She Ain’t Heavy she my Strudel

I’m lying in bed, not an uncommon occurrence nowadays, though I am cutting myself some slack since it’s early on a Saturday morning. I got up to feed and water the chickens since they were up and making their cranky “WE ARE AWAKE ATTEND TO US RESISTANCE IS FUTILE” noises.

As an aside, it’s been fun being home “with” them. They get so excited the second I appear in the backyard, since I often have treats or scraps for them. I hear their noises change throughout the day and sometimes I call to them and they call back. Or they yell at birds or squirrels. Sometimes I see them seeing me through the window, while I’m working. I am reminded of the first summer I had chickens, before library school started, and I could just kind of hang out with tiny Franny and my teenaged sister and watch them and experiment on them all day long.

I guess I was lying here thinking about how the summer went. We had a big meal last night that seemed very sad and Farewell to Summer since it is both the last holiday weekend and supposed to be cloudy all weekend. We ate tomato salad and ribs and watermelon, and some pretty unsuccessful potato salad with eggplant that I would not recommend at all. The eggplant went right to mush.

Strudel’s been off wheat for the whole summer, with occasional “oops” moments here and there. I think it took her backsliding a few times to realize the immediate results. I packed her lunch for camp all summer, which was challenging, since camp was a “nut free zone.” If you aren’t eating wheat and you can’t bring nuts or do nut butter, and you’re packing a lunch for all day, including two snacks, you’re looking at trying to transport and store some cold things, like cheese, meats, salad, and the little jars of milk kefir I have been making.

I tried sending her with gluten-free, nut-free bars, but of course they came with the CYA labeling business of “may have at one time been driven by a facility that was thinking about processing nuts” and were sent home again. I tracked down one brand (which I will not bother linking since adherents will know it and no one else cares) that made bars in a “DEDICATED NUT FREE FACILITY!” The upside was that the ingredients weren’t awful, kind of like nutless Larabars, but they had names like “chocolate brownie” that made them sound very treat-y.

This year there was a counselor who had a large and firmly lodged stick up his ass, and the skinny was that the kids pretty much hated him, but it was becoming increasingly obvious over the summer that he had a real boner for messing with Strudel. He saw these bars (I actually sent the box in with them so they would have the full NUT FREE literature to peruse) and somehow deemed them unacceptable for a snack. The idea was that a bar and a piece of fruit could be her afternoon snack, since by then the cold things in her bag would need to be eaten earlier due to the fact that her ice packs only remained frozen through noon or so.

He told her she had to eat the bar with lunch as “dessert,” but I knew other kids had granola bars for snacks and things that looked healthier, but I am sure had just as much sugar. Most of the counselors were aware that most kids brought lunch but there were a couple of allergic kids who had to pack in morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack for themselves, since they couldn’t eat things the camp would pass out, like Goldfish crackers.

I sat down and wrote a letter to the director that night, which I felt was necessary but incredibly lame. I always have these conflicting twinges of “HOORAY I AM MY CHILD’S ADVOCATE” mixed with the shame of “ugh I am helicoptering.” I think I get these feelings because I was raised on the “Go play in the street, kid” side of things.

I got jumped on the bus when I was in second grade by three older boys. Black eye, clumps of hair falling out from being pulled out, generally terrified. I got off the bus crying and my mother picked me up.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I got beat up on the bus by some boys.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.”


WHAT THE FUCK. I got in trouble later for biting one of them in self defense. Since my mother didn’t call the school or get involved, and his parents had, it was assumed that I was the perpetrator. He and I made friends later in high school in government class, when I was a junior and he was a senior. We sat in the back together. I was stoned every day because A. it was right after lunch and B. it was HELLA BORING. He used to make fun of me for being a stoner and then…he discovered pot himself.

“I get it now, I’m sorry,” he said. He showed me the faint scar on his forearm that still bore the impression of my dental record at eight years old.

SHIT WHERE WAS I? Okay, so I drafted this sad letter to the camp director, about how Strudel cannot eat wheat, and the challenge of packing one full meal and two light ones without bread products or nuts. I said I respected the nut rule, and I hoped her limitations could be accommodated, including letting her eat a snack bar as a snack and not “dessert.” It was granted. It was all very silly, but whatever it takes to make this work right now.

Friday was swimming day at camp, and on her last Friday she was going to be a late arrival so she asked me if she could just wear her swimsuit under her clothes at camp. I came into her room to ask her something, and was struck by how tall and lean she looked. Then I realized: for the first time ever, she didn’t have a rock-hard, distended belly. I had found myself wondering when she was going to grow out of her belly, since it seemed like that little kid pot belly was sticking with her much later than Franny’s had. I remember my mother prodding mine at Strudel’s age and saying things like, “Wow, you’re getting really chunky!”

A couple of times during the last school year Strudel had even asked me if I thought she was fat (what is that sound? Oh, it’s my heart breaking a little). There were vague references to this stemming from conversations with girls at school who thought they were fat, and it made Strudel think about her own body. We had talks about how athletic she is and how eating and having some fat is critical for your body and brain. We got to the bottom of it, and she was becoming self conscious about her belly. I pointed out that it was firm. I showed her my stomach, and had her poke through my squishy places, down to the muscle underneath. “Here, feel this. This is what fat feels like. You’re not like this. And even if you had some fat like me, it’s really not the end of the world AT ALL. Big deal. Your body works GREAT, right?”

Well, this was true overall, but it seems like her body was not working quite as well as it could. Stomachaches were normal, and daily, just like my childhood. I didn’t know she was having diarrhea regularly, and thought that was normal. And she was a VERY rough customer. She was crabby a lot of the time. I have posted videos of her having ten or twenty minute tantrums years ago. She has turned over furniture–lamps, tables, dressers. Trying to do something simple, like get her into the shower, or put her clean clothes away, would turn into a five minute shouting match (a one-sided match, though, really). I learned to get her motivated faster by being kind of a wall and never letting her bait me. She had her sweet moments and her great moments, but she was a very testy person, and a screamy baby.

It’s like a switch flipped this summer. We’ve tried the wheat-free thing before, most notably a couple of years ago, but I knew she was cheating A LOT, so her stomachaches were lessened, but there was no significant change. Now she is being very diligent about her consumption on her own, because she can see the difference. She is a delight to be around, and unless she is overtired, is in a great mood. She had a breakdown last night over something that happened while we were playing Killer Bunnies, and I realized it was after nine and she was getting non-functional.

“Okay, bedtime,” I said. I braced myself for an explosion and for the air to turn blue but it didn’t come.

“FINE,” she said, and semi-stomped to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Then she went to bed. It was like magic compared to the past, as recently as springtime.

After she dressed for her last day of camp (camp was going on for two more weeks after that, but I was keeping her home with me and her sister through the start of school) I brought her in and said I’d see her at the end of the day. I picked her up and I could see from her eyes that something had gone down and it turns out it was with the counselor who had the stick up his ass.

“You won’t believe this! I was talking to [Favorite Counselor] and I found out she can’t eat wheat either! And [Counselor Asshat] heard us talking and he said ‘Oh, you’re weird like Strudel’ to her. And then…the director walked by and heard him and FIRED HIM!”

I am so glad she got to witness that.

Now I am going to embarrass P. and say that he forgot what time our anniversary dinner was on Sunday, which he had planned. We were going to have a multi-course Medieval meal at a place an hour away. By the time he looked at our tickets we realized we would be late for our seating and would miss a lot of it.

I had to ask him the awkward question, since he’s forgotten about our last few plans/date nights/family dinners together unless I really keep on top of him. We sat in the bathroom, dressed up, and talking about what to do and what had happened. It wasn’t a fight, but I think we wanted to parley quietly, out of earshot of the children. Should we drive anyway and be very late? Should we go somewhere else? Should we bag it and stay home? That sounded depressing.

“Uhh. So. It seems like you enjoy spending time with me at home and like seeing me. But maybe do not want to go out with me places?”

He told me he honestly could not remember, and that was about as deep as it went. He wasn’t trying to send me a message or anything.

I was sad and I said so but I regrouped and made quick reservations at one of my favorite places that is known for being local, organic, seasonal, and very difficult-diet friendly. I had gotten results from some blood tests a few days before that indicated it is likely I am Celiac (yes, I have buried this boring lede. I am still thinking about whether or not to pursue an endoscopy. Probably should to assess the damage, and I am still going to an endocrinologist next month.). I thought this restaurant would be better for me, though would probably contain 100% fewer lute players and people shouting “huzzah!” alas.

I told P. that it seemed like his memory was getting worse. He agreed wholeheartedly that it has been, and he was having trouble at times even tracking conversations due to brain fog, which sounded a lot like me.

“Do you want to maybe try doing what I’m doing and take a break from wheat?”

I told him about the great mental clarity I’d had in May when I did a Whole30. He agreed it was pretty harmless to try it, and went off wheat that night.

Well. I was shocked how much it affected him, since he seems to tolerate wheat well. He had a fever, sweating, gastrointestinal distress, and by Wednesday–a sharper brain and better recall than he’s had in months or years. He’s been eating very well, veggies, meats, salads, nuts, so he is not plugging his empty gluten hole with junk. He woke up this morning and told me he remembered a dream (very rare for him) and it was something about forgetting to write an item we were out of on our chalkboard list.

“It was paper towels,” I said.

“Yes! We ran out of paper towels.”

“You remembered that you forgot something. That is huge,” I said.

“Before I wouldn’t have remembered that I forgot something.”

We are like 90-year-old dementia patients coming out of a haze. A whole house of freaks. FUCK!

3 thoughts on “She Ain’t Heavy she my Strudel

  1. It sucks so much when things like eating and functioning that are supposed to be simple are NOT. But nice when you can see results of changes, plus make humor out of it!

    You probably know this, but I think it is hard to diagnose celiac if you have not been eating gluten recently…which is devilish.

  2. I turned out to have wheat issues I NEVER would’ve figured out except that I did Paleo for a while in a desperate bid to lose some weight and figure out WTF was up with my skin, and once everything cleared up I was going to add the offenders (milk, wheat, sugar) back in one at a time to see what was up. I was sure dairy was the culprit, so I started with wheat. And BAM, skin problems back again. I never had any GI issues at all. So weird. So hey, solidarity in weirdness.

    The real thing I wanted to tell you, though, and maybe now that camp’s over it doesn’t matter, is that Trader Joe’s sells sunflower butter. My kids have peanut allergies and it’s all they eat (um, well, that and Nutella). If you run into another ZOMG NO NUTS situation, might be a good high-protein alternative.

  3. I am so glad that camp counselor got fired! What a bully, and you are right Strudel will always remember that she was worth defending. BTW it is true that wheat is from the devil but after a year of going wheat free my carb intake was so low that I developed other problems (especially true for women because our hormonal balance is more sensitive than men who could probably be ketogenic for twenty years with no problems) so I have added back in white rice (1-2 times a week) and potatoes and feel alot better. Whenever I cheat and eat wheat I feel irritable, depressed and gassy and it amazes me that I ate it for the first 35 years of my life!

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