The Texture Of Things

Bullets of Busy-ness

April 28th, 2008

Right now I should be:
*putting together final grades for my students
*showering
*making a doctor’s appointment
*doing something about my heartburn
*grocery shopping, including taking our mountain of coins to the C0in St@r
*finishing the cleaning of the tot’s room (a task started yesterday at 11 a.m., if that gives you any freakin’ idea how bad it was)
*mounting a large-scale revolt against The Wonder Pets
*drinking water
*writing a better blog post

…but I’m not.

Stuff going on right now/these days:
*17 weeks yesterday.
*We have been cleaning house to make up for all those weeks when I was lying on the sofa instead of doing, say, anything. (Thanks, Nausea!)
*It got warm and now it’s chilly again, so in less than 18 hours, I’ve spotted two little, yellow, house spiders. (HG evicted one last night, but I couldn’t reach this morning’s interloper.)
*I got a new laptop. (woo hoo!)
*I’m getting ready to have a garage sale this weekend, and as usual, I have no idea how to price anything, particularly the furniture.
*I have pulled the tot out of the preschool daycare in favor of the home-based daycare, and she seems happy overall.
*The tot is having pee accidents like crazy lately, though, so what’s up with that?
*On the topic of “what’s up with that?”, two weeks ago, she had her first poop accident ever – out of the house, of course, and I had no back up clothes.
*The tot continues to act excited about numero dos, but how much of that is an act?
*I’ve been shopping for a dress for the wedding I’m reading in this summer. In short, shopping for clothes is dumb, and I hate it.
*Okay, I don’t hate it, but I am mad at it. Shopping for plus-size dresses that are wedding-appropriate is one thing, shopping for maternity dresses that are wedding-appropriate is one thing, shopping for plus-size maternity dresses that are wedding-appropriate is another thing entirely. I’m such a stingy, cheap old lady that it pains me to have to order several dresses online, knowing I’ll have to pay to ship some or all back after trying them on, but there are no brick-mortar stores anywhere near me for plus-size maternity gear.
*Sporadic insomnia sucks as much as regular insomnia.
*I’m staring down the barrel of Gestational Diabetes again, this time complete with insulin, and that sucks.
*We finished our meetings with S., our Food Friend. She took another job, and since the tot was getting ready to graduate out of the program due to age, we opted not to take a new clinician.
*In a week, I’m taking the tot to an Occupational Therapist’s office (one we’ve been seen at before, when she was evaluated for Sensory Integration Dysfunction – have I written about that? Not sure.)
*Anyway, I think we exhausted about everything we could do with S., so we’ll give this a shot for a bit to see if there’s any progress to be made there. If there is, great; if not, I guess we’re on our own.
*I bought a new slow cooker, and I’m itching to try it, but we haven’t had a good day for it yet. It might be Thursday this week before I get a chance.

Um, I think that’s about it. Yeah, that looks about right.

This post doesn’t sound like it
but overall, I’m having a pretty good day,

April 20th, 2008

in spite of the fact that at the moment, I fucking hate pillows.

HATE Them.

Last night, as bedtime rolled around, I realized that I had forgotten to go out and buy pull ups for the tot, so that meant she had to wear a cloth training pant to bed. And that meant I’d be washing all of her bedding first thing in the morning.

And lo, it came to pass. In fact, it passed so much that even her pillow was pee-y.

Um, gross.

But! That’s OK! Because this pillow is washable! Huzzah!

Only except for the part where this pillow has an allergy barrier which is nigh-on airtight; ergo, the pillow, when exposed to a tub full of water, floats.

Fuck.

I’d like to take a moment to tell you what I had to do to get that pillow to wash. I had to cut it. That’s right. I cut a hole in the pillow and squeezed it like it was old swim floatie. So there goes the allergy barrier.

Goddam pillows.

Not Dead. But feels like it.

January 28th, 2008

Here’s the thing. We have the respiratory plague. We cough, we sneeze, we don’t sleep, we don’t blog. Even Nyquil won’t help that.

Or maybe it will….

I don’t know – I haven’t taken it yet.

Anyway, here’s some milestone-y moments from the texture house.

1. The tot is finally, finally beginning to use the word “because” correctly. Now, every 20th use of the word makes sense.
Before: “I’m sad because I’m sad.” A little deterministic, dontcha think?
Or: “[Toy name]* hurt her head because I need a drink.” Oh, you and me both, kid.
Or: “Is it Monday Night Football? Because Daddy’s at work now.” Um, yeah.

The other day: “There’s five Backyardigans in here [meaning a box she keeps them in] because Uniqua is in there too.” Normally, she only keeps the other four in this box.

Huzzah!

2. The tot is figuring out how to blow her nose. Ah, the joys of snot! But Ah! The Joys Of Her Blowing Her Own Nose! She still needs help, but at least she’s making progress.

3. HG and I continue to be employed, which is kind of saying something given our state’s economy. Blackboard is not as hard as I thought it would be, just different. Getting a decent night’s sleep in this house is harder than entering grades, although lately that’s not saying much.

*I can’t reveal the toy name because she names her toys the weirdest names, and one mention of such a name will result in everyone I know and their neighbor finding this blog. Email me if you are curious.

Read a little every day
to grow your brain a lot some day

January 3rd, 2008

I know most of you think I’m a genius. I’m not. I just have the luxury of choosing what I put on the blog. Still, there are moments when I’m pretty sure I’m average, putting me ahead of about half the populace. There is, of course, still room for error there.

Last week, I emailed my request for a Blackboard site for my upcoming class. Blackboard is an online, um, thingie that will let my students, um, do stuff like check their grades and download handouts that they’ve lost. Again. On my end, it’ll act as an electronic gradebook, saving me (I’m not exaggerating here) at least three hours of my life come the end of the semester and I have to figure grades. I think an exchange of three hours at the end of the semester for a half an hour every week for 15 weeks sounds like a pretty good deal*, so I sent the request along with a small prayer that the learning curve is not as steep as I think it will be.

The request is a form on the faculty side of the school’s website. I entered all of the information, including the dates of the course, registration code and the course ID (which are unique each semester).

What do you think I got in my inbox today? An email that looked a little like this:

To: amy
Fr: School Web Dude in Charge of Setting Up Blackboard Sites
Date: Today
Subject: Winter ’08 Course Site

Email body:
Hello.
Please verify the semester for this new course.
Thank you.

[Information from the form I filled out, with semester info missing even though I had filled it in.]

end transmission

.

I don’t know about all you all, but if s/he had enough information to make a calculated guess about the semester for the email subject field, plus the registration information, I’m not sure why I needed to verify it. I did verify it, of course, but I felt like the whole exchange is a layer in a giant practical joke.

To: School Web Dude in Charge of Setting Up Blackboard Sites
Fr: amy
Date: Today
Subject: RE: Winter ’08 Course Site

Email body:
Winter ’08 (Jan-April 2008).
Thanks.

end transmission

Am I missing something?

* That’s math, y’all.

A Recipe for the New Year

January 1st, 2008

In our family, we call them Magic Bars. Legend has it My grandma once told me that she found this recipe in a ladies magazine, clipped it, and made them for every major holiday for many years after that until “every major holiday” came to mean “Christmas.”

dessertbar700.JPG
mmmmmmmmmm

When she finally got too old and tired to make the hundred billion cookies that defined our Christmas Eve family gathering, the recipes were handed down to me and now I don’t really make them either. In fact, I’ve nearly lost this recipe at least three times (it’s on a beat-up, faded yellow post-it note right now), so into the intertoobs it goes.

Get thee to a 13″x9″ baking dish. Fire up your oven to 325 degrees for a glass dish or 350 for any other dish. I’ve only ever used glass, so I have no idea how they’d turn out in metal.

What you’ll need:
1 stick of butter
1 1/2 C of graham cracker crumbs
1 1/3 C (3.5 oz.) of coconut
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
1 C chopped walnuts
1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk

What you should know:
1. Do not substitute margarine for butter unless there is no butter left on earth.
2. You can buy the box of graham crumbs in the baking aisle, but graham crackers crushed to almost crumbs seem to hold up better. I don’t know why. Also, one rectangle pack roughly equals 1.5 cups.
3. Do not buy cheap coconut. Do not use last year’s leftover coconut. I buy only Baker’s.
4. If you need me to tell you which chocolate chips to buy, email me. I will tell you, but then I’ll make a disappointed face every time I think about it.
5. I have not noticed an appreciable difference between the good, name brand walnuts and the store brand walnuts. Use what you like, but run them through the handi-chopper or put them in a plastic bag and smash them with a rolling pin to bring them down a notch.
6. I have only ever used name brand sweetened condensed milk, but I’m not above cutting a corner here. I can’t even remember the last time I used full fat s.c. milk. I do, however, remember setting up an experiment one year, making one of each and tasting them. No difference, really.

What you do:
Put the butter in the pan and put it in the oven to melt while the oven preheats.
Once melted, apply graham cracker crumbs evenly and pat down with back of spoon.
Spread out coconut layer. I like to think about cirrus clouds when I’m doing it.
Sprinkle chocolate chips.
Cover with walnuts.
Pour s.c. milk over whole thing.
Try to make all layers as even as possible.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown and delicious.
Cool.
Eat one while they’re still molten and burn the roof of your mouth.
Cool some more.
Eat for breakfast next day. Great with coffee.

stakingterritory650.JPG
HG claims this pan for England himself

Snow Day

December 9th, 2007

Oh my god, I’m getting nothing done.

Need a Snow Day?

Paper Hippie

December 6th, 2007

I am a hippie about some things. Paper, for instance. My insides absolutely curdle when I watch all the paper, boxboard, and corrugated cardboard that gets thrown out at my sweatshop job. Well, at my teaching job, too, I guess. I’m in a new classroom this semester, one that was made over from a lecture setup to a computer lab, complete with printer but lacking a recycling bin. The thought of all that office paper going in the trash bag is downright nauseating.

I don’t know how this happened – was I brainwashed in school or by my total hippie roommates in college or by the media? Who cares. It’s logical to recycle what I can and to buy recycled goods when possible. The recycling notion certainly didn’t come from my mother, who views the stylish wicker basket that holds the office paper and boxboard in our kitchen until recycling/trash day as a receptacle of filth.

One day, when the tot was old enough for us to consider stepping up the childproofing for a crawling baby, my mother sat at my kitchen table and said the following:
“You know, you can’t keep living like this when you have babies crawling around and getting into everything.”

With the words “like this,” she made a sweeping gesture to indicate our two recycling areas – one high atop a counter, in a cardboard tray, and one the stylish wicker basket below my microwave. To be fair (to me), at the time, the kitchen was fairly clean though it isn’t always.* Still, I knew what she meant. She hates our recycling ways. On other occasions, she has bagged up styrofoam carry out containers and told me she was taking them home so she could throw them away because she knew I wouldn’t do it. I’d recycle it.

Whatever. When do we get to the part where this post is going? Who the hell knows.

Oh. How about here? Is this good?

Cut from the “like this” conversation to four months later when she bought the tot her first coloring books. Then, fast forward to a few weeks ago when I started going through her mighty assortment to remove and recycle the pages that were keeping her from coloring the last remaining blank pages.

Then? Then?

Then enjoy this bit of recycling propaganda I found in that first coloring book, subsidized by the grandma.

recycle_prop.JPG

Bah ha ha ha ha!

When the tot is older and asks her grandma why she doesn’t recycle, I’ll blame the coloring book.** I mean, it couldn’t be helped that she’d turn into a paper hippie with that kind of propaganda lying around the house, never getting thrown out.

*In fact, right now it’s hovering just this side of Superfund Site only because HG started cleaning today.

**The whole coloring book is dumb. I cannot believe some of the pages. Is this the best material out there these days?

Advances in Texture: Air

December 5th, 2007

Before I had a kid, I thought all children liked to be naked, possibly all the time naked. The tot surprised me in this regard. Shocker, I know.

First off, she has always been a child who does not like to be cold. Ever. So I always kept her clothed except at changing times and bath times and I bundled her throughout her first fall and winter. When the weather started to break the following spring, I put her in one of the seven hundred and three cute outfits that she finally fit into and took her outside. She hated it.

Hated. It.

sitting2.JPG

what i remember of this day is that it was my first mother’s day.* i set her in the grass and she was mildly distressed. she kept lifting her legs simultaneously in order to get the bare parts out of the grass. she looked like she was trying to levitate. lifting her legs messed with her balance, which made her put her hands down, which distressed her. i distracted her with the stick. i was not actually poking her with it.

sitting.JPG

What I didn’t know at the time is that someone who is tactile defensive has to get accustomed to every sensation, including that of air on bare skin. Imagine, if you will, the feeling of the first time you wear shorts outside after a long spell of pants or of staying inside. Clothing is protective because it dulls the feeling of everything against your skin and it’s a very predicable sensation, particularly if the clothing item is familiar.

As I understand it, our skin processes 4 kinds of information: warm, cold, pressure, pain. Our touch nerve endings don’t actually register hot as an individual input. The sensation “hot” is made up of warm and cold triggering together, which is why something really cold can almost feel like it’s burning you and something extremely hot has the same piercing feeling of ice cold. Add to that the fact that light touch runs along the same pathways as pain and what you get in the person hypersensitive to touch is someone for whom air-rustling-through-leg/arm-hair is processed as a painful sensation.**

I live with a pretty good example of light-touch = pain sensory experience. Say I have a small itch, like a wonky tag in my shirt. I have to be careful to either scratch it very lightly with my fingernails (so lightly as to almost tickle) or to rub it with a medium deep pressure touch; when I do not – when I scratch it like I see other people scratch a random itch – the relief of having scratched is followed immediately by the pain of a charley horse.

I have lived with this my whole life. I have, for the most part, quit sharing this experience with others because everyone has always reacted to this like I am probably a leper. I’m not. But, it’s not something that anyone is ever going to cure in pill form and I do not expect I will ever “outgrow it,” so I learn to cope by listening to and respecting my body’s feedback. Scratching lightly or rubbing with pressure can be considered a Compensatory Strategy – a strategy one develops in order to cope with an immediate problem. Another Compensatory Strategy could be removing the tag. The long term solution is Desensitization. That’s it. There is nothing else one can do to address tactile hypersensitivity but those two approaches.

The qualities of sensation the tot feels are beyond her ability to articulate and beyond my ability to detect. The pattern I see, however, is made up of: a preference for long sleeves and pants for the first few weeks (or more) of the warm seasons, even when it’s really too warm for that much clothing; a need for clothing to be “just so” (e.g., any coat or sweater must always be fastened all the way to the top) (this is pretty mild for the tot – some kids can’t tolerate a single wrinkle or twist in fabric); a brief panic when clothing is going over her head; whiny, whiny, whiny whining when the car windows are down or the breeze picks up while we’re outside; a dislike of being barefoot, mostly just when outside these days; and so on. I’m sure I’m forgetting some as I write this.

So, a year ago it was a big damned deal that one afternoon she took to running through a small pile of leaves I raked up. When the wind picked up and started blowing leaves around, we had to go in. Leaves okay, breeze maybe, breeze plus unpredictable leaves intolerable.

This past summer it was a big damned deal that I could put the windows down while we were driving, moreover that her curiosity about her own body has finally caught up and starting some time in late summer, she now wants to be naked, like, daily. I let her as much as possible, and as the cold has sidled in to Michigan (read: pounded us with brutal winds and unseasonably cold temps), she’s transitioned from naked to pantsless (pronounced: “pants-a-less”). This means she’ll deign to wear a shirt. For a while. Until she’s freezing cold, at which point she’ll need a turtleneck, a sweatshirt, pants, socks, a blanket, and snuggling.

There have been so many changes lately and in the last six months that I begin to wonder what the big deal ever was, before I started this blog. Maybe I’ve just replaced my expectations of what is normal with how things are. That’s fine. It’s going to be a long time until she eats like a typical kid, if she ever does, and I realize now that what will be a more lasting contribution to her life than a line in baby book that she ate broccoli at age ___*** is a healthy self-esteem and confidence that she is loved no matter what, that there will be things she’ll be good at, that there are always struggles to surmount, but those are the accomplishments that make life worth living.

This epiphany subject to clear by nightfall.

.

*For the baby-book record, in this picture she was eleven months old, cut her first tooth that day, was anemic but improving with treatment, was not crawling (never did), would not walk for about 6 more weeks. she weighed probably around 15 pounds and the outfit she is wearing is size 3-6 months. What a total peanut.

**Tickle runs on the same pathways as pain, which explains (for me, anyway) why a ticklish person recoils from a tickle as if it were pain.

***Sha. In our dreams. If that number ends up being a single digit, I will pass out in shock right where I stand.

Hurry! It won’t last!

November 8th, 2007

Or maybe it will. It’s Michigan, so it’s hard to tell how long any weather pattern will last.

But for right now! It’s SNOWING! W00t!

You know, for me, this means looking outside and shivering to myself while daydreaming about football and cocoa (or beer). Today, in a completely uncharacteristic impulse, it means the tot wants to go outside and “touch the snow”. This is a change of tune from previous winters, so although I am loathe to leave my pajamas until I have to teach tonight, I will indeed take her out so she can chase snowflakes. Because I’m awesome like that.

Oh. Update. The tot just announced that she’s sad. The snow is so small. (It’s only light flurries.) “We gotta make it bigger!” she is shouting.

That’s sweet. She has no memory of last winter or of how snow often threatens but doesn’t always stick. It’s brand new for her again, and I’m a little surprised at myself for not anticipating that. Boy, every day is an adventure around here.

This is mostly whine, but I didn’t mean it to be
when I started.

September 26th, 2007

It is an effort, these days, to anything beyond the very basics. It’s not that there’s any single huge crisis in these parts; instead, it’s simply that there are so very many “basics.”

I am teaching two sections of Comp II. Both sections are filled, so that means I have 54 students. Because my course plan is rigorous, they have to write (and I have to grade) about a billion and three papers. I have no idea why I do this to myself every effing semester, other than “it’s the right thing to do.”* My job is to prepare them to write at higher academic levels, whether it’s a Lit course or a 400-level Bioethics course. I can’t do that without making them write and write again.

/sigh.

I love my job. I do. I just lose myself in the workload so easily.

I’m also working three days a week at my mother’s store because my uncle is still unwell. He’s been struggling and sick all year, so I’ve been covering for him as much as I can because I’m the only one besides him and my mom who knows the business. Also? I guilt easy, so there is no way I could refuse to help out down there. Also, also? I like money, and I do manage to earn my keep there most days. (Not today, though, because I’m training a new highschooler.)

Good news on the horizon, however, in the form of a new teaching assignment for next semester. I’ll be teaching a developmental reading and writing course. It is the course that comes before Comp I, and it is what I’d like to be teaching. It’s difficult to get this assignment as a part-timer because the full-timers hog these sections. It’s 6-credit hours (three of reading, three of writing) and has a cap of 20 students. But I get paid by the credit hour, so I’ll earn the same amount of money next semester with 20 as I do now with 54. You can see why the full-timers would snatch these courses up before the adjuncts have a shot at the schedule.

To be fair, and honest with myself, it will be hard because it will be a brand new course prep and the students will likely be students who have struggled with reading and writing. That’s okay, though, because those are the students I love to work with. But the course prep is likely going to kill me.

So I’m working. What a boring excuse for being away. It’s not just that, though. I’m ‘whelmed’. Let me explain how I mean that word.

Back in the height of my Panic Disorder, one of the things my therapist encouraged me to do was to use this goofy little magnet thing that HG had gotten somewhere years before. It has a couple dozen little faces and each face is demonstrating some emotion. You’re supposed to take a little square magnet and lay it on top of the face showing the emotion you’re feeling. This raised awareness of my emotions was supposed to help me keep track of the spans of time when I wasn’t panicking and the roiling emotions that typically led up to a panic.

Almost every visit in the beginning I would tell her that I spent the week on “Overwhelmed.” We both knew I was turning a corner when one night I told her, “You know, there isn’t a face on the magnet for me anymore. I would choose ‘Overwhelmed’ except I’m not. I’m only a bit ‘whelmed’.”

And that’s where I am now. I am whelmed. I haven’t been overwhelmed in a while, but the pendulum is swinging back toward whelmed these days. I realized it when I left a comment on a blog last week and felt a pang of guilt that I hadn’t even checked my texture email in weeks, let alone post. And then, it took until tonight to do it.

Plus, I think I’ve pulled away because I have two unbloggable things going on right now and I have been fixated on them. Actually, they are contributing to my whelmage whelmness whelmitude. Whatever. You know what I mean. I will do what I can to get back here shortly with something. And, I owe Jennifer a response to the Power post.

*Points to the first person who can say the second half of the slogan. Bonus points to the person who can identify the product. Super Awesome Bonus points to the person who can remember the spokesperson’s name.

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