Wednesday, January 29, 2014

IEP's, Meltdowns and Being the Very Best Jerk I Can Be

So, we had an IEP planned for yesterday that didn't happen.  It was -20 degrees here and school was cancelled, but the meeting was called off last Friday for reasons I can best describe as vague.

I get it.  Things happen.  Meetings get cancelled.  Life goes on.

If it hadn't been the most important meeting in my kid's school life, I probably would have been fine with the change of plans. But, it is the most important meeting in my kid's life, so I freaked out a little bit.  I may have called the coordinator a few times.  I may have left a shaky voiced message on her voicemail.  Did you ever get so angry you were actually shaking?  Yes.  That.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a high school placement meeting for my kid.  It had been planned for months.  I was anticipating it with equal parts dread and excitement.  Dread, because I was pretty certain that their offerings were not going to be exactly what we wanted and we would probably be gearing up for a fight.  Excitement because, hey!  It's not every day that your kid starts high school! 

So, you can see why pushing it off (for three months!  What?!?!?) would not make me happy.  Now, I have more time to perseverate on the whole business; ponder the endless unknowns; fight to keep the devil on my right shoulder and the Polyanna angel on my left from throttling each other.  

Now, I've had a couple of days to digest the whole business and I decided that I would write a letter to Chooch's team, outlining the way I want his high school career to look; ideas that I have been thinking about since, oh...1999. 

and here it is:

Dear Team, 

This is my son, Charles.  We are here to find the best possible placement for him.  Before we do that, however, I want to remind you that he is not just a set of strengths and weaknesses.  He is a teenager, a much-loved son and brother, a good friend and a bundle of wit and sarcasm.  

He wants what all of us want out of life:  To love and be loved, to have friends and to be included.  That last part is tricky, because it can't really be quantified.  I am afraid that sometimes, the human being gets lost in the graphs and percentiles.  I am afraid that for some, my Charles is a challenge at best and a problem at worst.

Numbers are not my son's best friend, whether they are problems on a math work sheet, IQ points or figures on a percentile chart.  I realize that teaching involves testing and reporting, but I urge you all to look beyond that towards what really makes a life:  Being accepted and included.

Inclusion is not a pie in the sky fantasy, it is the only way to ensure that my child's life is seen as having as much value as those of his typical peers.  If you think I am exaggerating, consider what happens when people are segregated from society.  

Times have changed for people with Down syndrome, but until stories of prom kings and queens and team managers are more than feel good anecdotes, people like my son will not be fully participating members of society and that is what I want for my son.  My husband and I want full participation in life (not just school) for Charles and every child who comes after him.

I look forward to the day Charles walks across the stage in his cap and gown, ready to accept his certificate and to step into a world that is more accepting and inclusive than it is today, because of the work of teams like this.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You Really Like Me!

My friend, over at Kimchi Latkes has been kind enough to send me a blogger award.  I really don't know what this means, other than she received some (well deserved) from other bloggers and decided to pass one on to me.  I might be happier about it if there was some kind of cash prize involved, but I am thrilled, nonetheless.  

As part of the award, you apparently have to answer a few questions about yourself that the nominating blogger poses.  Again, I really haven't got a clue about all this, but here are my answers to the questions posed by Kimchi:

1. If you could bring only three food items to a desert island, what would they be?  (Don’t worry about survival or nutrition here, I want to know what three things you’d be content eating over and over for the rest of your life.)
Having just written a post about eating more healthily, I think that being content and nutrition go hand in hand.  That said, my items are pretty healthy and I could be happy living on them, if not for the rest of my life, at least for a long weekend.  Anyway, I would pick pistachios, olives and bananas.
2. If you were attacked by a vampire and they offered to turn you into one, would you accept?  Explain.
Oh, the can of worms this question opens up!  I have mentioned vampires quite a bit in my writing.  I don't mean icky, totally boring Twilight type vampires, though.  I mean, super hot and sexy vampires; the way they are meant to be.  If one of these super hot and sexy vampires offered to bite me, I would not hesitate.  This probably would not be adultery, since I have a sneaking suspicion that my smoking hot husband is going to come out as a vampire any day now.
3. Time travel to any point in Earth’s history, and any location.  Where would you go, and why?
Good one.  I think I would like to go back to 1911 and see Machu Picchu when it was first seen by outsiders.  I've always wanted to go there and the idea of seeing such a magical place before most anyone else is pretty appealing.  Plus, Absinthe.  I would stock up.  
4. What is your favorite children’s book/fairy tale/folk tale?
I love anything to do with Santa Claus.  Who is cooler than a guy who flies around the world in one night in order to make kids happy?  No one, that's who.
5. Ocean or mountain vacation?
Can't I have both?  I spend lots of vacation time in the Adirondacks of New York and love that, but when I think about dream vacations, they usually include some kind of exotic, beach locale.  Think me and my husband on a lonely Greek island.  Ocean.
6. Describe the best thing that has ever happened to you.
I think the best thing that ever happened, was the thing that lead to all the other "best things" in my life.  It was meeting my husband while we worked together in Los Angeles in 1992.  All the best stuff came after.
Whew!  That was fun!  :)  

Engine Two Diet Part Two (Really more like 17)

In March, 2010, I was lucky enough to spend five days at an Engine 2 Diet immersion through Whole Foods Market (I worked there at the time).

Here is what I wrote about it six months later:

What I Have Learned in the Six Months Since the E2 told to Rip

September 10, 2010 at 2:01pm

Here is my top ten list of the things I have discovered since the Engine Two Immersion (find out what E2 is here)  in March 2010. Six months out, there have been some subtle and not so subtle changes; mostly in my thinking. I have lost ten of the fifty pounds that I need to lose; but I am not stressed over the number. The strides I have made far outweigh the stumbles. So, here you go:

1. Kale is my friend! I never thought it would be. We eat it every day and my husband swears he likes it more than any other salad leaf. Who would have thought? And, it’s not just for dinner; oh no…Kale breakfast smoothies with raw cacao are energy filled and delicious!

2. Reading labels 2.0. I thought I read labels before I listened to Jeff Novick at the immersion. And I was sort of right, and sort of, mostly wrong. Now, instead of just looking at total calories and making sure there is no High Fructose Corn Syrup or Trans Fat in my food; I am now looking at sodium content and fat to calorie ratio. Thanks to Jeff, I will never look at food labels the same way! (Unless it’s vegan cookies…but, we’ll get to that!)

3. Regardless of what the scale says, I know I am doing good things for my body. My energy is high and I am sleeping well. Those are two issues that I brought with me to the immersion that have really improved. I feel like (for the first time I don’t want or need a quick fix) I have my whole life to get better and better at being plant strong. There is no rush. I think about some of the most dedicated plant strong people I know and remember that many of them were much older than I am now before they committed. I will nudge myself when I need nudging. And if I need help, I have so many fabulous resources in the plant strong friends I have made. I am at peace with the pace (most of the time).

4. I cannot convince anyone. This was really hard, especially since I want my loved ones to be as healthy as possible; but, all I can do is give help WHEN ASKED and be the best example I can be. Eventually, the one’s who want it for themselves will come around.

5. Lesson number 4 (above) does not apply to my children! I have eliminated all dairy and eggs from the house. They do still eat 4-5 servings of meat per week, mostly at dinner. They also get pizza on Friday, with cheese and whatever they want.
Why? Because with all of the other changes, I did not want them to feel like they had to give up everything. If they know that they can still have Pizza Fridays, it makes all of the other changes easier to handle. They are eating a veggie and fruit with their lunches and a veggie and kale salad with dinner.

Will they ever be 100% plant strong? I hope so. For now, I am turning them on to all of the good things I am eating, severely limiting the bad stuff and educating them to make good choices.

The post script to #5 is that all of my boys (ages 10, 11 and 14) have grown faster this year than any other since they were toddlers. My oldest, Brett grew six inches and my younger ones each grew four or five. I know that it is the power of kale and extra veggies at work!

6. I am running again. The New York Marathon is in my sights. I am still not ready for 2010, but I know I will be for 2011!

7. I am becoming a fearless cook. When the cupboard is bare I don’t panic and order a pizza like I used to. I always have canned beans; I always have frozen vegetables; I always have brown rice and pasta. I throw a combination of these things together with a little vegan pesto (to die for!) or some low oil pasta sauce or some Frank’s Red Hot and I have dinner with just a little creativity and very little time.

8. I’ve learned what my triggers are. A dozen bagels in the house? Bad idea. One bagel with some Earth Balance every other Sunday? Acceptable and delicious!
Doughnuts? I can’t buy them. They cannot darken my door or I will eat 6, minimum.

9. I can live (very happily, thank you!) without cheese. I truly did not think it was possible. Seriously. Even sitting in the immersion all hopped up on kale and no sugar added desserts, I was thinking in the back of my mind “I’ll still eat cheese, once in awhile…life would suck without cheese”.
But, I was wrong! I realize that without cheese on pasta dishes I can actually taste the rest of the food! The sauce tastes sweet, the added vegetables fill me up, it’s not just a bowl of calories that I’ll regret eating later! Cheeseless pizza? I would have laughed in your face six months ago. What would be the point of that? But, like the pasta, I’ve found it’s what else you put on top that matters. Artichokes? Vegan pesto (it’s seriously my favorite)? Spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, garlic…there is just no room or need for cheese. Sometimes, Friday pizza night comes around and I eat a delicious bowl of gnocchi and broccoli with sauce and nutritional yeast and a big salad. I am full and won’t fall asleep during the movie portion of the evening the way I used to after eating my fill of cheese pizza!

The other bonus to not eating cheese is that it was a huge trigger for me and now it is not an issue. How is that for awesome?!

10. I still have a ways to go and it’s okay. I’m okay with the journey. I still haven’t beat my sugar addiction, but I know I will, when I’m ready. What happens is I sometimes get caught up in this new found love affair with food and over do it. Oreos are vegan?!?!?! What?!?!?! Then I proceed to polish off the package in three sittings. Smart? No. Necessary? Hmmm, maybe? Doing stupid things like this while sticking to a vegan diet is a huge difference from my past behavior. I’m not quite ready to kick sugar and all processed food out of my diet just yet. But, I’m thinking about it. I know I’ll get there.

So, where will I be in another six months? Definitely in Austin celebrating one year of Plant Strong Happiness with Rip, Char, Natala, Jeff, Pam and all the others. I’ll be getting ready to start six months of training for the NYC Marathon. And…I’ll be down the last forty. I just know I will. It’s coming. I can feel it. One day and one bite at a time.

As I re-read my words, I am struck by how much I learned and how much has stayed with me, even almost four years later.  My veggie to crap ratio has dramatically shifted towards veggie.  Putting frozen spinach in with my pasta is a no-brainer, now, something I learned from Jeff Novick (find out more about Jeff, here).  I have crowded out (a term I learned from Dr. Fuhrman); (check him out here) excess meat and processed junk with extra vegetables and big salads.

I am part of the way there.  I haven't run another marathon, yet, but that idea has not gone away.  I still plan on making it happen.

What has changed since the immersion, is that I am now a gluten free person.  My mom, my sister, my aunt and my son all have gluten intolerance or Celiac and I have some of the symptoms, as well.  Instead of subjecting myself to invasive and expensive testing, I decided to try cutting out gluten and I have seen a difference in the way I feel.  

For awhile, I think I was having a kind of pity party over bagels.  I really, really love bagels.  I am from New Jersey and bagels and rolls are a big part of breakfast there.  Man, I love bagels.  And lox.  And hard rolls with butter.  Oh geez... Anyway...

I'm feeling like now, finally, after a few years of hemming and hawing, I am at the point where I don't really care.  Yes, I will always kind of want bagels, but I want to feel good more than I want to bite into that deliciousness.  That seems like a little thing, maybe a subtle thing, but it is not.  It is HUGE, trust me.  

The trouble with going gluten free is that it is limiting.  Not eating meat and cheese and eggs seems damned near impossible when you can't eat most veggie burgers, or pasta, get the picture.  So, I wasted more time, eating meat and cheese and not really feeling great about it, but not wanting to feel deprived.  

And, I gained weight.

And I started feeling really crappy.

And I gained some more weight because I felt crappy.

And...yeah, vicious cycle and all that.

The difference today, is that I have finally, truly become a fearless cook.  Cooking with no limitations is easy.  Cooking without gluten or animal products is much harder.  But, do you know what else is hard?  Being fat.  Being fat is the hardest thing, ever.  I don't feel like me.  

For the first time in a long time, I feel like the planets are aligned in just such a way that it might be possible to kick this fat to the curb for good.  Maybe it's my obsession with "The Biggest Loser".  Maybe it's my pants size, or maybe it's the fact that I am staring down the barrel of a 44 (birthday) this year.

I don't really care what it is.  Whatever it is, I am thankful for it.

And I am done, so done with feeling crappy.

I am not sure how often I will post about this, but I will keep writing as I go.