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Manic Mealtimes: Part 1

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My little ‘blue-light special’ boy getting his phototherapy on! Mealtimes were not fun back then. Read on for more mealtime drama!

Sometimes it’s the little things about normal home-life that can really get you overwhelmed.  Well, maybe not YOU, per say, but I am not above the occasional internal melt-down over some little task that seems to balloon out of proportion and importance in my daily life.

Mealtimes, for me, are just one of those things.  Although they may be full of good smells and happy family conversations to the majority of people out there, to me, they are kind of a recurring nightmare.  (I know that must sound horribly over-dramatic, but hang with me here and I’ll try to walk you through it.)  To me, mealtimes are full of little miscellaneous landmines that must be traipsed around cautiously, or else you could end up stressed out and yelling with your mouth open.

I’ll start with just one of the obvious issues: I am a super picky eater.  Not the pickiest I know, mind you, but pretty much the pickiest in my circle of routine adult interactions.  I’m not really into vegetables or other fresh things, although I have had it beat into my head on enough occasions that those things really are good for me, and yes, they really do taste better than a random frozen entrée.

I come from a family of choosy eaters.  My great grandmother, Grammy Belle, was known to like things extremely bland.  She made the most cloud-like mashed potatoes you had ever tasted; perfectly pure and white without even the marring flecks of ground pepper to distort their milky goodness. My dad will refuse to eat anything that he saw an onion or pepper make it’s way into.  The man loves lima beans, so his tastes must not be too discerning, but he would rather choose to go hungry over eating anything dressed up with a dash of flavor.  Mind you, he has described vanilla-bean ice cream as “too spicy”.

Both my parents commuted away from home to work when I was young, and mealtimes were often rushed, since we would all stumble through the door after 5:30, wiped out from a long day.  Unless there was a stew brewing on my parent’s ancient Crockpot from their college days (which they STILL use, despite the surgeon general’s warnings about electrical fires from devices that gosh darn old) we’d have something quick like grilled cheese and tomato soup, beans and hot dogs, macaroni, or just skip the whole affair and go through a drive-thru somewhere.  God bless my poor mother…she was so concerned that we would all like what we’d get, she would often roll through TWO drive-thrus, just so we could all be satisfied!  That is love, my friends!

I still love me some good ol’ fast food, but it’s been a long, long, time since I’ve had it.  Being married to a converted vegetarian and anti-fast-fooditarian, I have had to ix-nay my delicious habit in order to maintain a healthy marriage.  Yes…I know what they put in that stuff, and I still think it tastes delicious, but the squabbles are just not worth the hassle.  I say squabbles, but seriously, the man is a die-hard about us maintaining a fast-food-free home!  My kids have never had a Happy Meal and when they drive by McDonalds, they’d used to yell out something like ‘BOO!  You Stink!” or “Look dad – FAT Food!”.  I finally told them that it was not cool to bag on poor fast food, and that even though they didn’t like it, or think it was healthy for them, it was not exactly loving to be mocking it every time we drove down frickin’ East Avenue!

I can remember celebrating friend’s birthday parties at McDonalds!  There’s an old family story that says my first solid food was a Mickey D’s French fry!  I love McDonalds…I miss McDonalds…the few times I’ve had it since my husband and I made our little ‘agreement’ about no fast food, I always get a stomach ache and feel icky after eating my delicious chicken nuggets or onion-free cheeseburger.  Then I get pissed that something that held so many good memories would turn it’s back on me and make me feel so nasty.  Stupid fast food…

Anyway…another issue that bugs me about mealtime is physically sitting at the table.  Now, we always gathered around the table when I was little.  My seat was the one that had it’s back to the TV.  My mom was on my right, usually with a book.  My sister was on my left, usually with a Little Mermaid placemat, plate, cup, what-have-you.  My dad sat directly across from me and shouted at the news over my head.  Someone was usually doing something ‘STUPID’ or ‘Mickey Mouse’.  I’ve never heard anyone other than my dad’s side of the family who used the term ‘Mickey Mouse’ to define something poorly made or worthless…strange. 

No, my problem is that I am so uncomfortable sitting like a normal human.  When I am alone and eating (my absolute most comfortable eating times!) I am usually scooted up to the table sitting ‘Indian-style’ (Or as my children say ‘criss-cross-applesauce’.  What the heck does applesauce have anything to do with that?)  I know this is not polite, so when I’m around adults, my legs are usually pissed off and just ready to be done with the whole thing.

Oh, but there’s more!  I have learned that I have even more mealtime quirks!

I get extremely uncomfortable when people watch me eat.  I have a fear of getting something caught in my teeth or smeared on my face and since that would catch me in an unflattering moment, I tend to panic a little bit about it.  I cannot sit down to eat unless I have a napkin.  Period.  One must ALWAYS be prepared, or they are a fool, right?  And we all know what the Bible thinks about fools, don’t we?  And without a napkin, how will I wipe my face and make sure it is food-free?  I had a friend in college who challenged me to conquer, not only my obsession with eating with a napkin quirk, but also my other strange food-phobia: not eating things while they are still on the bone.  Talk about a panic attack…Having the beef, or chicken, or corn actually TOUCH my face while I’m taking a bite?!  You’re freaking out of your mind!  Mess-city!  Or as my dad used to call me “Miss Mess!”  Nope.  I will continue cutting off the meat from a measly chicken wing and the corn from the cob, thankyouverymuch!

Well, this college-friend dared me to eat some great, big BBQ ribs that we cooked up (correction: ‘HE’ cooked up, since there is no way I’d know how to make something like that!) not only fork and knife-free, but without a napkin as well!  At first, I said ‘no way’, but since I was hungry, and he was all sorts of cute, I eventually said I’d give it a try. Well…I lasted about 2 bites.  We were eating on the porch, since it was a blazing hot Chico day and they had no A/C.  I had insisted that we leave the overhead light off, as well as the bug-away candles, so he couldn’t see all the BBQ madness that was occurring on my face.  (I know this sounds like it would morph into some steamy college make-out session, but seriously…it was nothing like that.  I was PETRIFIED of this dare!)  I got up to run inside, but the door was blocked and there was nowhere to go.  I ended up finishing the meal, but I’m not sure if I have ever eaten ribs on the bone since.  They are kind of dumb anyway.  All that work for such a small amount of meat?  And you look like one of those baby pictures where the kid has a bowl of spaghetti turned upside down on his head at the end of it?  Seriously.  No thanks!  If you ever invite me over for ribs, I will most likely eat before I come over to avoid the frantic beating of my heart that situation would undoubtedly bring on.

My latest mealtime aversion comes more recently, from my kids.

Our little boy was usually the color of a pumpkin and in this shot, was still feeling pretty hungry. This one makes me sad to look at it.

When my son was born in 2005, he had lots of little troubles.  He ended up with a huge, black, hockey puck-like contusion on his head from the friendly vacuum that had to help him into the world.  This made it extremely painful for him to nurse, plus, he had super-crazy jaundice that made him limp and sleepy.

Dave and I were asked to track each pee, poo, and nursing time on a chart that we’d share with the in-home nurse they’d send out.  We were meticulous and sleep-deprived.  We thought everyone else had to write all this down too.

The poor kid had to do his light treatments in the little blue tanning-bed-thingy, twice, one of the treatments was when he was 6 weeks old and he barely fit in the darn box.  (Treatments involved him having to stay in the blue box day and night, coming out only to feed and be changed.  Thank God they don’t use those anymore.)

He would scream and want to be held and Dave and I would just try and cuddle up to him in his box and cry.  With his weak latch, my milk never did come in, and we were basically dealing with one pissed off baby who was constantly hungry and not getting enough food, although no one realized it.

I lived at the lactation lady’s office, as well as the hospital where he would get his bilirubin tested to see if we needed to do more light therapy.  He was tested 14 times.  Mealtimes for us all were long, sad, and confusing.  Especially when we realized that we needed to just get his weight back up and do formula.

Talk about feeling like a failure.  Stinkin’ cave women could figure out how to nurse their babies.  What was wrong with me?  Then we learned he had an allergy to dairy, then soy, and even peas.  One time he had a reaction to scrambled eggs.

The child spit up constantly.  He was on acid reflux meds at 3 months old.  It made his breath smell minty.  There are stains on the carpet at church where he’d basically puke during every service.  Dave remembers traveling with not only extra clothes for him, but also for us.  I just remember being tired all the time and my mother telling me, with great sadness and pity in her eyes, that he was not an easy baby, and it usually wasn’t like this.  Whenever it was time for a feeding, I was panicky…was my latch guard washed and ready to go?  Were the feeding tubes we had to use for those few weeks ready to go?  At 2 in the morning?  Ugh.

Now our son is a strapping young 6 year old who is food-allergy free.  He eats on his own, and although he insists on eating the same thing at meals (until this year when he’s opted to buy lunch at school – a big shocker!) it usually isn’t too stressful, although I think I will always have a small lurch in my stomach when one of my kids says, ‘Mommy, I’m hungry.’

With our little girl, we managed to escape the light therapy, although jaundice was a constant companion to her as well.  I was able to nurse her and it was such a huge relief!  I started a new job, 50 minutes from home, when she was 3 months old and tried pumping at work.

I was ‘walked in on’ by the GM, I missed meetings and then pumping sessions.  Finally my production was so low, we had to start supplementing with formula.  Once again, I could not meet the basic need of feeding my child.  It was really hard, but she took to her formula bottles so seamlessly, it was very freeing.

She was 6 months old at the time, and never ever missed a beat or seemed to miss nursing.  I appreciated her maturity about the whole thing.

Well, there you have the majority of my mealtime quirks and their glorious, if not wordy, history!  Feel free to take a break, grab a snack, whatever, before you embark on Part 2 of ‘Manic Mealtimes’.  Bon appetit!

About Jenny Z

I love to overuse italics, misplaced hyphens and internal dialogue when I write about my usual favorite topic, myself.

3 responses »

  1. I know it hasn’t been easy but your sailing through with a beautiful family. And it is a pleasure to share a meal with you , I miss it. Remember when we brought you spaghetti and watched survivor for the first time? It was so spicy that you couldn’t eat it. Ha ha. We are sensitive now to how spicy our food is and I am sure many people thank you.

  2. Aw! As always, I LOVE your writing. Mentioning the puke stains at church reminds me of when Abby was little, and Jason and I didn’t really know anyone at church yet. I was carrying Abby while dropping Grace off at Sunday School. Jason wasn’t there and I was feeling particularly haggard that morning. Grace was trying to run away when Abby did a fantastic spit-up job down the back of me. You and Dave and one other person happened to be right there and you quickly procured the Kleenex and whatnot to wipe me off and spare me massive embarrassment. And you told me that spit-up story to keep me from completely falling apart right there in the playground. It was wonderful.

    PS. Corn doesn’t have a bone; it has a cob.


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