Friday, November 30, 2007

Amazing conference

I just got home from Springfield, IL where I attended a conference on Sensory Processing Disorder. It was amazing. The two speakers are the most famous names in SPD, one an educator who works with children, another an occupational therapist who develops therapy and researches its effects. It was so incredibly informative and inspirational.

The best part was before lunch. I happened to be in the bathroom at the same time as Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, who is the OT/research scientist. I had read her book and have long admired her and the work that she does. Normally, I am too shy to talk to people like that, but she looked at me and caught my eye, and I knew I had to say something to her. I actually found myself tearing up as I thanked her for all her hard work on behalf of children like Danny. I told her that I actually cried during her presentation. She showed the differences in electrodermal reactivity in kids with SPD and normal kids when presented with sensory stimuli. There was a huge difference. Then she showed the ERD in SPD kids after 10 weeks of intensive therapy and their responses were the SAME as normal kids. I seriously cried when I saw that she could prove that the therapy works and that there is hope for kids with this disorder and that a kid can respond in as little as 10 weeks. So amazing.

It was so fascinating and validating to talk with her. We are going to look into taking Danny to her clinic in Denver this summer. I have no idea how much it would cost, but they have an intensive therapy program that I think would do wonders for him. At one point Dr. Miller also suggested that I go to school for occupational therapy and I was really surprised. That is actually an idea I have secretly toyed with over the last 2 years, but have been a bit less than confident about. It was gratifying that an amazingly brilliant scholar like Dr. Miller would think I have what it takes to become an OT. I really would love to do something like that. There is such a huge need for OTs, especially those who work with kids. And OTs who are certified in SPD therapy are even rarer. Over the last 2 years I have met so many parents of kids with SPD, all of whom feel as lost and alone as I did (and still do sometimes). I know firsthand what need there is of therapists who really understand this disorder and who don't just think it is a discipline or behavior problem. I think I am going to look into what I would have to do to get a Master's in OT. It is worth looking into, at any rate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

deck the halls!


Our Thanksgiving plans were derailed when I came down with a severe migraine hours before our departure for Chicago. While it was horrible to be in such agony while having to run to the bathroom periodically to throw up, I am glad in a way, that we stayed home from Chicago. It was nice to be able to spend a quiet Thanksgiving weekend with my family at home.

Once the headache and nausea abated, we decided to spend Friday putting up and decorating the Christmas tree. And what a joy that ended up being! Danny was so excited when I asked him if he wanted to help me with the decorations, he could barely contain himself! He helped me get boxes down from the attic and dragged them to the living room. Once Bil had the tree up, Danny helped me with the decorating while Charlotte sat on the couch playing with some blue plastic ball ornaments that Danny had picked out at the store last year.

It turns out that Danny is the ideal tree trimmingpartner for me. He was so excited and interested in every single ornament and I was loving it. Every year of my life, my mom has given me and my siblings a Christmas ornament on St. Nicholas Day. Her goal was to help us collect enough ornaments so that once we were on our own, we would have a respectable number for our own trees. Some are homemade, some store bought, but they each have a story. Mom chose each ornament every year to reflect our personalities, likes, dislikes, etc. I have many delicate teacups and Victorian style ornaments, while my brother probably has more firefighter ornaments than he knows what to do with. My dad has some beer can and deer hunting ornaments, my little brother has an Incredible Hulk and my sister has a phone from her teen days.

But my all-time personal favorite is Dredlock Dorothy. One year, Mom made a character from the Wizard of Oz for each of us. I got Dorothy, complete with ruby slippers made from small, red sequins. She became extra special after the cat got to her. Suffice it to say, she no longer has cute pigtails--it's dredlocks all the way. For years we planned on fixing poor Dorothy, but now I can't bear to change her. Looking at her hair always gives me a laugh. Anyone can have a handmade Dorothy ornament, but I am confident that I own the only Dredlock Dorothy in the world.

Decorating the tree with Danny was so fun because he loved looking at each and every ornament. It didn't matter that he had seen dozens of snowman ornaments already, he still wanted to examine the next one. I would say, "Hey, Danny! Look, I found a reindeer ornament" and he would come running over saying, "Mommy, let me see!" He would look at it, admire it and then show it to Bil and sometimes even Charlotte. For some reason, it was touching to me. Maybe because it has been years since I have decorated a tree with someone who was even marginally as excited about it as I was. By the time I was a young adult, my siblings didn't really care about decorating the tree anymore. And I absolutely love it! I am not picky about how the tree looks. I don't use 7 strings of lights like my mom. It doesn't bother me a bit that all of the ornaments Danny put on the tree are crammed into one very small portion of the tree near the bottom. I just like the process of sifting through all the old ornaments and remembering when we received them. I love talking with my family and laughing and taking our time. It feels so good to anticipate the holiday season and start it off by making our home look a bit festive.

I sure hope Danny's exuberance doesn't die down anytime soon. I know realistically that one day it may not be cool to trim the tree with mom, but I am going to enjoy every minute until then! Heck, he's only 4--we have a few years to go yet, right?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

baking


I am taking a much needed break from my holiday baking. We are going to Chicago for Thanksgiving tomorrow and my sister asked that I bring the desserts. She has requested a peanut butter, hot fudge cheesecake, and I am also bringing a puppy dog cake (we are celebrating Charlotte's birthday). I also made a batch of pecan cups for my brother, and I am now officially burnt out on sweets. Even the smell of the cheesecake cooking right now is slightly nauseating to me. OK, well, it probably didn't help that I ate a few too many of the pecan cups. Blech!!

This has only strengthened my resolve to not make Christmas cookies this year. It is not something I think I can handle. The problem is, once I get started on making cookies, I get a little out of hand. The list of people who will be receiving my cookies grows and grows to include everyone from the librarians who are so nice to the kids, to just about everyone at church, and I start getting a bit obsessive. It never fails. Just ask Bil. Every year, he watches me in horror as I spiral out of control. He pleads with me to scale back, but I never heed his warnings. I start out having maybe 3 or 4 different kinds of cookies or candy to make and then keep adding to that list as well. I realize that most of the cookies have chocolate in them, so I should definitely make a kind that has no chocolate. Then, I remember the caramel truffles, which I decide I just HAVE to make. And then there are the sweets that you only ever make at Christmas, so those have to be made as well. My freezer ends up being filled with dozens and dozens of cookies.

And of course, all along the way, I sample. Last year, I had a particularly ugly incident with the caramel truffles. I ate so many in one sitting that my heart started racing and I was totally sick. I had to sleep it off. That was the closest to a hangover I have come in about 16 years. How scary is that?

I wonder if they have support groups for people like me. I am not even sure what it is I am addicted to. I know part of it is the sugar, but there has to be more to it than that. I think another part is that I like making things for people. And I do really connect food with the holidays and I think that I need to make them to make it a special holiday for my family. Then, of course, there is that insecure part of me that wants to impress others, which is probably where the impulse to make 7 varieties of sweets really comes from. Have you ever seen the episode of "Friends" where Monica makes Christmas candy for practically everyone in New York? That is exactly how I am. Scary, huh?

So, I will have to be strong this year and resist the urge to bake. I think cold turkey is the only way to go for me. I will miss it, but wow, think of all the other things I can get done in the hours and hours I normally spend baking! (Not to mention the hours I spend sleeping off the caramel truffles.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Joan of Arcadia

Bil and I have no cable, and because we live in the boondocks, we cannot get the major networks. In fact, all we get on our TV is static and snow. So, for the last 3 and a half years, we have watched almost no television. It was hard to get used to at first, but now I really enjoy being TV-free. I get a lot more done and don't find myself vegging out in front of shows I don't even like, as I used to do. Oh, the hours I wasted in front of "Dr. Phil."


Anyway, this TV fast definitely puts me at a disadvantage during pop culture conversations. Sadly, I don't know who I want to win "Dancing with the Stars" and I have no idea if Dr. Grey has finally gotten together with Dr. McDreamy. I guess I'll live. The great thing is our library carries a lot of DVDs from past seasons of TV shows. Recently, Bil and I watched the entire first season of "Arrested Development," which was quite funny, if a bit off color at times and very, very cynical.


One show that I can totally recommend is "Joan of Arcadia," which is about a girl to whom God appears and gives assignments. I know it smacks of "Touched By An Angel," but it is actually so good. I borrowed the whole first season on DVD from the library and we have been making our way through the episodes. I am really sad that this show was canceled in its second season. It is a really funny, intelligent show that makes you think about God, the universe, the purpose of life and how we are all connected. It is not at all preachy; in fact, the characters can often be quite cynical and regularly struggle with difficulties, and most especially with the question of why God lets us suffer if He loves us so much. It asks a lot of questions and allows the viewers to form their answers themselves. I'd highly recommend it if you can borrow it from the library.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Disturbing Diet

On Monday, I went with a friend to Terre Haute, Indiana to a bariatric center. She has been on this diet for a long time and has been raving about this center. She finally convinced me to check it out. (For a little background information, in the last 2 years or so, I have lost about 45 pounds. I still have between 20-30 pounds to go and have hit a major slump.) The center is run by a doctor and a nutritionist, so I thought they might be able to help me get a handle on my overeating.

It started off well: they ran every test known to man. They took blood, a urine sample, and even did an EKG, which I had never had done. It was all very thorough. What started to disturb me was when they gave me a vitamin B shot for energy and a potassium prescription. Then, I found out why that was protocol: the diet they advocate is very high protein (100 grams a day, which I later found out is twice the recommended daily allowance) and no carbs (well, unless you count what they call "good carbs," which is veggies only. No fruit, no grains, nothing.) The diet is so restricted that you need to have supplements so you don't become malnourished, basically. The abundance of protein is to keep you satisified and help prevent muscle loss.

It wasn't until I was on the way home that I started to ask questions (I had been there for 4 hours, mostly waiting and was ravenous since I had had to fast for the blood work, so I was pretty hazy). When I got home and did some calculations, I realized that if followed strictly, this diet would give me approximately 800-1000 calories a day. No wonder they are worried I will lose muscle mass. Heck, I would probably be ready to eat my own arm off after a few 800-calorie days. It also became clearer why I needed the vitamin-B shot: 800 calories would never give me the energy or nutrients I need to survive. I did some more research and discovered that to maintain my weight I need about 2200 calories. To lose a pound a week (which is what is considered safe by most experts) I should lower my intake by 500 calories, so I should really be eating more like 1500-1700 calories. This means that doctor is telling me to eat HALF of what I should. I don't understand how a doctor and a nutritionist can feel good about this diet. It seems so irresponsible to me. I mean, yes, people will lose weight, but at what cost?

Do any of you have any experience with the high protein craze? Anybody out there know about nutrition and what would happen if someone followed a diet like this? Do tell!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Nostalgia

This weekend, we went to Chicago to attend the wedding of my oldest friend. Dave moved in down the street from us in 1975 and has been a part of the family ever since. He was best friends with my twin brother, but was really like another brother to all of us. In fact, often in college Dave would introduce me to people as his sister. He was an only child and loved all the action at our house; we spent so much time with him over the years that my parents joked about claiming him on our income taxes. We played, laughed, fought and leaned on each other; I even dated him, for like 2 days in high school, before we decided it was just too weird, like dating a family member.

The wedding was beautiful. I was so happy for Dave, but a bit nostalgic. As I stood in St. Symphorosa (the Church where almost all major life events for the Porch family have taken place) a wave of memories washed over me. All the hockey games and water fights, all the high school dances and late night talks, all the days spent at the park playing softball and hanging out. The wedding was like one major flashback. And despite, or maybe because, my childhood was really very happy, reliving the memories was a bit sad for me. First, there was the realization that things will never be the same again. We have all grown up and moved on. We have families and jobs and real adult problems and responsibilities. A part of me misses those carefree days, especially after the last year, which has taught me a little something about the kind of fear I think you can only feel as an adult. Fear of loss, mainly, as in fear of losing a parent, a child, a loved one. Of course, I realize too that along with the responsibility and problems, come amazing opportunities to love and connect to people in ways different from what you are capable of as a child. So, though, I miss childhood, I am able to let it go with just a few longing glimpses back.

The second reason for the nostalgia is that I am looking back in a different way than I did a year or two ago. Now, I am seeing things through the eyes of an adult who realizes that her parents weren't as perfect, or even as happy, as she once thought. You see, my mom and dad are getting divorced. And I think this wedding, for whatever reason, really made me face what that means. All kinds of emotions I didn't realize I was feeling surfaced and I am not sure how to deal with them at all. It's crazy, really, because I feel like I am the thirteen-year-old heroine of some book like, "Are you there God, it's me Margaret?" I feel torn between my two parents and my loyalties to each. I want to help them see the good in the other and quit fighting. I want to make all the tension go away. I want it to all go back to the way it was, as imperfect as that may have been. More than anything, I don't want to know about any of it. I hate knowing that my parents feel anything but good things for each other. I want to protect them both, but more than that, I want to make it unnecessary to protect them.

I don't even know how to articulate some of the strange feelings that have come over me. I feel like this divorce almost changes the past, the "happy" childhood that I lived. As if our family was all fake. At the wedding this weekend, I ran into a girl who lived on our block for a few years. Jeanine's parents had had a really ugly divorce and she kind of glommed onto my family, which actually happened to us a lot. We had several different friends or cousins living with us at one time or another, mostly because of the major dysfunction in their own families. Despite our quirks and craziness, we were the safe harbor for these friends of ours. Jeanine, who had always been a major drama queen--self-indulgent and self-absorbed--spent long stretches of time at the wedding waxing prolix about how our family helped her. She was completely wasted, which I am sure only served to loosen her tongue, and she started to really grate on me. When she mentioned my parents and how she had always loved them and how they were her role model for healthy relationships, yadda yadda, I had the perverse urge to fill her in on the fact that Ma and Pa Porch were splitting up. It was only my lack of emotional fortitude that stopped me; I just knew I didn't have the energy to comfort her after I spilt the beans.

As much as Jeanine annoyed me at the wedding, she was right about something. My parents were really special to a lot of people. They were always around and were very supportive to us and our friends. My house was the place everyone hung out, and they all love my parents. Dave, Jamie, Luigi, Renee, Mary Kay, Dave Lewis, among others, really looked to my mom and dad as second parents. I know this divorce doesn't really change anything about the past, but it's hard not to feel that it does. I guess I really have some issues I need to deal with. I thought I was OK with it all, that I was mature enough to just want what was best for my parents. I guess I thought I was too old for it to hurt so much.

I was so wrong.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Buzz off, kids!!


I am sick of kids. My kids and other people's kids, it doesn't matter. I am sick of all of them. Harsh, I know, but there it is. It has not been a good kid week, probably because I have not had a single break from them all week. Yes, here I go again with the complaints. Danny had therapy Monday, which means he misses school and we drive over an hour each way to Champaign. This, of course, messes up both kids' schedules, which typically guarantees that we are all crabby when Bil gets home. Tuesday and Wednesday, I then babysat all day for friends' kids, and for some reason, Charlotte opted not to nap unless I rocked and held her the whole time. As sweet and wonderful as it is to rock my baby, this time does NOT constitute a break. Plus, no matter how good someone else's kid might be (and none of them are perfect) they are always harder to take care of, I think.

Now, today, Danny is home because he isn't feeling very well. I just put the two of them down for naps and am praying like crazy they will fall asleep. Is it wrong to ask God that they sleep until their father gets home--some 4 hours from now--when I am planning on making a break for it? I have decided to take the Red Cross up on their offer of giving me a break and go and donate some blood. Pathetic, pathetic. I look forward to sitting with a needle in my arm for 15 minutes just so I can get out of the house and be alone. I really need some help. Or a hobby. I don't know.

I feel a bit lost lately, as if I don't know who I am anymore. (I hate that I am a living cliche. The mom who has lost herself while caring 24 hours a day for her children. It just sounds so trite.) I realized that I have been a stay-at-home mom for over 3 years, which is actually longer than I have ever held any other job. I was a teacher for over 5 years, but during that time held many different jobs at a variety of schools and levels, including college and high school. So, really this is the longest I have been with any one employer. (Don't get all femi-nazi on me; I call the kids my boss, not my husband!!! And talk about some demanding tyrants for bosses!)

On top of that, this "job" is so all-consuming, so as cliche as it sounds, I feel like I have lost bits of myself along the way and am not sure what to do about it. I have lately been really lusting after a job, thinking that might help. Two weeks ago when I was at the library, I found out that they are looking for a replacement for the assistant children's librarian. It only requires a high school diploma, so I have a feeling it doesn't pay all that well, but that doesn't matter. I wanted that job more than I have wanted anything in a while. The librarian I talked to was excited when she heard my credentials and I just had a feeling I would be a shoo-in if I applied. If I got the job, I would help with all the kids' programs, reading hour, help decorate the kids areas, help kids find books and all that great stuff. The stuff of my dreams!

But then reality set in. I would not only have to find and pay for day care for Charlotte (which would probably end up costing me most of my salary), but would also have to find someone to get Danny from school almost every day. Then, I remembered Danny's therapy and knew it totally wouldn't work. I mean, I could hardly ask for every other Monday off, could I? Plus, I remember what it was like when I had to work when Danny was a baby, and I know I wouldn't be able to do it. At least not right now. It would be too hard after all the problems I had with Danny's daycare situation (suffice it to say that he watched more Spanish soap operas in his first year than most of my ESL students combined) to be able to trust someone with my kids. Also, I know now is the time for me to raise my kids, spend time with them, teach them, enjoy them. I mourned the loss of that job for a day or so, and even toyed with the idea of interviewing anyway, just to see if I could get it. This will sound crazy, but it was so appealing to me to even just be offered a job: validation and proof that I could do something other than what I am doing right now...

So, what do I do with myself in the meantime? Maybe I should look into taking a class or something. I don't know. Any suggestions?