Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In the kitchen: black beans

It may not be exciting to most, but I made a crockpot full of black beans. It was a little more challenging than it might have been otherwise because of where we live--go read to find out more.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Taking my small victories where I can get them

I try not to worry too much about Scooter's eating habits. He is extremely picky and eats from a limited repertoire, but at least he does get some fruit and will take the multi-vitamins we have for him.

Nevertheless, I have moments when I despair of Scooter ever expanding what he is even willing to have on a plate near him.

Yesterday, I cooked up a crockpot full of black beans, knowing I will need some for a dinner later in the week. After letting them cool and dividing them into 2-cup portions, I had another 1/2 cup or so left.

A bit later I was struck with inspiration. There was a point when Scooter would eat cheese quesadillas. And his favorite preschool lunch had always been black-bean burritos (which I have never recreated to his satisfaction). We have both white corn tortillas and Mexican cheese on-hand, so I tried to approach the topic nonchalantly.

Mouse (shuffling around the kitchen): Hey, Scooter. Would you like to have a quesadilla?

Scooter (playing on the computer at the kitchen bar): Um, I don't like quesadillas.
What's a quesadilla?

Mouse: It's sort of like a burrito...

Trillian (from the living room): but flat.

Scooter: OK.

So I made the quesadilla, mashing up some black beans away from where he could see them and sprinkling them generously with cheese.

He took the first bite with me holding a quarter of it. And pronounced it "very good." Usually that means he won't eat anymore, but there was more enthusiasm than usual in his voice, so I held out hope. He ended up eating a bit more than half of the quesadilla, unprompted after that first bite.


Friday, February 20, 2009

To infinity and beyond

Scooter has been particularly interested in all things space. We've been borrowing videos from our library on planets, the sun, the space shuttle, etc. On our walk to school, he will summarize the information he has learned, working through the planets in order. Did you know that both Mars and Pluto are "cold, barren worlds"? (Now imagine that said by a kid who has trouble with the 'r' sound.)

While not an explicit request for his birthday list, a telescope sits in our closet, waiting for the big day next month. It may be a little more advanced than where his interest currently is--he talks about building a spaceship so he can fly to Pluto--but Trillian and I both are excited about showing him the sky and giving him a sense that it is all really out there.

Then today I read about the Galileoscope. (And also the fact that it's the International Year of Astronomy--how perfect for when my son's interest is at its highest!) This is a fairly simple, but quite effective, small telescope kit. It's supposed to be easy to put together and has a few different configurations, depending on what magnification and image orientation you want. There's also an eyepiece that replicates Galileo's viewing experience.

And here's the most amazing part--the price. One kit is $15. Plus shipping and handling, which can add a bit more, depending on where you are. For institutions and groups that want to place bulk orders, they drop the price to $12.50 per telescope for 100+. Individuals can also donate telescopes to schools and the like at the $12.50 price point.

The rub for us is that they won't be shipping until April, after the all-important 6th birthday. Plus we already have the fancy telescope in our closet.

I ordered two anyway.

The telescope Scooter will get on his birthday requires set-up and, therefore, planning on when we want to use it. The Galileoscope will be perfect for spontaneous viewings, vacations, and the like.

The purchase of the second telescope ties in with the fact that we've been consulting a lot of Asperger's information. Just as the videos and books (not to mention, several members of his educational team) mention that Aspies frequently like to take items apart to figure out how they work, we see Scooter headed this direction. And we even want to encourage it to a certain degree, just not with our working electronics. So we'll be setting up a work area for him and supplying him with acceptable items to explore as he desires. This telescope will be the first item we hand to him with this purpose. We'll let him take it from there.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Autism mom

I feel like it's been autism all the time here for a while.

In the past two weeks, we have had multiple meetings: annual IEP, school psychologist, regular parent-teacher. Trillian and I are working through three different autism books--plus a fourth the psychologist loaned us. There's research on the internet, videos, the monthly autism meeting, possibly a conference.

My mind is oh-so full.

The information overflow is one part coincidence, one part design. The IEP, parent-teacher conference, and monthly meeting were going to happen within a short span of time by coincidence of the calendar. A couple of the books arrived from Amazon around this same time. The IEP meeting spawned the meeting with the school psychologist, which spawned some of the reading and research frenzy.

The meeting with the school psychologist was one of the single most illuminating hours Trillian and I have spent in discussion of autism. This woman became part of Scooter's education team when we received the child development clinic's evaluation; she is the head of our district's autism team, so it seemed like a good meeting for her to attend. She was, at our request, also at his annual IEP meeting. Even without an official diagnosis, she has been very giving of her time and knowledge. Taking her at her offer, we scheduled an appointment to go over the clinic's report in a little more detail and ask her some Scooter-specific questions.

One particularly interesting interpretation has led us to a tiny, but significant, shift in our thinking. The evaluation report puts Scooter's score on the ADOS right at the cut-off for an autism spectrum disorder (as opposed to a higher score which is classified as autism). The evaluators did not, however, assign him any diagnosis, saying that he did not qualify for either a PDD-NOS or Asperger's label at the time. But, as the school psychologist explained, it only says they can't give him a specific diagnosis, not that he isn't on the spectrum. In fact, he is on the spectrum.

Even before all of this, the psychologist had remarked that his ADOS scores (no points on the communication portion, high points on the social reciprocity portion) matched what she'd expect to see with an Asperger's profile. She also confirmed for us what we had heard second-hand, that Asperger's is simply not diagnosed before age 6.

At this point, I think we're headed to one of two outcomes when we go back for re-evaluation at the end of the summer. Either we're waiting until Scooter turns 6 (and a bit) to get the Asperger's diagnosis or they'll find that the additional services he will have received by then have removed the single point needed to push him off the spectrum.

Regardless of the final outcome, we're already relying on Asperger's information to help us work with Scooter on his coping mechanisms. It all rings true--and if it works, all the better.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In the kitchen: "baked" pear

After my ballet class, I was craving something sweet but healthy. A baked pear sounded just right, but seemed a bit labor-intensive. So I nuked it. I'll stick to the baked version for dinner guests, but have found the perfect quick snack for myself.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Addressing the issue

It's the last day of Freedom to Marry Week. The action for today is to take local action; the specific suggestion is writing a letter to the editor. Given the number of times I have taken pen to paper (or keyboard to screen) over the past two or three weeks, it would be a bit redundant to do that here, so I thought I'd recount the letters I've written so far.

I began by writing a couple letters to the elected officials who represent me where the domestic partnerships are currently being debated. I wrote to both of them last year; neither responded then and neither has responded so far this year. I recently wrote an email to the one who was the deciding vote against the legislation. Apparently there's a chance for another vote on the issue, so it's worth it to keep writing. But I have to admit that it's beyond frustrating to deal with this official since he won't acknowledge my correspondence (which I have kept quite civil) and he has explained quite clearly that he is voting based entirely on his religious beliefs.

I have also written a letter to the editor of two different newspapers: the local rag and the paper in Capital City. The first letter is the one I wrote about before. I adapted it, shortened it, removed the specific response to the father of my son's friend, and emailed that to the bigger newspaper.

As I explained in a follow-up, I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reception from the local paper's editor. My son's teacher and his assistant also went out of their way to make sure I knew they had read it and found it a welcome change from the usual rants appearing in that section. A few days later, another teacher at the school approached me, confirmed my identity, and then told me she was glad to see my letter.

About a week ago, another letter appeared on domestic partnerships. It did not refer to mine at all and took a very different approach. It seemed to me that the writer is not entirely comfortable with same-sex relationships, yet he explained why allowing them was necessary in a society founded on the particular ideals of our constitution. He specifically addressed the problem of legislators voting based strictly on the morals of their own religions when we are not supposed to have an established state religion. Perhaps a small thing to see, but I am glad to know that there are people in my community who can understand that the right action in regards to our society is not always the comfortable one.

One final letter I wrote--since I was in a groove--was to President Obama. It is too soon to expect an answer, as it is the last of the letters I completed, but I hope to hear something back eventually. In that letter, I addressed domestic partnerships from a different angle than the one I used in my other letters: financial. Seemed pertinent, given the biggest issues our country faces right now. I gave him a list of immediate ways in which not having a federally-recognized relationship costs us extra money. I don't think we made it into the stimulus bill, but I can certainly hope we'll be headed that way soon.

Family time

I had intended to try to follow some Twitters for this day of Freedom to Marry Week. I forgot, however, that Scooter had only a half-day of school (administrative stuff and then a long weekend with Presidents' Day), which erased the time I had planned for looking at this stuff.

So we spent the afternoon doing the sorts of things families might do with this time, whether or not their families are legally recognized. Scooter and I headed to the library, where he picked out a couple videos and a book and I got my hands on Look Me in the Eye. We then headed over to Starbucks for a chocolate milk and Americano (guess who had which), passing the time by writing various words and then doing some writing--this is what passes for entertainment for us. Trillian met up with us, and we headed to a nearby diner.

Back at home, Scooter watched his videos and played with Legos, demanding that Trillian join him for part of the time. I supplied some snacks and went through Valentine's cards with him. He worked on building with his gear set and then got ready for bed with big plans to complete his project tomorrow.

(And then I geeked out to a block of sci-fi programming, which is the reason I didn't go check out Twitter after he headed to bed. I mean, Joss has a new show. Sarah Connor is back. Not to mention another BSG episode. Marriage equality is important to me, but it had to go on hold for a few hours.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In the kitchen: chocolate truffles

It's not exactly a Freedom to Marry Week post, but I've written about our planned Valentine's dessert. On the other hand, food has definitely been a way Trillian and I celebrate our relationship, and I look forward to concocting things she'll enjoy. This recipe fits the bill!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Resolved for marriage

join the conversation
The reminder I promised: If you haven't yet, go sign the marriage resolution.

I posted both at my family and autism site. I even sent an email to a local official, though that was not about the marriage resolution--just another politely worded rant at his refusal to even consider domestic partnerships because of his religion.

(All I can manage for now after putting together everything else. Did you know that--if I have the condition I think I do--my brain isn't getting enough blood much of the time? Yeah, I'm working on getting that fixed.)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Marriage limbo

Trillian grows impatient with the move of legislation in our new state. She suggested the other day that we should go get married in Massachusetts and then try to force the issue in terms of the full faith and credit clause.

But there are problems with her idea, as well as problems with the solutions, that illustrate the bizarre limbo our relationship currently occupies.

Generally, foreign marriages are recognized by the US--usually without any sort of registry or other official domestic document; you just have to be able to produce the foreign marriage certificate. States are not, however (or at least I think), required to recognize foreign marriages that would not be legal in that state. So we can't use our Canadian marriage as the basis of any action in our state.

We can't just run away to Massachusetts, get married there, and then return here, legal case in hand. See, Massachusetts does recognize our Canadian marriage, so we can't perform another marriage there. It would be redundant.

Then there's the fact that such a case can generally be brought only when the couple has experienced some sort of problem that would have been avoided if their legal relationship had been recognized. Most of the time, this coincides with a catastrophe or, at the very least, a particularly stressful time. Things like hospital stays, inheritance rights, survivorship benefits--the very things I hope to avoid for some time to come. Even then, we might not be the ideal test case since we have a number of legal documents that deal with a wide variety of such scenarios.

And so we will remain as we are, married some places, not in others, in need of an elaborate map to keep track of it all.

(This is post 2 for Freedom to Marry Week.)

Another Freedom to Marry Week

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It's Freedom to Marry Week again.

Somehow it has crept up on me again, despite the fact that it's proximity to Valentine's Day and my anniversary should make it easy to remember. Yet Dana's post at Mombian was the first I thought of it.

The theme this year is "7 Conversations in 7 Days." Each day has its own suggested action. Not all of them will work for me, but I'm going to try to follow along in the spirit, doing what I can in this space on most days. Maybe on the other days, I'll post recipes over at The Mouse's Kitchen from the meals we'll be having for Valentine's Day and our anniversary. Two of the planned items are truffles and creme brulee!

Anyway, here are the days and the suggested actions, along with what I'm planning:
  • Sunday, February 8th: YouTube Challenge
Not exactly my cup of tea, so I'm giving you this instead. (Seriously, I rarely watch anything on YouTube since I have this thing against watching video on my computer. It's hard to explain, and I do make exceptions. But I definitely don't post anything there.)
  • Monday, February 9th: Make Your Voice Heard
Online action: a blog, vlog, comment, Facebook status, or picture. I'll try for my usual, annual post here, and post a link and/or status at Facebook.
  • Tuesday, February 10th: Email for Equality
There's an online marriage resolution. I've already signed it, but I'll post a reminder here on Tuesday. I'll also be posting a link at my family and autism site. (Rather than emailing people in my address book, since I'll reach just about the same number of people this way and in a less chain-lettery way.)
  • Wednesday, February 11th: Button Up for Equality
This may be a food post day since I'll already be adding the button to other posts.
  • Thursday, February 12th: Face to Face Equality
There are supposed to be events for Freedom to Marry Week. I'm not aware of any in my area, and I've already done my fair share of conversing. Probably another food post day.
  • Friday, February 13th: Txt 4 Equality
I neither text nor tweet, so this has all the appeal of the YouTube day. But maybe I'll make an effort to check out the conversation on Twitter on Friday and bring you a few of my favorite tweets.
  • Saturday, February 14th: Get Local With It
I've been a letter-writing machine recently, especially with the domestic partnerships in the local politics here. So I think I'll hold off for a bit on new letters. But I will share a post on what my experience has been and a few of the (mostly pleasant) surprises.

And in the meantime, I'm working on a few other posts for when we return to regular programming.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Again, I really need a cameraphone

Headed to the grocery store and stopped at a light, I really wished I had a cameraphone so that I could snap a picture of the car in front of me. On the bumper, the following, left to right:
  • Palin 2012
  • McCain Palin
  • Don't Blame Me, I Voted McCain
and, the best of the bunch
  • Sarah!
I think that last one should be said with jazz hands.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

On the scent of the trail

A month or two ago, I had decided that I would give up on the quest for the source of my health woes and just focus on eating a diet that's better for me (specifically, as in low-carb, lots of protein and veggies) and dividing my workouts between general cardio and ballet. The only new doctor I would see was the fertility specialist in Big City--the other one, not CID. (By the way, saw his nurse, set up a few things, really liked her and am feeling much more happy with that clinic... more on that later.)

Then I fainted. And my primary-care physician, with whom I dutifully scheduled an appointment since this scared the crap out of Trillian, started mapping out a list of new tests I should have. For once, not blood tests, but various monitors and consultations.

But this visit also gave me some new vocabulary, so I started poking around on the internet--big surprise. And this time I really do think I have a big lead, although I'm not going into it right now since I've been wrong at least a couple times before.

(To my credit, both my PCP and endocrinologist always say at some point during my appointment, "Wait, what were your thyroid levels?" They then flip through my labs, find the most recent values, and furrow their brows when they realize that the numbers are normal, have actually improved.)

What I found this time would explain why my blood tests don't show anything. It would explain the symptoms that led to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. It would explain why there are other symptoms that any doctor who brings up fibromyalgia tries to ignore. (My favorite is that my hands and feet fall asleep very easily. No physical/anatomical explanation can be found, so I'm told it's not life-threatening, so don't worry. Never mind the quality-of-life issues.) It would explain why I can experience bradycardia and tachycardia in a five-minute span. It would explain just about everything, maybe even the hair loss and stress rash.

It's not all rosy, as there is little likelihood I would ever be completely free of symtoms and I wouldn't be able to take most of the suggested medications while trying to get pregnant, but there are other, non-drug interventions that are fairly straight-forward and would probably be no big deal after a period of vigilance (sort of like this wheat-free thing--which would appear to have been a good meal, based on what I've been reading).

I called my PCP earlier today, leaving a message asking her to take a look at this. She's the kind of doctor who will likely look it up and happily refer me for the specific test I need (although the other stuff she's sending me for is not bad to have overall, including a sleep study to check for apnea, which can also be related). I imagine it will be a few weeks before I can get in to see everyone on the list, but I'm currently hoping I'll have some answers in a month's time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

At this rate, I should manage to get lunch around dinnertime

I have only gotten to coffee a little before 10:30 this morning. My breakfast--a hearty oatmeal--is cooking on the stove.

I blame some of this on the internet's ability to suck me in. I really need to develop the willpower to limit myself to a quick check of a short list of items in the morning, but it never quite works out that way.

Did you know that low blood pressure and heart rate can cause lack of concentration?

Anyway, what kept me away from food and coffee the longest this morning was an attempt to make a couple of the appointments my primary care physician wants for me.

The first is with a cardiology center for a 24-hour blood pressure monitor. That part wasn't too hard. But as the receptionist took my information, she remarked that she doesn't really know my insurance, so I should check with them to see if it's covered or if I would need prior authorization. I decided to heed her advice, even though I knew we'd pay out-of-pocket regardless. (Trillian is quite a bit more scared by the whole fainting thing, but I'm determined to follow this rabbit hole to the end since, if I can figure this out, I will likely have some answers about problems I've had for as long as I can remember--way back into childhood.)

I hate dealing with our insurance. They're bad about covering Scooter's visits to the pediatrician, even though that clinic is in our network, and they have also required a written explanation of his "custody situation," withholding any payment of outstanding claims in the meantime. And of course they have one of those automated phone systems, a maze of options, that attempts to take verbal cues, but has to verify them and still gets your words wrong.

Today, I had to listen to a ton of general information about my benefits as I attempted to find out about this one, very specific, item. At one point, I ended up in a menu about doctor's office visits. Did I want to hear about benefits for in-network doctors, out-of-network doctors, or both? I knew that it would spout a lot of general information at me, regardless of my choice, so I tried to get out of the menu. 'Previous menu' just repeated the current one; 'Help' gave me a definition of in-network, etc; a frustrated 'No" got "Did you say both?"; 'Go back' finally got me to a human, because "I'm sorry, I'm having a hard time understanding you." Finally found out this should be covered.

Then I tried to track down an ear, nose, and throat doctor. "Has anyone ever sent you to an ENT?" my doctor asked when I mentioned, matter-of-factly, that I've had these dizzy spells ('near syncope') my entire life. Um, no... it was always treated as something I had to deal with due to low blood pressure. Nobody ever went any further with it.

So I now go to my insurance's website to look up otolaryngologists in my area. Only thing is, I can't find it under 'Other specialties,' even though the help link I click on seems to suggest they have that category. I finally find it under 'surgery.' Which brings up the panic of "Oh crap, what if they have to cut on me?!" The guy in town is in fact on my insurance; he even shares an office in Capital City with the guy my doctor usually uses. I then call the otolaryngologist in town, only to have a fax machine pick it up. I check the number again and dial carefully, just in case I read the wrong line the first time. Nope, definitely the fax.

That's when I decided to make breakfast and have some coffee. I'll deal with otolaryngologist (I like that word) later.

If I can remember... this concentration thing is a bitch!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

In the kitchen: shrimp

Go read about my favorite way to prepare shrimp. I don't have pictures, as this is a long-time go-to recipe. I didn't get to it tonight, but will be making it tomorrow.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Low pressure front

For my entire life, I have had dizzy spells. They primarily hit me when I stand up, though not at once. I take a few steps, sometimes go twenty feet or so, and then I can feel it coming. My ears start to buzz and dots creep in around the sides of my eyes. I learned early on that the best thing I can do once it starts is to grab onto something and stay very still until it passes. If I'm not close to any support, I can usually wait it out if I don't move at all.

Stress can make the dizzy spells worse, bringing them on when I haven't changed levels. That's when I know it's time to find some quiet time.

The last time I fainted, I was about 14. I got up out of bed and started over to my closet when it hit. I had enough time to move just a bit closer to my bed and to half-lower-myself/half-fall onto the mattress. Things went dark for just a few seconds.

The last time I fainted, at least, until this week. Several nights ago, I wasn't sleeping well anyway, and then Zee started to get into some dishes. I got out of bed in order to see what he was doing, but only got as far as my dresser before the dots started. My sight went completely as I gripped the dresser, and then my knees started to buckle. Sheer will, and little else, kept me upright.

And then a couple mornings ago, I was enjoying family time in bed. I'd already gotten up a couple times, so I thought nothing of getting up again and heading to the bathroom. I got to the vanity when it started. Again, my sight was gone as I grabbed the vanity. But it didn't pass.

Next thing I knew, I was on the floor, my feet scrabbling to gain purchase again. Trillian was there within a second or two. I would say that I just sort of slid to the floor, but Trillian says it was the thud that brought her in.

Now I tend towards lowish blood pressure anyway and have long recognized this as responsible for the worst of my dizziness. Since gaining weight and having Scooter, it's been closer to normal/low-normal, so the recent severity of my dizzy spells has been worrisome.

When we got to my in-laws', I borrowed a blood pressure cuff and discovered that it was about 10 points lower (both systolic and diastolic) than the last time I had it measured. Which doesn't surprise me all that much since I get involuntarily tense anytime a professional takes my blood pressure. The lowest reading came in the morning, before I'd even sat up: 88/58, which is officially low. My pulse, too, has been sitting around 60, sometimes lower, which is what one might expect to see with an elite athlete. (Hint: I am not an elite athlete.)

So, on the off chance, I started googling the various supplements I am taking--suggested by my endocrinologist in order to fight my low-level, chronic inflammation--along with low blood pressure. Turns out that in general anything that will fight inflammation will also lower blood pressure. Omega-3s and boswellia both have a mild impact on blood pressure. The main culprit, however, appears to be the magnesium I am taking, not directly for inflammation, but to improve neural and muscular functioning. It calms down misfires and improves the efficiency of many biochemical reactions throughout the body. That first part... that's why it can be so powerful in lowering blood pressure. It is frequently used for treating pre-eclampsia.

I'll be trying to get into the doctor tomorrow--somehow the whole fainting thing has convinced Trillian I should. Not sure if I'll get any closer to an answer. But in the meantime, I've stopped taking the magnesium and boswellia and have cut the Omega-3s back to a regular dose. It would be nice to stay upright tomorrow morning.