The Midnight Gardener first planted Kohlrabi in our garden as something weird and fun to grow with the kids. Not having seen it before, it was like he had gone to outer space and picked an alien vegetable from a different planet. Kohlrabi is an odd looking vegetable–kind of like a cross between cabbage and an apple–with an unexpected flavor. To me its flavor is like crisp broccoli stems with a hint of mild radish and a little sweetness. It has a crisp texture, like an apple. The addition of kohlrabi to any cabbage salad or slaw will turn the flavor up a notch. Kohlrabi is also nice in soup or when oven-roasted with other vegetables, drizzled in olive oil and seasoned with salt.
If you haven’t tried kohlrabi, branch out a little and see what you think.
My life has also been filled with the unexpected, the weird, and hey, sometimes the unusually difficult, but as I have kept my faith and trust in God’s wisdom and power, persisted with fierceness, opened my mind to new ways of doing things, softened my heart and really made an effort to be long-suffering, in time (what seems to me to be a very long time) formidable conditions have become abundant blessings. Our daughter Critter Crazy provides a perfect example.
Between the ages of seven and twelve our daughter’s behavior brought some of these unexpected and difficult times to our lives and literally kept us guessing at what would be next. Critter Crazy’s story resembles Kolrabi because her challenges and trials have been different and yes, sometimes even a little weird. I share this story with her permission.
Her worries started right after she turned seven. It was completely unexpected because she had been a wild, funny, crazy, carefree, loud and hilarious child up to that point. Now she was afraid of anything that she believe to be a chemical. She had started to make spitting noises constantly, she washed her hands obsessively, was easily agitated, and could often be found crying or angry.
After she had time to fall asleep, I would carefully open her bedroom door and silently kneel down by the side of her bed. Even in the faint light I could see how red and irritated her slender hands looked. The dryness came from all the hand washing, and from not sufficiently rinsing away the harsh soap. Each night I would gently take her hands in mine to soothe them with medicated lotion. I also said silent prayers, asking for blessings from above so we would be guided to the right assistance for our daughter’s needs.
Her second grade teacher had called me with concerns about our Critter Crazy. The teacher reported to us that our child looked pale, sickly and nervous in class each day, and she wondered how to help. The call from the teacher initiated a lengthy series of events, so I instead share it in shortened form.
Our daughter was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. In the beginning the professionals were suggesting it could either be ADHD (the inattentive type), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or anxiety disorder. All those could be’s were maddening and took considerable time and effort. When treating a person’s mental health challenges, there is of course no visible wound or injury to assess, treat and heal. Instead, with the brain safely inside one’s head, diagnosis comes with a degree of experimentation coupled with frequent assessment of the effect of the treatment. It was a lengthy process, but with the right medicine and counseling, Critter Crazy was diagnosed. At the same time, a battery of language tests revealed that she is dyslexic and has a low working memory.
The solutions did not come easily, in fact it took five years of effort working with three different mental health counselors, school counselors and psychologists, two psychiatrists, and trying several different mental health medications (which we were originally very opposed to) before the answers came.
While explaining her challenges to us, one of the health care providers shared an analogy. She used the metaphor of a staircase. She compared the staircase to the task of reading, and noted that most children learn to walk and then run up and down the staircase, sometimes even moving two steps at a time. Then she explained that for a child with Critter Crazy’s learning challenges, it was as if she had to climb that same staircase only she must do so crawling on her elbows.
We climbed, crawled and persisted together. We added weekly sessions with a speech language pathology professional. We met with school teachers and administrators to advocate for her needs with the school (I’ve learned a lot, so if you need advice on advocating with your kid’s school, just ask). We struggled through extra homework (I have a collection of the pencils she broke in frustration). She received hours of extra help at school in what is now known as “The Learning Center” but was then called “Resource” (she often expressed feelings of embarrassment when she had to leave the regular classroom). And of course, I must not overlook all of the patience and prayers on her part and ours.
Switching back to kohlrabi for a minute–it is not a well-known vegetable. Kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family and because it is fast, easy and dependable to grow, it is recommended as the first cabbage-family crop that a new gardener could try. It won’t let you down.
Our daughter is nearly sixteen now and she too has become absolutely dependable in her growth. Her work ethic and ability to persist through tasks are beyond her young age. She has grown educationally, receiving all A’s–even in her English courses. Her anxiety is now very manageable. She used to argue with us over most topics, and now being with her and speaking to her she is so pleasant. She is once again funny (okay–hilarious!), witty and charming. Most importantly she is compassionate, caring, kind and fiercely loyal to her family.
These five years have been marked with adversity for her and us. Although these past years are fading, we will never forget the valuable lesson of persistence + faith + time = success. Our lovely daughter is all the evidence we need to know that this formula works.