Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Clown-faced Apple Eater

When I shipped the kids off to spend a week with Grandma Tess and Grandpa Randy, I sent Dylan with a whole bag of food.  The contents of that bag included:

- Enriched white bread
- String cheese with the highest amount of protein per serving
- 100% fruit juice boxes
- Cheese slices
- Bacon
- Yogurt (key lime, orange creme, lemon pie, and vanilla)

This, plus an assortment of breakfast foods, is what Dylan eats every day.  A typical meal consists of a cheese sandwich with ketchup on it plus a helping of either bacon, string cheese, or yogurt depending on his mood.  A recent well-child check up indicated that Dylan is in perfect health, and that I actually don't need to worry about his incredibly limited diet because he is actually managing to get the nutrition he needs.  At my insistence, however, our pediatrician agreed to consult with the Primary Children's Rehabilitation therapists across the hall to find out if there are any therapies available to help me send my child into adulthood eating more items that I can fit in one grocery bag.

I've been looking forward to the evaluation all summer.  I figured it would result in either a pat on the back and assurances that I needn't worry or in an action plan to help Dylan try new foods without gagging.  It's not like I haven't tried everything to get him to eat.  I mean, I really have tried.  Coercion, consequences, bribing, pleading, forcing, starving... you name it, I've tried it.  It wasn't until I read a study linking kids who talk late with kids who have sensory sensitivities to food that I realized this was maybe out of Dylan's control.

And then I backed off.  It was actually during this back-off period that Dylan added string cheese and bacon to his list of approved foods.  He also recently helped eat an order of cheese fries, and opted to try a banana - without even being asked.  Backing off seems to be working pretty well, but I still looked forward to the evaluation to see if there was anything at all that I could be doing to help him on his quest to find foods he considers "yummy for him."

I got up early Thursday morning to prepare for the evaluation.  I was asked to bring a selection of foods I know he will eat and foods I would like him to eat.  Adam was pretty jealous this morning as I prepared eggs, chicken, mashed potatoes, and bacon... and then told Adam to have a bowl of cereal.  I added yogurt and string cheese to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunchbox and headed off to D's first session of therapy.

I had to stifle laughter as I participated along with Dylan as his therapist, Helene, guided him through getting closer to eating the new foods on his plate.  She asked him to move the food from its container to his plate using his bare fingers.  It was interesting to see how difficult it was for him to even touch eggs with his fingers.  Helene added an apple from her own lunch to the array, and he didn't mind adding that one to his plate.

She started with the bacon, an item she knew he would eat.  She asked him to touch the bacon to his nose, cheeks, and chin before eventually giving the bacon a kiss.  I had to mirror these actions with my own piece of bacon; I have to say it's the first time I've ever kissed my food before eating it.  He had no problem kissing the bacon, but when asked to repeat the process with the egg, he adamantly refused.  Only after Helene had picked up the egg and touched it to his nose, cheeks, and chin and then after I had repeated the procedure was he able to pick up the egg and touch it to his various facial features.  He repeated the process with the chicken, with much less resistance.  Helene asked him to bite off a piece of the chicken and spit it out.  He was able to do so, but immediately wiped the inside of his mouth on the outside of his arm once the offending chicken had been spit out.  She didn't push chicken any further.

Next came the apple.  After completing the touching and kissing ritual, Helene showed him how to make a clown face using the apple.  I thought it was a pretty sneaky way to get him to bite into the flesh of the apple!  After he posed for a picture, she asked him to bite the apple and spit it out.  He didn't wipe his mouth clean, so she directed him to take another bite, chew it, and spit it out.  Only after he had accomplished that did she ask him to take a bite, chew it, and swallow it.  She showed him how to move the portion he'd eat to the side of his mouth for chewing and explained that he wouldn't feel so much like gagging if he chewed it over there.  He successfully chewed and swallowed the apple!  She asked him to take another, bigger bite, but his compliance resulted in an involuntary gag reflex.  She explained to him that it will take practice, but if he keeps practicing, his mouth won't think apples are yucky anymore.

Helene explained to me that a child his age should be able to eat 10 foods in the protein, starch, and fruits & veggies categories.  After filling out his 10-10-10 chart, I could see that he only eats 6 proteins (4 of which come from dairy and one of which is specific to a certain Thai restaurant in Sandy), 8 starches (none of which are whole grains), and 0 fruits and veggies.  Adding apples as his very first fruit/veggie was a huge milestone.

I've been tasked with the homework of getting him to chew and swallow 2 new foods per week, and he's been tasked with eating more apples.  But our plan consists of more than that.  After watching Dylan eat and considering which foods he already eats, Helene informed me that she believes Dylan has reflux.  The foods he has chosen are precisely the sorts of foods that limit stomach acid production and help relieve the pain of reflux.  In addition, he frequently complains of stomach pain, which I had dismissed as a sign of continual hunger.  Dylan gets to join me in taking daily medication to limit the production of stomach acid, and we will monitor him over several months to see if his symptoms decrease.  Hopefully the combination of treating the underlying medical condition as well as working daily to help him accept a wider variety of food textures will result in a kid who eats a healthy variety of foods.

To be honest, I'm overwhelmed.  He needs to meet with Helene twice monthly, and I need to work daily food practice into our routine.  But I am encouraged that there is a plan, that Helene is confident we will see results, and that with any luck, our days of ordering a cheeseburger with no burger are in the past!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Puerto Rico: Part II

Having three rental cars and staying at two different locations meant a bit of natural grouping as we went about our way.  We spent most of Day 1 with Brett and Lisa, most of our travel time with Skye, Michelle, and got to spend most of Day 5 with Jack.  As we moved in and out of these smaller groups, we would all come back together with funny stories of the day to share.  Whether it was recounting that Suman thought there would be pandas (because there was bamboo…), that Jack screamed like a girl when a bat flew by him, that Dad fell into a river face first, or that Lisa heckled the person in the kayak next to her (thinking it was Michelle), telling stories about each other was one of the most fun parts of the trip.  Here are my favorite stories about each of my 9 travel companions.  For fun, I’ve listed them oldest to youngest.

Day 1 found us in Old San Juan, touring the defensive military forts once used to protect the island.  After stopping to eat lunch between the two major castilles, Dad suggested we get a family picture near a particularly valiant looking sheep statue.  We gathered around, Jack recruited a nearby ice cream vendor to take our picture, and we posed.  Dad was a bit disappointed, however, assuming he would get in trouble if he chose to sit atop the sheep.  When one of the local police decided to photo bomb our picture, my mom asked if my dad would be allowed to sit up there.  He looked a bit confused by the question, then shrugged and responded, “We say nothing…” then continued to contemplate, “… except maybe be careful?”  So Dad climbed up on the sheep statue, reminding me that one of my dad’s best qualities is enduring ability to stay young.

Before we left for Puerto Rico, my mom explained that she had decided not to participate in the zip lines, because being terrified really isn’t her definition of fun.  She asked that we not tease her about her decision or pressure her into changing it, so we were all very surprised when at the last second she had me sign her up for our reservations.  I remember witnessing her fear of heights once as a child when the small ferris wheel at Liberty Park got stuck with us at the top, and I knew I couldn’t even imagine what it must be like for her to strap on the safety gear and head out to that first zip line.  She managed each of the first seven runs, seemingly glad to be up there with the rest of us.

It was on the 8th and final run, however, that I could see her start to waver just a bit.  This run stretched out over a huge canyon with nothing except open air in front of us.  Several people were not making it all the way across, meaning they were left to pull themselves in with their arms as they dangled by their safety harness over the canyon.  Suman went right before her, and he didn’t make it across.  Still, she stepped up and allowed herself to be hooked in.  Lisa, Michelle, and I watched as she went across, each hoping aloud that she would make it to the other side.  We watched her dot in distance slow to nearly a crawl, but it appeared she had never stopped moving.  Convinced she must have made it, we were surprised to find out that she had stopped short of the target and had to pull herself in, she had just done it so quickly we didn’t even know she had stopped.  It feels pretty awesome to know Mom would put herself through that just so she could hang out with us.  (I don't have a zip line picture, so I'm posting Mom trying the natural waterslide.)

Probably what I will remember most about Kirk from the trip was that every time we passed a Church’s Chicken restaurant, he yelled out, “Church’s Chicken!”  We passed a lot of them.  Just sayin’.  Pretty much any memory I can conjure of Kirk is one in which I was laughing.  So I will include this picture for posterity.  (His idea, of course.)

There are few people in this world who will, without question or reservation, go along with whatever foolish idea I come up with at 4:00 a.m.  I am very lucky that one of those people married my sister.  Our flights arrived at the San Juan airport around midnight on Friday, but we could not pick up our rental cars until 8:00 a.m.  This meant 8 hours together in the airport.  We were a bit surprised to find out that we had absolutely no furniture to sit on and no access to drinking fountains or restrooms during the night.  So we settled in to make the most of it.

The frequent TSA announcements in both English and Spanish got old really fast, so I proposed turning them into a game.  When the announcement was in English, the last person to put a hand on his or her head had to do 20 jumping jacks.  When in Spanish, the last person to touch a finger to his or her nose had to do 5 push ups.  Not only did Brett joyfully execute over 200 punishment jacks, but he was the first on board when I proposed the next level.  When English, we each had to run to touch one of the airport’s many support columns (no two people on one column, a different column than last time).  When Spanish, we had to stand on a nearby ledge.  It was Brett’s playful personality that had me running from column to column because he would consistently beat me there and who managed to block Michelle from standing on the ledge.  If I know I have to pull an all-nighter, I know I want Brett there with me.

Somehow when we chose teams for the game of football we played on a sandbar in the ocean, the split seemed a bit skewed.  The four youngest members of the family joined together on one team, leaving Dad, Mom, Lisa, Brett, and I on the other.  We were losing terribly, discovering that all it took was a long throw from Skye to Jack who was waiting idly in the end zone for their team to score.  Our team, on the other hand, had to carefully gain yardage on each of the four allowed downs.  On our final down, Dad had the ball and was scanning for an open teammate to throw it to.  Each of us was blocked by an opponent, until Lisa ran up the bank to ground higher than everyone.  Dad threw the ball, and Lisa scored the touchdown.  Her face beamed with pride, and I just thought, “That’s my sister!”  Sadly, I don't have a picture of that.  Instead, I'm posting a picture of her nursing her ant-bitten legs back to health.  Seriously, I have never seen ant bites swell like that!

While some of us had big fears to conquer and did so in highly visible ways, I watched Michelle push herself just one step further than her comfort zone whenever she could.  Her first day in the ocean, she headed out further than she had ever gone.  Although the rainforest vegetation reminded her of Jurassic Park, and she harbors a very literal fear of dinosaurs, she put up with family’s teasing and headed off into the jungles.  Though she couldn’t bring herself to squeeze through a cave’s small opening, she was willing to enter when Skye found a less claustrophobic tunnel.  When everyone was jumping off tall rocks and cliffs, she chose a ledge just out of her comfort zone and jumped from that.  She then completed several subsequent jumps, starting a little higher each time.  Not surprisingly, she did it all in her own quiet style, conquering Puerto Rico in her own way.  And yeah, if she's gonna make faces like this, I'm gonna post them.

My young, cool, brother-in-law has a bit of an addiction.  He is addicted to climbing stuff and jumping into water.  This trip provided three different locations for him to get his fix and two favorite moments I will remember.  The first was when he climbed up the rocky face of  La Niebla to get to a jumping place.  I watched as the waterfall beat down on him from above, and he carefully studied the rock for his next foothold.  I’ve never seen anybody look so at peace in their surroundings.  The second was when he stood at the top of La Cascada and chose not to jump.  After assessing the conditions, he decided it wasn’t safe.  Even though I am always impressed by the stuff he is willing to jump from, I was more impressed to see that he really does know how to keep himself safe.

Always the first to say, “I’m in,” whenever an adventure was mentioned, Jack signed up for the 5:00 a.m. departure group on Thursday.  Planned to include 5.5 hours of driving for 6.5 hours of adventure, we knew we had to hit the road early.  At 4:40, I checked his “bedroom” (he chose to sleep on a lawn chair in the laundry room) to make sure he was awake.  I expected to see my little brother, someone whom I would need to wake up and help supervise.  Instead, I saw a grown man, kneeling beside his lawn chair bed, with his hands clasped in prayer.  I quietly ducked back out, confident that my “little brother” can certainly handle himself, and teach his big sister a thing or two with his excellent example.  Also, he likes to climb stuff.

When I climbed to the top of the 25’ cliff to jump into the pooled river water, I saw Suman just hanging out up top.  I asked him if he was going to jump.  “I want to,” he said, “but I can’t find the courage.”  I explained to him that I didn’t have the courage either.  I had started on a smaller rock to test myself, and only after that felt fun did I decide to try the tall cliff.  I told him I would jump with him from the smaller rock if he wanted, and then if that felt fun to him, he could try the big cliff.  We both jumped from the shorter location, and then I got busy doing other things.  Several minutes later, Suman had climbed the cliff again, and he seemed ready to jump.  With the whole family cheering him on, he found his courage and made the jump.  I guess maybe I do still have a little brother to look out for.

Of course Puerto Rico itself was incredible.  But it was great to get a chance to remember how incredible the adults in our family can be without the distractions of our young kids.  Three long matches of 5 on 5 volleyball without anyone having to leave to settle a dispute, change a diaper, or plan around nap time?  That may honestly have been the best part of the whole trip.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Puerto Rico: Part I

I am nearly certain we spent a month in Puerto Rico.  According to the calendar, we were only gone for nine days, three of which were entirely consumed by travel and arrangements.  However, when I think back on everything we did, it just doesn’t make sense that we fit it all into one trip.

And so, I know I need to quickly write down the details before they all conjoin into one big mush of memories.  I’ve already given my family a heads up that I expect them to do the same so I can combine all our stories into a family book.  Since I know I am prone to a bit of self-indulgent verbosity, I’m going to break this into two posts.  Here’s PART I of my Puerto Rican memoirs.

Prelude – Saturday: Rental Cars, Hotels, Grocery Shopping, Tropical Storm Bertha
Day 1 – Sunday: Church and Old San Juan
Day 2 – Monday: Waterfall #1 and Zip Line
Day 3 – Tuesday: Beach, Volleyball and Local Cuisine
Day 4 – Wednesday: Tennis, Beach, Volleyball, and Football
Day 5 – Thursday: Waterfall #2, La Cueva del Viento, Observatory, Tunnels, Bioluminescent Bay
Day 6 – Friday: Family Picture, Volleyball, Waterfall #3

The strangest thing I saw in Puerto Rico was a stretch of PR-Highway 52 where for several kilometers, all the road signs faced the wrong way.

While Puerto Rico offered a variety of gorgeous scenery, the prettiest thing I saw was the way the trees often formed canopies above the roads we traveled.  This was especially true on our drive toward the area of San Sebastian toward La Cascada del Guama.  We got to kayak under similar canopies of trees on our way to the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo.

The worst moment of the trip for me was when I thought I had broken a couple of toes and was worried it would stop me from experiencing the 25’ natural waterslide at El Charco Frio.  Determined not to let the toes stop me, I shoved my foot into my tennis shoe and hiked the requisite mile to La Cueva del Viento.  Although they remained purple and swollen the following day, I made it with surprisingly small amounts of pain to the cool runoff water from the El Yunque Rainforest.  These cool waters (plus the adrenaline provided by the many recreational opportunities) proved to be just what the doctor ordered, and I am claiming to have been healed.

I had expected the native Puerto Ricans to speak Spanish primarily and to probably also be well-versed in English.  It was frequently helpful to have Jack along to translate.  Most surprising to me, however, was how much I would miss being able to read things in English.  At first it was fun to try to put my limited Spanish to the test to translate billboards and shop signs, but I quickly grew weary.  Even the grocery stores, which often featured bilingual signs, made my head swim as I tried to quickly separate what I could read from what I couldn’t.  I didn’t expect to feel so out of sorts when my ability to quickly read and understand written language was taken away.

I got the biggest thrill from jumping from the top of a 25’ cliff into the third of three pools at Charco Frio.  Even though I have jumped from higher before (for example, the 10 meter platform at Lava Hot Springs), I haven’t jumped in a long time.  There is something absolutely terrifying about choosing to step off sure footing to fall through the air and hopefully land with grace into the deep pool below.  I’m glad I got to experience that terror!  The second biggest thrill came from the last and longest of the eight zip line canopies we rode.  Employing Jack’s “Spider Man” method (which he finally got Michelle and I to comprehend when he told us to think of the upside down kiss), I observed the canyon below me as I tipped my head completely upside down.  I counted slowly to 63 as I soared across the 2,000 foot plus line, silently hoping my speed would be enough to carry me all the way to the other side.  Yep.  Also awesome.

Perhaps my biggest challenge in Puerto Rico was one I chose for myself: I wanted to eat something I had never eaten before.  That came in the form of both “yuca,” a potato-like plant, and “plantains,” somewhat akin to a banana.  The plantains I ate smashed and formed into what looked somewhat like cornbread.  Before I ate barbeque chicken, I seemed to actually like it.  I ate half the serving, intending to come back to it later.  After eating my chicken, however, and attempting to return to the plantain, I discovered perhaps I had just been really hungry.  It actually tasted kind of gross.  The yuca, on the other hand, was gross from the first bite.  Oh well, I tried.

The funniest moments in Puerto Rico were often associated with the many inside jokes we amassed during the week.  The first of many oft-repeated references was to our first meal in Puerto Rico.  Stopping for breakfast at Burger King, many of us struggled to read the Spanish menu displayed on television screens.  The menu showed a rotation of about 4 different pages, and just as we would come close to figuring out what each page said, the screen would display something new.  Jack and Mom had ordered, followed by my order.  Michelle allowed Lisa and Brett to go ahead of her so she could have a few more minutes to decide.  After taking their order, the woman behind the counter turned her back to Michelle and ignored her for several minutes.  When Jack finally spoke to her in Spanish, indicating that his sister would really like to be able to order, she replied, “Well, she should have ordered with the rest of you,” as she reluctantly agreed to serve Michelle.  Unaware of the woman’s reply, Michelle later remarked, “I don’t think that lady likes me.”  Jack laughed.  “She doesn’t.”

One of the silliest things we did in Puerto Rico was to come up with English pronunciations of the Spanish locations.  Jack, recently returned from his Spanish speaking LDS mission in Bolivia, seemed to like this only slightly more than he liked our butchering of the native tongue.  That is to say, he really didn’t like it at all.  A few of my favorites include the city where we stayed, “Human Cow” (Humacao), the national rainforest, the “Yucky Forest” (El Yunque), and a restaurant we used as a rendezvous location, “The Racist Restaurant” (Restaurante Raices).

And by far, the best part of the trip was being there will my family, which is why Part II will include my favorite specific memory of each person with whom I spent the last six days of epic adventure!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The 11th Anniversary of our 2nd Anniversary

I suppose we could celebrate our 13th anniversary this year, since getting married was a pretty big deal.

But I recently found this in a box of old stuff, and considering it's the only poem Kirk has ever written for me, that seems like a pretty big deal, too.

So here's to the last 11 years with a man who apparently wrote me a poem 2 years in.  :)

Looking at this profile I am the perfect man.
Could it be this is part of some eternal plan?

Chatting with you I felt so at ease.
Would she got out with me if I said please?

The pressure is off she just asked me.
Now all I have to do is agree.

Time for our date, could she be my spouse?
Time will tell, where is this long house?

I'm finally there excited to meet a parent.
Her sister answers, she likes me it's apparent.

My date isn't here so I talk with mom and dad.
She just drove up, first appearance not bad.

First date now over, should I give her a kiss.
Wow what can I say that was pure bliss.

It's now a week later and up to Logan for fun.
I can't believe this she is definitely the one.

Two and a half years I am happy as can be.
I stand all amazed she is still in love with me.

Look back in time we had times both happy and sad.
We even joke about the times I've made her mad.

To me she is so gorgeous I can't believe she is my wife.
I count my blessings that she is mine for an eternal life.

I love her so much it hurts to be apart.
I don't know how she did it but she has won my heart.

So just keep doing what you do.
Always remember that I love you.

--Kirk Fife