Calm Christmas

I absolutely didn’t expect to have a calm or very enjoyable Christmas. The weeks prior had indicated December wasn’t going to give us a break, and then Jack was slated to be with his dad all week, which generally makes it harder for me to get into the festivities. Still, I dutifully did my shopping and wrapping and decorating. It turned out to be worth it, too!

The Sunday before the holiday, I decided I didn’t care if we weren’t having a big family gathering – I was gonna bake anyway! So I got together with my friend Kurstan and we baked our hearts out. We made cookies and brownies and rice crispy treats and then split them between the two of us. I find baking relaxing and it was also wonderful to spend so much time with Kurstan – between our jobs, her upcoming wedding, and various trips and illnesses, we don’t get to just hang out as much as we’d like.

On Christmas David and I were joined by his sister Stella, my mom and her partner Jim. We opened stockings, had a delicious dinner that was just the right size, played games, and opened up a bunch of presents. We got some awesome things that we wanted and some even better things that we needed. Oh and I made a cake that David has been requesting for the past four years – it turned out perfectly delicious.

Yesterday we had tickets to go see the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker. It was supposed to be the three of us plus Stella, but David got sick and had to stay home. Jack’s friend Alex took David’s ticket and then Alex’s family ended up getting seats behind ours, as well, so we went in a big group. Thanks to a friend I know in the ballet, we were able to get backstage and see the sets and play in the fake snow, too. It was a magical experience! I’m so glad we got to share it with friends. And Jack loved it just as much as he did two years ago!

Jack got to open all his presents yesterday. He got so much stuff! We’re not quite sure where to put it all but he is super happy with his gifts. I even scored him a couple things he didn’t know he wanted (most beloved is the fire-breathing Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon). WOOT. And he now has a TON of Dr. Who toys, including the 11th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He’s barely put that down since he got it. I’d say that makes him a happy camper.

So, we didn’t have a huge gathering of friends and family or a giant spread of food, plus some of our celebrating was delayed, but the holiday was pretty drama-free and relaxing. And you know what? I’ll take it!!

Happy holidays, y’all!

Meeting My Future Husband

If you haven’t done it yet, check out my story about putting myself on Match.com. This will make more sense if you do. 🙂

David was able to log into his old Match account today in order to find his dating profile. He emailed it to me this afternoon and I grinned like a damned fool while reading it. I have to say, he did a great job of describing what he is all about!

David gave me his permission to share it here (typos and all).

***

I’m rewriting this for what seems to be the one millionth time (if only there were balloons and confetti, i’d be sure it was one million). All my female friends loved the last one but it seemed painfully cheesey (match says cheesey is spelled wrong but it also says “i’d” is spelled wrong so i’m going with my gut on this one).

While trying to figure out how to describe myself in a way to attract the women of Match, I realized that isn’t the course I want to take. I want to find one woman who wants to be with me (and i want to be with) and not a hundred women who want to be with the sanitized version of me that I write in a profile.

That said, I’m going to start with my most obvious flaws and let anyone who continues to read on find out the rest. First off, I’m a slacker. My room and desk are covered in clutter. I watch too much TV (couch potato doesn’t really fit as i do exercise a lot and i’m in pretty darned good shape). I hate “I Love Lucy” (seriously. i don’t get why people love that show). I have too much of a tendency to rebel against authority. I love t-shirts, jeans, sneakers, PBJs and cold cereal a bit too much for a 35 year old. I use parenthesis way too much.

Alright. Are you still with me? I have some good points too. I love to laugh and make others laugh. I never take myself seriously. I try to always consider others before myself. I’m fit. I love to socialize and meet new people. I have a really cute dog. I’m open minded. I recycle. I’m self conscious enough to realize that the “good” paragraph is longer than the “bad” paragraph but I’m also confident enough to not care. My t-shirts, jeans and sneakers are clean and semi-stylish (my PBJs and cold cereal have very little style). I’m honest, loyal, patient and an all around good guy.

I have 2200 characters left to tell you what I’m looking for but I won’t need that many. I want a woman who is self-confident, funny, fit and has a positive outlook on life. . She wears a pretty dress to the symphony but doesn’t mind getting dirty on a camping trip. She made it through the “bad” paragraph, appreciated the honesty and maybe even giggled a bit. To paraphrase a cheesey but wonderful quote from a cheesey but wonderful movie, she makes me want to be a better man. That was only about 600 characters but I think it says an awful lot.

I have 1500 characters to waste on whatever I want now but I think I’ll save them for emails and conversations with anyone who made it this far. Thanks for reading.

***

That profile was up for a few months before I found it – the dog he mentions had passed away by the time I met him. David’s profile was buried under a sea of other men aged 29-40 who all claimed to love the outdoors. I found it after searching through hundreds of profiles and coming up with two potential interests.

Two. I’m nothing if not particular.

Testing the waters, I sent a “wink” to both guys. The one who wasn’t David responded fairly quickly and asked, “So where does separation leave you?” And then he didn’t reply to my response.

That lack of response, along with some other self-doubt that surfaced, led me to hide my profile before I had even heard from David. But a few days later I got a message from David asking where my profile had gone. I happened to be on my computer at the time (Jack was with his dad), so I jumped into the chat program and there he was. And we talked and talked and talked via instant message for hours.

Then we talked again the next day. And the next. We started IMing each other every day. And we added in phone calls (just a few, as we both dislike the phone).

Clearly, we clicked. At some point I found out David worked down the street from me and we decided to have lunch together across the street from my office. Jokingly, I told a co-worker about it “just in case I didn’t come back.” She ended up sneaking over to the restaurant to spy on us and make sure I was okay. (What an awesome lady!)

The connection we’d made online was even stronger in person. We couldn’t take our eyes off each other and, bizarrely, my whole body shook the entire time (it wasn’t exactly that I was nervous; I had a very physical reaction to him that I can’t even explain). I was embarrassed but he thought it was funny (and teased me accordingly). I barely ate but we did talk a bunch more and then I surprised us both by hugging him goodbye. I am most definitely NOT a hugger and I had warned him about that but, holy hell, I became a hugger with David.

I’m pretty sure I agreed to marry him because he was hugging me at the time.

Or, you know, it could have been because I was head over heels in love with him. And you know what? Five years later, I still am. (Awwwww.)

By the way, these posts are not in any way sponsored by Match. It just happened to be the platform that we tried and it worked for us.

My Favorite Easy-Peasy Recipes

I don’t like cooking. I do like baking, but rarely have time for it anymore. And when I do have time, I find it difficult to forget all the clean up involved afterward.

So, I’ve started using a crock pot for dinners. And I’ve started making no-bake cookies. Because I’m lazy as can be.

If you have a crock-pot and are looking for a SUPER easy and healthy recipe, try out this Crock Pot Sante Fe Chicken from Skinny Taste. There is no pre-cooking involved and most of the ingredients are canned or frozen. SO EASY and low calorie! I make the Cilantro Lime Rice to go with it, partly to use up the cilantro I bought, but mostly because it’s freaking delicious!

The no-bake cookies I’ve started making are actually called No Bake Energy Bites. But that sounds less fun, right? I use the Give Me Some Oven recipe but have adapted it for my tastes – I add about 1/4 cup of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter (which is essentially the same thing as Biscoff Cookie Butter), some rice crispies, and I skip the vanilla. I love that there is no added sugar in these ‘cookies’ and they have grains and protein. It’s a snack that I don’t feel guilty about eating!

There ya go. Have fun!

Do you have any easy, go-to recipes?

The Sensory Child Gets Organized [Book Review]

If you’ve been reading my blog this year, you probably know that we’ve struggled with sensory issues with Jack. We didn’t know whether these struggles were related to his fight with cancer (treatment can affect many things) or if the issues had been less noticeable earlier in his life because he wasn’t under so much stress. He’s always been a sensitive kid – I can remember setting him down on the lawn outside our apartment at nine months old and his look of consternation when he realized he was surrounded by pokey blades of grass. He kept trying to crawl away and shrinking back from the sensation of the grass against his palms. Frustrated, he started crying and reaching for me. After that I learned that if we put a blanket down on grass, he wouldn’t leave it – no playpen needed.

blanketingrass

When he wasn’t busy avoiding certain textures, he would sit and scratch his fingernails on others – which made me cringe. Getting Jack to eat solid foods wasn’t easy. He shuddered and gagged on so many textures. He also wouldn’t tolerate sticky or dirty hands and would hold them out and wave them at me while “uh uh uh”ing until I wiped his hands. This never bothered me – it was always easy to keep him clean because he would avoid being wet or muddy. It also never went away.

Later on, we noticed that he was sensitive to sound. He was easily startled and would cover his ears when a large truck passed by outside – even when we were cozily tucked into our house. He can’t STAND to hear me sing and will throw a fit until I stop.

He’s always had trouble with transitions, too. I don’t remember a time when I could just put a new pair of shoes on him – it’s always been a struggle. Coming home from a trip usually involved a meltdown, which we dealt with by sitting in a dark room together while I rocked and shhhhh’d him.

Many of these things have come and gone over the years and been fairly manageable. We just thought “that’s the way he is.” But earlier this year when clothing became such a problem that he was missing school, I realized maybe we needed help. We had him screened for sensory issues over the summer and there were several problem areas noted. We haven’t had a chance to follow up on the recommendations, though, due to Jack’s unstable health. Such is life, right?

When the offer to review the book “The Sensory Child Gets Organized” by Carolyn Dalgliesh came my way, I jumped at it. In between a zillion oncology appointments, I could get some useful advice that could help Jack in real time! Because while things like 504 Plans and IEPs will try to accommodate Jack at school, they don’t specifically address or help his sensory issues – only the fallout from them. I would love to PREVENT problems in the future.

Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster

First off, you should know that “sensory” children are dealing with a variety of issues – not just Sensory Processing Disorder. The book gives a great primer on what the various issues are and explain how they each impact children. Here are some statistics for you:

  • 1 in 20 kids have Sensory Processing Disorder.
  • 8.6% of kids are diagnosed with AD/HD.
  • Anxiety Disorders are diagnosed in as many as 1 in 8 children.
  • Currently, 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
  • As many of 50% of kids with a diagnosis also live with a co-existing condition
  • Most kids receive a sensory or special-needs diagnosis between ages 3 to 10 years.
  • Many kids will not be eligible for special services and parents need help supporting day-to-day life at home.

Sensory issues are not unique to one specific diagnosis. This struck me immediately because even if Jack does not qualify for a SPD diagnosis, there is still the fact that cancer treatments are known to impact cognitive function – particularly information processing, memory, and organization/planning. We need help in those areas and the book addresses them immediately, explaining in the section titled “The Sensory Profile: Different Diagnoses, but the Same Core Challenges” that the following issues are discussed inside:

  • Attention challenges
  • Ridigity/Infexibility
  • Anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Social and emotional challenges
  • Low frustration tolerance and/or explosiveness
  • Executive function challenges

Jack deals with all of these to some degree. And as his parent I struggle to help him deal with them in the appropriate manner, especially because I am stressed about other things so often. I’m sure a lot of other families deal with these issues, too – not only those who have diagnosed conditions.

This book has pictures and suggestions for how parents can (EASILY!) help their children focus on what is important by eliminating other sensory challenges that overwhelm their brains. I love this! I am not by nature a very organized person – I am easily overwhelmed by clutter and mess. With that said, I did find that some of these suggestions are things we are already doing to help Jack (and ourselves, frankly):

  • Labeling toy bins so that he can quickly find what he needs without getting overly frustrated and giving up or throwing a fit
  • Calming routines before bed – we read three books and snuggle before saying goodnight – if we don’t, Jack will thrash in his bed unable to calm down and sleep
  • Picking out outfits ahead of time – this way he doesn’t struggle with the choice about what he “feels” like wearing
  • Sorting Jack-specific food and snacks so that they are easy to see and accessible – he has his own shelf in the refrigerator

Things I want to do still:

  • MORE labeling of bins and grouping of toys – according to Jack’s preferences
  • Rotation of bins so that he gets a chance to play with different toys
  • Visual instructions about the process of play (play, then clean up afterward)
  • Build a quiet zone where he can calm himself and feel safe
  • Buy tactile items – i.e. a bean bag chair and a mini trampoline – so that he doesn’t use our pets for this purpose

There are some fabulous suggestions for how to deal with homework, as well. Jack is easily frustrated and asks for breaks often, but we haven’t always been accommodating because we want him to hurry and get it done. But hurrying him tends to have the opposite effect – he gets more frustrated and ends up going slower because he’s overwhelmed. The book suggests building breaks into the homework time and offers ways to organize the homework load (i.e. do harder tasks first) and make it less stressful for the kids. I’m looking forward to trying these tips out this week.

And when I’m ready to delve deeper, there are exercises in the book to assess learning style, suggestions on organizations that may help, and even product recommendations. Can we say thorough?

If you want to check this book out, visit Carolyn Dalgliesh’s website to find out where to get your copy. And, hey, she has a Sensory Parenting blog, too!

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For purposes of this review, I was provided with a free copy of “The Sensory Child Gets Organized” by the publisher, but all opinions here are my own.

An End and a Beginning

In summer of 2008, just before our son’s second birthday, my husband and I split up after nine years of marriage. Our marriage had been over for a long time and we’d come close to splitting a number of times over the years, but for some unknown reason we just kept beating that horse until it was dust on the floor.

Finally, with a few months of therapy under my belt and a therapeutic dose of antidepressants in my system, I found my strength and independence to utter the words.

“I think we should split up,” I told him one day before work.

“Yeah, me, too.”

The decision was made in a ten-minute conversation. We would separate and see how things went from there.

Only a couple of weeks after that, I was living in my own apartment – for the first time on my own – with Jack and my two cats. And I loved it! The moment I set foot in my apartment I knew I’d made the right decision (and soon after, I knew divorce was absolutely the right choice). Naturally, it took some adjusting. It takes a while to unravel yourself from an eleven-year relationship, but I’d been emotionally preparing for the separation for years. Even when the adjustments were difficult, I found them easier to cope with than fighting for a long-dead marriage.

I talked to my friends every day and wrote my heart out both online and on paper. I wrote pages and pages about what hadn’t worked in my marriage and then I wrote more about what I really needed in my life. I asked for advice and guidance from my closest friends and they were more than happy to give it – even when it wasn’t pretty and even if I didn’t always heed that advice.

And then, after a few friends suggested I try dating since I never had before, I put my profile up on match.com. Writing a profile for a dating site may seem like an easy task, but I was in a very strange place in my life. I had ideas about what I was looking for but I had trouble putting them into words. Describing myself as an individual – outside of my marriage and being a parent – was quite a challenge. I really had to look at myself in new ways and figure out what made me who I am.

I rewrote my profile a bunch of times before coming up with what turned out to be the perfect thing. Even after that, I took it down completely in a moment of self-doubt, but I did end up putting it back up. And thank goodness I did because I met David and he changed my life.

This is the profile that landed me my perfect match.

***

I am always seeking out new points of view on life from others to test my own opinions. I like to examine the differences and similarities in all people. I love to bounce ideas and theories around. I am playful and not afraid of embarrassment, although I dislike being the center of attention. I am a no-nonsense type of girl who goes for what she wants and I’m passionate about the things that are important to me. Yes, sometimes I argue my point even if I suspect I’m wrong. I don’t give up easily!

I often get so enraptured with a subject that I will read everything I can get my hands on about it until I’m an expert. It’s typical of me to read all of the album lyrics and notes prior to listening to a new CD. I am a master googler. I love imdb and wikipedia.

I’ll know I have reached the ultimate in life when I acquire a maid and a cook. I like it when I can pay someone else to do things I don’t like to do; I feel like I’m helping the economy.

I am somewhat impulsive but I usually spend a lot of time planning. I’m contrary sometimes.

I can be reserved at first but if you’re shyer than I am, I might do something outrageous to get you talking. I’m honest to a fault and will answer any question. My answers will probably surprise you.

I hate to wonder if I’m missing out on something that has the potential to be awesome. I am independent and enjoy time alone, but also love the energy of a group gathering. At a party I’m likely to be found in the corner of a room observing interactions or engrossed in a conversation about the merits of various toothpaste flavors and consistencies (cinnamon gel is my favorite).

I’m not much of a cook but I bake fairly well and often. I’ll make you some peanut butter brownies if you prepare the main course. Or you can give me cooking lessons… Dining out most nights a week is perfectly acceptable, as well (as long as it’s not fast food).

I have an amazing 2 year old son who fascinates me with his passion and his unbridled sense of discovery. He is inspirational and brings out the kid in me. He makes me a better person every day.

I’m looking for a creative, funny, yet intense man. Someone who feels equally comfortable discussing the state of the world as he does chasing me around the house or taking care of a pesky spider (they have it in for me!). I want someone I can rely on and who takes the time to get to know what makes me tick. I will offer the same in return.

I’d like to take any new relationship slowly, although I suppose I may budge on the relationship if I meet the right person. After all, they say you find the one when you least expect it. I’ve never actually been on a real date, so this should be interesting!

for fun:
I love doing just about anything with another person – life is always more fun with friends. Board games, dining out, travel, BBQs, bocci ball… I like dancing around the house (but I’m a terrible dancer) and pondering the oddities in life.

my job:
I’m an executive assistant at a software company. I like the exposure I get to various types of work, the details about the inner workings of a company, and I learn new things all the time. The money isn’t bad, either.

my ethnicity:
I’m so pale I glow. I’m mostly German with a spattering of British and a little part of every other European country that ever existed, except Italian.

my religion:
I’m highly skeptical of organized religion. I focus on being the best human being I can be and don’t feel that I require a set of instructions in order to do that. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is great, though.

my education:
I could never decide what to major in (Sociology, Psychology, Art, Finance, English…so many choices, so little time) and the classroom is set at too slow a pace for me. I prefer to read a book and learn while doing.

favorite hot spots:
It is my goal to eat out at every restaurant in the bay area. Okay, I can skip the seafood but I’ll take everything else! I enjoy museums, aquariums, botanical gardens, coffee shops…the Bay Area is a great place for all of those.

favorite things:
I’m an indoors girl generally, but will venture outside for walks or a hike with the right company. I like to bowl. I’m currently having a lot of fun decorating my apartment (retro yeah!). Wine is tasty. I miss the 90s music scene but am adjusting.

last read:
Lately I’ve been reading any vampire book I can get my hands on (anything from I Am Legend to Twilight). Patricia McKillip is my favorite (fantasy) author. I write and read blogs. I eat up Augusten Burroughs. Click Clack Moo gets a lot of play, too.

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Hey, look! I’m participating in NaBloPoMo! You can, too!