Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thing Review: Clearly Fresh Bags - February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

Clearly Fresh Bags approached me out of the blue and offered to send me a sample of their product to try. I received no additional compensation for the following post and all opinions are (pretty obviously) my own.

Clearly Fresh Bags are large (12" x 14"/one gallon) plastic bags that are intended to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer. They have a little membrane thingie on the side - the broccoli slaw I buy has the same thing, actually - that the company calls the "BreatheWay membrane." It helps with the flow of air and moisture. You can clip it out and put the bags in the recycle bin, which is nice. I've been reusing the bags when I can for things like bananas and apples - things that don't get the membrane wet - one or two extra times.

What I liked:

  • The large size meant I could fit a full head of broccoli or two bags of broccoli slaw or a giant bunch of bananas.
  • They did seem to keep things fresh.
  • They only cost $3.99 for a pack of ten, which seems reasonable and appears to include shipping.
What I didn't like:
  • The bags have a single zippery bit. It's a pain to reclose, it's a pain to open. I wish they instead had a multi-level zippery bit (I'm so technical! But this is just so thin and hard to match up and close that it always gaps open and I gave up after a while.) or an actual zipper with an outside plastic piece. Or some other solution. As they are now...giant pain.
  • The bags fill with condensation. I know this is a feature, not a bug, but I didn't like it.
  • You have to squish the air out of the bag each time.
  • I don't know that these keep things fresher for a longer enough time than regular, less expensive bags to make them worthwhile for me.
Basically, these would be good for things you bought at the grocery store that you wanted to store once. They're not as good, in my opinion, for things you want to access over and over. I put apples in there and after opening/closing twice, I gave up. I put bananas in there. Same thing. But I put my opened bag of broccoli slaw in there and I think that worked well - kept the slaw fresher longer in the original bag that isn't resealable and I didn't have to open/close that often or it wasn't a big deal because I'd pulled the entire bag out of the fridge to use in a recipe.

Would I buy these again? I don't think so. If you're concerned about keeping your fruits and vegetables fresh, if you buy in bulk, or if you tend to not go through your fruits and vegetables as quickly as you'd like, then these might be worth checking out. 


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Labels (but not the bad ones) and Cerebral Palsy (but not really) - February 26, 2012

Cerebral palsy is a great big blanket term that simply means that there is damage to the brain in relation to muscle control, more or less (oh you can totally Google it, you know that). Person A can have CP and person B can have CP and they can be affected COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY in absolutely every way. Even now, when I tell someone that my daughter has CP without her being present, I suspect they imagine a child in a wheelchair, unable to hold her head up. That's what I thought of for the longest time, and when the neurologist bluntly told us that my daughter had CP I simply couldn't understand it since she didn't look like what I thought it meant. I learned quickly. (I still think back to that moment, by the way, and I remember VERY CLEARLY how I did NOT PROCESS that statement even though I kind of expected it but was also rather convinced that surely he'd say Oh She's Totally Fine You Worrywart!...Also, he diagnosed her within like 10 minutes, and now I get that but it was like "Wait, what? You asked her "Where's mommy" and she didn't look at me because she's more interested in this office and...wait, what?) (And then I waited for the MRI before telling anyone because still...waiting and hoping...knowing that kids with CP sometimes have clear MRIs with diffuse damage that doesn't show up so the MRI wasn't really going to change what he said...and still...waiting and hoping....but I digress...)

So it turns out that my kid has the rare flavor of CP. The 5-10% of everyone flavor. Most people with CP present as spastic - stiff - hypertonic. Mine is floppy, flexible, hypotonic. (And some of her tone is apparently normal now, I think.) Just a few days ago her physical therapist, who we've been working with for about two (three?) years now and who has been in therapy for many, many years mentioned to us in an offhand way that my kid is the first one she's worked with who is "like this." No wonder my girl has stumped her PT time and time again with what she can and cannot do.

Sometimes I've wandered into support groups for CP and everyone has a fancy medical name for their condition or their child's condition (or their friend/relative/acquaintance/whatever). Spastic diplegia. Spastic quad. That sort of thing. We don't have that. Early on, an amazing developmental pediatrician (that I wish we could still see, but blah barf...) said "Just say mild. She has mild cerebral palsy. That's all." And now we don't even go to many doctors/specialists because...there's not much medically that can be done anyway. (Botox? Surgery? Won't help. At least not as far as any specialist nor my research has taken me. Just therapy. Lots and lots of therapy. And time.)

A blog post from Shasta on Outrageous Fortune shone a bit of light on my quest. Extrapyramidal. OK. Maybe it's that. My kid's damage is in her basal ganglia. That fits. But I don't see any of the random movements that the definitions I found online include - she doesn't appear to have dystonia or chorea, at least to my untrained eye. Her movements lack finesse but they always seem, to me, deliberate. She does fling her hands around, but usually it's out of frustration or annoyance or anger. When she's calm and happy, she can focus on a task, and she knows "safe hands" means to put her hands down or behind her back, and she does so with ease (when she feels like it). She can point. She has written her name a few times. She loves to draw. Maybe it's...mild...whatever that means... (After I wrote this, I asked her PT - she said that a) I was mispronouncing extrapyramidal - oops! - and b) she thinks my kid is athetoid, which I'd thought before, so we'll go with that...)

Kids with CP are all different, even when they share the exact same diagnosis and fancy words. It goes with the territory. All that is great and well and good, but I still feel like I'm no closer to figuring out what exactly is going on with my daughter. And I don't know why it matters so much to me - but it does. And I am trying to accept that perhaps I won't find out ever. Maybe she'll find out herself someday. Maybe when she's older she'll tell me she doesn't give a shit or she'll become a scientist who researches it to the Nth degree. I don't know. That's up to her. For now I just keep searching - then stopping - then searching again.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's been a long week - February 17, 2012

This past week is one big blur - because preschool has been out all week.

Look, I absolutely adore my daughter. I think she's stunningly gorgeous and extremely brilliant. I also find her emotionally and physically draining so much of the time, and preschool gives me a bit of a break. I can get work done. I can get play done. I can read a book or catch up on TV. I can do...something. I can't do anything when she's home. She won't play independently, she has attention-seeking behaviors that are dangerous (and infuriating), she won't sit and watch a TV show or a movie with me. It's just a fact of our lives and I hope someday she'll grow out of this. We had fun some of the time - she demonstrated to me that she can read, which was something I knew but it was so cool to see, and we played and we sang songs. We also had...a really hard time.

This week was Valentine's Day. Nobody in my household particularly cared. We used a Scoutmob deal to get a half-price lunch at a fun restaurant. A certain someone (not me. not my husband.) had a whiny flinging tantrum while we were waiting for our food. (The restaurant was crowded but the waiter brought her a special extra treat while we waited. It didn't help.) Once she calmed down, we actually had a nice time.

This week I also accepted a giant copyediting project. Next week is going to be busy, but that's a good thing.

This week I also became a Lifetime Member of Weight Watchers. This means that I maintained my weight loss for six weeks (I actually lost a bit more within those six weeks, but that was while following the program and not doing anything extra, I promise - I'm very happy where I am and have no desire to go further in a deliberate way) and now I can go to meetings for free and use the online tools for free as long as I maintain and weigh in once a month. I'm so proud of myself. (I am also annoyed with myself that I let things get to the point where I needed to join Weight Watchers, but life happened.) My husband and kid came to the meeting at which I got my tiny gold key charm (squee!) and everyone clapped. Plus I wore a dress I bought when I was in college, studying abroad in London. In 1994. A dress I held onto because it is a classic style and because I loved it so much even though I was sure I'd never fit into it again. It fits now. I hope to find many occasions to wear it.

I have been thinking about what I eat now. I still go out. I still eat cupcakes. I still frequent food trucks. I still eat chocolate (too much, probably). I just manage my portions. I don't always order dessert even if I'm full to bursting. I don't order appetizers either. I drink water. (These things save me money too. Win!) I don't buy ice cream to have in the house. Beyond that? I'm just going along eating normally, I think. I've never really felt like I was on a OMG DIET. And I never had a backslide. The only time I gained any weight was during maintenance, when I was already below my goal and was messing around with eating. I think I was lucky in that regard. And with that, I'm done talking about it (probably) except for checking in on occasion to tell you that I'm maintaining. Not if. That I am.

This week I completed the third week of the Couch to 5K program and I am getting a tiny glimmer of understanding why people think it's fun to run. I couldn't run the full three minute stretch any of these days, but I also kept moving through the entire workout no matter what. Today as I ran/walked, I'd set goals - I just have to run to that mailbox and then I can walk. I can walk for the count of 20 but then I have to run until I pass that parked car. That sort of thing. Having good music has helped (someone pointed me to pre-made, timed podcasts so I use those and it's fun to have surprises come up as I run). My first 5K is in March and I'm going to plug my donation page in just about every post until then because I'm raising money for my kid's school and because I'm very close to my fundraising goal.

And finally, my husband lost our Ekobrew this week. My post about the Ekobrew is the most-read post of all my blog, but I also...adore that little gadget. (It's a reusable cup for my Keurig - I have almost completely stopped buying K-cups at this point because while they are fun and easy, they are just too expensive to justify anymore. Boo.) Today we replaced it - I was going to buy my replacement Ekobrew from Amazon (where they are inexpensive! and in any case I got my original for free for review purposes...) but I found them at Whole Foods and decided to just buy it when I saw it rather than ordering...waiting...etc. Hooray. For the record, I used my Solofill while deciding how best to replace the Ekobrew. It's just fine, it does absolutely what it needs to. I just prefer the Ekobrew. (Both the Solofill and the Ekobrew cost about as much as one box of K-cups, FYI.)

Coming next week: A product review of something kind of interesting I was sent by a company. I love when that happens. COMPANIES SHOULD SEND ME STUFF TO REVIEW. AND STUFF TO GIVE AWAY. Yup.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Never A Dull Moment - February 7, 2012

Ah, life. So fun, so exciting, so full of unexpected...surprises.

Yesterday, I posted a video and then I went out with my husband for a run. I use my phone to both listen to music and run the Couch to 5K app, so it was strapped to my arm. We were about 3/4 of the way through when my phone vibrated that someone was calling. I didn't recognize the number, so I didn't answer - but it was a local call (I get TONS of spam calls for the previous owner of my phone number - 6+ years ago - but those are not usually from my area code) and that made me wonder. Ah, they left a message, so I wasn't worried.

And then the phone buzzed again and it said it was her school (I have that number set to say that for THIS reason). So I stopped, ripped the phone off my arm and out of my armband, and panted a hello. It was the principal. My daughter had fallen while she was in her walker. Face first. And her partial bridge (her front four teeth) was part way out and broken. And she was "OK" but crying. Oh, and the bleeding had stopped.

So we ran straight home (no cool down for me - and no water, no shower, no breakfast) and into the car. On the way to school, I called our amazing dentist who told us to come right in. Her office is 45 minutes away but she is worth everything.

When we got to school, we found one very distraught little girl. Her partial had come fully out and was cracked in half - in exactly the spot it had cracked a few weeks ago (though not as completely that time). She had blood on her shirt and pants and she was hysterical. So off to the dentist we rushed. The end of the story is that she didn't need stitches and we are going to keep the partial out for now - possibly until her adult teeth come in, which could be in a few months or a few years.

Because, you know, it's not enough for her to have cerebral palsy, right? (The dental issues are indirectly related to her CP. Because nothing is SIMPLE EVER.)

Oy. Anyway, she's fine now - occasionally signing "hurt" and pointing to her mouth, but mostly back to her babbling, smiling self. Well, herself with those pouty puffy lips that ladies spend thousands of dollars to get...

By the way, I'm running my first 5K in March. I'd love it if you'd consider sponsoring me! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

OK, you can meet her - February 6, 2012

In this new honesty and openness, I've still hesitated to do one thing.

Share pictures and video of my kid.

It still feels like it's an invasion of her privacy in a lot of ways. But she's also such a ham, such a social kid, and she's just so adorable...and I just want to.

We made this short video yesterday (yeah yeah, save your sports heckling for another blog please) so I am sharing it. For now. Until I get freaked out about it and take it down again. I think it's a good demonstration of how her speech and language is progressing. Also, cute. Cute!

So now you've met me and you've met my girl. What shenanigans will I get up to next on this wee little blog?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Inclusion means the world to me - February 2, 2012

When I was a kid, I remember occasionally seeing the special ed class (that's what I think we called it - I don't even remember - something absolutely not PC, I'm sure) walking around the school or going into their own classroom. It was not only a classroom of just "those" kids, but it was a classroom that was isolated from the rest of the school in location as well. I didn't know the kids individually, I saw them occasionally and was friendly toward them, that was pretty much it. I don't know what sorts of disabilities or abilities the kids had. It's just how it was. I probably lumped them all into a single category and that was that. Forgive me!

Fast-forward all these years later, and me with my own child with special needs, and I can't imagine a world without inclusion classes and I can barely wrap my head around the idea that there are places where kids are still isolated or where inclusion is fought or...any number of things. I can't imagine that someone would see my kid with CP and think she was EXACTLY THE SAME as a kid with autism or a kid with spina bifida or a kid with Prader-Willi or a kid with Down syndrome...that if you have special needs, that's it, that's your BIG HONKING LABEL and you'll all be together doing everything the same. Ugh. No way. Every kid is an individual and every kid's disability is addressed specifically.

It means a lot to me that my daughter is seen by her peers as just one of the gang. One of their friends. Her classmates and other kids in the school in general know her name and say hello - and it's not in a condescending or patronizing way. They just see their pal and they greet her. She has the ability to flourish in this setting. She wrote her name alongside the other kids (and really, she wrote it with four recognizable letters - it looked as good as some of the other kids' work!). She reads with them, she sings with them. Sometimes she's pulled out for various reasons or therapies or special programs, but she's a participant in THIS CLASSROOM. (Hell, I was pulled out of class for speech therapy - I had a pretty severe ch/sh/j type lisp for years - and for therapy of the 70s hippy dippy helping-me-with-issues kind. So there.)

She's only four. She's still in preschool. We have so much to learn. I have so much to learn. I know inclusion doesn't work for every kid, every family, every school system. What I know as well is that RIGHT NOW it is working for us and I am so thankful for that as we take it one day at a time and hope that next year will be as good as this year, that in four years we'll be as happy about it as we are now, and so on.

Right now some of my kid's friends have IEPs and some don't. Some can talk and some can't. Some are loud and some are quiet. Her friends think her walker is cool, her "shoes" (her SMOs) are neat (one kid asked why she had roller skates - they DO look like skates when they're peeking out of her bag...). I know...I know this will not last forever. I know we may be in for it one day. I just hope that by laying the foundation NOW in PRESCHOOL with INCLUSION that maybe by the time everyone reaches that age of nastiness and confusion and all that awfulness...maybe my kid will have a chance on some semblance of a level playing field. At least we've got a head start, right?

It frustrates me when people who know nothing about inclusion say things about it. That happened to me very recently (ahem...very....very recently) and it bothered me. Because I don't ever want anyone to think that my child is or should be shut away, pushed aside, or separated. So don't imply that my kid has been shuffled into a pretend/in-name-only inclusion class or that she's not in the type of place that she is. I'm being vague rantypants here because I am still stinging at something someone said rather recently (not to me directly - the person didn't likely think that anyone would actually have information to dispute their so-called facts). Just...don't do that. Or I will snarl at you.'s to continued excellence with inclusion for my kid for as long as it can work for her and for us. I hope that's for her entire school career and beyond. She's a smart cookie so, for now, I believe that's how it will be.

Stumbo Family Story

(I'm trying out the CP Connection - if you've clicked over to here, hi. I hope that I did this right!)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ridiculous - February 1, 2012

I don't know. I just want to make vlogs because they're fun even though nobody's actually looking. That's OK. I'll do writing next week instead or something.

Oh! The book I babble about is The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cakeby Aimee Bender. (And that's my Amazon referral link, yes.)

And I wrote about iamamiwhoami already.

Also, yeah, I put the wrong date in the title at first. Oops.