Rainbow eats a cucumber.
This is big news.
In a world of chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pizza, and chips, anything green is an outlier. Except maybe green m&m's. But that's another blog post.
Once I tried to trick her with chips from Whole Foods. They tasted exactly like Doritos (to my untrained tongue), so I hid one at the bottom of her bowl. Perched in front of the TV, she munched contentedly. Then, all of a sudden -- socks sliding across the floor -- she raced into the kitchen, yanked the trashcan from under the sink, and spit an orange mouthful of chips into it.
"Something's wrong with that one!" she said. Yep, she knows her chips.
I get it. Routine equals comfort. (And maybe real cheese doesn't taste as good as the processed stuff.)
But cucumbers and ranch? They're a bit of a breakthrough. She likes them. She loves them. She will eat them in a box. She will eat them with a fox. At the market, I start buying 4 or 5 cucumbers at a time. They're like a gateway drug.
We get in a groove. Cucumbers and ranch at every meal. And while our regular rotation doesn't change much, Rainbow steps out of her comfort zone more and more. She stands on a stool to help me in the kitchen. She tastes new foods and tracks them by color on a list taped to the refrigerator door. She's curious about everything -- even Brussels sprouts!
|"And the B.S. are terrible. I do not like the sprouts!"|
(Hey, points for trying!)
In the midst of it all, we discover a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets, a whole new world...
|"Mom, these are good! I mean like 100 good!"|
EPIC WIN. But I've created a monster. Now we have to keep cooking because she won't eat the packaged ones!
Mile Marker 6300:
I'm a big fan of routine. There are so many moving parts to my body -- so many possible breakdowns each day -- that I strive to regulate them every chance I get. I wake up three hours early. I put my leg on the same way each time. I eat the same breakfast each morning. And while these actions don't predict much of anything, they give me the illusion of control.
As you've probably guessed, Rainbow's arrival last fall threw a wrench in the system. (A much bigger wrench for her, I'm sure!) But it turns out it was a GOOD wrench -- one worth adjusting for.
Rainbow and Robot Mom. We regain our equilibrium together.
We sing and dance to Bruno Mars. Tear up the walls at the climbing gym. Line our shelves with chapter books. Build fairy playgrounds from Legos.
We take lots of walks. Rainbow becomes the mayor of our neighborhood -- a regular at Old City Coffee and a celebrity at Old City Pizza. She bounces over the cobblestones like an American Ninja Warrior. She pets every dog she meets. She knows every "Betsy" at the Betsy Ross House.
In 7 months, she grows from an 8-year-old in a baggy school uniform to a 9-year-old with new glasses and a confidence all her own. Things are going swimmingly. We plan her birthday party and sign her up for summer camp.
That's the thing about routine. You think you know what will happen next.
Mile Marker 6370:
Then one day there's an unexpected decision in court.
Rainbow is going home.
We knew this was temporary, but still, the news rocks our world.
Over the next few weeks, we talk and talk about it. Rainbow laughs and cries in equal amounts. So do I (in private). I pack her stuff gradually, while she's at school, storing boxes and bags in the trunk of the car, so as not to upset the fragile balance of our days.
By the time she moves, Rainbow is all smiles. She is ready. I guess I am too.
At Mile 6,370, she is gone.
But not completely.
In the quiet emptiness, my heart is full of the paths we paved together: chatter and song, tenderness and responsibility. She leaves behind a trail of blazing colors. Birthday balloons still hovering in the air. Stray Legos buried in the carpet. A lost tooth on the seat of the car. Crayoned drawings taped to the fridge.
And inside the fridge, as always...
Cucumbers and ranch.