Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Disordered sleep

I have had two sleep studies now in an attempt to get to the bottom of my "disordered sleep." From the first one, I found out that while I do not suffer from sleep apnea, I have an insane number of episodes of hypopnea, or periods of 10 seconds or more when my breathing becomes especially shallow or slow. I also woke up 12 times during the night for absolutely no discernible reason. (Though if they'd asked I would have explained that I start to ache anytime I'm in one position for too long and tend to wake a little whenever I have to move around.)

The second study was to try me on a BiPAP, which is a machine that creates positive airway pressure by blowing air down my throat. It's supposed to let up the pressure on the exhale. I managed to fall asleep with it on by meditating, but the second the nurse began to turn up the pressure (the goal was to adjust the level until my hypopnea frequency went way down) I woke up and had a panic attack. I tried to fall asleep again, but became very aware of the lag between when I would start to exhale and when the machine's pressure would let up. I spent the rest of the night sleeping without it.

At some point I will have to address the sleep issue and probably figure out a way to deal with the sleep mask, though I'll be trying some other methods first. Losing weight is always at the top of the list, though there's a good chance it won't be enough since I've had trouble sleeping since I was a kid.

Coinciding with my attempts to work on my own sleep issues, Scooter has experienced a bit of backsliding. Usually I'll talk about his sleep problems in the past tense, thinking of the years when he needed one of us with him to fall asleep and it would still take at least two hours. We did eventually get him to where he could fall asleep on his own, decently quickly too.

That's been eroding little by little, though we did not consider it all that significant since he still was falling asleep on his own. It took longer and frequently required several visits from one or both of us. But he was staying in his own room and mostly staying in bed.

Then we hit summer. As every child before him, he complains about going to bed before the sun goes down, but he still fell asleep not much after his usual time. We tolerated the sneaking out to his playroom to get "just one more thing."

And then he said he didn't want to sleep in his room anymore. The first night, he got into the Ikea tent he had set up in the playroom and said he would sleep there. He had brought a pillow and blanket. We figured it wouldn't last, given that the tent lay on a thin mat over hard tile. But he fell asleep quickly, even with us in the next room watching TV. This continued a few more nights, though I brought in floor cushions as a make-shift bed. We then successfully shifted the whole thing back to his room until he got tired of it.

At this point, he declared that he didn't like his bed anymore. Given that we don't possess any spare beds we could just haul out in the middle of the night, we worked with him to figure out what is so awful about his bed. Well... the pillow. I showed him our spare pillows and found one that would be acceptable if only it were blue. Pulled out a blue pillowcase. Then a blue sheet to serve as a blanket. The whole production.

So we've at least got him in his bed, which is acceptable again. But the sneaking out and general resistance to falling asleep in a timely manner continues. I fervently hope that the new school year will restore a sense of schedule--or at least tire him out enough that sleep comes quickly.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reading for something other than my degree

My goal is to finish a draft of my paper, something that won't make my supervisor wonder why I've been allowed to continue in the program--sometime in the next week. This goal coincides with our last trip of the summer, a return to visit my sister (and my alma mater's library). And although I'll be trying to get some more research and academic reading done, I plan on treating myself by turning to some fun reading.

Now for the decision: which series to continue? I have four options and no clear winner right now. All of it's fluff reading, most of it is juvenile (as in, I will be heading to the children's section of our library). For all of these, I'd probably bring at least two books with me.

  1. This one wouldn't require a trip to the library, but I'm itching to re-read the entirety of Harry Potter. I just saw the 6th movie this week and usually would have already worked through at least the corresponding book, if not the entire series, but it didn't work out that way with this one.
  2. One of the trailers before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was for Percy Jones and the Lightning Thief. I read that book, borrowed from a friend in Toronto, shortly before leaving there. I have not picked up any of the others and had almost forgotten about the series. But it's an enjoyable read and almost on-topic for me, given the presence of the Olympian gods.
  3. Then again, there's a series I started fairly recently: Books of Ember. The first book was made into a movie, City of Ember, which Trillian and I saw via Netflix. The movie did not do particularly well, meaning that the remaining books will likely never become movies, but I was intrigued by the ideas and (as is usually the case) found the book even more compelling.
  4. Finally, I made it through the second book of the Twilight series a couple months ago. I'm not enamored of the series and have grown to dislike Edward and Bella even more, but I feel almost obligated to power through in case I experience a sudden conversion. (Interestingly, I was checking out an author blog at the time I was reading the second book and she made some reference to some book she'd been reading where she disliked most of the characters and thought the writing was not particularly good, yet she felt compelled to continue. She purposely didn't name names, but I'm convinced she was talking about this series.)
I suspect I know what the general consensus will be, but am still interested to see what people say.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A body at rest tends to stay at rest

I've lost momentum on my schoolwork. I try to be fair to myself. There's a lot going on here, extra stressors, oddly busy days popping up here and there, a bored 6-year-old to keep from destroying the house, heat that makes reading other languages a near impossibility. Some of those items are bigger than others, but the combination has made me that much slower to commit as much as a sentence to the screen in a day.

I will send a draft off to my supervisor soon. For better or worse. We'll see how it goes over with him.

What I'm least looking forward to is the likely pointed reminder that I would probably be making faster progress were I still a resident of Toronto.

That's somewhat debatable, even in its most simplistic form. While I would have better library resources at my disposal and a private carrel in which to sequester myself on occasion, being around the department would provide more distractions. (I have a couple friends in particular with whom I can chat for hours. Facebook, at least, spreads the conversation out.)

But I've also been thinking about this is grander terms, the likely trajectory certain aspects of my life might have taken had we stayed in Canada.

The first, one of our biggest motivators in moving back to the States, is Scooter's education. We had already held Scooter out of junior kindergarten because we expected to move and didn't want to create additional transitions for him. Maybe we would have decided differently if we'd known we were going to stay, but I'm not sure. We were still waiting on an evaluation and were not confident that he would have qualified for much in the way of services. For kindergarten, we would have been able to keep him at his old daycare for mornings and send him to a school near campus for afternoon kindergarten. And then for first grade, he would have to leave that school and go to the one near our condo. Too many transitions, too many different administrations to deal with.

Then there was the toll on our health. There was one solid year when at least one of us was sick. We thought for a while that Scooter had asthma; it turned out to be a persistent bronchial infection that took multiple medications and an inhaler to conquer. I found out this past year that I am horribly allergic to several types of mold, the likely culprit for my own respiratory problems. Trillian and I even posit that between the mold allergy and the gluten sensitivity, my immune system was working overtime and may have contributed to my miscarriages.

Not to mention the toll on our relationship. Trillian came closer to breaking up in Toronto than any other time in our now 16 1/2 years together. The above point played its part; we both felt physically off most of the time we were there. I felt responsible for dropping us into the whole situation, Trillian was carrying the financial burden of our family. Throw in trying to maintain finances across international borders, issues with the health system I've written about before, and the discovery that both of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder to some degree (holy hell, the winters there are long and gray, so very gray). Things have not been perfect for us here, far from it, but the tension between us has lessened considerably.

I feel pretty certain that had I stayed in Toronto, either with my family or in some long-distance arrangement, I would either have dropped out of the program (as too much for my son, my marriage, our finances) or ended up staying in Toronto alone (with Trillian and Scooter down here, another huge drain on our finances).

Not that I'll be saying all this to my supervisor the next time he makes his remark. I know he'll always think that this move was a bad idea in terms of my studies--and it's his job to focus on that. And I don't think I have the fortitude to suggest that as far as my priorities go, graduate school ranks lower than some other aspects of my life.

(Mostly unrelated, but brought to mind by the issue of priorities: due to a changing of the guard in my department, my committee is now comprised entirely of childless-by-choice professors. Two of them aren't even living with anybody. I'm not looking forward to my annual meeting.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

In the kitchen: Ice cream

If you're still cursing me for the discovery that chocolate truffles are ridiculously easy to make, so not go see what I've been doing in the kitchen. Seriously.

As for me, I'm off to serve myself a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Boy oh boy

Scooter is a boy.

So yeah, this is news to nobody, but it's become a fact he needs to assert frequently and in the strongest manner possible.

I know that this is all completely age-appropriate. He's defining himself in relation to the world around him and the labels that are most readily available. He's also learning social conventions via his peers.

I have to keep all of this in perspective. It can take a lot of self-monitoring and reminders.

It's a good thing that he's finally paying attention to people and how they differ. More than that, it's impressive he's picked it up without more explicit teaching since this is a typical weakness for people with Asperger's.

But sometimes it's a tiny little dagger in my feminist heart.

He has begun to loudly and insistently classify things--toys, movies, shows, games, books--as "for boys" and "for girls." He proclaims that he "hates" certain movies and characters he loved when he was younger.

I occasionally respond to his announcements with something like, "Anybody, boy or girl, can like that." Not because I expect it to make a difference in his present opinion, not because I'm trying to lecture him. Rather, I hope that when he gets past his current need to assert his gender so strongly, that idea might stick with him and he'll allow himself to like things simply because they appeal to him.

Oh, and to counter the vehement reinforcement of gender many of his classmates have picked up from their parents. Scooter went to one birthday party with a football theme. I suspect that this father heavily emphasizes "boy" activities since his son being gay would be about the worst thing he could imagine. (Should I anonymously pass along articles on gay professional athletes?) Another parent "punished" her son by sending him to school with Disney Princess fruit snacks, instead of the usual Spiderman ones. At the time, I told him that she probably ran out of the others and that they're the same basic fruit snacks anyway--later I found out, directly from the mother, that most of her children's stuff is gender-specific and that giving her son something "girly" is a mild form of punishment.

I wonder how these parents would/do respond to a fairly normal statement from boys at this stage. Scooter has declared recently that he does not want to marry a girl (seeing as they are conveyors of "girl stuff" and all). Sometimes he'll refuse kisses from Trillian and me since we're girls (though sometimes we can win them back by pointing out that they're "mommy kisses," which are a slightly different category). I don't expect this to be predictive of the dates he brings home in high school, but I also don't care how it plays out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baby talk

My brain coalesced long enough for me to remember a couple of the topics I had intended to stick into blog posts. And so I have picked the easiest one for tonight. (It's still very hot here, so deep thinking and organized writing requires a greater effort than I'm willing to expend right now.)

My sister, the one we went to visit last month, was the first family member I told about my second miscarriage. (And, if I remember correctly, remains one of only two extended family member's I have ever told.) She is, in fact, one of very few people with whom I will discuss child plans very frankly--outside of the vast internet, apparently. In return she is one of the few people I feel comfortable asking about her own child-spawning plans.

(All of this is a bit amusing to me, particularly since we're not super-close--certainly not like other siblings I know. And we have insanely different approaches when it comes to child-rearing, food, and some priorities. Sometimes it seems odd that we could have grown up in the same household. Compare the third sister with either one of us, and you end up with a similar dissonance.)

So of course we chatted some about our child plans in the time we had together. I had suspected that she was close to trying again; she recently, successfully quit smoking, and I knew that was one of her goals/starting points. She told me that she and her husband have decided that a 4-year gap between children was a good idea. I made note of her daughter's current age (3 years 1 month) and remarked that she was just about to hit that mark.

Turns out she's been waiting for the return of a regular cycle after going off her birth control. And, in fact, they were just about to that point.

We laughed about the different approaches we have to take in this whole baby-making endeavor. I talked about having the one shot per month--but still having a pretty good track record on getting pregnant. She has had good luck getting pregnant as soon as she sets her mind to it (it's in the genes; we are fertile women!), but she does a little math, marks off a few nights on the calendar, and her husband mans up.

We also laughed about the fact that we could end up with kids incredibly close in age, depending on the success each of us meets.

Here's to the hope of new cousins in the new year.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

My brains have melted

OK, it's not that hot here. Plus it's a dry heat, as the saying goes. But I had a whole mental list of things to write about, but I can't remember any of the topics now (except for one, but it would take too long to write and I'm almost ready for bed). So I'm blaming the heat. Which is compounded by the fact that we have only one portable air conditioner that we should probably move back to our bedroom since we can't shut off a small enough area with the living room to make it effective.

Really, I ought to write in the morning, since we seem to get a good block of hours before the sun really beats down. But that's when I'm staring at Word with its current facsimile of a paper that I really need to finish. I'm averaging a handful of sentences and/or a good footnote per day.

I just finished reading Stardust today. (The link is not to the exact edition I have. Mine includes the original illustrations by Charles Vess.) I was too hot to concentrate on my paper any more, so I finished the last three chapters. I'm looking forward to Gaiman's Graveyard Book and Coraline too, though I will not be starting another book until I send off a draft to my supervisor.

Last week, I received the results from my state's basic skills test for teacher certification. Back when I took it, I found it incredibly easy, leaving after just over two hours of the allotted four. My scaled score was at the very top of scale. And the breakdown of my subareas looked the same. So I think I can convince the state that I am intelligent enough to stand in front of a class.

Good thing I didn't have to prove that today.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Creating motivational opportunities

Anybody who saw my Facebook status yesterday read that I have been resorting to bribery lately. I thought it was funny that the friends who responded were all parents. Funny, and not at all surprising.

So there are two areas in which we've increased our motivational efforts.

The first is in potty training. Our recent system has been to reward with a sticker for no accidents during the day and one for pooping in the toilet (which continues to be a serious sticking point). We've decided to throw in a couple more opportunities for no accidents at night. So far, we haven't been able to convince him to get out of bed when the urge hits, so he still wears pull-ups at night.

(Our neighbor whose son reminds us so much of Scooter in terms of sensory and social issues told us that he didn't stop wearing pull-ups at night until age 8. I said to Trillian, "If we have our second child when Scooter's 8 and that child is similar, we could be dealing with diapers for 16 years--for only two kids.)

Every sticker covers one letter in the word "Dollar." 6 stickers, 1 dollar. And now we have a variety of Legos that he can "purchase" from us. Extra motivation.

The second area, a new one, is food. Scooter's never eaten a broad variety of foods, but all of the food groups were represented, so we didn't worry too much. Multi-vitamin to cover the gaps, and we went along just fine. Now, we're down mostly to carbs and dairy with occasional protein (from the dairy and a few choice meat products). Once upon a time, his pediatrician said not to worry about veggies since he was eating a variety of fruit. Besides 100% fruit juice (the only way he'll do oranges), he used to eat apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes. We're down to the occasional apple slice now (and the little bit of zucchini I snuck into him via those cookies, though he refused those today--sigh).

In one of the many books I've read about dealing with sensory issues, the suggestion was made to pay the child for interactions with new foods. The demands start at the level of looking at and touching the food. Then sniffing and touching with one's tongue. They're supposed to be easier tasks, a slow introduction to the food.

With Scooter, he gets a quarter for each step, culminating with several bites and swallows. We've decided to allow him to earn the full amount for a new food as many as 5 times, in the hopes that he'll get to the point where he decides he likes it enough to eat on its own. So often, he'll try one bite of something, announce that it tastes good, but not want to have any more--maybe because of the novelty more than anything else? He's agreed to give peanut butter a go next. Seriously, the kid has never had a peanut butter sandwich.

This could all backfire. He may simply do these things as long as he gets a reward and then stop. I'm hoping we appeal to his sense of routine, however, and sneak in these new behaviors before he can think better of them.