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Gluten-Free? Help Me.

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually written about this here before, but Caroline has some serious GI issues.  I know I’ve written about her reflux in the past because it nearly killed both of us (her from aspiration pneumonia and me from pure stress), but I’ve probably never mentioned her extreme constipation because a) I keep forgetting to and b) talking about poop on the internet is super gross, you guys.

But here we are because, as in the past, I need your help.  Ready?  Caroline’s dermatologist suggested that her combination of severe eczema and constipation might be due to a wheat sensitivity, so she recommended we try going gluten-free.  When I was a kid, I technically tested positive for a wheat allergy (which I have ignored completely and proceeded to eat carbs like it is my job), and she’s seen kids with these issues have them completely clear up when gluten is removed from their diet, so… we’re giving it a shot.

I have to admit I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect.  Caroline, like most three-year-olds, is already an extremely picky eater.  I’m not sure how I’m going to get her to eat a balanced diet without gluten, since I have to put wheat products in most things in order to get her to eat them without a huge battle (i.e. macaroni and cheese with peas, blueberry pancakes, broccoli nuggets with bread crumbs, chicken nuggets, etc.)

In summary, here are the things she likes to eat: things with gluten in them.  Here are the things she doesn’t like to eat: things without gluten in them.

You see my dilemma.  She might starve and I might lose my mind.  (And yes, I am being dramatic.  I’ve been told I have a flair for it.  I don’t think it was a compliment.)

Despite the difficulties, I guess it can’t hurt to try, right?  Going gluten-free could be good for me, too.  I mean, I do technically have an allergy, and at the risk of sounding like a 14 year old teeny-bopper, I heard Miley Cyrus recently went gluten-free and have you seen girlfriend’s abs lately?  I’m just sayin’.  (I know she’s like 19, tops, and has never had a child that we know of but please just let me live in my fantasy world, okay?)

So, gluten-free parents out there, what’s a girl and very picky preschooler to do?  Any recommendations for recipes, websites, blogs, and/or gluten-free substitutes for wheat products?  How do you handle a child who has to go gluten-free when all they ever want to eat is carbs?


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Types of Men You Find Online

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Hello, friends.  After a short hiatus from the world of online dating (because it sucks, you guys), I’m back with more tales of hilarity.  To come to the aid of my fellow single women, I’ve helpfully organized the types of men you meet online into several broad categories.  What can I say?  I’m a giver.

The profile-liar guy.

There is no point in lying on your profile about things that are obvious within five minutes of meeting you in person.  This includes height (6 feet, 5’8″, same diff, right? No.), occupation (a paralegal is not a lawyer, and the guy who keeps the books for a sketchy bowling alley is not an accountant), and general appearance (we’re gonna know it if that photo was taken in 1996, gentlemen).

The “P.S. I live in Colorado” guy.

Why contact me and bother discussing meeting up and dating if you live two thousand miles away?  Next.

The guy with his kids as his profile picture.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the single dads, but you guys do realize that everyone can see those pictures, right?  Just trying to help.  Because I’m not sure you understand how the internet works.

The fast-mover guy.

A couple of anonymous emails does not a relationship make.  It’s a tad creepy when we’ve exchanged three messages, tops, and you’re calling me “baby” and talking about moving to my area because “nothing’s keeping me here anyway”.  Please, just… stop.

The “separated” guy.

Ladies, this one is straight-up married.  Move it right along.

The guy who insults you in order to hit on you.

This isn’t third grade, guys– if you pick on us, we aren’t going to get the message that you’re interested.  Long emails about how wisdom tooth extractions are a scam are not going to go over well with a dentist, a lecture on how I shouldn’t be so picky since I have “baggage” isn’t going to go over well with a single mom, and messages that say nothing but “hey MILF” are not going to go over well with anyone, unless it’s sent to a woman looking for a guy in my next and final category, which is…

The sugar daddy guy.

You’d be surprised at the number of emails I’ve gotten offering compensation of some kind for dating them.  These guys are all over the place– from the guy who offered me clothes, lingerie, and time on his exercise machines to a guy who offered to pay my bills to the guy who came right out and asked if I was looking for a sugar daddy (“I think there’s a name for women who do that,” I told him sweetly. “It starts with an ‘h’ and ends with an ‘ooker’.”).

Sigh.  I’m getting pretty discouraged with the whole online thing, you guys.  Any categories to add?  Please post them in the comments!  It’s a public service project, really.

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St. Lucia Trip: Part 2

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Continued from my St. Lucia trip, part 1!

I didn’t try out too many activities to review for you all this time (sorry. I think my tailbone is still traumatized from the Jamaica horseback riding adventure), but I did do some SNUBA-ing. Let me tell you how cool SNUBA is: it is so cool. We took a five-minute boat ride to the nearby Pigeon Island, which I will also just let you know used to be a military base and a pirate hideout, because I like to mention pirates whenever possible. Now it’s the location for the St. Lucia Jazz Festival in May, which I think is far less badass but we’re not talking about me here, are we. We’re talking about SNUBA. Right. So we took the quick SNUBA course, suited up in our flippers and weight belts and masks and regulators, and took an underwater tour of the gorgeous reef just offshore. We saw tons of brightly-colored fish, spiny lobsters, sea urchins, “feather-dusters” that shoot back into their little hideouts in a hilarious way if you poke at them which I would never do because I totally respect nature (wink wink), trumpetfish, starfish, and I even got to hold a seahorse. Kids as young as age 8 can participate in SNUBA tours, and kids ages 4-7 can do the surface “SNUBA-DOO” tours. Definitely try it out and don’t let the kids have all the fun with this one. After the first couple of disconcerting underwater breaths, it’s just like breathing air, and you can go up to 20 feet deep without being SCUBA certified.

I did, however, do my sightseeing homework for you.  The capital city of Castries, in the north, welcomes cruise ships and has tons of craft and food markets as well as duty-free shopping, along with the nearby white sand beaches. We made the two-hour drive to the south of the island to visit the laid-back city of Soufriere, where we saw the steaming, bubbling sulfur springs at the nearby semi-dormant volcano (relax, it hasn’t erupted since 1600-something). Close by are gorgeous botanical gardens and the Diamond Falls, where there are also mineral baths that you can bathe in that local marketing legend says will make you look ten years younger.

Then we headed over to the famous luxury resort Jade Mountain (once featured on The Bachelor) and its sister resort Anse Chastanet. I’ll confess that I’ve sat here staring at the screen for quite awhile trying to figure out how to put the beauty of these places into words that even halfway do them justice. Anse Chastanet is easier: the villas are all completely open-air, and are constructed with open floor plans around key pieces of the landscape like boulders and trees. Gorgeous pieces of modern artwork hang on the walls.

Jade Mountain is a place that you honestly have to see for yourself to truly appreciate. The resort is built on the side of the mountain, and the sanctuaries (as they appropriately call the rooms) are all open-air and built on open floor plans as well. Each sanctuary features an infinity pool tiled with brilliant blues, greens, or reds that forms the outside wall, where it abruptly falls off into a breathtaking view of the twin peaks of the Piton mountains across the Caribbean Sea.

There is no artwork needed for the walls here. The Pitons are the artwork. The service here is exquisite also. This is a place where celebrities stay, and the prices reflect that. Probably even my marriage would have worked out if we’d have honeymooned in a stunning place like this one. (Ha ha! Just kidding. It wouldn’t have.) I think it goes without saying that you’ll want to leave the kids at home to come here… Under age 15, they are not allowed anyway. But I had to include it in my write-up because a) it’s one of the most incredible places I have ever seen, and I have been around a bit, and b) if you’re looking for a kid-free resort at which to soothe your frayed nerves, and have a lot of money saved up to do so, this would certainly be the place to do it. 

You can go pretty much anywhere in the Caribbean for sun, sand, and beautiful views, but I would say the difference in St. Lucia is that the island is cleaner, more unspoiled and less crowded, and the people don’t have that manic, exhausting, you’re on vacation let’s do this thing frenzied enthusiasm that you’ll find elsewhere– they are laid-back, accommodating of any request from the trivial to the critical, and on the whole, the most genuinely friendly people I think I have ever met on vacation. We were all sorry to say goodbye, and I hope I’ll go back soon.

What to know before you go:

  • Direct flights are available from JFK, ATL, and MIA.
  • Electrical outlet converters (European-to-American) are handy but not necessary, as most hotels have a few American outlets.
  • American dollars are widely accepted across the island, but you’ll get the much-more-expensive “tourist price” if you use them. Do your currency exchange at a bank rather than at your hotel or on the street for the best rates.
  • Tap water is safe to drink.
  • If you tend to get carsick, bring Dramamine for the roads. This is a requirement, not a suggestion.

Have fun, kids!

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St. Lucia Trip: Part 1

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Hey guys, remember when I went to Jamaica and reviewed family-friendly resorts and activities for you? (Here and here?) Guess what– I got to do it again, and this time, in St. Lucia. Same disclaimer as last time: the people asking me to review this stuff let me come down there and try it all out for free… But you know me and you know I’m always honest, so you know you can believe me when I say it was awesome. This one is gonna have to be another two-parter. Here we go!

I didn’t know much about St. Lucia before I went down there last week. I’m willing to bet you don’t either. In my opinion, that’s the best kind of tropical vacation destination– gorgeous views, sun, sand, and far fewer people around than any of the islands that Americans actually know about. Honestly, if I were you, I’d get down there before everyone else figures out how amazing it is and gets all up in your beaches.

St. Lucia is a tiny island in the eastern Caribbean sea, south of Martinique and north of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It changed hands between the French and the British about a million times in the past, which explains why the people there speak a French-based creole but drive on the left side of the (terrifyingly narrow and carsickness-inducing) roads.

I stayed at a beach resort in Rodney Bay called Bay Gardens that was so luxurious that I just assumed it was an expensive chain hotel. My suite was legit bigger than the apartment that I live in, no joke, and right on the beach. Here’s the view from my balcony:

Not too shabby, huh?

I was surprised to learn that the resort, and the hotel and inn associated with it, were actually a family-owned business. I’m going to digress for a second and tell you the story behind it, because I think it’s something that, in and of itself, makes the properties worth staying at.

Caribbean society is fiercely matriarchal, full of strong and seriously cool women, and Joyce Destang is no exception. Over 20 years ago, she bought the inn and a bunch of reclaimed swamp land in the area as well, and planned to build more hotels on it. She told us that she used to sit in the empty lot and imagine what she wanted her resort to look like. Everyone told her she was nuts for buying that land, but long story short, she basically built the three properties out of nothing, and constantly works to improve them and keep them competitive in today’s market– no small feat when you are competing with giants like Sandals. I met her and she was a fascinating woman, far too humble for the things she has accomplished and the empire she has built literally from the ground up.

I loved the story, loved the “girl power” aspect of it, and most of all loved that it was a family-owned resort that I found was a pretty awesome place for families to stay as well. Their Bay Gardens Hotel (less expensive, starting at $110/night for a family of four, but further from the beach) and Bay Gardens Beach Resort (more expensive, starting at $200/night for a family of four, but has a beach on property) have rooms that can be rented as a king-size bed or two doubles.  They also have suites with a pull-out couch and full-size kitchenette and living room, with attached rooms that have two double beds and their own bathroom that can be rented in conjunction with the suite in order to sleep up to eight people. They have sitters on property who are also regular hotel staff, so you can get to know them before you trust them with your kids. And if the beach and pool aren’t enough to entertain your kids, there are kid-specific activities scheduled when there are enough children on property to enjoy them. Really, the rates for families are pretty incredible considering the location and how gorgeous the properties are (and they’re actually running a 70% off special on their websites at the moment, just sayin’.)

Another thing worth mentioning about St. Lucia is the food. The first night we were at Bay Gardens, we ate at their Caribbean fusion restaurant Trios, and honestly, you guys, there are no words. Well, okay, there are some words: seared ahi tuna with a ginger orange glaze and pineapple chutney with shrimp ceviche. King crab and coconut chowder infused with saffron and chive oil, served in a coconut bowl. Red snapper sampler with coconut rundown, creole, and rum cream sauces, St. Lucian sweet potato mash, and a calaloo garnish. Mango cheesecake with passion fruit mousse and a cinnamon, vanilla, and strawberry rum cream sauce. I am drooling all over my iPad and also I am super fat now, you guys. It was all so beautifully presented, too. And in case you were worried about the kids, although there is no kids menu, the staff is more than accommodating with requests for simpler dishes, and that goes for any meal at any of their restaurants.

On our last night on the island, we ate at Spice of India, one of Rodney Bay’s newest restaurants. Despite its short existence, it has already been rated #1 on the island via TripAdvisor, and let me tell you, it’s well-deserved. They serve authentic Indian dishes that truly are some of the best I’ve had, and the service is impeccable. If this place were in New York City, you wouldn’t be able to get in the door unless you were Oprah or something. Go. Eat. Love it.

To be continued shortly, with details of SNUBA, sightseeing, and the most incredible luxury hotel I’ve ever seen! Stay tuned for part two…

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Need a Nanny? Try Speed Dating.

Monday, June 18th, 2012

With my residency complete, my next task has been to focus on finding a nanny in Massachusetts to take care of Caroline for the summer before her new preschool opens.

(Side note: this new preschool is totally badass.  It’s a Montessori school where she can take Spanish and music and art and yoga and Zumba.  Not joking.  I basically want to go to it myself and send Caroline off to work in my dental office to support us.  I mean, she’s already got the scrubs.  But I digress.)

Faced with this task, I tackled it with my usual crazy-intense full-tilt totally-inappropriate approach: I went all in, you guys.  I did nanny speed dating.

I used to post an ad for a nanny (did not include Caro’s Tumblr, though I should have) and was promptly overwhelmed by over thirty applicants for the job.  In all seriousness, that website is great.  The vast majority of the applicants were well-qualified and seemed very nice, and they do the background checks for you.  No, I’m not getting paid by them to write this– it’s just the truth.

Problem is, with all those applicants and all the online dating I’ve been doing lately, I was afraid I was going to mix up my accounts and start hitting on the nannies and trying to hire the single men.  Which I’m pretty sure is illegal in at least 48 states.  (Although, wait a minute… that actually sounds like a more successful dating strategy than anything else I’ve tried lately…)

Anyway.  I managed to narrow the field to six potential nannies, and scheduled to meet all of them in half-hour blocks this afternoon.  Let’s just pause for a minute and discuss how incredibly awkward I am and should never be allowed to interview anyone for anything, ever.

Okay, good talk.  Glad I could share that with you guys.

It was a rather tedious afternoon of saying the same thing over and over and asking the same questions over and over, trying to politely dismiss them before the next one walked in while we were chatting.  One of the nannies actually called me out on it:

Me: (glancing at the door) Okay, well, thanks for coming by!  I’ll be in touch about the position.  Nice to meet you!

Her: Are you cycling all your potential nannies through here this afternoon, like, one right after another?

Me: What? No. (guilty look)

Her: (irritated) You’re doing this like speed dating, aren’t you?

Me: HAHAHA!  That’s exactly what this is like!  That’s hilarious!  I love it!

Her: ::blank stare::

Yeah, I didn’t hire her.  I don’t think we’re that compatible.  We’d never work out in the long run.  We just want different things, you know?  (It’s not her… it’s me.)

In the end, I found a great girl to come and hang out with Caroline this summer while I’m working, and hopefully help ease her transition to a new home, a new preschool, her father moving away, and whatever else we have in store for us.  Speed dating was a pretty efficient way to find her, too.  And now it’s on to the next task: moving to a new home, with a three year old in tow, and no help.

Anyone know of a speed dating service for movers?

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