Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Questions, Answers, and Gluten

My children have always been small. We always joke about the boys hanging onto the last rung of the growth curve. My boys are twig limbed and bony backed things. Bug jokes himself about always competing for shortest kid in his class.

So when Duck started off measure small, I didn't worry about it. After all, he was cuddly and cute and meeting all his milestones, even crawling and walking much earlier than his two older brothers.

But around nine months of age, the baby boy who started small started to get smaller. He started eating poorly, taking less in at meals and then refusing more and more foods. His weight gain slowed, then his length started slowing.  This spring, he started loosing weight, falling completely off the growth chart.

We tried everything. We tried butter on everything, as many high calorie food as we could think of, having food available at all times. We went through multiple blood tests and urine tests and referrals to specialists. Nothing gave us any answers to why our sweet boy continued to get smaller and thinner. All his blood work was completely normal; no metabolic problems, no anemia, no signs of infection or inflammation. The specialists reassured as that, other than being thin, Duck looked wonderful.

They say when kids are hungry, they will eat. Duck proved to us that wasn't true. There were times we could tell he was hungry, but he wouldn't eat. He'd be fussy and sleep poorly, but would only take half a bottle, or a few sips of juice, or a single cracker.

Meal times became increasingly stressful, often ending with someone crying, usually me. We couldn't allow the older boys to have juice or milk or water at the table, because Duck would refuse any solid food the moment he saw something to drink.

During this time, I felt like a failure as a parent. Friends would post pictures of their babies, children with gorgeous round faces, big cheeks and dimpled legs and arms. My baby was scrawny and not a dimple to be seen.

Doctor after doctor would say, "Well, have you tried...?" Fill in the blank with anything you can think of.  Had I tried not giving him juice, making him eat, not giving him snacks, only offering this food or that food, actually feeding him?  I felt discouraged, judged, and angry.

During all this time, Duck continued to reach milestones, running, kicking and throwing balls, reading to himself, using more words and signs, dancing, making animal noises. Over all, the boy seems oblivious to the amount of anxiety caused by his disinterest in food.

Several weeks ago, we saw a gastroenterologist who recommended that Duck undergo an endoscopy. Knowing that Duck's blood work has been normal, I didn't think the endoscopy was likely to show anything. But I was desperate for answers.

A week later, I helped hold my baby down for an IV placement, and watched him placed under sedation for his procedure. 15 minutes later, the GI doc came and showed me endoscopy images that showed perfectly normal esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. He told me he had taken some biopsy samples; we would have the results in a week. But everything looked perfectly normal.

We resigned ourselves that his poor eating was probably behavioral. We met with a feeding psychologist who gave us some great advice.

Late last week, I got a phone call from the GI doctor that Duck's biopsy results had come back, showing the stereotypical changes of celiac disease.

So now we are a (mostly) gluten free family with a completely gluten free baby.

Hubster and I decided it would be easier if we made the change as a family so that meal preparations would be easier and Duck wouldn't feel left out. Due to the amount of tears by the older boys at the idea of losing some of their favorite foods, I agreed that their birthday cakes wouldn't be gluten free and they could still occasional have "normal" foods.

We have already noticed Duck eating much better. We're hoping sleeping better isn't too far behind.

Everyone around has been wonderful. Duck's daycare went through their entire menu, checking ingredients on everything and highlighting everything with gluten so that we know when to bring in substitutions. Friends with celiac disease have given us recommendations about which brands of gluten free pasta and breads to use and which restaurants have good gluten free options.

Gluten free is something of a fad these days. While I had been rolling my eyes at this, as I do most diet fads, now I'm extremely grateful, because there are so many options available. Our grocery store has an entire gluten free aisle.

Initially, this felt overwhelming. However, with all the support, all the information, all the options, this answer has been manageable. It's wonderful to have answers, instead of questioning my parenting ability.

And turns out, the entire family likes gluten free pancakes.

If any of you have had experience with celiac disease and living gluten free, I'm still desperate for more advice, more ideas, and any good recipes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

13 Reasons My Marriage Works

Hubster and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary last month.

Instead of that making me feel very old, it just makes me realize how very, very young we were when we did get married.

Thirteen years is a pretty long time, especially in these days of high divorce rates. Thirteen years might even be enough time to become an expect in something. Except I don't feel like an expect on marriage. I don't feel that I can give marriage advice to other people. The only thing that the last thirteen years have made me an expert on is my own marriage.

Even that might be overstating it. I still make mistakes. I'm still constantly learning new things about Hubster and myself. We both continue to change and grow. Our lives, our children, our surroundings, our careers have changed. Our relationship has changed.

But here is what I can say, without any reservation: I love being married. For me, the happily ever after part of our love story has been my favorite part.

In honor of thirteen years of happily ever after, I'll share thirteen things that make my marriage work. These things may only apply to my marriage with Hubster, because that is the only marriage I've had any experience with, the only one that I'm good at. Another relationship, with different personalities and different experiences, may thrive on different things. But just in case you were wondering, these are the things that have made our journey together wonderful.

1. We enjoy doing things together.

This seems like an obvious one, but it's not always. It's really easy at the beginning to want to do everything together, only to find out later that while you love each other, you don't necessarily like all the same things. It's still important to continue to do things together. We play Scrabble. We read the same books and talk about them. We watch the same shows together: I've watched college football and learned the rules of the game and he's watched cooking shows and learned the definition of aoili. Even though I don't always want to watch sports and he probably would prefer not to watch another cooking competition, we recognize the time together is more important than controlling the remote. And after all these years, I actually like a good college bowl game.

2. We enjoy doing things alone.

Just as important as doing things together is having some individual time. Hubster plays golf. I do not go play golf with him because I know he needs that time to himself, to create a portion on himself that doesn't belong to his relationship, to his family. I run. Hubster does not run with me. That time by myself is valuable. We recognize this, encourage this, and don't get our feelings hurt by it.

3. We don't keep score.

I often struggle with this. There are days when I'm sure that I have done more chores, gotten less sleep, and feel more stressed. It's easy to feel like that during hard days. But there have been so many days in the past thirteen years that I know he has done more than his share. Keeping score just builds resentment. What if there reallly was someone who was actually keeping a true score and it turns out I was the one who was behind? I wouldn't want Hubster to hold that against me, because I feel that I'm doing my best. So, we both just do what we can of what needs to be done and don't begrudge the other person.

4. We recognize that we are in this together.

Our lives are often busy, hectic, and stressful. We've seen huge changes and overcome difficult times. I strongly believe that the only way we have been able to get through the things we have is because we had each other. It wasn't "me" getting through medical school and residency, it was us. It isn't Hubster getting through dental school; we are getting through dental school. It's not Hubster or myself trying to raise three boys; we both are raising these children. We both have made sacrifices for the other person. But no matter what, we are doing this together.

5. We don't talk about each other to our friends, unless it's good.

Hubster and I have had our share of rough moments. But I don't share them with other people. I don't talk about the things he does that annoy me, not with my friends, not with my mother. There are many reasons for this. First, I love him and I want other people to think well of him. If your own spouse has negative things to say about you, why would anyone else speak highly of you? Secondly, most the negative things we would say are only temporary irritations. Speaking them out loud to others gives them more significance, more weight. It becomes harder to just let it go. Third, it hurts the trust in the relationship. Marriage should be a place where you can be completely yourself, with all your weaknesses and shortcomings. That vulnerability should be honored, not exposed to critics. However, I come home to Hubster cooking dinner and washing dishes, while baby-wearing and singing 80s hair band ballads and realize for the billionth time what an awesome person I'm married to, you bet I'm sharing that. Hubster rocking his dental school finals totally gets bragged about.

6. We laugh.

We laugh all the time. With each other. Sometimes at each other. We have our own marriage dialect that is a combination of movie quotes, song lyrics, commerical lines, and inside jokes. We tease each other.  Often we have a hard time being serious. Approaching life, and each other, with a sense of humor definitely makes even the hardest times easier.

7. We take care of each other.

Hubster fills my car with gas. I take the boys out of the house while he is studying for exams. If one person is very stressed, the other person will make meals or supervise bedtime. We know that the other person has our back and will pick up the slack when we feel like we just can't.

8. We don't watch the next episode of a show without the other person.

When people do ask for marriage advice from me, this is where I start. I don't give out the more traditional advice of never go to bed angry or always have regular date night, because sometimes those things just aren't possible. But watching an episode of Breaking Bad or Doctor Who or Modern Family without the other person...that's just mean. There's no excuse for that.

9. We don't fight.

I've heard it said multiple times that fighting is healthy for relationship. I absolutely disagree. Fighting is not healthy. I'm not saying Hubster and I always agree. We have our share of disagreements because we are two different people. But we talk through them, instead of fighting. We don't yell, slam doors, call names, throw things, or belittle. Attacking the person who is supposed to be your biggest advocate can never be a positive thing.

10. We tell each other we love each other.

Every morning, every evening, at bedtime, through random texts or notes, we make sure there is never any doubt. Admittedly, there are tough times when it feels like just going through the motions. But there are other days when it means so much to hear it. We never want to be find ourselves trying to remember when the last time was when we told the other person that we loved them.

11. We flirt.

They say you should continue to date each other even after marriage. With two busy careers and three kids, a regular date night isn't always possible. But dating didn't just mean going to restaurants. It meant trying to impress the other person and let them know how attractive you thought they were. That's what we do. We flirt. We play footsies under the table at dinner. We cuddle on the couch. We sneak a quick kiss on the way back doing laundry. We continue to let the other person know we're interested in them.

12. We reminisce.

Our computer screen saver is our photo album. Often we find ourselves pausing in front of the screen while images and snapshots of our lives together slide one after another: our children as babies, family vacations, birthday parties, celebrations, candid wedding scenes. We often talk to each other and our children about all the places we lived and the things we've done. We retell the hard times of medical school and residency, the tough and beautiful times of each child's infancy. We have so many happy memories and have been through so much together. It's grounding, to look back and remember how much we have done together.

13. We plan.

We plan trips. We talk about future job changes. We make new goals. We continue to plan what the rest of our lives will look like and what we want to do together. Having something to look forward to, something we are both working towards reinforces the feeling of being a team, of being there for each other.


So many people say that marriage is hard work. I don't think it should be hard work all the time. Marriage should be a partnership, a friendship, an adventure, and the happily ever after we all want.

These are the things that make that true for us. What things have you found that make your relationships work?