The Texture Of Things

Works For Me Wednesday – Make It Pasty!*

September 26th, 2006

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A friend of mine (who might be lurking here – Hi!) recently suckered me into doing the 6-week Solution, a weight loss class at my local Curves establishment. I was already a member there, but I did need this kind of kick in the pants to take it to a level that counts. So, hooray for us! (I won’t know until later today if the first week, aka “Phase I”, has worked for me.)

It’s true what they say, though. Phase I is tough.

But, I digress. What is actually working for me has to do with the Curves shake. What you might not know about the 6-week Solution is that it comes complete with this optional protein shake that one may enjoy once a day. Although no one would say it at the first class, it seemed to me from what they weren’t saying that one might not actually enjoy the shake if one merely stirred it with a spoon. The common advice was to acquire and use a Curves shaker cup, kind of like a martini shaker only not, or to use a blender. Yes, well, therein lies the problem. I’m not going to shell out cash for the shaker yet because I’m not sure how much more money I want to invest in this; besides, money is tight in Casa Texture right now. Also, a blender? Sure, I have one, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pull it out every day for one shake, and I have no counter space. Also? I am the laziest person I know**. I don’t want to wash the thing if I don’t have to.

The first night of the diet, I mixed my shake powder into the milk with a spoon, like I would make a glass of Kool Aid: put in powder, add fluid, stir. The resulting shake had a top, floaty layer that was simultaneously gritty and foamy. I could see where the Curves rep was coming from. I did not enjoy that night’s shake.

The second night, I employed a method I think I saw on an episode of Good Eats. I put the powder in the glass. I add just enough milk to make a thick paste from the powder. Stir, stir, stir hard. Get all the powder into the paste. I have found over the last few days that about 2 ounces of the total 8 is just about right, creating something about as thick as homemade chocolate cake frosting. (Mmmmm, frosting…) Then add the remaining milk and stir together briskly.

The result? No grit anywhere in it. No foamy layer. No clumps of unstirred, unbroken powder. It tastes pretty good, actually, a whole lot better than the powder smells, to be sure. And, I don’t have to clean any contraption of any kind to do it. I just need a spoon.

I have since tried this with my daughter’s Ovaltine, and it works there, too, although I never had quite the problem with Ovaltine as I have with the shake.

Hop on over to Rocks in my Dryer for this week’s Works for me Wednesday, a “Best Of”!

*(I know I am posting this on Tuesday, but I won’t have a chance to post this tomorrow. Also, this week is supposed to be all “Best Of” links over at Shannon’s, but I’ve only had one WFMW before, so here is a new one instead.)

**I’m lazy, but I’m honest.

Works For Me Wednesday – Puff Balls

September 20th, 2006

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I am always looking for toys or activities to help my toddler with her texture sensitivities, and this is one all little kids might like. I like to call it “Raking Puff Balls.”

What you’ll need:
1.Puff Balls (may also be known as poms, I’m not sure)
2.Child-sized rake
3.Space to spill stuff and move it around

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rake and puffs in plastic salad bowl

What I recommend:
1. Vacuum first if you haven’t done so recently. Seriously. Even if you don’t have cats, like we do. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t, but you should be warned that hair does gravitate toward the puffs.
2. A D-handle on the rake, so you don’t have to be quite as nervous about someone losing an eye while doing this.

The puff balls alone are a fun texture toy. I got the puff balls at my local craft store. The bag had mixed colors and sizes (from about 1/2 inch to roughly 2 inches) and I got them because they’d be a fun alternative texture to the beans and rice we’d been playing with. They are good for mixing with the beans because they are easy to pick out, but while they’re in there, they make for a great disparity of textures. I also figured that if my daughter wasn’t interested in playing with the puffs, we’d keep them for crafts. It turns out she does love them – so much so that I can’t put them away. Ever.

More up-sides to the puffs: They are light and easy for a little kid to carry around in a bowl; they were fairly cheap (use store coupon = even cheaper!); they are fun to sort in different ways; they make great cat toys after your child’s gone to bed; they are completely replaceable, in the event of loss; they are quiet, for when mama has a headache; if you put them in a bowl, they make a great ball pit for Fisher Price Little People; and so on.

Now for the rake. I found it at my local super-discount/grocery store for $1.79. My mind has been turned outdoors and toward autumn, when my yard fills with leaves to be raked up. What does one do with a toddler when one has yard work to do? Put her to work. It’s about time she started earning her keep. When I got home, the tot saw the rake and demanded to use it. As it happened, there were puff balls scattered across my living room. Ding! Conveniently, the brightness from the light bulb over my head provided good lighting for her to play by.

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rake in puffs on carpet

Hop on over to Rocks in my Dryer for about a billion more great ideas!

From the Vault – a Glimpse of the Tot at 9 Months

September 18th, 2006

This is part of an email I wrote to a friend back on February 20, 2005. This friend had her son the previous September and, like the tot, he was 5 weeks early. Unlike the tot, he weighed 5.5 lbs to her 3.5 lbs. When we saw them this past August, they were roughly the same size, finally.

I wrote,
“her fingers are stout little sausages, squared-off at the tips, and
her knuckles are dimples in the pudge. they are unquestionably her father’s
hands, and when i’m at my wit’s end in the middle of another day home
alone with her (and pissed at him for going to work again – how could
he? i’m so jealous!), i see his hands in hers and i am reminded of how
cool it truly is to take two people and put them into one.

“she’s getting the hang of her fingers lately. as soon as she could get
a hand in her mouth, she sucked her fist, but as she has begun to move
her fingers independently, she’s gone from sucking her thumb as it juts
out from her fist to sucking her thumb and curling her pointer finger up
by her nose. it’s terrifically adorable. just yesterday she hit
another milestone. she stuck her finger in her nostril. when i saw
her, i was stunned and, well, elated. i mean, i don’t want her to pick
her nose (though i know all kids do), but it means she’s working toward
the pincer grasp and eating little cheerios, and that is a cool age.
and she just sat there with a quizzical look on her face, as if
wondering, “i don’t think i’ve ever done this before. hmh.” since
then, i’ve seen her do it two more times. i’m so proud.

“she is going for her nine-month check up in a couple of weeks. i have
no idea what she weighs, and i wish i did. i know she’s growing, but
slowly. she’s still wearing size 3-6 months, and she will be for a bit
yet. it’s not because she’s not beefy. she’s heavy for her size, but
she’s short, so the 3-6 continue to fit her. my mom laughed the other
day and said, ‘no one ever gets this much use out of the first two sizes
of baby clothes, unless they have three kids!’ it’s true. carter’s
slogan used to be something like ‘if they just stayed little ’til their
carter’s wore out,’ and she is putting it to the test. good kid!”

The truth behind this email is that I was through the roof with glee at finding the tot picking her nose. Finally, she began to take on one of my traits instead of being a carbon copy of her father. (Not that that’s a bad thing. She is mighty cute.)

Another truth behind this email is what followed it. A couple of weeks later, we found ourselves in the waiting room of our Big City’s Hematology department, wondering what to make of the pediatrician’s urgency that we be seen for the tot’s newly caught anemia. Where her blood reading should have been between 10 and 12, hers was 6.4, low enough that she needed immediate help but not low enough to require a transfusion.

That week, I found myself crying and searching through pictures of her in reverse chronological order, trying to find when the visable symptoms started. The answer: right before 6 months. She was noticeably anemic for three months and the only thing her father and I thought during that time was, “Thank god the kid is finally sleeping.” We had been so exhausted. We had been so grateful that finally the baby who never slept more than 1 hour 45 minutes at a time unless held was content to sit and play, was starting to sleep like babies her age are alleged to.

Garcon? Could I get a side order of guilt with that guilt? That’d be great. Thanks.

What I Wish I Knew

September 18th, 2006

I wish I knew if S. or the others in her office have begun to get close to a diagnosis for the tot. S. has taken video of one of our sessions and, naturally, a ton of notes about the tot’s early and sudden arrival (a story for another day), about her severe anemia (another story), about her early eating problems (geez, I have a lot of writing to do), family history, and so on. But she won’t be able to present the tot’s case to her colleagues until the October meeting, so I’m hanging in a limbo of sorts.

Two weeks ago, S. asked me if I had read Carol Stock Kranowitz’s The Out-of-Sync Child, and I told her I hadn’t yet but wanted to. She brought me a lender copy and its sidekick, The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, last Tuesday. They are both written to parents and teachers, detailing Sensory Integration Dysfunction, its symptoms, the importance of seeking therapy, therapies, etc. Over the last two days, I plowed through the first one. I read too fast, though I’ll try to write a post about what in it fits us and what doesn’t in the coming days. The second one I haven’t gotten to yet.

At the time of our conversation, I thought S. was sharing these books because there have lots of great sensory building activities. I got the impression that she had read these books just recently and thought they were an educational read, akin to me choosing to read a text about teaching poetry: I teach college composition, but it might be interesting to see how a different genre can be taught. Related, but not our area.

Then my mother said something to me last night that struck a chord, a loud, reverberating chord. Maybe S. gave us these books to prepare me to hear a diagnosis of Sensory Integration Dysfunction. I was a bit startled. Why hadn’t that occurred to me? Of course. And then I was relieved, honestly. That diagnosis is one I’ve anticipated and I have readied myself to hear it. Last night I finished the book with the flavor of this diagnosis in my head, and I went to bed thinking that in the other room I had a child on the threshold of a diagnosis, one we are effectively already treating with texture play and anxiety coping exercises.

Oh, what a full night of sleep will do! We all slept soundly last night, by coincidence alone, I’m sure. And then we woke up, Husband Guy went to work, the tot got up and fought me about breakfast, I made my exasperated plea to the caffeine gods that if I could have my coffee injected directly into my brain, I could totally deal with a whiny toddler or at least not care. In other words, all was right with the world.

Until S. called. She asked me about the book, and I went on and on and on about the things in the book I could see in myself and in the tot, especially the tot. I told her how the tot has recently begun carrying puff balls (soft little crafting pom poms that she likes to play with) in her hand and using her balled up fists or the backs of her hands to touch or manipulate things, “much like they described in the book,” I said.

And right about here is where S. backed up. “You saw that in the book?” She sounded like she was pretty sure I just confused a Stephen Colbert light saber fight for one that actually happened in a Star Wars movie. I related more from the section of the book that I believed it came from and as it was spilling from my mouth, I realized that probably my first impression of S.’s interest in sharing the book was right. S. isn’t laying groundwork to prepare me for an SI Dysfunction diagnosis. She later confirmed, in so many words, her reticence to diagnose it or anything, and that’s when I really wished I could get the coffee to my brain faster.

So for one night, one lovely night, I thought I finally knew what I’ve wanted to know for about a year: why won’t this kid feed herself? Why is she so fussy about wet things, spilled things, messy things?

It was a nice night. I’ll miss it.

She Even Got the Socks from the Drawer Herself

September 17th, 2006

The tot is a natural at nurturing. Just ask her baby dolls and her Fisher Price Little People. They’ll tell you that the nicest thing anyone ever did for them was get them some socks because their feet were cold. In fact, if you listen closely, they’ll also tell you they “had a good sleep” and that their “toes are toasty now” and they are “happy to see you again.” Yes, they are very polite. And they have every reason to be since the Bestower of Snuggly Footwear tells each one that s/he is her “best friend.”

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red and beige socks by carter’s, white socks by target

How We Met S., Our Food Friend

September 16th, 2006

The tot and I currently see a woman whom I’ll call S. from our county’s early intervention program. We meet on a weekly basis with the goal of helping the tot with her texture intolerance. We call S. our “Food Friend,” and she comes to our home for an hour at a time. The three of us together do some small activity or two that usually involve the tot and some new texture or an old texture that she doesn’t think fondly of. The first week, it was dried beans, the next week uncooked rice, and so on.

How we got to the weekly meeting stage kind of goes like this: At the tot’s 15-month and 18-month well-baby check ups, the pediatrician dismissed my concerns that she wasn’t interested in very many foods or in feeding herself. She was a preemie, so maybe this is an area she lags behind in, he said. At her 24-month visit, he finally started to see my point when I told him that she:
*won’t eat any kind of meat (not really a big deal, and in the months since then, she has eaten chicken nuggets)
*will only eat pureed foods, i.e. baby foods or yogurt, and only if they are on the thin side
*won’t spoon feed herself smooth/pureed foods
*will self-feed some dry, crunchy things
*will not abide mixed textures (including a dry crunchy being added to a puree or a chunk in the yogurt)

(There are more peculiarities to her texture wills and won’ts, but those are the food texture rules in a nutshell.)

Ask her to go beyond this, including slowly thickening the puree, and she will opt to not eat anything, but usually only after she has freaked the eff out. And I do mean freak. I know anxiety, and friends, this is anxiety. When a kid gags, throws up, or tries to flee the township because of the food in her mouth or on her tray or in my hands at the table next to her, there’s a problem, so I called the early intervention people.

First, they had someone perform the Infant-Toddler Development Assessment, and tot scored at the top of the categories. There was never any question in my mind that she would do well that day – the test includes nothing much about self-help behaviors, feeding, or textures. Still, it was lovely to see her, at 25.5 months, scoring in the top numbers for the 25-30 month age group.

Then, they put me in touch with S., our FF. It’s only been a couple of months, and we’ve spent most of our time getting to know each other, setting some goals, and figuring out where some of tot’s issues lie. So far, it looks like hypersensitivity to textures and anxiety relating to textures with no gross oral motor development problems. I’m making this language up. No one yet has said anything about any kind of diagnosis, or if we’re even in the neighborhood of getting a diagnosis soon.

Last Friday, S. took a video of one of our play sessions (beans, uncooked pasta – but no mixing them!) to a big meeting to get input from the child psychologist and the occupational therapist about how to proceed. I haven’t heard back from her yet, and in classic form, I’m anxious to learn what transpired. Hopefully, we’ll know something soon.

Making it Better

September 13th, 2006

There are stories brewing in my bones. I will tell them one at a time, or I will try to, anyway. It’s odd, in a way, to tell stories here because stories inherently have audiences, but I don’t really think anyone will read this blog ever. There is no audience here, but maybe myself. That’s okay. I am writing to tell a story because I don’t want it to be lost when my daughter is old enough and/or wants to know it. It is a mother’s story of a daughter and her family. For now, the only audience I can imagine is that future daughter, I guess. Whatever actual audience gathers is secondary.

Some of these stories are funny, some dry. Some are happy and some not-so-much. Who even knows what the stories will be, what they’ll tell when all their pieces parts are gathered together to make a whole? Who can see it from within its middle?

I will tell a story about a life. I will tell it in increments.

A 25-minute drive from here, in a portable crib set up in the guest room at her babysitter’s house, sleeps my 27-month-old daughter. She is napping. (This is an assumption since she periodically ditches her afternoon nap, but it is overall a safe bet.) She is the finest thing I’ve ever done, and she is simultaneously the hardest thing I do on any given day. This is not because she is difficult. Not by any stretch. But parenting her is the one thing in my life that has such profound consequences and I do not want to screw this up.

But we do screw up. Every day, parents across the globe screw up. My parents screwed up, my friends’ parents screwed up, their parents screwed up. It’s what parents do. Sure, we’re human, but my point is more than that. It’s personal. I hate screwing up. When I catch myself in or after the act of screwing up, I am disappointed in myself. Thick disappointment that casts a shadow over anything I’ve done right that day.

I cannot act like I am the only mother who felt this way, but some days I do feel like my precious cargo is extraordinarily fragile. My tot has what I call “texture issues”, for lack of a more knowledgeable term. It presents itself as an intolerance to physical contact with many textures. It is coupled with anxiety about those textures, either after having touched one or in anticipation of something not-okay touching her or anyone she has ever met or known. I am pursuing help for her, with my husband’s cooperation, but it is slow in coming (is therapy ever fast?) and that is tortuous some days.

I don’t know why she won’t eat anything besides dry, crunchy things or thoroughly pureed foods or why she cries when liquid spills or touches her; I only know I want to help her, because a mother is the one who helps you when you need it. A mother makes it all better.

The Naming of Things

September 13th, 2006

Though I’m not striving for total anonymity until the end of my days, I am not looking to be found. I have stories to tell, some I don’t feel I can tell anywhere in my real life, and if I am completely known, I know I will not tell them. Not as I want to, anyhow. This blog is not an effort to find a place to talk bad about the people in my life either; I will protect them as best as I can. One way to do that is to use pseudonyms.

You can call me “Amy”, but I go by “Mommy”, “Mama”, and various pet names my husband has for me. I will call him “Husband”, “HG”, or “Husband Guy” for short.

I choose “HG” for two reasons. First, “Husband Guy” reminds me of a superhero moniker, and he is often a hero in this home. Second, and I admit this is tenuous, “HG” also reminds me of H.G. Wells, noted author and dead British guy. Of his work, I have read only The Island of Doctor Moreau and The War of the Worlds, but technology and forward-thinking science kind of remind me of my husband. He is always looking for technology that can enhance our lives, solve our problems, or simply make life more complicated while being very cool. (Helping me with the technology for this blog is one example.)

Also, Wells was married to an Amy. (In the interest of full disclosure, though, Wells was also a socialist, which my husband is not.)

I tried to choose an alternate real-world name for my daughter, something as equally generic as Amy, but I can’t seem to make it stick. It just feels like I’m writing about another child, not her, and that changes the tone I’m writing with. I don’t want that. So, until a name emerges in the story telling, I’ll probably go with one of a hundred pet names I have for her. Tot, Sweet Potato, My Big Girl are likely candidates.

With that out of the way,
Hi! It’s nice to finally meet you!

Ground Rules

September 13th, 2006

I am a person who likes to know the rules. If we sit down to play euchre, I want to know: Screw the Dealer? Ace No Face? Farmer’s Hand? What rules are we playing by? Another blogger has entries devoted to this, which inspired me to set some ground rules here, too. I hope they work for her. I hope they work for me. Egad, I hope I never need them.

First off, let’s all try to play nicely with one another. In the heat of the moment, I know I can be a “It’s MY ball and I’m going home” or a “It’s YOUR ball, here take it and go home” kind of person, so I acknowledge that I am advising myself first and any who care to join me here second. Sure, it’s my blog, so I get to say what I want, but I also understand that sometimes a conversation has to get ugly before anything good can come from it. That’s not a comfortable place to be, by any stretch, but that’s how it goes.

Second, part of playing nicely is being respectful and courteous. Deliberately hurtful, hateful, or derogatory statements are not wanted here. Treat this space as you would my home and as if you actually cared about what I thought of you. I will return the favor and try to be a good hostess. And if you come in here just to call names or attack others, I will tell you to leave. Trolls are not welcome here at any time.

Third, that said, I also reserve the right to get a little rowdy when I feel like it. Your best bet in any blog situation is to mimic the tone of the entry in your comments or play it safe. You can do it, I know you can.

I’m sure more rules will develop as this space does. I’ll add them then.

A Beginning

September 12th, 2006

I want to call this a beginning for two reasons. First, the practical purpose is so that if anyone ever reads through the archive and gets to this, s/he will know it was the first post ever. I have wondered on several occasions whether or not I had really reached a blog’s beginning because neither the title nor the entry gave it away. Here, this one does. This is it, the beginning.

The second reason is because at the outset of just about anything new I do, big or small, I contemplate the beginning of the action. “I am starting this. Once I have started, I will never again be a person who never did this.” This is a handy example of how I overthink things. Sure – “Once I have a baby, I will never be a child-free person again.” But seriously also – “Okay, after I sign my tot up for storytime at the library, we will be ‘People Who Use the Library’. I will never again be someone who never used this local library.”

So I am contemplating. This is my first blog, and after this, I will be or will have been a blogger. It feels a little like foreign language verb practice: I blog, I blogged, I have blogged. I will blog.

A little bit of history to temper all this “I, I, I” might be in order. The first blog I ever read was Chez Miscarriage, now in limbo, written by getupgrrl. I found her with my mother’s help as we googled “MTHFR mutation” late in the summer of 2004. We were trying to find out what a diagnosis of homozygous MTHFR mutation meant for me and for my recent pregnancy and its terrifying-but-not-bad-end. Getupgrrl had written an entry on her own MTHFR mutation and it cracked me up. It was sorely needed levity.

I read her regularly from that day on, the funny days, the political days, and the heart-wrenching days. If you never read her, she was possibly the smartest, funniest, snarkiest person I ever had the pleasure to read. Her archives are gone (she pulled them down before she went on hiatus), but I hope she returns one day, in one form or another. I know I wish her and her family well.

From Chez Miscarriage, I found a bunch of other blogs, infertility blogs mostly, which led me to yet more blogs, countless varieties. I don’t know specifically why all of these people write or chose this medium to write, but the medium has grown to make sense to me and to my writing needs. It is public yet can be anonymous. It lends the pressure of a deadline without catastrophic consequences for a lapse of posting. I can do it from home, from my keyboard, and I am more likely to write here than in a journal because, frankly, I’d rather type than handwrite. And it’s better for me than a fully private journal because what I write has got to go somewhere. I don’t want to keep it. If I wanted to keep it for myself, then I wouldn’t write it at all. So, dear computer, here it is. Take it. Keep it for me, with me.

So I will call this a beginning, and I will let the rest alone for now.

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