Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My work's cut out for me

One week left in the year, and it just crossed my mind that I had a lofty to-do list at the beginning of the year. And then I thought, "Aha, easy post."

So let's see where things stand. My lofty plans:
  • We will figure out how big our family will be.
Still working on this one, hopefully will have an answer next year.
  • I will find a way to enjoy exercising again.
I've done pretty well on this. I don't work out as much as I did in the first half of the year, but I regularly make time. Walking on the treadmill for 45-60 minutes is not too much of a chore. And I started dancing again, which is helping to give me a new peace with my body.
  • I will finish my comps.
Eek. Got done with the first set and then hit the doldrums. Am now on leave and cannot officially take the final set until next September. Oh well.
  • I will complete an environmental audit of our new house and devise a plan for how we can minimize our impact.
Not completed thoroughly, but Trillian and I both have a pretty good idea of what we would like to do and where we will start. Now to find a little extra money.
  • We will hang artwork in at least two different rooms.
I went out of my way to hang artwork in one room, artwork we purchased this year. We have also put numerous items up in Scooter's room, though train birthday decorations and a paper-bowl spider are not what I initially had in mind. On the other hand, we hung one of our framed prints in the living room on an existing nail ages ago, but think it's probably the right place for it. So maybe I'm ahead on this one if we count Scooter's room.

(And I just looked up and remembered that the corkboard I covered with some cloth I really like is hanging in my office area, so maybe that counts too.)
  • We will get Scooter evaluated and determine what supports he'll have in school.
This is, of course, an ongoing goal with no definite end, as we are always monitoring his progress and deciding what adjustments need to be made. But we did get him in for multiple evaluations and have developed a good working relationship with his IEP team. Even though we have to wait until next August/September for a follow-up to the inconclusive autism evaluation, I don't think that will fundamentally change his supports in school--although getting a diagnosis would put him into a category that would guarantee us supports for longer than his current, catch-all category.
  • I will experiment with gluten-free baking.
And I did. I have a go-to bread recipe now, and I've tried a whole host of recipes for the cravings that have come up: gingerbread, holiday cookies, birthday cakes, tiramisu cupcakes, crackers, bagels (the one recipe that really didn't work for me), even graham crackers.

I've also been making extensive use of my crockpot, largely thanks to this site, especially since most of the recipes are gluten-free. If my main Christmas wish has been heard, there will be a brand-new, larger crockpot under the tree for me tomorrow.

(This is a good time to mention that I plan on bringing back The Mouse's Kitchen in the new year.)
  • I will meditate regularly.
Another one I need to work on some more. I started back with this just in the past week, although I have to admit that I'm trying to pack as much into my meditation as I can. I've been meditating in a constructive rest position my dance teacher showed me, with my feet in a set of Pampered Toes (an attempt to get pressure off my bunions). The endocrinologist seems to think that stress may be behind my current hair loss, so here's hoping meditation can slow that down.

Somehow I don't think I'll be making much headway in the next year, so I may as well begin working on next year's list.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow day

We've been expecting this day for a while. It was just a matter of when the force and timing of the storm would make it impossible to get roads cleared in the morning. By yesterday afternoon, they'd already called a two-hour delay for this morning; by the time we woke up, everything had been canceled.

A good thing too. Before Trillian got her computer booted up, I tried to imagine how I would get a usually lagging 5 1/2-year-old through snow up to his knees the five or so blocks to school. No way to carry him that distance or even to get the car out of our cul-de-sac. I contemplated bringing the snow shovel and clearing a path as we went. And then dealing with the inevitable back pain.

Instead, we got to hang out in our pajamas for longer than usual, eat a hearty family breakfast, and then prepare for some outdoor fun. Trillian, Scooter, and one of our neighbors spent an hour or so sledding. I joined them for a bit with Zee, who leaps enthusiastically through snow banks up to his chest--and he is a LARGE dog.

After warming up, the neighbor came over to play some more with Scooter. He stayed for hours, but it was very pleasant (other than Scooter's temporary suspicions that his friend might have some designs on his trains). Besides trains, they built Lego creations and especially played together on our Wii.

Then a final trip outside, first in the backyard for snowballs and snow angels and tackling the dog, then out front for more sledding. Trillian and I switched supervisory roles part of the way through.

Our winter stuff is spread around the house, cold and wet, but a testament to the fun we eked out of an unplanned day together.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When is it not enough?

In almost area, we're a really great match. People pick up on this; I can't count the number of times someone has said we're perfect for each other.

Maybe this is why the one area that doesn't work for us is such a problem. Maybe this is why it seems likely to be the one thing that will drive us apart.

Without going into details, but still making my point, it would be an understatement to say that we have incompatible libidos. Hell, we're two women who have lived together for years and our cycles have almost never synched up.

It seems ridiculous that this could cause as much trouble as it does. There's been no cheating, no grand betrayals, not even little secrets. If we could just leave sex out of it, everything would be fine.

But it just doesn't seem to work that way. So instead there's a lot of latent (and not-so-latent) anger and frustration that finds its way out every once in a while. Occasionally we talk of separation or sanctioned cheating or maybe vow to improve things. And then it gets dropped until we hit another crisis point.

I'm sleeping on the couch tonight and am not sure even that is enough space.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday headaches

For the most part I have loads of holiday spirit. Really. Our house has been decorated, presents bought, many of them wrapped. But let's face it, it wouldn't be the holidays without some stress.

The tree issue was the first hurdle. We haven't had one since we hosted Christmas the December before Scooter was born. That year we opted for a real tree over fake, because we did a bunch of research and were squicked out by the lead content and PVC of artificial trees, especially with a baby on the way. I've glossed over the issue every year since then, as we've always traveled to my in-laws. (They have an artificial tree, but I try to stay calm and just make sure we wash our hands after touching it.)

Even though we visit the in-laws regularly, it seemed like a good year to revisit the issue since we're in our house and I even knew where the box of decorations were. I had thought that there were a couple companies with fake trees that no longer contained any lead--at least that's what they said when I looked last year--and I reasoned that a plastic tree we would keep for many, many years would be an acceptable environmental impact, but the lead-free designation had been removed everywhere I looked.

So we have a modest-sized fir tree, fully decorated. Quite festive, really. Enough so that my guilt is mostly tamped down.

In time for the next headache...

So my in-laws' retirement is pretty much in stocks, including some companies that have been hit particularly hard this year. It is not as dire a situation as many that I've read about, but they definitely need to be scaling back. Add to this the fact that Scooter always ends up with much more than we plan for the holidays, and Trillian and I have been trying to moderate things. I volunteered to handle stockings this year, mostly so that I could focus on useful and reusable items instead of random plastic knick-knacks (not to mention tons of sugary candy, which is not good for anyone in the family, especially the diabetic). And since our immediate family took a trip that included a stop at a Lego Store, the plan was that we would pick up items Scooter wanted and various family members could reimburse us. This meant we could focus on items that Scooter really wanted and control their vast number.

Except that my mother-in-law sent an email earlier this week with a list of all the things she had picked up that day. A couple were non-Lego items Scooter wanted, but most were extra things--and she had even picked out things for other family members to give him. Really truly, we're looking at almost double the gifts we had thought would be coming from this side of the family.

A little quick work on my part, and I've been able to match up items with my family. Saves them the shipping. One sister already had something for Scooter, but she's going to hold it back for his birthday. My mother actually had in mind one of the Legos we have here, so she was happy to lay claim to it.

Trillian and I will be holding back an item we managed to get via our credit card rewards program. It's a bit annoying since we're looking forward to how much Scooter (and we) will enjoy it. But since he has no idea it's coming, it's the easiest thing to hold back until March.

So, despite some lingering frustration, that problem is solved too. So now I can worry about the next one...

Since my in-laws will be out of town until a couple days before the holidays, we'll be responsible for picking up a family member from the airport in Big City. There are a number of logistical issues here. I have a doctor's appointment in Capital City up until we're supposed to pick her up (but it was the earliest I could get in to see the endocrinologist, who will most likely tell me that my thyroid looks fine and she can't explain the increased hair loss, but that's not a holiday headache, just a normal one). So she'll already have to wait. And then we'll probably need to have the dog with us since we'll be gone a minimum of 6 hours, probably longer. And our vehicle can't accommodate everyone comfortably with the dog added. So I have a week to find a petsitter I like and get the dog comfortable with her.

And I'm not even going to think about entertaining Scooter while he's out of school for two weeks.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Say what I said

When we went in for Scooter’s evaluation a couple months ago, I tried to describe what I saw as two “verbal tics.”

One is sort of a stutter, but not really. Instead of getting stuck on the beginning of a word, he will repeat the end of a word, e.g. “And then-en-en-en.” It’s not caused by, nor does it cause, stress or anxiety; rather, it’s something of a placeholder as he gathers his thoughts and translates them into words. Our inclination has been to ignore it and give him the time he needs to speak. It hasn’t improved the issue, but it keeps him from getting frustrated with us trying to complete his sentences or ask leading questions.

The other verbal behavior is the one that stands out more. Frequently after an utterance, Scooter will repeat it to himself at a whisper. We’ve suspected that he is usually playing what he said back, checking that it makes sense or simply enjoying the feel of the words. We haven’t employed any intervention on this, not entirely sure what might help—although we feel confident that drawing his attention to the behavior and suggesting he not do it would be the best way to cause him great distress.

At the time of his evaluation, our interviewer marked all this down, but did not offer any analysis or suggestions. The speech-language pathologist assured us that this was neither a stutter nor echolalia, both of which we knew, but gave no more information than that. But now we have a word for the behaviors, thanks to the final report: palilalia.

Turns out that both verbal tics are part of one behavior, and Trillian and I have received a vocabulary lesson. Just as echolalia is the repetition of another’s utterances, palilalia (from the Greek palin = again and lalia = babbling) is the repetition of one’s own speech and manifests as repeating the last part of individual words or entire phrases.

There’s not a large range of information on palilalia available online, though Trillian and I did immediately key in on the fact that it is generally associated with Tourette’s, autism, or Asperger’s. (Also some accounts of people exhibiting this behavior after accidents and illnesses.) One major piece of information missing, both from the report and online, is how to deal with it. The implication from the report, the best place for us to start, is that we should begin by working on some of the speech pieces, specifically his expressive fluency and pragmatics, and that the palilalia might resolve itself as a result of general communicative improvement.

Luckily the report has served as an impetus for Scooter’s educational team at school to work on fine-tuning his IEP. As usual, there are a number of requirements we must meet before moving ahead, but we have started the process and should be able to get things started soon. In our most recent meeting, we agreed to a re-evaluation with the same speech-language pathologist as last year. The coordinator at our school (also an SLP) noted that it may be difficult for Scooter to qualify since the state requires students to demonstrate need for support in two areas before it can be provided in the school, but that pragmatics, the second area where they expect he’d qualify, is a problematic area for accurate testing. By using the same SLP, however, she can select the tests that she thinks will best reflect his particular issues—and she’s already looking through the tests available to them to pick the best tools. If he still doesn’t qualify now, they will keep him on a “monitor” list, which will allow us to have him evaluated periodically. And you can bet we’ll be taking their referrals to a private SLP in Capital City.

The funny thing about reading up on palilalia has been a recognition of this behavior in myself. It is greatly muted, as I have learned to fill the space when I am thinking of words for translating my ideas by circumlocutions or by picking words that are close enough. I do sometimes repeat myself, but in a way that escapes most people’s notice. When responding with just a word or two, I tend to repeat them: “Good, good.” Sometimes I vary the inflection or it sounds emphatic, but I’m very aware that it’s a compulsion, not at all the way I would respond in writing or when I have a chance to think through what I will say first.

So I figure that Scooter will get this straightened out someday too and that whatever remains for him may diminish to a harmless quirk. Plus, we have another fancy, Greek-derived word to throw around.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


We're still off-schedule here from Thanksgiving break. We generally allowed Scooter to stay up until he just about dropped (brilliant parenting, although there were reasons) and--funny thing--now he's taking forever to fall asleep. Last night was extra bad because Trillian had a migraine and I had trouble falling asleep, never hitting deep sleep until sometime around 2. So my mind is not focusing well, and the many ideas I have for posts quickly drop into nothing. Therefore, fleeting thoughts...

Can I hold Scooter to an oral contract? As we were walking home today, he said that he couldn't wait to learn to drive, but he would have to wait until he was 18. I started to correct him, to tell him that the age for a learner's permit in our state is 15 or 16, but he cut me off. "No, I'm learning to drive when I'm 18." If only I could get that in writing...

I'm currently fed up with doctors. I've had three different opinions on my sedimentation rate and whether or not I should just write off the pain as fibromyalgia. My numbers have generally improved, including thyroid stuff, although that is changing much more quickly than it seems like it should. Still no idea if any of this has any effect on my fertility...

Speaking of which, one of my sisters emailed me about trying to find a time to talk on the phone. We've been doing a bad job of keeping up with each other. Facebook is good and bad since we can follow each others' statuses, but don't get much more depth than that. I have this suspicion that her attempt to get me on the phone is to tell me that she's pregnant. I could be entirely wrong, and it could be just an opportunity to chat. But that's my gut instinct. And I'm kind of glad it's crossed my mind so that I can steal myself. I will be very happy for her when she has her second child, but of course I can't help but think of the conversations she and I had a while back and how our kids were supposed to be staggered (based on our individual plans, not because we were coordinating our pregnancies)...

Less pressing matter I'm dealing with: dog farts. Holy hell this dog has been stinky. I did a little online research, and all of the advice falls within things I already do. I'm switching him gradually to a new food to see if it causes less of an issue. Trillian complains that it distracts her from work, as he sleeps behind her chair and that gas is worse when he's relaxed. Not the worst of dog problems, but one that makes itself known!...

And now I'm heading out for a quick walk with the dog. Our nights have been chilly, and his hair was cut too short at the last grooming. Neither of us wants to hang out for too long.