Yesterday I drove out to see my next youngest sister. I got the day right, it was a Monday, but Memorial Day isn't until next week, but by the time I realized this, I was more than halfway there, and decided to show up and surprise my nieces who are still young enough that they think a visit from their aunt is something to get excited about. Nobody was home when I arrived, I sat in my car wondering what to do, the time to myself gave me some composure, it was actually nice to be the only person there, and two of my younger nieces ran over to greet and hug me which felt like pure sweetness and innocence that I hope they never lose.

My sister was still at work so I talked to them and their father, offering to take them on an outing since I had treated their older sister to an Adventure with Auntie Jess. While we could have gone to the small park in their neighborhood I felt like we should do something a bit more special than that. The mall is ten minutes away, their dad thought that they might like that, I didn't tell them where we were going, asking them to guess as we drove. One of them guessed Target, and I wondered if that would be a better choice for children their age, but we ended up at the mall anyways. 

When we parked I told them that it was their job to remember where the car was at. I did this for two reasons, it helps remind me, and I feel like this is a good practice to get into, because you never know when someone is going to get separated from the crowd, and I've forgotten where I've parked on more than one occasion, thankfully not recently though. We walked through a discount home furnishings store to get into the main part of the mall, they were laughing, skipping, holding my hand, or onto each other as we navigated the aisles. At one point we stopped to check out the music boxes, a blast from my past that I had fun reliving.

There was a fairly large play area and they were very content to run around on the toys that were designed for a younger crowd. Eventually they went into another area that was also carpeted, both of my nieces are in gymnastics, there was another younger girl trying to turn a cartwheel, and we tried giving her some hints and tips. It has been a while since I did anything of that nature, who knows what I looked like showing her my version, but I was proud of myself for trying. Soon we had a group of kids showing off their 'skills' some being much more proficient than others. 

I was the only adult on that side of the divider, and doubtless I look safe enough, but it did make me wonder that none of the other parents came over to see where their children were and what they were doing. Most of them were on some sort of device, and it made me think about how often we lambast children for being glued to their phones as we lead by terrible example. I did have my phone out to send some pics of the girls, and to answer some text messages. I had asked my sister what her address was, and she was finally getting back to me, but I tried to keep my attention on what they were doing since the whole point of the excursion was to spend time with them.

Eventually I told them that they looked hot and thirsty and asked if they wanted something to drink. They both said that they did, and we headed to the food court. When I gave them their options; all the restaurants in front of us, or the Starbucks behind us, they chose Starbucks. I was kind of surprised, but also sort of relieved since that's usually a place where I can find something to eat. My sister is very money conscious so when I told the girls that they could eat choose something to eat and drink, they gave me some hesitant looks. Then they told me the prices of the things that they wanted. The older one wanted a sugar cookie while her stick thin sister wanted a croissant

I had brought water with me, but forgot and left it in the car. I could tell that they wanted to try this strange orange soda type drink, so I bought that more for them than myself. We pushed two small tables together, and they dug into their snacks with the appetites of children who have been on the go and hard at play. While we were there I asked if I should get a new lunch bag, I thought the one I spotted would hold the containers I have, and they could have the containers that came with the bag that I didn't need. They were so excited you would have thought I was offering them something much larger than inexpensive plastic containers.

We cleaned things up and I asked if we should get something for their sister who was unable to accompany us. Their suggestions were cute, but ultimately I ended up choosing a bath kit for her as I felt that their choices were more things that they would like rather than something she would, although who knows about this since it was just my hunch. She's about three and a half years older than her next youngest sister, and I felt that she would like the bath kit better than some of the stuffed animals or poseable toys they were playing with and showing me. I almost dropped some money on a book about plants in the home and workplace, but decided I better not.

By the time I got back to their place my sister was home. We chatted for a bit, I told my sister I was hungry, I knew she wouldn't have much I could eat, but I felt like raisins and some unsalted peanuts would be okay. The peanuts tasted a bit off, but I assumed that they were just a bit stale. I didn't have many, maybe a handful or two, and left after my sister and I had gotten into some heated conversations with her husband, squaring off and making some strange alliances at times. One topic we 'discussed' was a movie at school. She said the movie was treat enough and did not allow them to take any money for snacks or treats. Meanwhile her well intentioned spouse slipped each of them $10 to blow on junk. 

I took the middle ground here. While I wouldn't have given them each that much money, I do think it's important that children feel included and a part of things to the extent that they can be. I have been the hard ass parent and learned some lessons about what that type of control does to children. I mentioned this to my sister saying that in my opinion, children who were denied specific types of freedoms and not allowed some level of 'normalcy' were the ones who eventually went totally wild once they were beyond parental control. This was completely anecdotal, but I cite my own kids as an example here.

We got through that and into a conversation about our mother. My sister told me not to get so worked up and I didn't resent her statement the way I would have in the past, because I hadn't realized how upset I had been getting while we were talking. Since I had been decluttering, and thought many family members would be there, I had brought along a bin of things I thought others may be interested in, I hadn't seen a few items at the very bottom when I started, and my sister started making fun of me for the bottle of nail polish that actually belonged to one of my daughters, and I felt obligated to retract.

I was pretty mad about this, having just taken her children on an outing, spent quality time with them, bought a gift for her oldest, and barely got a thank you for all of my efforts so I told my youngest niece that the only thing you ever have to say to someone about a gift, no matter how unwelcome it might be, was 'thank you'. I gave her a hug, and walked out to my car in a high emotionally charged mood. My sister followed me and I did calm down a bit, but also mentioned that she has never once visited me since I got divorced, and it was just as far to her place from mine as it was from mine to hers.

She made some excuses, I said you are either a priority in someone's life, or you aren't, and kind of left it at that. We aren't close, never have been, and it ticks me off when people do the - we should get together more often - type crap and then make zero effort to do so when they could. If you aren't feeling it, fine, but then don't pretend like you are going to change your spots all of a sudden. I drove home, made a squash and sweet potatoes, and I really wish that this is where my tale would end, but alas, there is more. I woke up around midnight thinking, I am going to throw up. Then I did.

It was as fabulous as I can remember the experience being, and I'm not positive, but I suspect it may have been from those stupid peanuts I ate at my sister's place. I am really sensitive to fats that have gone bad, and I can't think of anything else that I ate making me ill to the point of vomiting. I wanted to cry, I wished someone, anyone, would have been there, but there was no one so I cracked open my emergency store brand children's electrolyte solution, and started sipping that. I woke up around five or so, and since that was not nearly enough sleep, took some melatonin, an allergy pill, and crawled back into bed.

Most of my day has been spent lying around, fooling around on social media, and eating things that were hopefully tame enough to stay in my stomach for a while. I took a nap that ended up with a nightmare version of me driving a car into a group of children who were milling around, none of them were injured as I slammed on the brakes while shouting and honking, it was very disturing and not conducive to restful sleep in the slightest. My book on the low FODMAP diet has been a depressing read, but I feel as if I do feel slightly better after cutting out apples, onions, and garlic. 

I hate having food issues and became very angry, sad, and then melancholy while internally wailing at the unfairness of life. I feel as if I already have a very limited diet, and this hasn't been easy, however a friend of mine who also has food issues was quite empathetic, and that helped. Perhaps I will enjoy a higher quality of life by following this plan, and I guess it is worth a try. I may even end up purchasing this book since it has a lot of recipes that are gluten free in addition to having low FODMAP qualities. I would also like a better way to explain FODMAPS and the elimination diet process, but I guess I will get there eventually. Still very tired, so signing off for today. 

Much love,

J

P.S. I'm really happy I made the extra effort with my nieces. Feel like this is the kind of thing I should and want to be doing more of more frequently. Had a ton of fun with them and am glad I am getting to know them better as people.

j

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