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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Conversational English

I was telling my friend Bec that "I'm well" in response to her question asking me how I was doing the other day. I told her that's my new default instead of "good thanks", and told her this story.

My boss's boss's boss is named John. That's not super relevant to the story but I figured John would be easier to type than "my boss's boss's boss". Anyway, John has the corner office on our floor and he's super nice and outgoing and every time he sees me he says, "Hey, Jim, how are you doing?"

And I say, "I'm good thanks, how are you?"

And without fail he says, "I'm doing really well, thanks." And I immediately think...you sonofabitch...did you just fucking subtly correct my grammar??

So I'm like...god dammit...this is my boss's boss's boss. I will be damned if I'm going to allow this shit.

I'm doing well...I'm doing well...I'm doing well...I practice it in my head. It's so informal and "Montana" to say "I'm good, thanks". It's ingrained.

I'm doing well...I'm doing well...I'm doing well...

So the next time I see that son of a bitch I'm all prepped and ready.

And he says, "Hi Jim, how are you doing today?"

And I reply..."Good, thanks, how are you?" ( GOD DAMMIT )

More practice...

The NEXT next time I see him I'm fucking ready. He says, "Hi Jim, everything going alright?"

What. The. Fuck. He flipped the script. Well...i have no response to THIS. we didn't prep for THIS. Who can answer something like that off the cuff?

"Doing good thanks" (FUCK!)

The NEXT next next time I landed it, but stammered a bit, (.5 deduct)...

I used his own words back at him. "I'm doing really well, thanks," but it tripped over my tongue. Wasn't "natural".

And I realized that for some reason I OFTEN say, "I'm well" to people. But...for some OTHER reason...never in response to John. So...now when people ask me how I'm doing...it's "I'm well". And I'll keep fucking saying it until it's so ingrained in my head that when that friendly sonofabitch asks me it'll flow as smooth as McDonald's soft-serve ice cream..."I'm well, John, how are you?" I'll say. See how he likes THAT!

Meanwhile...he has no idea that I'm hostile about what is probably not a subtle grammar correction, but just the same thing he says to everyone.

UPDATE:

So today, he sees me in the hall, and basically now I have a brain block around John. I start breaking out in a cold sweat whenever I see him. I've got the conversational yips. So I see him walking toward me and he says, "What's the word?"

And I froze like a deer in the headlights...because­ who the fuck EVER knows how to answer that question, and also...because I was still all "I'm well, thank you, how are you?" like I'm just learning to speak English and think everything anyone says is "how are you". Couldn't get my high powered brain to just go on autopilot the way it's supposed to with conversational niceties.

So instead, I just totally ignored his comment and gave him mine "I'm well, thank you, how are you" and then he said, "Doing okay, how about you?"

"Good thanks"

DAMMIT!
 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Reminders

This weekend I finally marked "complete" in my phone reminder to "Add polymeric sand to patio".  I think I put that reminder in my list while Leslie was still alive, if that tells you how long you can ignore a daily reminder.  The first week you're like..."RIGHT!  I have to get that started."  That continues off and on for a few months.  After that you realize you're not doing it, so you turn off the notify thing, but you're still thinking..."I'll get to it," so you don't actually delete it.  After about a year you just don't even actually see the reminder.  I think I stubbed my toe on the polymeric sand in my garage getting out of the minivan and that got me thinking I should complete it this year.  That, and I've been actually using my reminders more consistently as a tool to combat my continuously-decaying short term memory.  (Highly recommend this)

Last year I ALMOST did it.  The job has more to it than just "add sand" though.  I had weeds growing through my patio cracks pretty much...everywhere.  And the sand fills the cracks like grout would.  It's super simple but...

First I needed to kill the weeds.  Roundup.  Fine.  I did that last year.  Then waited a couple days...did it again for the ones that lived.  Then pulled them.  Then stalled out before I could reach the next phase...

Pressure wash patio.  I almost stalled out on that again this year.  It seems the $100 pressure washer I bought 15 years ago is no longer getting up to pressure.  I thought maybe my hose was too long (ba dum bum) and almost stalled out again holding up the project until I got a shorter hose.  But after pressure washing it a few times (my dad loaned me his pressure washer and even took a turn pressure washing it before I got to it) and then pulling any remaining weeds not already dead or dying, I finally got past that stage. 

When the patio was originally installed...seven years ago maybe?...they had me fill the cracks with polymeric sand, and it probably lasted three or four years without any weeds poking through before each subsequent year stared getting worse.  It looked horrible.  Finally had enough.

Anyway..."completed."  Thanks for the reminders.
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I've been having some great successes lately with cooking.  I'll share some of those on the blog at some point.  But this weekend I had a couple "setbacks".

Yesterday was National Ice Cream Day (I guess).  I recently bartered for my friend Kate's unused Cuisinart ICE-21.  I've always wanted an ice cream maker.  For Emma's birthday in March I actually made "no churn" ice cream that turned out amazingly well (and was super easy), but I was eager to try "the real thing".

I talked to Emma about it and we decided to start out simply before doing anything crazy.  We decided on vanilla.  Kate gave me a couple pointers (put the inner tub in the freezer for at least 24 hours before starting, chill your ingredients as much as possible before starting, and don't run the machine more than about 15 minutes unless you want to burn out the motor).

I needed a recipe and asked her for one, but she was on the road and just told me to google cuisinart recipes, which I dutifully did.

Except.  Except I didn't pay attention to WHICH cuisinart ice cream maker I was getting the recipe for, and ended up making about twice as much as the ICE-21 can fit.

I followed the recipe.  It said 30-35 minutes in the machine.  I thought about Kate's warning...but it was the Cuisinart recipe...how could that be wrong?

I discovered my error about 35 minutes later when my mixture was still soup.  I reread the recipe book and saw that the filename of the Ibook was ICE-35 recipes.  uhhhhhh...

The bright side is...the mixture isn't wasted.  And I didn't burn out the motor.

So Kate advised me to just split the mixture in half and try again the next day.  (That's today, by the way).  So...my mixture is in the fridge chillin', my tub is in the freezer, freezin', and hopefully tonight I'll be making ice cream.  Happy belated National Ice Cream Day!
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Meanwhile...I decided to make a roasted red pepper for hamburgers.  I thought...roasted red pepper, avocado, and provolone would be a nice burger combination.  So I took the red peppers out to the grill and started them cooking.  Once I got back in the house I changed my mind about the burger, deciding we'd had them too recently, and decided on spaghetti instead.

I remember thinking...maybe I should set a timer for the pepper so I don't forget them.  But I decided I wouldn't.

This morning I woke up and looked out at the patio...it's so bare with all the furniture still off in the grass, and it looks so nice with all the cracks filled with the hardened sand/grout and not a weed in sight.  I glanced at the grill (which I'd rolled back the previous night to roast the red peppers) and froze.  The red peppers!

They were done.  The gas was gone.  They were done and sitting on the grill, black as pitch but perfectly in shape.  I picked one up.  It was paper light.  I squeezed and it cracked, crumbling to powder under the pressure of my fingers.

I should have set the timer.
Delicious..."blackened" roasted red pepper...patio with polymeric sand in the background.

video

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Easy Shrubs

The first time I'd ever heard of a shrub I was trying desperately to decode Smallman Galley's cocktail menu.  In general, the whackier the cocktail, the more I want to try it.  Smallman Galley (a local "chef incubator" has a bar menu filled with whackiness.

I didn't actually even TRY the drink with the shrub in it...just noted it on the menu as I tried to make sense out of ANY of their offerings.

The cocktail in question, "Here and Now" was a solution of "Market Alley" gin, dry curacoa (don't know how to make the little tail on my c), summer berry shrub, and lemon.  The one I tried instead was Vilified.  I found its contents more exotic.  BUT...I noted the term "shrub".  And learned that it was a way of preserving fruit juices/syrups in a vinegar solution.  It sounded kinda gross if we're being honest.
each ingredient less likely than the last

Except, a month or so later, at a Yelp Elite event at Muddy Waters (an amazing local oyster joint (probably they wouldn't appreciate that appellation, but here we are)), Boyd and Blair Vodka gave a two station presentation...1)  Making a shrub, and 2)  Creating a holiday punch from said shrub.  I tried the shrub.  The shrub was delicious.  I took pictures. 
the shrub

the punch

Right then  and there I vowed to make a shrub.  It was easy!  I would make a holiday punch for thanksgiving from the shrub I'd made (I didn't) or maybe Christmas (I didn't).  But the thought was there.  And I did make a shrub that November.  I just...I just kept forgetting to buy cheesecloth to strain it when I was done.

For months that shrub sat in a 32 ounce mason jar in my refrigerator, and two days after I finally pushed the button on my amazon app purchasing cheesecloth, it arrived on my doorstep (on a Sunday...god bless you, Amazon).  I strained.  I invited my sister over later that week.  And we got to work. Drinking.

Okay...

Apparently the idea of the shrub dates back to colonial days.  Seasonal fruit was preserved using vinegar and sugar, jarred and stored until needed/wanted, straining the fruit through cheesecloth left a mildly vinegar-tasting fruit syrup, or shrub.  Mixed with club soda, or carbonated water, you basically have shrub sodas, or drinking vinegars.  Mixed with spirits...you have excellence. 

Boyd and Blair's original recipe (they handed them out on printed cards at the Yelp event) was holiday-esque, it was spicey and wintery and delicious, and although I wanted to replicate it, I was missing some of the fancier ingredients. 
I still have this card in my recipe box.

Couldn't find it on their website, but they have some awesome drink recipes WITH shrubs.
http://boydandblair.com/recipes/

But you can basically make a shrub out of any fruit/vegetable that's juicy.  The more fibrous fruits/vegetables don't work as well.  I loved the idea of strawberries and basil.  I got a package of strawberries and some fresh basil along with unfiltered cider vinegar and some mason jars and a fruit masher and a canning funnel (that delivered months before I realized I needed to place my cheesecloth order).

There are several ways to make shrubs.  Two main ways...hot or cold.  There are several great posts on the merits of each (easily searchable..."how to make a shrub"), but broken down into very basic terms...cold keeps the brightness of the fruit better, hot minimizes the tang of the vinegar better.  Why I use the cold method, however, is because it's suuuuuuuuper easy.  And I'm a single dad raising two kids, one of whom is autistic.  I like things easy.  Easy is my jam.

Okay...Cold method...there are a couple approaches to this as well:

1)  mash fruit, mix/mash with sugar, let sit a few days, add vinegar, mix, let sit a couple weeks.
2)  mash fruit, mix/mash with sugar, add the vinegar, let sit a couple weeks. 

I picked the easier method of...just throw all the shit together and mash it up and then let the vinegar and sugar do its work. (method 2)

If you look at the Boyd and Blair recipe, there are some decimal places there that I thought were too complicated.  I simplified my own version to be...in essence this:

1)  1 1/2 cups of mashed fruit (take a bunch of cut fruit, toss it in the mason jar and mash the shit out of it until it's down to 1 1/2 cups.  Add more fruit until you get 1 1/2 cups mashed.
2)  1 1/2 cups of sugar (I then take the fruit muddler/masher and mash the shit out of the fruit with the sugar until it's all one big syrupy mulch)
3)  1 1/2 cups of unfiltered cider vinegar (or however much room you have left in the 32 oz mason jar)

Easy.  Close the lid, shake all up until the sugar granules are all fully dissolved (if they weren't already) and put it in the fridge.  I labeled my jar with the date since you're supposed to wait a couple weeks.  Every day I'd grab the jar, mix it all around, and put it back in the fridge.  Until...I didn't anymore.  Because it was months before I had cheesecloth.

When I finally had the cheesecloth...I strained the syrupy mashed fruit mix through it into another jar and I had my shrub.  It smelled amazing...strawberries and basil...and yes, a hint of vinegar.


I encourage anyone who wants to try a shrub to start with strawberries and basil.  It's amazing...

My sister and I collected some mixers together and made the following:
1)  Strawberry basil shrub mule (with ginger beer, vodka and a bit of lime juice)
2)  Strawberry basil shrub old fashioned (bitters, bourbon, teaspoon of sugar)
3)  Strawberry basil shrub with rum and lime juice
4)  Strawberry basil shrub margarita (tequila, cointreau, lime) (not pictured below)




They were ALL.  UH.  MAY.  ZING.  Seriously, I would have thought at least one of those things would have sucked a little.  None did.  None sucked.  They kicked ass.  No sucking.  All kicking.

So...I made more...blueberry ginger, cherry, grilled pineapple with jalapeno, and, in honor of Donald Trump...peach mint!  mmmmmpeachmint.  All soooo good.
peach/mint...skins...no skins...no worries!

blueberry ginger

cherry

And then I was at another Yelp Event at Tres Rios where they served a roasted red pepper margarita.  "Nobody else in the city is making this margarita," they said...NOT.  SO.  FAST, Tres Rios...I roasted red peppers and jalapenos...I mashed, I mixed...and right this very minute there is a roasted red pepper/jalapeno shrub aging in my refrigerator waiting for its turn in the margarita merry-go-round.  It smells soooooo good.


It's gotten a bit out of hand, I'm not going to lie.  The other day, Emma tried to put something away in the fridge and she said, "Dad, can we move all your 'special juices' to the basement fridge?  There's no room for food."  And she's...she's sort of right.

I'm taking a brief break from shrub-making and transitioning over the fourth of July holiday to shrub DRINKING.  But there will be more.  So many more.

If you decide to shrub here's the equipment you'll need:

1)  32 oz mason jar
2)  Fruit masher
3)  cheesecloth
4)  canning funnel (optional...but it's less messy)

The recipe is constrained only by your imagination and budget.  Healthy people are drinking unfiltered active yeast vinegars these days, and while I can't speak specifically to any health benefits I'm observing...I did feel pretty amazing after my sister and I finished our cocktails.

Despite the health benefits of the unfiltered cider vinegar, nothing is holding you to it.  Use champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar...whatever you think.  The same is true of the fruit the sugar and any spice you use.  The recipe amounts to:

1)  fruit or vegetable you want to preserve/shrub
2)  spice (optional) you want to mix with it (I recommend basil/mint/jalapeno...it cuts the vinegar smell and taste and if you pick well, pairs really nicely with your fruit)
3)  sugar (this can be any sugar...cane sugar, raw sugar, maple syrup...whatever you think would be a nice mix with the fruit/veggie you selected)
4)  vinegar (again...any vinegar will do, but I highly recommend the unfiltered cider vinegar)

and that's it...1 1/2 cups of mashed fruit veggie of choice with spice of choice, 1 1/2 cups of your sugar of choice, 1 1/2 cups of  your vinegar of choice....mash/mix...refrigerate two weeks, mixing daily.  Strain and mix in cocktails or carbonated water.
mash up your fruit

add sugar

mash it all up

add vinegar

label with the date (if you're forgetful...like me)

refrigerate two weeks, mix every day or so
strain a couple weeks later!  voila!

Experiment with how much you want to use.  With cocktails we basically used 1:1...1 shot of shrub with 1 shot of liquor.  With carbonated water, there weren't any other flavors so 2 shots of shrub made a nice fruity flavorful summer ...shroda (props to Kate for the portmanteau name).
cherry shroda!

Great for summer bbqs.  Kids or adults...

Drink responsibly.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dance Recital

We also...and I promise...shrubs, but later.  We also had a dance recital.  Dance has been rough this year.  Emma's high school schedule has been more demanding of her time.  Whether it was school work, the play (Cyrano de Bergerac) or the musical (Les Miserables), Emma just always had somewhere to be and something to do, and although people stepped in to give rides to and from where needed...I often felt like I was just sort of being carried along like parental schedule flotsam.

But...we made it.  And Emma and Lily both had their recital and both did great (Lily even went as far as to audibly proclaim "nice job everyone" before being escorted from the stage by her new TSS (who seems very nice).

And just like that...we're here.  We're in that place where kids start narrowing their foci.  Where Emma must also.  Gone are the days of soccer, lacrosse, softball, and dance...trying things out just to try them.  There's no more time.  She has work.  She has schoolwork.  She has dance.  There's not much (if any) room left. 

I'd love to give her opportunities to try new things.  But...if she juggles that ball, another will fall from her grasp.  It's a milestone.  She can't do it all.  Some day she'll probably regret not...trying out for the lacrosse team...or something.  But she can't.  There's no more room.

As it is, I've told her she can pare down her dance schedule, focusing on the dances she loves and leaving those that she...doesn't love...behind. 

Leslie always wanted her to continue with ballet.  Her reasoning was that all the other movements were derived from that sort of basic balletic movement.  And she was probably right.  And I'd love to bounce this decision off her...but I think ballet has to go. I think she'd get it. 

Emma told me, "I'm not going to be a professional dancer," and I agree.  She is a beautiful dancer, emotes in a way that I don't think can be taught...but lacks some of the skills and flexibility of some of her peers.  She'll continue to dance.  She'll get stronger and more skilled.  But...it's not going to be her job.

She loves tap and contemporary...even jazz.  But ballet has been sort of an afterthought for her for years.  And I'm ready to let it go.  Given everything else, I think it makes sense.  She's AMAZING to watch tap.  She can focus on that.  She loves it.  And it's a hobby, basically.  She's getting in shape, part of team, gets to perform...but a hobby.

It's sad that things have to fall out of our schedules, but the demands on these kids' time is incredible.  And she needs time with friends too.  And with her family.








Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I Lied

I told you guys I was going to wax rhapsodic about shrubs, but as I was pulling pictures for the last post, I realized all the shit we haven't talked about that's more important than shrubs (sorry shrubs, but it's true).  Anyway, I lied and I'm sorry, and I'd tell you I'll never lie again, but that would also be a lie, and you see how this kind of stuff can really snowball on you?

Anyway...We had the walk!  It was just after...or maybe before the last post about EEG's and Seizures and stuff.  Not the most recent last post, but the last post before the last post.  The second to last post. I guess that's what they call it.

Anway, we walked, and if you really really feel guilty about not walking (participation was at record lows for the team despite the tshirt kicking significant ass this year) then you can basically catch the whole (almost literally) thing because I Facebook-Lived like...28 minutes of it.  I'm super entertaining.  At least...at least my mom said I am.

Probably you can't link to this if you don't have facebook.  I don't know.  Maybe you can.  Facebook Live: The Walk

Anyway, we had a good day.  Raised some money (though not as much as usual...slackers...) and had a nice walk.
Standing on my tiptoes to appear taller
It's Kenny!  From Kennywood.  I...I think
Finish Line!  Like...like it says in the picture.
Post "race"
Sure...NOW you sleep.

Summer Break

Hi it's me.  Jim.  Jim Walter.  The...guy with the ...hair?  I know, I know, it's been a while.  I've been writing, but the writing I've been doing has been for Healthline and not my blog.

So...to update you.  When last we left our hero, she had a seizure at school and I took her to the ER and stuff.  And since then I've learned...nothing.

I scheduled an EEG.  This was done...jesus...a month ago maybe?  Probably.  I've heard nothing.  I scheduled an MRI.  That's Friday.  Not looking forward to sedated Lily.  It's hard to watch.  But that's Friday.  Then all the doctor visits...geneticists, neurologists, pediatricians, oh my!

But they're so far out that I'm probably going to call someone and ask them to tell me what, if anything, they found prior to the appointments (I think I'm in August for the geneticist).

School is out and Emma got her first job.  It's fucking adorable if we're being honest.  It's a huge pain in the ass getting her there, but my folks have been helping, and friends.  So far so good.  She's been making it to work on time whether it's me sending her or not.  She hasn't gotten paid yet.  I'll be curious what her reaction is.  Honestly I think she'll just be excited.  She's a very laid back kid.  If it had been me, I'd have multiplied hours by rate and been crestfallen when I saw the damage income tax does...but Emma?  She probably doesn't have any idea how many hours she's worked.  Or how much to expect.  She'll just be like..."money!" and run off to the mall to spend it immediately.


Lily is still sleeping like shit.  I'm in phase two of the "fix lily's sleep" plan.  I talked to her doc, and he sent me a great list.  In fact...in fact, let me grab that list and post it for you folks who have kids who struggle with sleep.  He has some great bullet points and pros/cons of different fixes.  Some of you even posted some of the stuff he's got marked on the list as possible things to try.  From his email:

    The options for supporting sleep in children have greatly lessened over the last few years:
  1. Atarax / hydoxyzine-basic science indicates risk of arrhythmia if used nightly.
  2. Benadryl / diphenhydramine-risk of dementia in elderly…risk of neurocognitive dysfunction in children.
  3. Clonidine and Tenex: only last 4 hours, causing awakening. She did poorly on Tenex in past.
  4. Risperidone-may be tried in the next week, must consider side effects of atypical antipsychotic agents.
  5. Remeron-not recommended for young adolescents
  6. Trazadone-may be tried in the next week at 25 mg orally q evening, but many side effects….some overlapping atypical antipsychotic agents.
Plan:
  1. 5-HTP supports serotonin increase, and a 25 mg capsule opened into food ½ hour before bed may be helpful. Kirkman, Thorne, Pure Encapsulations, Metagenics are good companies for this product. Occasional paradoxical nighttime awakening occurs….but worth a try and otherwise benign.
  2. Assure that all nutrients but Magnesium are given in the am or afternoon, and none after 6 pm, as many are activating. Try moving Magnesium 180 mg / ½ tsp to ½ hour before bedtime, as it is often calming.
  3. Turn off any nightlight in the room, if tolerated.
  4. Deep pressure massage of back for 10 minutes prior to bedtime can sometimes increase relaxation (no training necessary).
  5. Decrease any food that she craves greatly, as an IgG antibody to that food can come off the brain in the middle of the night, causing night awakening. This often happen with dairy, wheat, and soy products.
  6. Emerging clinical experience supports the use of a form of essential oil, lavender, a few drops rubbed into the feet, as helpful.
  7. Stop Melatonin SR (which usually works 8 hours, not 4 hours, for my patients). When she awakens in the middle of the night before 4 amMelatonin 1 mg orally can be given.
  8. If no improvement after a week of the above, we will discuss the Risperidone and Trazodone alternatives.
This is one doctor's opinion, and please don't take my list and run with it, because...results may vary...but if you're struggling with your own sleep issues, or your child is...these would be some great talking points to bring up with YOUR doc.

So where I'm at is...I stopped the sustained release melatonin.  I started giving her 1.5 mg (half a 3 mg tablet) when she wakes up in the middle of the night.  I started giving her 5-HTP (though they only sell 100 mg capsules, so it's pretty dicey about exactly how much she's getting.  other people sell 50 mg, but are like twice as much as the kirkman capsules).  I started giving her the Mg supplements at night.  I started turning off her nightlight when I first get her to sleep.

Annnnnnnd...I don't really know that I've seen any improvement.  Last night she got up at 2 a.m.  By the time I staggered back to bed it was 3:30.  I KNOW I didn't live through anything close to 1 1/2 hours of struggle, so I must have dozed off at some point, but it's hard getting that mid morning wakeup interruption and then dragging ass out of bed at 5:30. 

This is still a work in progress.  

Lily's aide is working out well so far.  SO much less stress worrying about parents and in-laws driving 40 minutes to watch her every day so I can complete my work day.  There's still the issue of Emma's work schedule, which Lily's aide doesn't support, but so far that has been workable.

I've been cooking more.  Shrubs, pies, ceviche, bbq jackfruit for fucksake!, and I enjoy it.  My niche is typically...what can I make ahead and get leftovers of, and I'll probably post a recipe or two in the near future.  Next blog I'll wax poetic about shrubs.  Not the kind Sean Spicer hides behind...the fruit/vegetable syrup that can be used in cocktails or sodas.  They're awesome.
Grilled pineapple and jalapeno shrub margarita
That's it for now.  More later.  I won't promise I'll write more here...because I always seem to go in fits and starts, but I feel like writing more, so it's certainly more likely.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Rough Patch

Lots to unpack here.  Where to start...

Lily, always a good sleeper, if somewhat more of an early bird than daddy might like, is not a good sleeper anymore.

She goes through these little...streaks or trends or phases, so in the past, when she hasn't been sleeping I sort of chalk it up to a phase, or maybe she's coming down with something.  But at this point...it's been since daylight savings time last October ...I think I'm ready to say, "she's not a good sleeper".
It could be worse of course.  Autism/ADHD and no sleep seem to go hand in hand a lot, and I've certainly had a nice long run of "in bed at 8 and up at 6".  Now we're at "in bed at 9 and up at 3".  That's painful for a guy who can't get to sleep much earlier than 11 on the best of days and usually gets to bed around midnight only to wake up at 5:30 to start my work day.

So to go to bed at 11...or midnight...then wake up at three for the day is...draining.  I wrote a little about what it does to me when I'm sleep deprived >>here<<, but in a nutshell...the patience I need..NEED to deal with some of Lily's challenging behaviors is not in abundance.  Or Emma, honestly.  I snapped at her yesterday for something that I ordinarily would have just laughed about.

So that's the first thing.  I need to find a "solution" to this problem.  I use a monitor in Lily's room.  That way I can tell when she wakes up and get her on the potty. 

I could turn off the monitor.  Except she has been getting out of bed and coming down the hall, or even the stairs lately.  And she is not the best at stairs.  Especially if she's wearing slippery socks on the hard wood steps.

I could install a gate at the top of the stairs.  That might be okay.  I could turn off the monitor without worrying about Lily taking a spill down the stairs.

I could see if there's a sleep aid Lily could take to keep her asleep.  Getting her to sleep is no big deal...KEEPING her asleep is what I need.  Would dosing her with melatonin when she wakes up help?  Maybe.  Not sure.  But melatonin has been pretty ineffective with her in the past.

I could do nothing and hope this...6 month phase passes.

I don't know.
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Help at home.  I got approval from my insurance company for a home health aide for Lily.  She started a week ago.  I was approved at the end of January, but it's taken this long to find a resource.  Now that she's started, it relieves a lot of the burden from grandparents having to drive 40 minutes one way to watch her until I can get home from work.  This is an amazing benefit, and I'm slowly getting comfortable with it.  Right now it still seems very new and I'm still stressed out about it, but hopefully I'll mellow out with time.

--------------------------------------

Lily is growing up.  I won't go into the personals, but she's growing up and I have a plan, and that's basically all I guess anyone needs to know.  Not that anyone NEEDS to know it, but if you were like...what the hell is Jim going to do when Lily goes through puberty...Jim has a plan.

If you don't have a plan, feel free to reach out to me.  I like my plan.  People that need to know stuff know stuff.  And they know what to do.  And I know what to do.  And if you don't know what to do...you should figure that shit out sooner rather than later.

Was any/all of that cryptic enough?  Anyway, if you have a little girl like Lily, and you're considering your options, I'd be happy to discuss it with you "off blog".

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It bothers me that I'm never sure if my little dashed lines are all the same length.

--------------------------------------

Lily had a couple seizures at school the day before yesterday.  We've long suspected seizure-like activity with Lily, but up until Tuesday nobody had ever really witnessed them who had a lot of experience.  The school called me and they sent her to Children's hospital ER in a "princess carriage".  I drove to meet her there.

We learned nothing.  Lily had previously done a sleep-deprived EEG that was inconclusive, and we elected not to do a 24 hour EEG followed by an ambulatory EEG because, to be honest, the first one was so fucking traumatizing that I didn't want to put her through it.  That was...years ago.  >>HERE<<.

In fact...5 and a half years ago.  So I'm doing it again.  I got a script for an MRI and one for an EEG and I'll be doing it this time without Leslie's support, but Lily is in a LOT better place for this kind of thing now.  She'll still have to be sedated for the MRI, which isn't my favorite, but there's is absolutely no way she'll sit still to have her brain scanned for a half hour.

So the "good" thing is someone saw it, and we checked it out and she seemed fine.  And the other "good thing" is that now I can use the scripts to get a better look so that IF something is there...I can get her help for it.
this Lil patient is being so patient

I was at the ER from 1:00-7:00 on Tuesday to get those two prescriptions and that medical buy-in that she was "fine".  And Lily was somewhat stir-crazy, but she was good all things considered (having not really eaten since breakfast, they wouldn't let her eat until she had bloodwork done I think that finished up around 5.  So...that was a bit painful constantly telling her "just a little bit longer".

------------------------------------------

Recap:  Lily isn't sleeping much, and is becoming a woman.  In addition, she seems to have had a couple seizures at school.  I need help, but got some for after school if I can just figure out a way to get more sleep.  Doc says there could be a link between her seizure and her coming of age, and that could be scary, but I'm following up.

There!
Unpacked.  For now.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Checkup

I went to my semi-annual dermatology appointment today.  I'm moley.  It turns out that moles I THINK are dangerous are harmless and those I think seem harmless are malevolent.  So I go to the dermatologist and he checks me out twice a year just to be safe.  They take pictures with an ipad and then compare my moles today to my moles from the past and flag the changers.

I have this mole-ish thing on my thigh.  It's been there for years.  He said a name for it.  He said it's fine.  He always says it's fine.  Which...is why I go see him, because I wouldn't have thought it was fine.  I told him so.  He said, "it does all the things we tell you to worry about, but it's still harmless.  It turns out it's genetic."  Well...if it's genetic. Nothing genetic could be a problem.

"These things save lives," he continued.  "People think there's a problem and they come to get them checked, and because they come in we spot something they might NOT have caught that ISN'T harmless."  So basically my thigh-mole-thing is a hero.

My dermatologist told me that his brother was a pilot in Iraq.  He told me that he asked him once what it was like being a pilot in Iraq and apparently his brother told him, "It was a target-rich environment."  He told me the story after he peeled the paper gown away from my chest.  In terms of moles, he said, "you're a target-rich environment."

Don't worry, this story ends happily.  He examined and catalogued my moles and had his assistant take some pictures, pronounced me healthy and told me I could get dressed and he'd see me in 6 months.

Writer technique...FLASHBACK!

When I started this appointment they asked me if I wanted a gown or just to take my shirt off.  Considering I knew he wanted to examine "all of me" I figured rather than sitting bare-ass on butcher paper I'd prefer the sparse modesty a gown could offer.  The assistant brought me a paper gown and I disrobed when she left, peeling the paper apart to find the arm holes.

"The opening goes in back," she said.

I put it on and looked for some way to pull the stiff paper closed.  There was a thin plastic strip, perhaps a half inch wide and 36" long that had fallen out of the gown and I attempted to wrap it around myself.  I could make the ends touch but there was no way I'd be able to tie it.  This was not my first paper gown exam rodeo.  I looked for eyelets on the gown...maybe it threaded through them.  There weren't any.  I tossed the strip on my clothes in disgust.
flattering!

I gathered the gown around me and pulled it closed before sitting on the butcher paper and waiting.  "Please don't use cell phones while in the examination rooms".  Whatever.  I didn't though.

Writer technique...PRESENT!!

I crumpled up the paper gown and tossed it in the garbage.  I got dressed and grabbed the "belt strip".

I handed it to the assistant and said, "Explain yourself.  I'm relatively slender and I couldn't tie it, I guarantee you have bigger patients.  There is no wa-"  But she was already holding the strip out in front of her...and...LIFE HACK...She pulled it apart.  The strip didn't snap in half or really even seem to thin out as much as I'd have thought.  She handed it back to me, stretched nearly double.

At the look on my face she laughed delightedly.  "That's how you do it," she said.

I can't POSSIBLY be the only person who has failed to see the solution to the short-belt problem.  If I am, please feel free to laugh at me.  If not...use this life hack for your next appointment.




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lookin' Up

I've been doing a pretty good job of watching what I eat.  I've been doing an "okay" job of getting exercise.  I guess from my perspective any concerted effort to get any exercise is better than the complete LACK of that I was previously getting.  It's like Lizzy used to tell us (a dietician at work who gave us a 6 week brown bag series on nutrition)...it's about making better choices. 

So I've been trying to get out and walk for fifteen minutes every day at work, but I haven't been as diligent at home.  I'm not beating myself up about it, I'm still eating much better, and I'm focusing on doing things that help my overall mental health, so if I don't get a walk/run in on the treadmill it's not the end of the world.

One of the things I've been doing is sampling vegetarian food choices.  I'm not going vegetarian or plant-based, or whatever...at least not yet...but I'm just seeing what the dark side has to offer.  Since 90% of my dining is Asian, it's amazingly simple to just make the meat disappear and still have a great entree.  Other things I'm doing is attempting to limit my portion sizes to something more...reasonable.  I can eat a dinner sized portion of Hunan chicken, but really it's probably three full servings worth of food.  So I'm trying to just cut it in half and ask for a doggy bag for the other half so I'm not tempted.

I'm back where I was when my pants stopped fitting three weeks ago.  So now that I lost the six pounds I gained without even realizing it...and since I'm already in eat right and exercise mode...I'm going for the next five.  I think ten more total and I'll be content, but for now I'm taking it five at a time.

Myfitnesspal is limiting me to 1,750 calories today, which is actually not that big a deal to maintain, although I do find myself having to talk myself down from grabbing a snack out of the pantry, or at the very least, forcing myself to log that information into the app so that I can see how much damage I'm doing.  In some cases I end up going to bed with a little cushion (not literally, though I do use a pillow), in some cases I'll treat myself to a little something just shy of the goal limit, and in other cases I'll go a little over.

We went to visit my folks last week and mom made steak and brussels sprouts in a cheese sauce, and served wine...and then finished with a chocolate chocolate chip cookie sandwich with fucking marshmallow fluff in between.  So yeah.  Kind of hard to ALWAYS stay under budget.

Stress is less, I think.  Lily is still in the throes of some sort of metamorphosis that is not always super pleasant (like getting spit on or bitten, for example) but she's pretty happy and easy for the most part. 

Emma is more focused at school lately and I'm seeing her grades reflect that, and I've found there's an inversely proportional relationship between her grades and my stress level that has probably been my biggest single source of stress these past six months...yes...autism/money/election included.

My big "project" is done, and I'm eager to show you all what I was working on, but I can't until the recipient receives it, lest I ruin the surprise.  Now I have to pick some new thing to focus my creative energies on.  Room remodel?  Lamp project?  Drawing for Emma? 

I like my new foci, and I feel like they're helping me steer the boat.

Life is feeling good right now and I'd be smelling the roses if I hadn't contracted some sort of cold/flu from Lily and gotten a stuffy nose.  And I'm out of tissues at work. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Free Burrito with Haircut


I suggested she put on the little cape, which worked fine until Lily flung it over her head a few times so that she looked like a little black ghost and completely covered her head.  We made it past or through...and she settled down for about the last 1/3 of the hair cut. 

Well...if you're following along in the haircut process, yesterday I posted three styles I thought would look good for Lily.  They're here.  We ended up splitting the difference between Options 2 and 3, going not quite as short as 3, but not quite as long as 2.  It looks great.  Great job Leigh!
How YOU doin'

It started out a bit rough.  The things that Lily hates most about her hair...combing and clips were all things Leigh needed in order to get her hair cut.  Also..."I don't like rain" when she would spray her hair with the little spray bottle.

And even though she had already eaten her favorite McDonald's earlier that evening, I took her for a special treat after the haircut.  She wanted nuggets and fries.  I thought about getting her a four piece with a kids fry, but I didn't think it would be enough fries, so I just got her a six piece and a small fry.  Like an asshole.

She ate her nuggets like a champ and I pulled around McDonald's to Chipotle, because at that point I hadn't eaten anything yet and it was about 8:15.  Daddy deserved a little treat too.  I'd never taken Lily in to a place like that and gotten something for myself.  Sometimes I just don't want to worry about the fuss or stress.  But I was like...we can do this.  I need to challenge my comfort zone.  So I did.  Like an asshole.

At some point I noticed the woman in front of me kept turning around to look at Lily.  And I'm like...yeah, bitch, she's a princess, drink it in.  But I didn't say that, and instead I looked at Lily who was making the face of someone who wanted to throw up.  Possibly because her father overfed her like a kid with his first goldfish.

And then she settled down a bit, and it was my turn so I started to order, but I kept looking at Lily, because if she had to hurl...and so I kept having to say what every five seconds.

Slack jawed teenage girl (SJTG):  What would you like to order
Me:  Veggie Burrito (I was being so damned healthy too!)
SJTG:  White or brown rice
Me:  What?
SJTG:  White or brown rice
Me:  Oh...I want the lime cilantro rice
SJTG:  The lime cilantro rice comes in white or brown
Me:  What?  Oh...uh...white
SJTG:  Black or pinto beans
Me:  What?
SJTG:  Black or pinto beans
Me:  Uhhhh...black

And so on.

The woman behind me had now taken an interest, asking if Lily was choking and I told her no, that she'd eaten too much and was feeling a little sick.  I sat Lily down and divided my time between ordering and double-checking that Lily wasn't going to throw up in Chipotle as the woman behind me started barking orders at the SJTG behind the counter...Bag!  We need a bag!  No, not a paper bag, do you have a plastic bag!

And so on.

I'm along for the ride at this point.

"Sweetie, you need to put your hands up in the air if you're feeling like you're going to throw up, that will help."

That was about 25 words more than Lily wanted to process at once, and I'm like, "ma'am, she doesn't know what you mean, she's autistic."  And I cringe because I feel like I'm minimizing who Lily is, but I just want the nice lady to leave us alone so I can address the situation my own way. 

She begins taking all the things the SJTG is giving her and engineering some sort of double-contained barf bag apparatus like she's a fucking Apollo 13 astronaut, wrapping one bag inside the other and then turning it inside out or something and folding it at the sides...my attention was divided at this point.

"OH!  My NEPHEW is autistic."  She thrusts the Apollo 13 barf bag into my hands and says, "I'll pay for your order, you just take care of her."

 And I'm telling her it's really not necessary and thank you, but it's okay.

And SJTG is STILL asking me questions...guac? cream cheese? salsa?...and I'm responding "Yes, jesus, yes, all of it...put everything on the goddamn burrito (I didn't swear)...all of the things..."

Lily is now saying, "I have to go potty".  Son of a BITCH!  But...hey...cool points for self initiating.

NOW the nice lady behind me is practically pushing me out the door...I hear her telling SJTG repeatedly...I'll pay. I'll pay, just give him his order...

And she insists on paying for my burrito, and I thank her again as the cashier hands me my free burrito and I walk Lily to the back of the store, asking her if she wants to go home or go potty.  She never actually answered, so I ushered her into the car and drove home.

Lily was fine when we got home.  No throwing up.  Awesome haircut.  Free burrito.

Nailed it!  Thanks nice lady for helping!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Making the Cut

Tonight is Lily's big haircut.  Taking her to the salon this time.  I think I've narrowed her look down to three choices, with one MUCH shorter than the others.  And I think I'm going to need to learn how to cut bangs.  But maybe it'll make things easier.

Option 1:  Longer...too long?
Option 2:  Shorter...
Option 3 (Blogger friend's gorgeous daughter) shortest

I've been washing her hair every day.  It makes brushing it sooooo much easier the next day after she sleeps in it, so I think it's been really helping her mood, because there aren't as many tangles to comb through that pull and hurt her head.

Also, we went to Eyeglass World and picked out some new frames for her new prescription.  I liked her old frames, but I think she was getting too big for them.  So she has some new ones now.  Purple.  Like Lachey Wiggle's shirt.

So she'll be a totally new kid next time you see a picture of her...which means I'll have to redo the blog graphic.  Which means I'll have to redo the Walk tshirts...DAMMIT!

But...segue here...

The walk is coming up.  I'm WAY ahead of the game this year.  Already contacted the tshirt guys.  Picked out a color (charcoal gray (they told me that whites don't show up well on black unless you double the ink, and they charge for it) with white lettering and graphic).  Should look cool.  Already got a nod on the sponsorship.  Already registered myself, Emma, and Lily, and set up the team site...Just a Lil Walk.

Soooooo...register/donate/save the date so you can show up and walk with us.

Last night I got eight hours of sleep.  I woke up and the coffee made me wired.  I think this whole time I just thought caffeine was a myth because no matter how much I drank I was still tired.  But today...wow.

Also down six pounds since I started focusing on my six areas to cure the Blues.

  • Create
  • Workout/eat more betterer
  • Connect with kids
  • Get more sleep
  • Finish a project
 And I'm doing all the things.  Mostly.  I can't do it all, but I find that if I say...okay, I can't be creative or workout tonight, but I CAN get to bed early.  Orrrrr...I can't get to bed early, but I'm excited to finish this project and then hang out and eat popcorn with the kids.  Or WHATEVER...as long as I'm making a concerted effort to hit at least one or two of the high points...it's good.


Alright...I'll be back soon.  With pictures.





Monday, January 23, 2017

Status Report

Alright...

When last we spoke, I was "curing" my blues by getting more sleep, getting creative, working out and watching what I eat, reconnecting with my kids, and working on a project. 

So far so good.  Since that time, I've been getting to bed about an hour earlier than usual.  I logged back into myfitnesspal to start logging calories.  I started walking a mile at work with another one of the PM's.  I hopped on the treadmill a couple times.  I started a little secret project as a gift for a friend.  And I tried to do better about engaging the kids without a phone screen between us. 

And the few things that leap out at me are:

1)  Oh my god, I'm so hungry.  No wonder I was gaining weight!  I told myfitnesspal that I wanted to lose a pound a week.  It told me to limit my calories to 1,750 per day.  Whatever...no problem.  Except that I've been eating without discipline for months and I've been really struggling to hit my calorie count!  "Really struggling" is probably a stretch.  But let's just say I was surprised at how easy it was to break my calorie "budget".  I think the one pound a week thing is manageable, but...it would be sooooo much easier if I changed it to 1/2 a pound or something.  Anyway, it's doable. 

I just finished lunch, and I have 750 calories left for the day.  I was in the same place yesterday (more or less) but I blew the bank with popcorn with Emma.  I got on the treadmill though, and didn't add that to the app, so I think it was fine.

I use little tricks like keeping busy, or trying to increase the amount of water I drink, or eating (attempting) very slowly, but I think at least for a while I'm going to be craving food.

2)  I felt my best when I was working on my secret project.  It really improved my mood creating something with my hands and seeing it take shape.  Emma was off at the movies with her friends and Lily was in bed, so I didn't feel guilty about the time spent (until Emma came home).  I think I worked on it more or less steadily for three hours.  And I'd have kept going, but it was 12:30 and I knew the next step would take several more hours, so it was a good place to stop.

3)  I realized that I'm not going to be able to do everything at once.  I mean...I had realistic expectations.  I knew that there would be some days I'd be too busy to do it all.  Or that on other days some things will have to give and I would need to try to prioritize based on what I felt I needed the most.  If I was feeling really tired, then maybe getting to bed early trumped working out or working on my project.  If I was having dinner with a friend then maybe maintaining my calorie count took a back seat.  The day that I worked on the project I didn't really work out.  I had walked at work though, and I thought to myself...(a week ago I wouldn't have...so I'm still ahead of the game).  Anyway, I'm trying to be realistic.

All in all I'm feeling good about the past five days really taking a close look at those few areas of my life that I can control.

In the meantime, I'm talking to Lily's hairdresser on Tuesday about when we can schedule her haircut.  I got some great ideas from you folks about good low-maintenance but adorable haircuts.  I'm actually excited to see how it turns out.

Now I need to pick a home improvement project.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Splitting Hairs

I've reached another one of those unpleasant autism-parent decision plateaus...where I have come to a realization that something I've been pushing with Lily, something that was really important to me, was in truth, only important to me.  Not to her. 

Lily is a beautiful girl and I love her long hair.  And Lily doesn't give a shit.  And I have fought against cutting it shorter for years and years and this morning, as she clenched her teeth in frustration, biting down hard on her sweatshirt in anger and screaming through the material, I realized that it's all been because of my desire that she have long hair, and not for any other reason.

Hair styling with Lily has become increasingly harder through the years, and lately when her mood declines she lashes out more and more vehemently...spitting, biting her hair or shirt, screaming NO!  kicking off her shoes, throwing her hair clip and glasses...and hair styling rapidly puts her mood in that sort of decline.

This morning, for probably the third time this week, I loaded Lily onto the bus with a warning to the bus aide to be careful...Lily is very frustrated this morning...then watched helplessly through the window as she attempted to snatch the glasses off the face of her bus aide and hurl them across the seats.  This morning the aide dodged back quickly, looking up at me beseechingly as if I had the power to do anything other than stand witness. 

She was pissed (Lily...but maybe the aide too), and me trying to put her hair in a pony to keep it out of her face is what put her in that place.  Once she's in that place it's probably ten to fifteen minutes of solid rage before she processes and settles back into the happy little Lily she usually is.  But I put her there.  Again.

During the morning routine I cut up her poptart and placed it on the table.  She wasn't sitting down at the time and I didn't really give it a second thought.  While I talked to Emma and Lily watched TV she eventually wandered over and sat down, popping a piece of poptart in her mouth before I noticed that her hair was in her mouth too. 

I pulled the long strands of hair out of her mouth (it doesn't really bother her that she's swallowed the hair with the poptart, I grabbed a napkin to attempt to strip the poptart goo off her hair.  I gathered it up and made a messy partial pony on top her head, trying to finish quickly before she started getting upset.

I made it.  It was later though, when I tried to straighten it up, brushing it back off her face neatly and gathering it in my fist to wrap and rewrap with the pony tail holder that she spiraled down, cratering into the place where she remained as I loaded her onto the bus. 

Not for the first time I thought...I guess I need to cut her hair. 

Those kinds of decisions are the hardest ones for me.  It's stupid really, because it's an easy decision...Lily hates her hair being styled.  I need to style her hair when it's long...cut her hair shorter.  But it comes at the end of a long battle to NOT cut her hair, so it makes pulling the trigger that much harder.  But it's done.

hmmm...

I'm going to contact the family hair dresser today via text with a few pictures to consider.

My requirements for Lily's haircut:

1)  cute (obvi...)
2)  stays out of her face without a clip or a pony
3)  doesn't require "styling/curling/etc" in order to look good
4)  won't get in her mouth if she bends over her food when eating. 

I was going to post a picture of Eleven from Stranger Things as my first cute haircut example, but I couldn't find one that was obviously marked as shareable.  Look her up.  Millie Bobby Brown...she shaved her head for the show.

The sight gag isn't nearly as funny without the sight part.

Anyway...it is purely coincidence that every single cut I found (and maybe one or two are the exact same) happen to be labeled "short haircuts for asian girls".  I had no idea they were so ethnocentric.

Here they are:

This is by far my favorite

This has some sort of weird unkemptness vibe that I probably won't be able to reproduce

On Lily the back of the hair will just hang straight down

This is probably my least favorite, and I can see her getting her hair in her food


What do you all think?  Leigh?