Monday, December 27, 2010


This morning we took our first walk without our beloved, sweet, complex, oft neurotic-but-always-well-meaning pooch, Olive. Opal was in the backpack, and my hands were strangely free, searching for refuge pulling straps and wedged in pockets.

Olive died four days ago exactly, during our morning walk. Opal was attached to the front of me in the facing-out Bjorn, holding the kelly-green leash in her mittened hand. We moseyed through a spill of sunlight in the open-space near our house with not a single tree to intercept. Olive took one jolly lap through the tall, crispy grasses, bouncing and light-footed like her wild forefathers or kin in the jungle, returned to us looking not-abnormally fettered. She tossled with a passing poodle before lying down abruptly. She then seized for a moment and died, quickly, completely and silently at our feet, leaving us entirely shocked and gobsmacked with grief in her wake. (I speak for myself and for Jesse when he arrived. Opal, however, was not at all distressed. In fact, when Jesse arrived at the scene, he said Opal was wearing an emphatic grin).

There is a much longer story to precede this scene. The story of Olive and her impulses, of a hundred similar examples before the fateful moment she chose to eat through a suitcase to consume the dark chocolate inside. All of these instances narrowed into the single snapshot of that particular afternoon: the vision of wrappers and destroyed luggage and having no idea of the potential danger. The induced vomiting, vet calls and extreme supervision. If she starts acting weird, take her to the hospital. She never acted weird, never weirder than usual. In fact, she slept through the night and awoke to visit Opal and receive a dozen kisses and a plop-down hug. I thought a walk would do her good, burn some of the energy that congealed from being forced to stay in one spot for so long. But, it seemed the caffeine that was absorbed into her little body, in spite of the vomiting, increased her heart rate more than she could handle when she went for a run.

It was a perfect storm of events. The vet said over the phone the next day.

There is much more writing to be done on this topic, to be sure. Three years of Russian-doll emotions want to be sifted through and organized on the page, like lining up threads for needlepoint. It will take me a while to sort it out, it was not a simple relationship. But I wanted to write something in the meantime to mark the time in some way, put a notch in the sidewalk. To acknowledge the fiery life of this little dog and how suddenly, unexpectedly, it came to an end.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bon Appetit.

Opal is teeny.

Fifth percentile for height and weight. She wears the same diaper size that she did back in March, so little she wasn't even close to rolling from back to front yet—front-to-back was still a novelty!
On paper-diaper days (daycare and grammy-days), she wears 9 months or 6-12 month bottoms, else her drawers slip right off. Wearing a cloth diaper bumps her up to the 'appropriate' 12 month sizing. She's barely gained a thing in the 5 or 6 months since she's been crawling, cruising, and now walking (!)—due presumably to burning twice the amount of calories she did prior. Not only that, but her opinions and inability to yet refrain from asserting them has swelled into every zone, including and especially the high chair.

I remember the days, with a bit of nostalgic hankering, when liking a food was as simple as, well, liking a food. When there were no politics involved. These days, a sweet potato can be a thing of beauty for lunch, but demote to a thing of scorn by dinner. It all depends on the child's mood and how strong her will and resistance need to be on that particular occasion.

Which makes cooking for a one-year old an intriguing and complex stroll through an ever- changing neighborhood, where once a destination is achieved, it is quickly realized that the roads have all changed and a new map will be needed from there on out.

After Opal's one-year wellness visit, which was a month late due to a stream of sicknesses, I was inspired—let's be honest, hell-bent would be a more accurate term—to fatten up my kid. I spent a stream of evenings with my nose buried in Superbaby Foods and Anabel Karmel's images of happy toddlers shoveling colorful dishes into their tiny faces. I took copious notes on how much of each vitamin was recommended for her age and drew up careful meal plans for two solid weeks. My grocery list was in outline-form, with actual headings and sub-headings.

But when it came to the moment of truth, she downright turned up her nose to the shredded veggie with brown rice, thyme and Parmesan. Not even a nibble.
The home-made pizza with veggies on cornmeal crust, she refused to try.
Daddy's yummy beef and veggie stew, not on your life.
Home-made noodles and cheese never went into her mouth.
Baked tofu, root veggies and buttery couscous or quinoa, nope.
Mashed potatoes, no ma'am.
A pinch of nutritional yeast to add B-vitamins to her oatmeal actually made her cry.

Essentially, the only consistently loved meal of the day is breakfast, where she gobbles up either her daddy's steel cut oatmeal, cooked to perfection then blended with plain yogurt, bananas and raisins (totally yum!) or mommy's home-bakes zucchini or banana muffins with applesauce and yogurt. We've got breakfast nailed.

The rest of the day, though, is full of trials and errors. Starting with one thing and then deciding she wants something else and then something else again. The image of lunch usually consists of a high-chair tray full of un-eaten finger-foods, a plate of various colorful plops, and half of mom's grown-up lunch cut into wee-teeny pieces, in the likely-unsuccessful effort to share. We almost always find something she'll eat, but it takes many tries and it's rarely what I planned on.

Opal subsists essentially on all things fruity and in loaf form. Applesauce is a BFF, fresh fruit, jarred fruit blends. Spinach balls are a consistent hit, sprouted-grain breads with almond butter and jelly or hummus and muffins.
She had a brief love-affair that recently fizzled with french toast and all-fruit jelly. We'll see if they reconcile their differences. She and scrambled eggs are no longer on speaking terms.
Oh, and cheese. Let's just put it this way, cheese is an off-limits word in the Grimes household, else a ravenous mantra of cheese-cheese-cheese-cheese will ensue. Our girl loves her some cheese.
But as for veggies, it'd be accurate to say that without Spring Vegetables and Pasta, (Earth'sbest Organic Chunky Babyfood, bless it.) very little green would enter that itty-bitty mouth.

Ah yes, you can lead a horse to water...
and then you can put on a little light music, hand her a spoon and bowl to tinker with and join her with a meal of your own, trusting the fact that she is most assuredly not going to starve as she struggles to understand how to navigate this petite corner of her world.