Saturday, December 31, 2011

And the Second Day...

What a difference degrees make.  It was nice outside today... WAY nice.  I was almost sweating in my clothes.  I loved the heat of the sun on my face and all that jazz...

We walked a VERY long way today... from our apartment, across the river, around SERIOUS construction, back to our side of the river, and down the street.  Then we found the Tours.  We bought a river and bus tour, and actually walked to the river tour in time to take it. 

WOW.  Spain is gorgeous!!  And when I'm warm, I love it WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY more than home. :)

The only problem is, I cannot remember any Spanish.  Hopefully that will resolve itself when we have had enough sleep.  Jakob took this picture in a sweet little restaurant that served eggs for breakfast.  That is really surprising here.

We ate a delicious dish called Tortillas Espana.  I´m making this when I come home.  The recipe is at  Muy, muy bueno.

Hasta luego...

Friday, December 30, 2011

Me encanta España

So.  We left Minnesota on Wednesday at 1 pm, and arrived in Chicago 52  minutes later.  We left there late, some time after 5.  We flew overnight.  Adam and Mariah seemed like they had fun and kept busy goofing around, sleeping, and taking turns visiting the somewhat disgusting bathroom.  For the rest of us, the flight was challenging; Jakob was markedly uncomfortable and pretty hungry.  I'd brought food along for him, but there really wasn't a good way to keep it cold or warm it again, so it was something of a fail.  My heart fell when he told me his knee hurt (thankfully by the next afternoon it was feeling good again).  He's already dreading the flight home, so I'll have to think of something to send with him to help the boredom. Finally, we arrived in Madrid, Spain at 8-something - late - and had a challenging journey to our next gate for the final hour-long flight to Seville.  We reached our Seville destination shortly after ten and collected our luggage.

The first language challenge came right away:  using a foreign payphone to contact our guy, Markcus.  Thankfully, Adam could help and he said he'd meet us in an hour.  Within minutes the second serious challenge loomed: finding a taxi for five without enough language (my mind completely blanked, thanks to fatigue, I think).  In Spain, the largest taxi holds four.  Once we understood that, we were on our way to Calle Torneo 40 2D Puerto B.  The first floor really is up one level from where we Americans consider it.  That's more confusing than it should be.

Our Spanish apartment is beautiful.  [I'll post pictures later; challenge number three is technology!]  It's in a great location, large enough for all five of us, and clean enough to delight me.  We left our luggage in the room while the owners finished cleaning it and took our first walk through our neighborhood.  And let me say, it's gorgeous here!  We found our first tapas bar, and couldn't really understand how it worked at first, but Jakob and I dug in.  After we ate, the barkeep counted our toothpics and charged us for them and our drinks.  We then navigated a Spanish mercado, purchasing some food for our cocina.  We dragged our butts back to our apartamento and most of us slept for a few hours.  Joe and I headed out for dinner together, finding a delightful restaurante and enjoying paella.  I'm determined to like paella, but I ate too much of some sort of potato salad we had as a first course.  Oddly, it was made with tuna, but I found it rustic, refreshing, and delicious.  Not so delicious?  Spanish wine.  Maybe that's not such a bad thing.  Jakob opted to sleep through dinner, but spent a large part of the night Facebooking with Caitlin. 

Today, our second day here, we journeyed again through la ciudad.  I was nervous this morning when Joe said he wanted eggs and pancakes, knowing the typical Spaniard chooses bread and cafe, but we found a delicious, and somewhat more American breakfast at our paella restaurant of last night.  Jakob and I had tortillas huevos, Joe had eggs and bacon, Adam enjoyed scrambled eggs, and Mariah ate something sandwichy off the menu.  A plus.  I might spend way too much time at that restaurant.  I took a picture of it, so I could remember the name.  There are lots of words on the window, though, so I'm still not sure what it's actually called.

We walked through our neighborhood, shopping and watching a variety of entertainments.  It's not clear whether there's something special going on - like maybe the end of 2011? - or if this city is always this vibrant, but it delights on many sensory levels.  Joe negotiated a tour in a horse-drawn buggy (coche de caballos) and Mariah had the opportunity for tons of picture-taking.  After the tour, we ate at a restaurant in that plaza, and found out that "set" tables with tablecloths, place settings, and bread require ordering full meals, while the "bar" tables allow for snacks, tapas, and drinks.  Good lesson, and from a camarero simpático - he took pity on our poor American blank looks and allowed us to order three items from the tapas menu and a postre (Mariah loves tiramasu!).

Joe and I made our way back to our apartamento for our siesta by way of the supermarket.  It's a challenge to be on foot and carrying groceries for five, but Joe never complained.  I hope I won't be complaining when I'm carrying my food for my solo meals to my next apartamento after my family leaves!  The kids shopped more and then returned so Adam could take his siesta.  Jakob and Mariah continued their excursion, finding some interesting souveniers; Jakob has a Sherlock Holmes pipe and a mini blow torch, but continues his search for a cane (the little House wanna-be) and a top hat.

The kids opted to say home in the evening, having discovered how to change the language on the tv to English (damnit).  Joe and I had a date during which we discovered a new favorite restaurant.  Our delightful little waitress suggested food we found delicious and filling.  The only thing we didn't consume was something Joe thought was a really oily peanut butter.  It was, in fact, pate with sardine oil.  I don't know who would want to eat that or exactly how many date nights it's ruined after someone has consumed it, but ewwww.  After thanking our delightful little waitress with a hug that resulted in my first Spanish kiss (both cheeks with full contact and a smacking smooch!), we walked across a bridge and saw the Isla Magica, a local theme park.  Returning, we continue down our street until we found a place for some dessert.  When we returned to the apartment, we realized we only covered a little less than six miles today.  It felt like more.

My complaint remains:  it's freaking cold here.  I'm going to have to send home some of my packed luggage and purchase a few things so I can manage the cold better.  I'm even suffering some kind of lung thing, despite my continued litany:  "I am well...i am well... iamwell .

My biggest challenge remains as well:  techology.  I had no idea - maybe a little idea :) - how often I rely on my smartphone in the course of a day.  I feel a little I'm navigating blind!  Next week I pick up my rented Blackberry.  Ha.  I'm guessing I'll still be challenged by techology since I've never used a Blackberry. 

I'm off to bed a little later than average (it's 2:15 am), but this whole siesta thing is delightful!  Joe found the Timberwolves, so he and the kids are watching that.  I'm hoping they sleep long enough so I can have a guilt-free run along the bridge and through the park I can see across the river.

Keep us in your prayers!  I think there are some big challenges yet to come...  I don't want to be alone in this city yet.  I'm nervous about this lengua.  The rest of the family has a big trip to face to get home.  Jakob and Joe have to navigate the return to his strict diet.  And I think Jakob's concerned about me not going home (Surprised?  I am!).

God bless.

We've made a decision to suspend his challenging diet for the duration of the week, though he'll still avoid some of the worst of the allergens.  It's nearly impossible to be in a foreign country without a smart phone translator and eat hypoallergenically.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feeding Jakob Well

Here we end yet another year that passed much too quickly, and the departure for Spain looms ever nearer.

I have mixed emotions about leaving for Spain for my month-long class, most of which stem from our efforts to make Jakob well and my concern over his diet when I'm not here.

Jakob's been through a wealth of testing and a number of specialists.  It's not really clear whether the specialists agree with each other or don't.  We're not even really sure what to call what Jakob has, but we're pretty sure it's a form of arthritis.

Since December 7 - sixteen days ago - Jakob's been eating an elimination (hypoallergenic) diet.  Inflammation comes from something, and many, many common foods can be culprits.  For thirty days, he follows a diet rich in whole foods presented the way God gave them to us - free of processing, enriching, etc.  There's a HUGE list of things he can have, and all of the "cans" are great foods.  Still.  The list of "cannots" is lengthy - and most of what's on that list is the food Jakob's eaten most of his life. 

What are the cannots?  Beef. Pork. Dairy products. Eggs. Refined sugar. Gluten. Oranges. Peanuts.

He's been eating better than he ever has.  Roasted vegetable soup (suprisingly tastey).  Lamb (smelly when cooking, but delicious when well prepared).  Salmon.  Fruits.  Vegetables.  Pastas.  Rice.  Beans.  Chicken and turkey.  Sunflower seeds.  Cashews.  Pistachios.  And this week I'm working on soups and baked goods I hope he'll like. 

Incidentally, if anyone has a good soup recipe that doesn't rely on milk or butter, I'd love to see it.

I'm exceptionally proud of Jakob.  It's not easy to completely change the way you eat overnight, and he did.  It's not easy to be seventeen and hanging with the guys and maintain a challenging diet (b-dubs doesn't have a single thing on their menu he can safely eat).  It's not easy to constantly try new foods when you were happy with what you ate.  It's not easy to accept someone's help for something as simple as eating.

And he's doing it. 

Know what I think he most misses? 

Something convenient to eat.  Pop.  Fast food.  Chips. Toaster strudel.  Pizza.  Tacos.  Freedom to just grab what looks good or smells good without turning to the ingredients list (most often to be disappointed by the second or third ingredient).


He feels good.  For the first time since he was a fourth grader, he's not nauseous every day.  He has almost completely regained range of motion in his joint.  Soon he'll be able to start playing sports again.  His eyes shine and his skin glows with vitality.  He can sleep at night.

The most surprising result of the last sixteen days is his humble gratitude.  The dynamic in our relationship is completely different.  He's so appreciative of the efforts we're making to find him food he'll enjoy that he gladly and immediately does what he's asked to do.  He's witnessing pure acts of selfless service, and he appreciates it.

So, yes.  I'm afraid to leave his diet to anyone else.  We are so casual about what we put in our bodies and food preparation, and we can't afford to be with our boy.

For the next few days I'll be perfecting the soup base and freezing a bunch for January.  I'll also have him test a number of baked products; if we can find things he likes, I'll freeze a bunch of that too. 

When Jakob and Joe get back from their week in Spain, it will be time for Jakob to be adding foods back to his diet.  He'll add one thing from the "cannots" every six days and eat it for four days.  If he has not negative reactions or returning symptoms, it's a "safe" food and he can continue eating it.  The last two food groups he'll add will be dairy and gluten, the most likely allergens.  It'll take months to reach a conclusion about what things cause inflammation in his body, but the effort - if it keeps him feeling well - is so completely worthwhile.

Keep Jakob in your prayers.  This food things is huge, and part of him having a good quality of life for decades.  Still.  He has arthritis.  That's serious business.