted like the cheese on his spaghetti.

The end.

Except it wasn’t the end at all.

There was more crying, more screaming, more cry-screaming, a dramatic scene where we abruptly left the park, a long time-out at home, more crying, a silent bath, and a hasty bedtime, but the thing about food and fear and sensory processing disorder and my son is that the moment he lost it at the Food Truck Invasion at the park was as much about me as it was about him.

I was naïve.  I wrongfully built up the night before it even happened.  I researched menus, mapped out the night (bounce house then plain spaghetti with Parmesan cheese then ice cream!), and, as a result, forgot how unpredictable six-year-olds – with or without sensory processing disorder – could be.  I also didn’t account for the fact that Parmesan cheese melted when inside a hot, closed container.

I was angry.  Because I paid $8 for plain spaghetti and Parmesan cheese and he didn’t say thank you.  Because I couldn’t think of anything more delicious than melted Parmesan cheese.  Because he didn’t trust me that it would taste good.  Because he behaved so poorly.

I was confused.  Sensory processing disorder is a tangled web of physical and behavioral problems.  Where did one end and the other begin?  I didn’t want to punish him if his neurological system was out of whack, but I couldn’t tolerate cry-screaming over melted cheese either.

I was exhausted.  I couldn’t prepare his food perfectly for the rest of his life.  I couldn’t cut the white rind off of every single wedge of orange, toast a waffle just so, and make sure bread was free of crumbs forever.  I couldn’t promise that he’d never be faced with melted Parmesan cheese again.

I was scared.  I love food.  I live for food.  Many of my most cherished memories are connected to food.  If I close my eyes, I can taste the peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches I ate on the beach as a child and the sand that ground between my teeth with each sweet and salty bite.  I can feel the steam rising from my mom’s matzo ball soup.  I can hear the sizzle of my dad’s Sunday morning chocolate chip pancakes on the griddle.  How was he going navigate life without food?

I was guilty.  (Oh so guilty!)  I’m the one person in this world who is supposed to love and accept him unconditionally, but in that moment at the Food Truck Invasion at the park, I wished he were different.

I was negligent.  I convinced myself that his food issues had improved when the dysfunction was simply hiding behind procrastination and avoidance.  The spaghetti breakthrough was a success, but it wasn’t enough.    I stopped pushing him because doing so almost always made me feel naïve, angry, confused, exhausted, scared, guilty, negligent…and sad.  Sad for the unwelcomed, unwanted, and uninvited Invasion in our lives.

I went to sleep sad that night and woke up sad the next morning.  To my son who told me yesterday was the worst day ever because he cried a lot, I replied, “Yesterday was a pretty bad day for me, too.”  Then we got dressed for the day.

The end.

Except it isn’t the end at all.

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Filed under diet, food, food issues, Proud Mama, sensory processing disorder

The Runaway (Vegan?) Mama

A funny thing happened on day four of my Ten Day Yogurt Challenge. Actually, two funny things happened: (1) I started to like it. My timid slurps turned into happy bites, and now, I’m sold!, and (2) I started reading a book called Crazy Sexy Diet, written by cancer survivor Kris Karr, and I’m learning that a vegan diet – one with no meat or dairy (and no yogurt!) – can fight off cancer and other illness, including IBS, which I suffer from now. It can also help me fight off the diseases that have wreaked havoc on my family, including colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Yes, my family history suggests I’m screwed.

My grandmother on my father’s side was one of four – yes four – sisters who had Alzheimer’s. Colon cancer comes from both sides of the family tree, and in case you’ve forgotten, my gastroenterologist discovered a polyp in my 35-year-old colon last fall. In addition, I’ve had at least half a dozen birth marks, moles and other growths removed from my skin because when tested they had pre-cancerous cells in them. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to cancer, and guess what? It doesn’t matter that I live in sunny South Florida. My levels are below normal. Quite frankly, I’ve felt powerless to change my disease destiny…until I picked up Crazy Sexy Diet.

Ms. Karr’s book suggests, rather convincingly, that there is a gargantuan link between the foods we eat the diseases we have. It also proposes rather persuasively that regardless of the crappy genes we may have, we can change the outcomes with diet (and exercise, meditation, etc.). I’m really excited about these ideas, but also a little bit uneasy.

You see, you don’t get the exciting ideas without the sad, awful truth about the U.S. meat and dairy industries, which is why I’ve avoided movies like Food Inc. It’s not just because motherhood makes it hard to see movies, finish books or take showers. It’s because I know if I watch it, I’ll want to stop eating meat and dairy. And that’s a hard thing to do. And I like cheese. A lot.

Crazy Sexy Diet inadvertently opened my eyes to all of this and now I’m in a tizzy. Knowledge is power, right? Well, it’s also terrifying. And so is disease…and slaughterhouses…and a vegan diet!…and mammograms. I had my first one this morning. I didn’t do it because I found a lump. When I had the molar pregnancy in 2005, my oncologist told me to start getting them when I turned 35. I should have the results in about a week. For anyone wondering, the mammogram didn’t hurt. The hour and a half I spent in the waiting room was way more obnoxious than the test itself.

I’ve opened a new window – or a book in this case – and I’m eager, anxious and confused all at once. On one hand, I’m researching chickpea and quinoa recipes, and on the other hand, I’m craving a glass of wine and a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, neither of which is very vegan!

Will I become a full-time vegan? In theory, I’d love to meditate and drink homemade green juices each morning before starting my day. The reality, though, is that I sometimes don’t even get to pee or brush my teeth before chasing Riley around the house to change a poopy diaper. I do more for my kids before 7am than most people accomplish all day. I don’t have enough “me time” right now to accomplish such a complex diet and lifestyle change, but I’m definitely going to eat less meat and dairy, and perhaps after some soul searching, less Pinot Grigio and Skinny Cow desserts. My path to a vegan lifestyle will have to be done “mommy style” (i.e. slowly).

Does it seem like this blog has become less about my kids and more about me lately? I knew once I started writing I would find myself on some kind of personal journey. Fear not, though. I honestly don’t think it’s possible for me to have an awakening that doesn’t somehow have something to do with my boys. Since I started reading this book, I can’t stop thinking about what they eat (too much dairy, lots of sugar and processed food), and more importantly, what they don’t (vegetables!). I would never subject them to a strict diet, especially at their young age, but I know there is more I can and should do to teach them stronger values around food and health.

So, for now, the yogurt stays. I’ll start by weaning meat from my diet, which should be relatively easy because these days my tummy is never happy when I eat it. I’ll tackle dairy after that. If I come across any good veggie-friendly recipes along the way, I’ll post them on the blog.

This is definitely to be continued…

What are your thoughts about food and disease?

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Filed under diet, health