Monday, 30 January 2012

I wish I were a bear

Hibernation sounds so good right about now. This is my life...

I get up, dark and early, then head off to work in the cold and dark. In the summer, the sun is already up when I head out. These days I'm at work for close to an hour before it's light out. I work hard for 8 hours... hoping I'll stay the whole shift because I could use the money... and half hoping I'll get sent home early because I could use the break. It's a crap shoot; they tend to send someone home early each day. Sometimes it's me, then I just hope I'm not sent home too early. One really good thing about work these days is it's always warm there. Otherwise I'm cold most of the time.

I walk home and it's overcast and, often, drizzling. It hasn't been very cold this winter but the chill gets right into my bones so I'm shivering and a bit achy by the end of the walk.

Then comes the next part of my day. I get changed into pjs and curl up here in front of my electric fireplace. The heater blows directly onto the small of my back. I can and do spend hours here these days. I'm at the kitchen table writing this right now and my feet feel like blocks of ice... I can't wait to curl up by the fire again.

Every day I think "I'm going to do something different today. I'm going to the Y tonight. I'm going to go for a walk right after work." Then I look outside at the puddles on the sidewalk, the grey clouds and feel the chill in the air and think, "Well the fireplace looks like a good option". And then I curl up to read.

I'm sure there are people out there who love this time of year. I'm not one of them. I'm craving sunshine through green leaves, warm breezes brushing against my skin. I want to wake up to sunlight leaking through my curtains. I want to get off work, knowing sunset isn't for another 6 hours and I've got plenty of time to head out for yet another walk.

In the summer I've got energy to burn. I'll go on walks that leave my kids pleading for me to give them a rest so they can keep up. In the winter, I'm begging them to go across the street for milk, because I'm so tired.

I wish I were a bear and I could hibernate until the snowdrops start pushing their way through the frost and buds begin unfurling on the branches. Since I'm not, you'll find me in front of my fireplace, dreaming of the spring.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

My daughter

“Mom”, my daughter gasps. Even through the phone I can tell she's crying hysterically. “They won't let me go to school today, they say I'm at risk!”

“Why would they say that?” I ask as calmly as I can.

“Because I told them I was going to skip and buy a sharp knife from Dollarama and cut myself,” her words gush like water breaking free from a dam. My heart sinks. They found a knife in her room last week. Her room is currently empty, except for her bed and a few safe items she finds calming. Her forearms have so many cuts covering them it's hard to find bare skin.

“But I've changed my mind and now they won't believe me,” she protests. “I'm not suicidal. Why won't they believe me?”

“Hon,” I reply, “You told me you were going to kill yourself last night. You told them that too.”

“I lied. I didn't want to kill myself. And the last time I did was ages ago. Why won't they believe me?”

I can't state the obvious. They don't believe her because she's saying she lied. And “ages ago” was two days ago. My timer goes off.

“Hon, I'm at work and my break's over. I have to go on the floor again. Can I call you after work?”

“Whatever,” she mutters back, “It doesn't matter. I've got nothing to live for and I won't be alive for much longer anyways.”

I end the call, after assuring daughter I love her (and hoping she believes me), then go find a manager and see if I can stay off the floor for a few more minutes while I call to see how daughter's doing.

I call the office where she's staying and am assured that she's under constant supervision and they have both the police and an ambulance on call in case daughter needs to go to the hospital. I know how that will end already. Daughter stayed at the hospital for a week in the spring and hated it. She'll tell the police and ambulance attendants that she really isn't suicidal, it was all a big misunderstanding. Then, after they leave, she'll tell me how she lied to them because she's not going to the hospital again. She can't go there again. She's already talking about slicing up her stomach and thighs instead so her arms will heal and the staff will get off her back.

That night she worries about going to school the next day. She wants to go but is scared she won't be able to handle being around all the kids. It's too much stress and she doesn't think she can deal with it right now. She's scared she'll get angry. Luckily she has a safety plan at school and I'm able to remind her of it.

“Try,” I urge her, “but only do what you can handle. If it's too much stress, go to the resource room and catch up on some of the work you've missed. Or go to the school library.” She assures me she'll try.

I call her cellphone the next evening and she answers with a cheerful, “Hi Mom” then continues on to detail the silly things her friends did in the cafeteria that day and what her boyfriend texted her earlier. Her voice is light and lively as she skips through her day to day activities. I wonder what she's going to be like tomorrow.

Daughter was born on a sunny summer afternoon, sixteen years ago, big and healthy after a perfectly normal pregnancy and delivery. We settled into nursing well and we went home expecting no issues.

She was colicky and was usually fine, as long as I was holding her. I developed very good upper arm strength toting her around almost constantly. It became frustrating after a while as she wouldn't go to anyone except me, not even her father. I had the occasional break. When she was screaming with colic and no one could settle her, then her Dad would walk down the street with her and buy a coffee. This gave me 15 minutes of quiet. And sometimes I'd hand her over and walk next door to a friend's house for tea. Most times she'd still be crying for me when I came back.

By the time she was a year old she was okay with her father but still nervous around most other people. When it was just us in the home, she'd laugh and giggle and run around playing. But if a neighbour showed up at the door she'd stop and stare solemnly until they left. This prompted one neighbour to inform me that my infant daughter was depressed, as she didn't think that baby had smiled once in her entire life. She'd certainly never seen it. I pointed out several pictures of daughter grinning. The neighbour shrugged. Maybe daughter smiled sometimes but it just wasn't normal.

When daughter was three years old I was more concerned. Her shyness hadn't gotten any better. She was terrified of all men, except for her father. Even her grandfather, whom she saw weekly. She wouldn't say a word to anyone outside immediate family. Not our neighbours, not the grocery clerk, not our family doctor. People would say “hi” to her and she's stare back at them unblinking. This prompted quite a few people to praise me for stranger-proofing her. Meanwhile I'd been trying my hardest to get her to respond to people outside family. There were a few breakthroughs, she started speaking to a neighbour and she smiled at the grocery clerk. Then she turned four and school started.

The initial meeting between the teacher and daughter was a disaster. Daughter wouldn't say a word to her, just stared. I did some research online and came up with selective mutism. Just as I was about to make an appointment to see the family doctor for a referral, her teacher came to me with a big grin on her face. Daughter had come up to her after class and announced that she realized she was going to have to speak to teacher and was going to talk to her from now on. Within days she'd extended that to all the teachers and, by Christmas, she was on stage at the Christmas Concert, speaking into the microphone and asking her fellow students and parents to “always wear a hat so that your brain won't freeze”.

Kindergarten was a breeze for daughter. She made several friends and both years the teacher assured me she could have moved up a grade by Christmas because she'd already learned everything she needed to know. She was proud about her budding reading skills, loved to draw, and enjoyed counting everything in sight. By grade two she'd decided she was going to be a “mreen biolagist” so she “cood swom with orcas and blue whals”. Spelling has never been her strong point but we knew what she meant. She was obviously bright and she could do it. If she still wanted to be a marine biologist when she graduated from high school, nothing would stop her.

There were some concerns. Daughter did not like change and had a temper. I can remember her screaming outside the grocery store because I hadn't told her ahead of time that we'd need to pick up milk on the way home. And she had some issues with peers. She spent all summer playing at the park with a local girl. One day the girl walked up to daughter in the school yard and said “hi [daughter's name]”. Daughter just stared at her until the girl walked away. She didn't remember the girl. Why would she say “hi” to a stranger? Then came another social lesson. If a kid comes up and knows your name, chances are you know them so say “hi” back.

As the kids got older and expected a bit more in the way of social skills, daughter began spending increasingly more time on her own. Something was obviously going on but I had no idea what it was.

Then son started his testing for autism and I had a bunch of questions to answer. As I went through the checklists I found that an equal number of them resembled my daughter. The questions that didn't match my son, often matched my daughter. It was like they'd divided the autism checklist between the two of them. I said to the doctor that I'd be bringing daughter in for testing the following year. He thought I was joking.

The next year brought more heart ache. Daughter's last friend pulled her aside and told her not to speak to her anymore. She wanted to make new friends and being daughter's friend was holding her back. I cringed later when the kids were getting awards at school and daughter's former friend went on stage to get an award for tolerance and being such a great friend to fellow students, for not letting peer pressure get in the way of standing up for friends.

Other kids, who had been friendly, were now avoiding her in the hope they wouldn't get teased. The testing started, and the psychologist noted that daughter was spending lunch and recess walking around the yard, totally by herself. Even during gym she hung around at the edges away from the children.

I was left speechless when daughter got accused of writing something nasty on the bathroom wall. The principal informed me that they knew it was daughter because four girls (all of whom were friends and had been actively teasing daughter) came up to her and told her that daughter had done the writing. It didn't matter that we didn't own a marker that colour or that the writing only vaguely matched daughter's hand writing. Why on earth would four girls make up a story like that? I wondered if that principal had been home-schooled on some remote farm or something. How could she not know what grade 7 girls were like? The girls then accused daughter of smoking in the bathroom and the same song and dance occurred. The principal began seeing me as one of *those* parents.

At the same time, daughter was having issues with her father. He didn't see the kids very often at the best of times, often disappearing for months at a time. But this time she'd refused to see him for a visit shortly before a half-year disappearance. Even though it wasn't the reason he'd disappeared, it wasn't even the last visit before the disappearance, daughter firmly blamed herself. If she'd gone to that visit, instead of having a sleepover and helping out at a garage sale, her Dad would still be there. She became terrified I'd disappear. Waking me up at midnight crying because she was scared I was gone and hanging around outside our bathroom just in case I flushed myself away or tried to escape through the ceiling fan. I talked to the school social worker regarding counselling and was told that daughter and I had a close relationship and talking to me was all the counselling she needed. Flattering but I was still worried and went to a local organization for help. The organization had us meet with a psychiatrist. I'd been under the impression that the friendly lady I'd talked to on the phone was going to meet with us and had passed that information along to daughter. She was left speechless when faced with a blunt, harsh looking man. The psychiatrist glanced at us as we walked in the room then announced, “She is depressed.”

I was taken aback by that pronouncement, especially since it had been made without us even speaking to him, and commented that daughter had been laughing and joking around in the waiting room, plus she was very shy and often scared of men.

He bristled, “I am a psychiatrist and I know these things.”

I decided not to argue and let the introductions begin. A few minutes later daughter had neither looked at or spoken to the doctor. I let him know that she was being tested for Aspergers.

“She doesn't have that!” he snapped. Still I bit my tongue. He decided on art therapy for daughter to help deal with issues around her father and suggested a parenting group for me in order to help deal with teen issues. I was told that once I took the parenting group for me, more help would be available for daughter.

The group held nothing for me. The parents in the group were dealing with teens robbing stores, smashing furniture, setting fires,and punching holes in the walls. I was dealing with a girl who slammed her door occasionally and screamed. I held out until I found out that they were not only still insisting daughter could not have Aspergers but were using her counselling sessions to explain to her, in detail, why. Even once the school psychologist confirmed the diagnosis and even after they'd received a copy of his report, they still insisted on telling daughter she'd been misdiagnosed. After all, their psychiatrist, who had only ever seen daughter for 20 minutes and never spoke to her, didn't feel she had *that*.

That was not what the counselling sessions were for so I pulled her out of the organization. The school had said I could deal with daughter, maybe that was the best option. Besides, since her Dad had reappeared, daughter was no longer worried I was going to disappear while she was sleeping or while I was in the bathroom.

Grade 8 started and I found it harder and harder to get daughter out to school. If she went on time she had nothing to do but stand outside with all the other kids under minimal supervision. She'd much rather show up late when the school yard and hallways were empty. Within weeks I was called into the office.

The principal sat behind her desk. “We're concerned about your daughter's chronic lateness,” she announced in serious tones. “What are you going to do about it?”

“I'm worried too,” I confided. “Daughter's been scared to come to school on time. She says the kids are teasing her and pushing her around in the school yard and shoving her into lockers when she's in the hall. She's scared to go to school. What can we do to make her feel more safe?”

With that her whole tone changed. She relaxed, then said flippantly, “Well you know [daughter's name]. She's just late, that's her personality, there's nothing we can do about that.”

I looked into moving daughter to another school but daughter refused. By this time she'd made a couple of friends and wanted to stick it out for the rest of the year. Despite many sick days due to a nervous stomach and almost daily lateness, the principal never called me back in for a discussion. And daughter passed all her classes, moving on to high school in the fall. I ran into the principal at an event the following year and took the time to inform her on how well daughter was doing in high school. Daughter had made all new friends, was never late, and rarely absent. Plus she had dreams of becoming a child psychologist so she could help other kids through rough patches. The principal quickly moved on to talk to someone else.

The following fall, daughter went on a family trip with her father. He was already finding the kids' transition into teenagers baffling. He had no idea how to treat them and fell back on what worked when they were small. Plus this was a formal family event with lots of people watching and he wanted to show them what a good father he was and how good his kids were. Her outfit was treated like a call to war. And he certainly didn't appreciate her wanting reasons for the things he asked them to do.

While he was looking for kids who would look good for his family, daughter was looking for her Dad to love her for who she was and not just what he wanted. It was a recipe for disaster. They came back not speaking to each other. Their father made a point of loudly proclaiming to son, “I love you!” before stomping out without a word to daughter. When daughter started talking I discovered he'd spent the weekend referring to her as “that one”. Comments like “I'd be having a good weekend if it wasn't for that one!” Complete with glaring at her. Within days of the visit, daughter started cutting her arms.

Soon, whenever daughter got upset, she'd find a picture of herself and smash it down the hall. Then she'd grab a shard of glass and lock herself in her room to cut. She validated this with the excuse that it was her own picture, no one really wanted it as no one cared about her. I took her to the hospital for help but daughter wasn't suicidal and self-harm wasn't enough to get help. Thankfully I'd put her on a wait list for a psychiatrist a year and a half earlier and, by December, daughter reached the top of the list. It was like Christmas had come early.

Other than the 20 minute intake appointment several years earlier, neither one of us had ever seen a psychiatrist. I had no idea what to expect. Daughter had just gone on anti-depressants from our family doctor and the psychiatrist increased them slightly. Daughter's moods seemed to cycle so the doctor soon decided she should be on a mood stabilizer as well. Each month we'd think she'd found a good combination, then daughter would have a few bad weeks. Then the psychiatrist changed the medication slightly and we'd go on again. And I watched, panicked and not knowing what to do, as daughter went from saying she'd never kill herself, to saying she'd thought about it but wouldn't seriously try, to thinking maybe it would be a good idea after all... just not right now.

One day, in early May, daughter told me she could not go to school that day as she was thinking even more seriously about suicide. She wanted to go to the hospital. She needed help. Could I please take her? I warned her it was going to be the same as other times. We'd sit in the waiting room for hours before seeing a psychiatrist, who would then tell her she wasn't serious enough to be admitted. Then we'd go home. And, darn it all, I had things to do that day. Things I wouldn't mind putting aside if she was honestly going to get help... things that weren't going to get done while we sat and accomplished nothing. But how do you say no to desperation?

Sure enough, after hours of waiting we were told she wasn't serious enough. People usually don't get admitted unless they've swallowed pills or show up with slashed wrists in an ambulance. I felt like I was kicked in the gut. It didn't matter that she was rapidly becoming suicidal and we all knew it. Everyone was going to sit and wait until she tried to kill herself first. The psychiatrist agreed that her current medication might not be the best choice and changed her back to ones that seemed to work a bit better a few months ago.

Two weeks later, daughter had a psychiatrist appointment. The psychiatrist was furious when we got in the room, demanding to know why we snuck around behind her back to have daughter's medication changed. Why didn't we wait until her appointment? I was baffled. If we were sick between doctor's appointments, and went to the walk-in clinic our family doctor wasn't panicking that he'd been replaced. Why was her psychiatrist convinced we were going against her for searching out emergency help? When I told her daughter was very upset and seemed to be in crisis then, we couldn't wait two weeks, she put her face right up to daughter's and loudly asked how she'd been feeling... how had it been different from her last appointment... why did she decide she couldn't wait... how come she hadn't said anything at the previous appointment (weeks before the hospital visit). Question after question with no space for daughter to answer. Daughter began to cry. Immediately the psychiatrist stepped back eagerly and announced that daughter was very unstable and needed to be admitted right away; her crying was proof of that. I didn't think crying in a situation like that was unusual. But a hospital admission was what we'd been looking for. Daughter was torn, she'd decided during our last trip to the hospital that it wasn't worth it but if it could help... Within hours she was admitted. The psychiatrist informed us that daughter was most definitely bipolar and would be starting lithium.

The next day I called her school and warned them she probably would not be back to school for another week. They agreed to work around the hospital stay and we'd sort out exams later. I got a call from daughter the following morning, she was being discharged. I got to the hospital to find out that the psychiatrist discharged her claiming absolutely nothing was wrong with her and she did not need a psychiatrist. But kept her on the current anti-depressant and mood stabilizer, claiming our family doctor could handle refilling those. Our family doctor was not impressed with that bit of information.

The mood swings were becoming more severe. We had no pictures of daughter on our walls and were running out of glasses. I tried to keep on top of the moods but couldn't figure out what was triggering her. She'd laugh at something one day and rage the next. Sometimes I'd wake up to her screaming in the middle of the night. Then one afternoon I ended up on the phone with 911, requesting immediate help as daughter was locked in her bedroom, looking for a bottle of pills to take so she could kill herself. Soon we were in an ambulance, heading to the hospital, where she stayed for a week.

If I thought the mood swings were bad before, they were a hundred times worse after she was discharged. She'd be up one minute and down the next. I took her brother out for a nature walk, something daughter doesn't enjoy, in the hopes she'd get some quiet time to do her school work. Instead I was informed by her (when we were an hour away) that she knew we'd left her behind because we didn't love her and she'd be dead by the time we got home. Another time I went to the store to pick up a few items and came home to broken glass all over one side of the living room.

Son was withdrawing more and more into autism. Baby talk, hand flapping, echoing everything we said. Meanwhile that irritated daughter, who would lash out at him... which caused him to withdraw even more. I grew scared to leave the two of them alone together. Eventually it became obvious that daughter needed more attention and supervision than a single working Mom could provide.

I wish there was a happy ending I could write here. Instead I'm left feeling baffled, confused, and alone. When a child says “Mommy, my tummy hurts”. I know what to do. A hot water bottle, a bucket, a soft blanket, and a mug of peppermint tea. But what do you do when your child's thoughts are hurting her? Even when my daughter was choking, I was able to help her until she could breath. How do you help them breath when they're wanting to stop? I could calm her down and keep her coughing until her airway cleared. Now I'm left offering platitudes and putting her on multiple year and a half long waiting lists in the hope of finding help before it's too late.

I wonder how things could have been different. From co-sleeping with daughter more to moving to a new town and different schools when the teasing and bullying got worse. I go over the past, looking through albums, assuring myself that, yes, I did hug her... yes, I did read stories. Was it enough? Eventually I come back to realizing, it doesn't matter what I could have done. Wishing won't change the past.

Then I call daughter and listen to how her day went. Hoping for a good day and hoping for many more for her.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

My son

My son was born during a thunderstorm one hot muggy June evening, almost 15 years ago. His cheeks were chubby, his hair dark, his eyes alert. He was a tad on the big side, at 9lbs 11oz, and just fine. We went home with him breastfeeding normally, happy with our perfectly healthy little boy.

Within a month I noticed his eyes crossed a bit. At first the doctor said he'd outgrow that but soon referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist. Otherwise he was perfectly normal and alert baby, chewing on teething rings, rolling over, and reaching for toys. He had some odd quirks. I put a quilt on one side of his playpen to keep the hot afternoon sun off him. Son would move over to that side and stick his head under the quilt then lie there quite happily with his head in the dark. I'd move him and he'd go right back there. He was also very quiet, never babbling, never cooing. He rarely cried. My Mom's nickname for him was silent Sam. He also rarely startled. I went behind him, more than once, to make a sudden noise... just to see if he could hear me. He could, so I just chalked it up as another quirk.

Son went in for strabismus surgery when he was 19 months old. The surgery was a success beyond the ophthalmologist's wildest dreams. She'd figured he'd continue to need glasses but he didn't (and still doesn't). Finally he was completely normal (the above picture was taken right after his eyes healed)... except he wasn't talking yet. Everyone kept saying "he's a boy, they start later" or "he's the youngest, his sister is talking for him". But I was concerned and, as soon as he turned two years old, I got him on a wait list for speech therapy. I couldn't put him on the list any earlier.

Through the next year he was on the wait list for speech therapy. He grew into a sweet and good-natured little boy. He loved buses and would smack his lips whenever he saw them. His favourite show was Magic School Bus and he would regularly come up to me, smacking his lips, and carrying a video for me to put on for him. He also loved Thomas the Tank engine and carried the little tank engine around everywhere. Somewhere we have a family photo with him clutching that beloved toy. His favourite bedtime stories were "Goodnight Moon" and "Freight Train". I looked all over the place for books and toys on the Magic School Bus but there was nothing for his age group.

He finally got into speech therapy when he was just over three years old. His receptive language was normal but his speech was significantly delayed. The therapist quickly realized son's motor skills were behind too. He was assessed for both occupational (fine motor) and physical (gross motor) therapy but was one point above acceptance for gross motor. He needed 25 or lower for therapy; he scored a 26. Soon I was ferrying him to several therapy classes as well as working on speech and motor skills at home. His speech therapist commented on son's fleeting eye contact but I had no idea what she was talking about and she didn't push further. My thought was "So, he's a busy active boy, and doesn't always look her in the eye. What's the big deal?"

Then son started Junior Kindergarten. He was thrilled to pieces, his older sister had already been in school for two years and he wanted to go so badly. He used to try and sneak into the lineup before school. Usually the kids would loudly point him out. Some mornings, if it was really busy, he'd manage to sneak inside the classroom and would look so proud of himself... until he got pulled back out again. Now it was his turn. He had the same classroom and same teacher as his sister the year before. He was overjoyed to be finally in school.

It didn't take long before it was obvious something was going on. Daughter knew the alphabet before she started school and was recognizing some words. Son didn't know the alphabet at all... despite lots of stories (including alphabet stories like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom)... alphabet colouring books... and educational shows. His teacher also commented on his fleeting eye contact except she brought up autism and a need for further testing.

Autism? There was no way my little boy could be autistic. Autistic children rocked back and forth, banging their heads on the floor and screaming. They waved their fingers in front of their faces and were oblivious to everyone and everything around them. They lived fully in their own little world. That was not my son! My son loved being around people, we joked he'd go off with the mailman if we let him. He never waved his fingers in front of his face. He was our little bird and flapped his hands when he was excited... but not in front of his face. And he never banged his head on the floor or rocked back and forth. He'd bolt into traffic if I didn't have him on a leash but he never rocked or banged his head.

I remember the school psychologist asking if son ever lined up toys, rocked, head banged, echoed us (he did later but at the time he was still quite nonverbal), or stare at fans and his fingers. He did none of those things and the doctor decided nothing was wrong except for a speech delay. The next year he went into a speech class and, the following year, went into a multiple exceptionality class with a diagnosis of ADHD.

All this time I was still waiting for him to outgrow his speech delay and be normal... go on ADHD medication and be normal. But, as he moved from grade two to grade three I began to realize something else was wrong. The ADHD medication was a bust. All it did was cause him to lose weight. And, as he got older, his quirks got more and more obvious. His voice just sounded... funny. Almost like he had an accent. I remember asking the speech therapist if there was any way to work with him on his tone of voice. She looked at me blankly and said "no" she only worked on speech sounds. He was (and is) fascinated with things. I had trouble throwing things out... he'd become obsessed with parts of things. Wheels broken off dinky cars for example. I'd drag him out of stores with him crying "I need... I need..." while trying to throw himself back into the store for what he needed. A bag of charcoal... a box of tampons... a tin of canned tuna... it didn't matter what it was, if it caught his eye, he needed it. He still would suddenly dash into traffic without warning. And, as his speech grew, he began to echo.

My sister, a child and youth worker, came home for a visit that spring and announced after watching son that he looked autistic. By this point I was a lot better on the internet and started googling. Soon I agreed with her. Then I began to pressure the school board to have him tested. They finally agreed to test for learning disabilities (son was several years behind in reading by then) and, if they felt at the end of the testing, he might show signs of autism, they'd do further testing. At the end of the testing I was asked if I'd be willing to have him tested for autism. Would I mind???

A year after my sister pointed out her concerns, son was diagnosed with high functioning autism. At first I was relieved, he had a diagnosis, I had something I could use to look for help. Then it sunk in. Autism. This was not something he'd outgrow. This was a label for life. When he was 80 years old, he'd still be autistic.

I remember being in the grocery store when was was really little. Two older kids were looking at him and commenting to each other about how weird he was. I called them on it, asking why they were teasing a very little boy. Both looked embarrassed and stopped immediately. At the time, I wondered why they'd gone after him, he was a normal little boy, he was just acting a bit silly like most toddlers his age. But, as he grew, the gap between him and other kids widened.

These days he's a teenager in high school. He loves playing Minecraft and saved up for a 3DS. He's obsessed with elevators and Nintendo (Minecraft is quickly catching up). He often talks about what sort of house he's going to live in when he grows up. And it breaks my heart. I can't imagine him living on his own. I still have to remind him every single day (and I mean EVERY SINGLE DAY) to brush his teeth, wear socks, and eat breakfast. I still pack his lunch every morning and pack it in his backpack so he won't forget it. I can't give him more than two things to do, else he forgets them. I can't say "Son, you need to wash the dishes and put your gym clothes in your backpack. Oh and don't forget to put your lunch bag in your backpack too." That's three things and he'll forget at least one of them.

And it breaks my heart when he makes friends... and they slowly disappear. One day I'll realize that, hey, I haven't seen so-and-so in several weeks and I'll realize that, yet another child has decided son is just too weird for them to hang out with. It's a mixed blessing that son, so far, hasn't really noticed. As long as he's got Nintendo products, YouTube videos (I had no idea there were *that* many videos on elevators), and Minecraft he's happy. Meanwhile I cherish the people in his life who simply accept him for who he is and don't act like autism is contagious.

He picked up dinner at a local restaurant this evening. He walked in the door and said, scornfully, "Those guys in the elevator were weird. They called me mentally challenged." I scoffed along with him. I'll wait until I'm in bed and away from him before I have a little cry.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Yummy vegetable frittatas

What a day! I woke to the alarm this morning and my cat Blackie tried to pin me in bed when I went to get up. Unfortunately for her she only weighs about 8lbs so it wasn't hard to move her. As soon as I got out of bed, she rolled right into the warm spot and stretched. I swear she snickered too (I'd never heard a cat snicker before).

I weighed myself this morning and was disappointed to see the scale back at 175lbs. Since I was at 172lbs yesterday I doubt it's a real gain but I'd been hoping to see a bit of a loss, especially after the hour long exercise class I had yesterday. Weirdly enough I weighed myself after exercising with the My Fitness Coach and was at 176lbs! Apparently I gained a pound while exercising... even though I didn't eat or drink anything. I only worked out for 15 minutes this morning so highly doubt I gained a pound of muscle. It's tempting to blame exercise for weight gain, except I have to be honest with myself and admit I didn't lose weight when I wasn't exercising. Maybe it's just me; I attract calories through the air.

I got to work and just felt fumble-fingered. I brewed coffee (without a pot), knocked over coffee cups (full of cream and sugar), and thankfully no one was around when I attempted to throw garbage bags into the bin out back (I did get them in... eventually).

And my throat started hurting a half-hour into my eight and a half hour shift.

There was a good part to my shift (other than getting paid) and that was the yummy vegetable frittata I made for lunch. I struggle with lunchtime; we get two 15 minute breaks and I find it extremely hard to eat a meal in 15 minutes. I'm just not a fast eater. Then I saw this recipe on SparkPeople and decided to try it... with a few modifications. It turned out incredible! And now I'll share my modifications with you :o)

Mini Vegetable Frittatas


1 1/4 cups egg whites (a carton and a bit)
2 Tbsp low-fat milk
1 cup diced tomato
2 tbsp grated light feta cheese
1 tsp pureed garlic
2 cups chopped mixed veggies (I used mushrooms, onion, fresh baby
spinach and julienne sun-dried tomatoes... not oil packed)
dried dill and Mrs Dash seasonings to taste

Mix eggs and milk in a bowl. Add cheese and chopped vegetables. Season.
Spoon mixture into muffin tins coated with cooking spray.
Baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until "set" and golden on top.

You can refrigerate and reheat these in the microwave for a quick breakfast or snack. Microwave on high for approximately 30 seconds. Serve warm.

I froze the frittatas and took one out last night to thaw. I only microwaved it for 20 seconds but our work microwave heats fast. Quick, easy, and it filled me up (along with a salad, vegetable juice, and four squares of dark chocolate). Best of all I finished lunch with several minutes to spare. I'm often shoving several forkfuls of salad into my mouth as the alarm on my cellphone goes off.

I'm home from work now and have wild and exciting plans for tonight that revolve around eating leftovers and reading while having a bubble bath. Even more exciting I plan on being dosed up on cold medication and in bed by 8:30pm. Blackie's already waiting for me.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Everyone deserves respect... including me...

I admit I haven't done a poll but I have a feeling I'm not the only one in the "holy crap stop putting yourself last" boat. I buy food that tastes "meh" because the kids like it, stay up later than I wanted because someone wants to talk, and my room is decorated with whatever I could afford after buying stuff for the kids. I've struggled for years to carve some time out for myself, now I'm pushing for a little more.

This year my main treat for me is redecorating my bedroom. This is what I've done so far...

One of the first things I did this week is buy new curtains. My old curtains were floral sheers my Mom made a decade ago. I loved the curtains but they were a decade old and the blinds under them were almost as old and torn. I also picked up a new lamp (my previous lamp was fake brass with a beige shade... chosen because it was the cheapest lamp I liked). Yesterday I went out and bought storage baskets to put my files in and got rid of the ugly beige filing cabinet that used to be where the chair is now and got a smaller chocolate brown mat to go beside my bed (replacing a larger floral mat). My cat Oreo seems to think I bought the mat for him, he loves it. Eventually, when it's warmer out, I'll paint and will slowly work on art for the walls. I'm thinking of framing my own photos for the walls... pictures like this one I took today...

Today's been a wonderful day. I didn't work today so I got to sleep in. Sleeping in these days means I didn't get up until almost to 8am, but no alarm woke me and I got to lie in bed and relax until my stomach urged me out. Then I went on a walk with my Mom, sister, and youngest nephew (that's when I took the above picture). I went home and made pancakes for lunch. Don't tell my son but they were healthy pancakes, stuffed full of ground flax, natural peanut butter, and low fat yogourt. He devoured them. I had two, topped with a lot of thawed frozen fruit, a bit of syrup and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

After lunch my Mom, sister, daughter and I all went out to get our nails done (thanks to my Dad who got us the certificates for Christmas). I don't work tomorrow either (woo hoo... two days off in a row) so I got my nails painted too. I can't wear nail polish at work and will have to wash it off tomorrow evening. But for now my nails are blue-green and very glittery.

We all went back to my parents' house and had Chinese take-out. I was diet conscious and ordered vegetarian hot and sour soup to start then had one spring roll (as a treat) with mixed vegetables and almonds and steamed rice. My Dad and oldest nephew baked a cake yesterday so I had a small slice for dessert (also as a treat).

I'm still working on my diet journal. This is my last fully completed page (the one I started today obviously has only one picture). I've managed a picture each day and, even better, lost two pounds this week and two pounds last week. I'm back down to my 40lb loss... weighing 172lbs now from a weight of 212lbs on January 1st 2009. I'm looking forward to seeing how well I do for the rest of the month!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

My diet

All you need to do is open a magazine this month and you'll find the latest diet. It jumps out screaming "try me" and shakes you by the collar. I'm not following any of them. My philosophy is simple. We know what things are healthier than others. Fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. I'm not vegan so I'm also eating low fat milk products and sparing amounts of free range eggs. I'm getting my fats from hemp oil (tastes nasty on it's own but good in salad dressing), ground flax, and nuts. Of course I'm not just sitting at home nibbling on a handful of seeds and a couple of carrots. Life's too short for boring food. I'm eating things like homemade pumpkin-orange muffins with pecans, chickpea curry, vegetable lentil stew, and high fibre pasta topped with roasted vegetable sauce (and a couple of shavings of fresh Parmesan). Every day at work I get staff checking out what I'm eating because "it all looks so good".

I'm working on portion control as well. My dinner plates are huge so I've been using the so-called side plates instead. And I'm not eating after dinner. I'm making sure I get some exercise every day as well. The My Fitness Coach program (on the Wii) goes on every morning right after I get up. I find it makes a difference for work too. I'm more alert and flexible on the days I exercise. Of course I'm going to the Y to exercise as well.

I went to iThai with my parents today and thought hard about what I was going to eat. I love their golden curry; it's so good I joke they must put crack in it. But it's not really a healthy choice. I ordered appetizers for lunch instead, a mango salad followed by a bowl of hot and sour soup. Followed by an orange for dessert when I got home. It was just as tasty and I didn't leave feeling overly stuffed. Of course I'll have their golden curry again, but it will be a rare treat, not a monthly occurrence.

I only just started this diet last week so don't have any long term information but, so far I've dropped four pounds and am optimistic I'll break my year long plateau and finally get under the 170lb mark for longer than a single day while sick.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A New Year... a new start

Picture found here

I love New Year's. To me it's a positive time of year, a fresh start, a clean slate. The Christmas decorations get put away, a pristine calendar is placed on the wall, and we begin again.

This year I'm determined to make it down to 140lbs, my goal weight, and I've taken concrete steps for this goal. I started a 365 day diet album last week. I worked on one a few years ago and found it was a huge help. Every day I take a picture of something I've done that's either healthy (exercise or healthy food), or will lead to healthy choices (new headphones for exercising with) and twice a week make a new page with the pictures. I loved flipping through my old album as an incentive; sadly it was on my external hard drive which my son plugged it into the netbook he found in the garbage this summer and everything got erased. I know a new album will be just as helpful.

I spent my Christmas money on a new pair of headphones to exercise with at the Y (the elliptical machine is *really* boring without music to listen to) and a step to work out on while using the My Fitness Coach. I've also thrown out the last of my Christmas baking (not that there was much left) so only have healthy treats in the house. I've lost two pounds this week (down from 176lbs to 174lbs) and know that 2012 will turn out to be my year for good health. I can do it!