The body of our most food-sensitive child seems to be a barometer for our family's health. There are times when I can only describe him as clear, or bright. I can't pinpoint what exactly this means. It is as much about the look in his eyes as in his ability to "get" jokes, to take challenges on with a smile, and his patience and affection for his little sisters. I've seen this look come and go over the years, and each time it takes energy to tune in to what is creating the change.
A few weeks ago we started dabbling in the Paleo way of eating. Basically, we focused on fruits/veggies, meat, eggs, and 'good' fats (avocados and coconut), omitting grain, legumes, and dairy. Within days, we were all feeling very good. Jude has been dairy and gluten free for years, and at first I was hesitant to remove more choices from his diet (rice crackers and hummus being a staple on his school lunches).
Jude eats what he's served with enthusiasm and without complaint, and once again I saw that 'bright' look in his eyes. But as lovely as Paleo is in theory, it requires a lot of preparation, creativity, and yes, money to sustain variety and flavor. Things got busy, and I found there were days when it seemed that everyone was dipping their heads into the cupboards and fridge. I caved and brought back the rice crackers, the rice cakes, the hummus, the popcorn (our favorite snacks). I concluded that I just can't afford the time or money to spend so much of each day preparing costly food.
Over the past few days, we've noticed some quirky behaviors in Jude. He's been hitting his sisters immediately if they bug him in any way (which is unusual). The other day he wanted some boiled eggs, so I walked him through how to make them himself. I sent him to find a pot and he came out of the cupboard with...a bowl. Then a strainer. This seemed kind of weird and funny, but upon reflection, it was concerning. He just seemed confused, like he knew what a pot was but couldn't put his knowledge together with the concrete item.
This morning I sent him up to get dressed for school with a clean pair of shorts in his hand. This is one of those routines: get dressed, brush teeth, come down, comb hair, put on socks, then get ready to head out the door. But this morning it was as if he were stuck. Ten minutes later when we checked on him, he was in his room in his undies with no idea where he'd put his shorts. Robin first reprimanded him (getting any eight-year old boy to focus on a task when toy soldiers beckon can be a challenge), but I soon found him hugging Jude. Jude just look kind of confused and off.
The light bulb in my mind clicked on then, and I know what we need to do. We need to get this kid off grains altogether. The change is so subtle to begin with that we don't always notice it, but when this bright, loving, patient boy starts seeming confused and short-tempered, I know there's a change coming. In pieces, the symptoms are vague and bewildering and seemingly unrelated. But when I have a moment to step back and survey it all from a distance, it becomes clear to me.
I called his bus driver and the school to let them know he'd be staying home today. He's going to come to the library with us, read his first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, rest, and build his Roman army.
As we prepare to start Norah on her first solids, we'll be doing things a little differently than we did with the older crew. We'll be avoiding grains altogether until she's older (or maybe forever) and will work towards 'weaning' her older sisters off the breads, pastas, and crackers they crave. It's time for this family.