Home stretch (of Phase 1)

Sunday will be day 14 of the elimination phase of my diet and I plan to reintroduce lemons, limes and tamari, as per the plan I'm following. (Not all at once, I'll do one at a time for three days and log possible reactions). For some reason, the thought that this is only a few days away is making me feel very relieved. I'm trying to brainstorm some foods I can take camping with us this weekend. M dehydrated one of the lentil soups I'm taking, but if I'm avoiding nuts, bread and dairy, that pretty much rules out our usual camping fare. I think I need to stock up on some dried fruit and pumpkin seeds. And pine nuts.

Maybe because I had my kids do a patterning task lab with toothpicks today (15 year olds with sharp stick...even little ones...eek!), I really wanted to sit down with a glass of wine and put my feet up. Or get some take out food so I wouldn't have to do dishes. Or eat one of the chocolate chip cookies that M baked (now that he is a Business Man, he can code and bake...awesome!)

But even though this feels a little like deprivation, it's really pampering. I'm pampering my gut right now, instead of my taste buds.

Yes, I'll just keep repeating that....


Day 10 of Elimination Diet

I'm on day 10 11 of my elimination diet, and while I don't really have cravings for any of the food I eliminated, I am getting kind of tired of the phase 1 foods. I just cooked up a pot of lentils and it's pretty satisfying, but I think this weekend I need to get more experimental with sauces and dressings for my food. I also need to be conscious of adding salt and fat to my food. Right now, I'm basically just eating mounds of quinoa and rice, roasted vegetables, lentils and adzuki beans and green smoothies. Tuesday was "wellness day" at my school and I was surprised to hear our presenters push a vegan diet...although they called it "plant-based nutrition". I'm not sure my colleagues knew what to make of it. They were talking about diets that not so much keep you slim, but that prevent or heal disease, like cancer and diabetes. I recently connected with a friend who experienced many of the same problems I've been having and found her solution to be a grain-free, plant and meat-based diet. So veggies, meat and dairy work for her. It was very encouraging to hear her story, both because she's experiencing a healthy gut, so I can see that there's light at the end of the tunnel and because she makes scrumptious food that works with her dietary needs. Seriously, check out these muffins...grain free and vegan??? What?! My skin is clearing up, and I've been sleeping better. I'm completely off caffeine and didn't experience any bad headaches while I weaned off of the last little bit. I have a really runny nose, though, and I'm waiting for the...err digestive symptoms to clear up. I got a tip from my friend, though, to avoid rice, as it can absorb a lot of water in your gut. So, I will cut out rice for the next couple of weeks, as I add back in lemons and tamari and white potatoes. I see a lot of quinoa in my future.


The Dreaded IBS

I've had a bad year, health-wise. After a whole slew of medical tests, I have nothing more than a couple of prescriptions and a diagnosis of IBS. Blech. And the uncertainty of even if I'm feeling ok today, when I will suddenly be stricken with insomnia-inducing pain, among other unpleasantries. Anyway, the pills they gave me make me dizzy, and I'm personally not satisfied with the medical approach to wellness. You know me, I'm a tinkerer. I had great results from acupuncture over the winter, and I got out of the habit of going because...well, it's freakin' expensive and insurance doesn't cover it. Anyway, after feeling much, much better over the past few months, I had another "attack" for lack of a better word, and I decided that in addition to stress, I could be eating something that my immune-challenged body doesn't agree with. Thus, the elimination diet. One to two months of eating non-inflammatory foods is supposed to give your system a chance to heal, and then you can add back the possible irritating foods one at a time. In case anybody is interested in trying this, there are great resources available here and recipes here. So far, I made it through one day of the green smoothie fast (you are supposed to do two, but I got a very bad headache and ate some brown rice). I am on day 7 of eating the Phase 1 foods. Yes, the list is restrictive, and it is a giant pain the butt, even for somebody who cooks from scratch a lot and is already mostly vegetarian. (No tamari?! No lemons?! No tree nuts?!). After another 7 days or so, I will begin reintroducing foods and keeping a journal of my physical and psychological symptoms. (Did you know gluten can make some people feel anxious?) My tips for doing this are as follows. If you don't cook from scratch, then practice some recipes in advance using just the phase 1 ingredients. Start eating these foods before you eliminate all the gluten, flour, beans, nuts, dairy, and soy. Don't try to eat out or by anything prepared. Most prepared foods contain soy. You will need to figure out new dressings and sauces...without lemon and tamari, I was kind of lost. However, I did make a nice pesto out of steamed broccoli, sunflower butter and pine nuts. I'm roasting a lot of sweet potatoes and beets, and making up big batches of brown rice and quinoa. I really don't feel deprived because I am happy to be doing something proactive for my health and well-being. It makes me feel good to take the frustration I felt at my last gastroenterologist appointment, and instead of resigning myself to having a crappy colon, doing something about it. I'll be 33 in a month, and I am planning to feel a lot better than I have as 32.


What makes a good book?

I read Best Friends for Frances to Laurel tonight before bed. It's a longish picture book about neighborhood kids fighting and making up. And going on adventures with wildly indulgent picnic lunches. I loved this book when I was a kid, and Laurel has picked it three nights in a row, so I think it's growing on her, too. This afternoon, when we were reading it, yet again, I realized that what I love about this whole series is that the kids (badgers?) work out their own problems. They get in fights, and say mean things to each other, and there's lots of crying. But in the end, they figure out some way to make it work. What books did you love as a kid? What were the books that your kids pick out over and over again, but you hate?


Do These Women Look Stressed?

They do not. Because they aren't. They have everything they want in this moment. Every need is met. Every desire fulfilled. This is not to say every need or desire of their whole existence, but they are soaking up this moment in time and it is Enough.

What a blessing to have Enough. To be Enough.


Backpacking with Toddler 101

Success! We did our first family backpacking trip and had such a blast we are already planning our next one. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail has a ton of access points that are about an hour and a half east of Pittsburgh. Camping areas have split wood, fire rings and latrines, and are approximately 6-8 miles apart. We opted for a very short trip, and stayed at the shelter that is less than a mile north of Route 30. We lucked out with weather, it was sunny and dry and got up close to 60 during the day. However, it did dip below freezing at night. We brought plenty of clothes for Laurel - maybe too many, but if she had gotten wet, we would have needed a change of clothes. She wore leggings and fleece pants, with rain pants over top of them when the sun went down. She had a couple of layers on top and we tried to get her to keep her hat on. No luck with mittens. She seemed to be happiest with a snack in her hand, and she ate a ridiculous amount of peanut butter.

Because it was so chilly at night, we need to rethink our sleeping bag situation. Laurel rolls around way too much to keep the air pockets down. We are either going to try her in her own child sized mummy bag, or maybe add a down quilt to our sleeping bags.

I think we did a great job of pacing our hikes; we gave ourselves only a couple of miles we had to cover in a day, and the rest of the time we were just exploring. Laurel loved Beam Rocks and the outlook point that is just north of Ohiopyle. She did not enjoy walking on the rocky portions of the trail, but it occurred to us that her feet probably hurt a lot from it because she was just wearing a pair of cheap kid sneakers. If we're going to hike more, I think I'll buy her a better pair of shoes. M ended up carrying her for a lot of the hiking (she likes to ride on his shoulders).


75%, did I pass?

We finished the third quarter of the school year today. Forty-five days left until summer vacation. I'm finally reading the Homework Myth, and pondering my next steps. This week I listened to a podcast called the Math Factor (many apologies for no link love here, I'm typing on my Touchpad and it sucks at copy paste. Just google it.), where they discussed Teach for America's findings on what makes a good teacher. It's a bit dated, from a report that came out sometime in 2010, but the gist of the discussion was that good teachers....effective teachers....are constantly reinventing themselves. I have that kind of restlessness in my teaching. I've heard a lot of teachers around my building start talking about "next year" and how they'll do things differently, better, etc.

I don't think that way. I think what can I do better next week. I think about getting better tomorrow. Heck, I teach the same course several times a day, so often I end up tweaking the lesson throughout the day. I mean, what's the point in teaching a mediocre lesson to everybody just to keep things equitable? I wonder if my 8th period gets the best version of everything, or if they're just a smarter bunch of kids, but that class does have the most interesting commentary.

I'm a bell-to-bell kind of teacher, trying to squeeze every last minute of instruction and learning out of the 42 precious minutes I'm given. Sometimes I steal from the in-between class time...and post a brainteaser on the board, or start a video before the bell rings. But I've been thinking lately about that pace. It exhausts me. What would happen if I slowed down? If I waited more?

The apathy is what kills me. So many of my students are satisfied with the 64%, our lowest passing grade. I should respect their autonomy, but it annoys me that they won't tell me what they're hungry for. I don't care if it's not math. I just want it to be something.

I made it through 75% of the year, so did I pass? Can I just show up and get credit for it?


Laurel told me she wants to go to school with me. (She wants to do everything with me right now.) She said, "your students think I'm great. They think I'm cute." And then she hung a compass on a lanyard around her neck and said "I'm a teacher. This is my ID badge." I wonder what she thinks my school is like....she probably pictures a lot of cut & paste and frequent snacks. Naptime and getting cuddled by the teacher if you skin your knee or somebody snatches a toy off of you. What would high school be like if we operated like that?

Spring break starts today, and I'm off for 6 glorious days. Of course, grades and IEP progress monitoring are due immediately upon our return, so I'll still have to work a bit. But at least I won't have to hear any complaints about math.


Are we growing them up too fast?

I had a really weird day. An air conditioner fell out of the ceiling and landed on some kids in the lunchroom of my district's elementary school, so the emergency response plan went into effect and the high school was dismissed early under a deluge of confusing rumors. I picked up Laurel from daycare and headed for the library. We watched a bunch of buses go through the intersection from the big windows out front, and I've found that she's starting to be cooperative when I ask her to wait or come with me so that I can do something for myself. Today she happily sat with her books and DVDs while I browsed a bit, and I thought to myself, do we expect too much out of them? The neighbor's mother, who is visiting from Canada, called over across the fence yesterday to us, and she was surprised to learn that Laurel is only 2 1/2. She does seem grown up for her age. I wonder if it's the bangs? Or maybe we treat her too much like an adult. I served her ice cream in a glass dish, and she broke it accidentally, by clinking her spoon on it, but didn't know that it was sharp and dangerous. Luckily M noticed right away, but it's such a fine line between babying a baby, and holding a child to basic expectations before they're ready.