Thursday, August 25, 2016

Squeaky Wheel

I'm trying to take it easy because it a little bit I have a phone interview with a State affiliated therapy thingy for HB.  My nerves are shot and my house is a mess, but I'm hanging in there.

For a year now, me and the various cross guards have been complaining about how bad our crossing area is at the front of the school.  There have been near misses and very bad traffic violations going on.  Crossing guards have been terrified out of their minds and I as a parent have dreaded that intersection too.  Not to mention the parking lot where I observed this year someone bumping cars together (nothing serious thankfully).

After discussing it, I took the initiative on my own to contact the county who regulates the traffic in the area on Tuesday.  "What do I need to do to get a crossing light?" I asked.  "Do I need to go before the board of supervisors?  Get a ballot initiative?  Who do I talk to?"  The person who took my call was giving me a little run around but sent me over to transportation who then said the department I needed was traffic and engineering.

And they have a filing system.  So the lady kindly took my complaint and gave me a number and took my information.

This morning while we were crossing there was a man from the department in an orange vest observing the intersection.  I almost jumped for joy.  After he left I told the crossing guard that I had called the county and asked her if she was bothered by that at all.  "No," she said.  "They need to know. Someone needed to tell them.  Something does need to change and hopefully it will."

A little while later I got a phone call (I'm so sick of these but that's the nature of my life at the moment).  It was the engineer.  Bless him.  He said he took a look at the intersection and agreed that there needs to be some changes.  He observed that the curb there is too high for anyone with wheels to try and cross at the cross walk too.  He mentioned my little red wagon.  I told him that that was me, but there's also parents with strollers and a lady who is wheel chair bound.  She has to move down the parking lane in order to cross over there.

So hopefully there will be someone out there soon smoothing out the curb into a ramp and some sort of traffic update to fix the area.  Like maybe a crossing light or a temporary three way stop or something.  He told me that he'd contact me in a couple of weeks.  I'm assuming that he has to get approval for any changes he thinks need to be made.  So I don't hold my breath that this will happen quickly, but it would be nice to have something post-Christmas break.

I guess you could say the squeaky wheel does make the most difference.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

All Good Things...All Good Things...

I feel I've been repeating Olaf's line from Frozen a little too much lately.  Different contexts though.  In Olaf's case he's dealing with a Snow Monster and he tells the guy that he's just been talking about him and it's "all good things."  In my case I've been talking to so many people this week that I'm getting more stressed than usual.  It's all good things, but it doesn't make it less stressful.

So here's the update on Knee's end (if you are interested in what's going on with HB, scroll down). 

Yesterday Knee and I had a meeting.  Knee, thankfully, doesn't have any cognitive delays.  Most everyone is pretty confident of that.  He does, however, have a speech issue, which I already knew.  It's bad enough to warrant intervention.  I was given two options: 1) to bring him in once a week to do speech therapy for half an hour with the speech pathologist at HB's school or 2) enroll him in headstart and he gets the same treatment with a different therapist but one with the district.  I opted for the second option because I think preschool would be good for him and we had previously signed up for headstart but were on a wait list.  Without him having an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and not being poor enough, there's a list.  But since he's now got an IEP, it moves him up.

Ironic, no, that he has an IEP and his autistic brother doesn't.  But I digress.

Moves him up so fast that he's probably going to start on Friday or Tuesday.

Yes, this is great but it leaves me in a tizzy because....there's a lot of medical stuff involved.  Not the obvious medical stuff such as him having a speech delay, but nutty stuff for example since he's lived out of the country he might need a Tuberculosis Test. 

Yes, a TB test.  On a 4 year old.  To put it into context, I had to get a TB test for employment in a day care.  The children didn't.  HB, whose a 1st grader, didn't either.  But my 4 year old requires one.  I don't get it either.

Fortunately if the doctor thinks it's as ridiculous to test a child who exhibits zero signs of TB and has lived in the US now for a year, he'll only need to have a form filled out stating that it's not needed. 

He also needs to have had a physical which we did about two months ago so it's really just a paper work issue.  And he needs a dental exam.  What his teeth has to do with his ability to be in a classroom I do not know.  Your guess is as good as mine.  Fortunately he has another set of fillings in September and the receptionist said I could just bring the form along.

And this is the federal government for you.  TB tests on 3 and 4 year old and dental exams to go to school. 

All good things...all good things....  He'll start sometime very soon.

And now to figure out how to juggle because each child is in a different school so that's going to make pick-up and drop-off sketchy.  I already warned my husband that he may have to drop off Knee on his way to work.  But it's going to be fun times on half days like next week where HB and Knee (he may just get the whole day off) get out at noon.  I may just have to get Knee early. 

But I'm not going to focus on that yet because that would just make my blood pressure go through the roof. 

No, I've not had a shower yet and it's lunch time.  Stress so much stress, but all good things. Right?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

One Meeting Down and One To Go

If you have any family members who are disabled children, you'd understand a little of the monumental mountains one must climb and traverse in order for things to happen in their favor.  There's only so much money to go around.  For example, my oldest child, who is autistic, had to wait some 9 months to be given the ADOS assessment used to measure whether or not a child is on the spectrum.  I was expecting it to take a year.  It took us about 9 more months to meet a behavioral pediatrician, a type of specialty.  This was expecting to wait 1 year and a half.  We were fortunate to be moved up in the queue after they hired a new physician.

After working the medical fronts, I've also worked the State's end.  Finally figuring out the system, I applied and HB was accepted by the State department who then has moved his case over to a private entity who handles therapy.  His case worker tells me it takes months and sometimes patients are rejected.

Add too that that HB goes to a public school which deals with the educational aspects of his disability.  Because we were able to get the behavioral pediatrician to give a formal exam and make recommendations for more, I've made numerous photocopies and sent them to various people within the school along with requests to have him evaluated in more depth.  We had an initial meeting and the cogs on the wheels are moving.  They tell us that they have 60 days to work on assessments and making a report on their findings.  It covers everything from his speech pragmatics to gross motor skills to IQ (which we were warned about because IQ requires inferencing something which autistics naturally struggle with so an autistic can academically be top notch but on paper their IQ is all over the map).  

While they are looking at how all this effects education for him, it will end up turning into either an IEP should the assessment see an area he needs help with like fine motor skills or a 504 Plan which will ensure that he has a disability and what modifications he needs while in a traditional classroom.  I am super happy.

It's like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  I just don't want this extremely intelligent child who can read and performs math skills way above grade level to suffer because his emotional coping and social skills are very much below his age group.  In the end it's those pieces of his education that will end up affecting his academics if he doesn't have something in place sooner rather than later.

I also don't want him to be like last year where it was affecting his sense of self-worth.  What child wants to feel "bad" or "evil" because of their disability?  It's so hard to see that struggle knowing that he knows right from wrong or what is socially seen that way and not being able to control himself because he has such high sensory issues.

And I would love it if I found a way to make people more aware that they are surrounded by people with such hidden disabilities.  I would love to have been able to shout at people in the Church and say "Stop judging my children.  They may not look like they don't struggle, but I assure you that they do every day.  Where is your compassion?  Why must we be shunned and sent to the cry room?"

And on that note, I need to get ready for the next child: Knee who technically doesn't have a cognitive disability but rather suffers from speech disorder.  Can you imagine having so many thoughts in your head and struggle to say them?  Yeah.  That's my life.  And I'm holding onto hope that he too will struggle less.

Prayers for you if you and your family also struggle with disorders and disabilities.

Pax Christi.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How to Shop in "Bulk"

There's actually a bit of a distinction here that trips people up.  Shopping in bulk can refer to purchases made at wholesale warehouses.  These are mainly for small businesses who can then resale these items.  Often, in the case of food, things are individually packaged for this purpose.  That said many families shop this way in order to save money.  The second way shopping in bulk can mean is making the use of bulk bins.  These are items that are loose, and you scoop them out and put them in a separate container.   I'm mainly going to talk about this way of shopping because it is the most effective way to avoid handling packaging.  You can also shop the first way in order to reduce packaging as well provided that you are getting one large container of pretzels, for example, rather than one large container with individually wrapped snack bags of pretzels.  The idea is to reduce the amount of packaging one household generates.  While the loose pretzels would be fine, the individually wrapped bags would essentially generate the same amount of waste as traditional store purchases.

1) Have on hand your own containers- There was a time in which I thought that this meant I'd need to buy an assortment of glass canning jars and muslin bags.  That's simply not true.  I'm sure that you have stuff on hand: an empty mayo jar, sandwich boxes, an unused pillow case, old sheets that have a hole in one corner, old t-shirts, etc.  Whatever you have on hand that you intended to recycle can be repurposed for the job of containing some other item.

2) Use the health food stores- Often health food stores and other bulk stores have giant barrels that have loosely everything from sugar and salt to oatmeal to candy and other snacks.  That will save you from taking packaging home and you can get whatever amount of whatever you want without paying the cost of packaging.

3) Go the counters- Want deli meat, cheese, fish, chicken, and beef?  Find a store with a counter.  While a number of stores are phasing these out, they still exist.  I remember a time when they used to give us cookies at the counter.  I bet you can find an ordinary supermarket that still does this.  Don't forget the number of convenience food counters too.  If you're very busy and aren't able to throw together a meal, instead of hitting the drive through which comes with all sorts of packaging, go to the store's counter instead.  We periodically get baked chicken and sides there instead.

4) Don't skip on the salad and soup bar- One of our grocery stores has a salad and soup bar near the deli and prepared foods counter.  This is also great if you are wanting something with less packaging too.  If you like olives or pickles, check out the salad bar.  We also have a sushi counter too.  And no, this isn't an upscale grocery store.

5) Look in the bakery section- Our bakery section has various types of rolls, muffins, donuts, and bagels for sale.  If you don't have loose baked goods, there are a number of deli restaurants and coffee shops that also sell baked goods.  We even have a specialty doughnut shop in my area.  It's a little bit more pricier so we tend to go to the grocery store to find our loose baked goods.

6) DIY- This isn't always practical.  I looked into an easy way to make ketchup or mayonnaise that didn't involve lots of packaging, and it would have taken more packaging for me to buy and make than to just buy it ready made.  However I find that I can make my own pancake mix using the bulk bins and things I normally have on hand like eggs and milk.  For cleaners I reuse a squirt bottle and buy vinegar and baking soda in recyclable containers.  I haven't found a bulk distributor yet for my cleaning supplies, but I don't have a product for every task either.  See if you can do something similar by removing one bit of packaging from your life.

7) Try the farmer's market- This one is more difficult for me because of time conflicts and distance, but it might be easier for you.  You can buy in season produce, homemade jams and jellies, homemade pastas, fresh eggs, etc.

8) Buy your meds in bulk- I get a three months' supply of my medications shipped to my house.  But buy only what you need.  For things like cold medication less can be more.  Things do expire. My medication I take daily.  Avoid buying medication with individual push tabs.  Opt for the bottle instead.  Bottles are better for keeping children out of them anyway.  Some places will recycle the bottles or take them back.

9) Buy your toilet paper in bulk- I don't understand it but toilet paper is packaged in annoying plastic that rips apart too easily.  I'd much rather just have my toilet paper in cardboard.  You can find this type of packaging at office supply stores and restaurant/hotel supply stores.  Many times each individual roll is wrapped in paper, but that's compostable just like the box is.  If you can handle it you can also use washable clothes for toilet paper.

10) Make further use of the office supply store- It's best to avoid printing, but sometimes it's necessary.  You can buy printer paper in cardboard or reams wrapped in paper.  You can also get your ink cartridges refilled there too.

11) Try out your local co-op- This can or cannot be financially savy or do able much like a farmer's market.  But if you have the space and money up front, group sharing a cow or joining a local co-op can be great.  One of my local co-op stores is open to the public.  The prices for produce are very high but it looks like they have the ability to refill soaps and other liquids.  My plan is to go visit them one day to see if a periodic trip is worth it.  I know that to visit them for food staples wouldn't work not only because they are priced higher but also because of gas usage.  Travel is something to keep in mind with co-ops as sometimes you have to meet them somewhere far.

12) Try a buy by the pound place- Many local thrift stores have a "buy it by the pound" spot in the city.  One recently opened close to wear I lived and so I set out to visit it.  They sell housewares, purses, shoes, and clothing.  Lots of clothing in fact.  The majority of it was women's clothing.  I was able to buy the remaining winter pants Knee needed there.  I wasn't looking for something super nice, but something that he could play in that had life to it.  After some minor repairs it looks fine.  It saves me money and packaging as there aren't any tags on any of the clothes.  I also don't have to stress if he rips a hole in them because they cost so very little.  My mother-in-law had a bulk bin in one of her local children's thrift stores, but they discontinued it.  Look around.  You'll be surprised what play clothes you can find on the cheap and without plastic tags.

I hope that you've found my article helpful.  Happy bulk shopping!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Why I am getting "Greener"

When it comes to being greener or crunchy or eco-friendly or granola or hippie-ish, you have a number of issues that come up.  The biggest ones I've talked about are those who believe in the overpopulation mythos.  Those who are worried about the supposedly finite resources and thus who erroneously believe that we should be reducing the number of children on the planet in order to reduce the overall population.  Spoiler Alert- If you want to go that route, I would expect more people to be on board with medical panels and euthanizing the aged because in our population adults outnumber children.  We're living longer.  Not that I'm endorsing euthanizing people.  Because I'm not.  I believe in nature taking it's course.  Just pointing out the disconnect and utter logic fail that is abortion and what not.

Okay.  I get that people aren't really looking at birth rates and instead are panicking over population growth.  Duly noted.  But I recently read some lady suggesting that it's more zero waste to get yourself "fixed."  And I in my granola-ness wanted to slam the book down.  "What?!"  My mind exploded here.  "What?!  You've got to be kidding.  Has this woman never heard of NFP? It's called NATURAL family planning, for St. Pete's sake.  Does she not know that it's completely and utterly zero waste if you simply chart electronically?  I mean COME ON really.  Doctors have to dispose of needles and gloves, which are made with plastic.  Hello?  That's not zero waste."

It's enough to want to not be greener or crunchy or eco-friendly....ackkk.  You get the point.  It's a complete turn off, if you will.  These are the very same people who ingest or inject themselves with various hormones and irritating copper coils but at the same time buy hormone-free cow's milk and resist using antiperspirant because it contains aluminum.  Not logical whatsoever.  It's a feeling group.  It seems that these people do what feels good and is convenient for them just to receive accolades.

But then again so do we Christians.  The general Western populace discards waste without even thinking about it.  Even in Canada, it was astounding to me (and not just me) that it's normal to visit a restaurant which wants you to sort your recyclables, but yet the sheer number of people who use a disposable coffee cup.  It's not like coffee shops don't sell the reusable ones.  People just don't care.

No, my friends, no.  There's hard work to be had on both sides.  One cannot simply "give up" and throw ones hands in the air.  Christians have been called upon to act too.  Laudato Si sets out why pretty explicitly.  We cannot ignore the problem.

This is not to say one must change over night.  I'm living proof that to change your life style for the better requires baby steps.  And that what you do to get greener will not look the same as it does for me.  But you cannot look to the green pioneers and think "Geez these people have wacko doodle ideas." It's best to use my method of absorbing what is good and discarding all the rest.

So this is why I am moving forward.  I'm doing it for God because he told us to be stewards (and to multiply).  I'm doing it for my fellow neighbor because being a trash picker is a really crappy job and living in garbage sucks severely.

If you've taken anything away from this Olympics (and this post) it should be this.  No more excuses.  Plan to change.  Start by discarding one item a day or a week that you don't use/need (and by discard I mean donate) and by switching one disposable product to a reusable one each month.  God and the trash picker will be happier with you for it.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Vlog #7

Topics covered:
Weight fluctuations and not stressing about it
Composting and the video that taught me how
My latest reusable replacement items- metal straws and handkerchiefs
Book Reviews:   Composing:An Easy Household Guide by Nicky Scott (who is a man ;)
Compost City: Practical Composting Know-How for Small-Space Living (sorry, Rebecca, for saying "he")