When I was nine and a member of Mrs. Chase’s fourth grade class, the Scholastic book catalogs came home from school with me several times a year. They sold everything from chapter books and sticker books to scented erasers and crossword puzzles, and I wanted ALL OF IT. I pored over them for hours, circling and starring items and eventually presenting my parents with my wish list, organized by catalog. Though they were not wealthy, you wouldn’t know it from the way they indulged my bottomless desire to own more books. Though they sometimes limited the stickers and Hello Kitty pencils, I usually got to order whatever I wanted from the book section. At age nine, they bought me a book called ALL ABOUT ME.
ALL ABOUT ME was a fill-in-the-blank book, full of questions to answer. “What is your favorite color?” “Who are your best friends?” I deliberated, chewing my pencil. The most memorable question, though, the one I answered definitively and without a moment’s hesitation was “What will you be when you grow up?”
I am seeing a trend in many of the reviews I’ve begun to receive for my forthcoming book, Kitchen Medicine: How I Fed My Daughter out of Failure to Thrive. I’m not completely surprised by it — after all, I included this theme in some of the synopses I wrote both in my book proposal and in the promotional writing I provided for my publisher — but it has been fascinating to see how insidiously we have absorbed this concept. Mostly written by parents who are reading my book via Advanced Reader Copies (aka ARCs), I am seeing these two words come up again and again:
To protect the privacy of my family, I have to be vague, for which I hope you will forgive me. I’ve always been very open about the heartache of my daughter Sammi’s first eight years: the confusion and the instinct I had to push through it, the fear I had about her breathing and eating, the confidence I somehow found inside me to urge all of us forward to a real resolution to her challenges. As much as was age-appropriate, I have always asked Sammi what she felt comfortable sharing through this blog and through other writing. She wants the world to gain something from her journey, as do I.
But this last month, the heartache and the excruciating journey have belonged to my parents, and it has been dramatic, painful, and frightening on a physical level for them and on an emotional and spiritual level for all of us. It kept me away from home for most of the month, away from my husband and daughters and a million miles outside my comfort zone. It did not and cannot end well, but that is all I can say about it without betraying their privacy. Continue Reading…
Many years ago, on a family vacation, we were playing a charades-like game. Our girls were young — maybe 11 and 8, or maybe younger — and I was paired with my younger daughter, Sammi. She is the “sunshine” for whom this blog is named, and at that age was a funny, silly little girl who laughed and made us laugh all the time. The word I was trying to act out was “crumbs.”
First, I mimed eating a big cookie. “EATING!” she shouted. “COOKIES! SANDWICH! MUFFIN!”
I shook my head and held one finger up with my eyebrows raised, willing her to wait. Then I pretended to notice something on my shirt. I looked down, pinched an imaginary speck of food off my shirt and put it in my other hand, pointing to it.
“CHOCOLATE CHIP?” Sammi yelled, bouncing up and down.
I shook my head again, taking another imaginary bite out of my imaginary cookie, then pretended to drop some of it on the table in front of me. I mimed wiping my fingers on my shirt to brush off all the particles of cookie, then pointed at the table.
Sammi paused, her eyes squinting as she thought about it. “FOOD LINT?” she suggested. Continue Reading…
My older daughter is away at college, so for the first time in her life, my younger daughter has me and her father to herself.
Well, only sort of the first time in her life.
When Sammi was born, a series of strange goings-on in her chest (trachea, voice box, lungs, esophagus) found her alone with us a lot — in hospitals, doctors’ offices, therapy practices, and in the car en route to and from all of these places. There was a lot of buckling her backwards into her car seat, for YEARS, tiny as she was, and driving her to this medical appointment and that one. We listened to a lot of Lori Berkner music when she was tiny, then recordings of Helen Lester’s book ME FIRST and Dr. Seuss’s THE LORAX and several other books that I could have recited for you at the time but now are just blips of memory, the oatmeal-colored cassette tapes rattling around in the tape deck of our manual-transmission Honda Accord.
We sat in all those appointments with a diaper bag — and then a tote bag — of coloring books and picture books and small toys, playing “I Spy” and running our index fingers over crowded pages in search of Waldo. We talked with her, distractedly, one of us sometimes jotting down notes and reminders of what we wanted to ask the doctor or what instructions we needed to get from the nurse. We were with her — we were ALWAYS with her — but sometimes I look back on those years and think that we were with her body but not really with HER. Continue Reading…