The Holidays Are Here!

I know that I am probably supposed to be the curmudgeonly Jew who reluctantly put up with the season of American excess and bacchanalia and is breathlessly grateful when New Years signals it’s completion and a return to normal American consumerism.

Yeah, that’s what I guiltily expect of myself as well.

But I have a confession to make and I might as well make it here and now while I still have your attention.

I LOVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

There, I’ve said it.

I get onto the bandwagon the first of November and ride the Turkey bus through Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving! I like to make pilgrim hat place cards, search endlessly for recipes I’d like to try (even though I always make the same thing the same way year after year), watch the Macy’s parade with Evan and, of course, our traditional viewing of the quintessential Thanksgiving movie – Home for the Holidays!

I just love it.

Maybe because I don’t celebrate Christmas I just sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds and fun of the season. I love the tv cooking shows – I am especially addicted to all the Unwrapped shows where Marc Sommers goes and tells us how candy canes and turduckens are made. I like the kitschy Christmas movies like The Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to watching White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut a few times every year.

I certainly have my Hanukah but I also am well aware of the nature of the celebration. It’s a small holiday in comparison to our High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippor or even the fun and very festive holiday of Purim that most American Jews just ignore sadly.

I decorate a little and we light our own chanukiot and exchange small gifts. I make latkes and other special food items because for me, its a great time to try out all kinds of new recipes (even though I always go back to the old standbys like a good brisket!) I buy donuts and we play dreidel.

Christmas comes and finds me like it does countless other American Jews with a plate of Chinese food and a movie in front of me. I can’t say I am not bound by tradition now can I?

The holidays wrap up on New Years Eve when we have another big party for our little family with cocktail food and punch as we watch more tv and then race to see who can be the first to bed before the New Year.

It’s a great season for me. I am too poor to really be able to spend money on gifts like I was once able to so I sit now and knit presents that I think are cool and definitely made with love. I plan how to make Hanukah sparkle with homemade and dollar store decorations that Evan and I can make together. I stick cloves into oranges and I bake cookies while the snow flies outside.

It’s a nice time and a time I really enjoy.

So there…you have it. My confession.

No, I am not all of a sudden pulling a big, Griswald-sized Christmas tree into the living room. And no, I am not planning a trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap to whisper what I’d like under my menorah while perched on his lap.

What I AM doing is just enjoying each day as it comes and enjoying a time of year that is going to happen whether I welcome it or not. I have great memories of Christmases from when I was young. I can’t deny that now that I am a Jew. I don’t think it would be healthy TO deny that.

So I am embracing everything I am. The little girl who still has that look of wonder at the shiny lights and sparkly tinsel all around and the grown up girl who knows her boundaries and can still enjoy it all for what it is.

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Pretzel Challah

I don’t have much time today because I am busy making challah! Today I am pretzelling four of the eigt loaves I am making. Who thought it could be so easy!

In short, make your bread product as you normally do. I admit I use prefab bread and thaw it out to make my challah. In this case, I let it get soft and then cut it into loaf sizes and then strip sizes and then braid it into the final presentation.

Here comes the magic!

Boil 1/2C water. Stir in 1.5 t of baking soda once the water has boiled. It will fizz and bubble. Take it off the heat. Take a brush and brush your bread product with the baking soda mixture.

YES! IT’S THAT EASY!

Make sure you get all the nooks and crannies. If you want finish with an egg wash for a nice brown, shiny crust. Bake as you normally would ūüôā

Added: the children pronounced it “good! It tastes like a pretzel!” which is certainly high praise! Then they split the loaf in half, each taking half, and scurried back to their lairs.

Try it!

Childhood Memories

I know we are all used to those posts filled with bright green grass, sapphire green pools and brightly colored hair ribbons hanging off perfectly curled ponytails swinging behind the gossamer curtains of childhood memories mixing with the smells of vanilla and strawberry and all those special things which take those writers back to perfect childhoods.

And those are very good posts…they’re just not MY posts and, really, they never WILL be MY posts.

I thought a lot about it today. What is my favorite childhood memory? Do I even have one? Do I have ANY happy memory?

While it’s well-known I don’t have a lot of memories of the years between 4th and 12th grade (and thank Gd that my best friend Christine keeps those memories very much alive for my son Evan for me…and keeps them for me when I am ready for them) – I have memories of my young childhood. I remember where we lived, where I went to school, the kind of saddle shoes I wore in third grade (black and white as opposed to brown and tan which is the kind I REALLY wanted), my brownie uniform that I wore every week to school and then walked to the Methodist Church in town for our meetings.

I remember the house we lived in, the year we lived with my grandparents and everyone forgot my birthday and then got me an old applesauce cake from the Thrift Store after we had supper. I hate applesauce cake to this day.

I remember the year I had a skating party for my birthday and I got beaten afterward. Beatings on my birthday were kind of expected. That particularly birthday I was also raped by an older boy who was visiting us. Later I was beaten for that too because, of course, it has to be a just-turned-8 year old little girl’s fault right?

And along with that I remember the same house and brutal beatings, the blood and the police who came as the sun rose and the broken glass and the screams going unanswered. Cries for help echoing in the subdivision in which we lived, blood curdling screams as faces were broken, glass was shattered and little girls were scared into silence.

Yes, there were happy times I suppose. I have seen some pictures that other people have. I don’t have any. My sister took all the pictures long ago and never gave any to me. She says I don’t belong to her family and so I don’t deserve any.

Whatever.

Maybe if I had happy pictures I’d convince myself it was all happy even though in my heart I know it really wasn’t. But I am also not so jaded as to think it was all bad. I know that everything is not so black and white.

But could I pick out a sunshine and rainbow moment of happiness that was all encompassing that involved time with my immediate family? Let me just say I qualify this only because I did spend so many happy moments with my grandmother and it was only with her that I can say I ever felt truly safe and happy. So my question then becomes and the question I have been framing is…

Do I have a happiest moment from the childhood I spent with my mom, dad and sister?

Sadly, the answer is no. I can’t for the life of me really think of one. And yet, there were opportunities. The Harlem Globetrotters Game, Disney World, so many opportunities.

But each opportunity that I think of was tainted either by a violent fight or by some other situation that had no business happening.

I don’t really know how to say this other than to just come out and say it. I can allude to it and it’s hard to just say. I can’t freely talk about it yet but if you want to know why I have no favorite childhood memory, this is why – being molested can ruin everything that ever comes after it. No matter what that “everything” is…nothing will ever be happy again no matter how happy it seems.

Remember that.

Life As A Headcase: Doctor, Doctor…Breaking Up Is NOT So Hard To Do

This is a post about me and my doctor. ¬†However, as weird as this may be it starts off with the story of my migraines but bear with me, we WILL get to the actual message of this blog…just hang in there and trust me.

Besides everything else that is going on with me, I also suffer from Chronic Migraines. ¬†I don’t know why this is…does anyone ever know what causes a migraine? ¬†Well, seriously, I guess some people can tell you what triggers theirs but I am not so sure anyone really knows what causes them.

Or even how they feel or how they present.

My migraines happen about 4 days a week.  My neuro was very conservative
and gave me 15 Fioricet pills a month. ¬†That’s one every two days or estimating a month containing just 15 migraines. ¬†With 4 headache days a week, my month has about 20 migraines. ¬†This caused me to hoard meds because I was always so afraid I’d run out JUST when I needed it. ¬†He also prescribed compazine for the accompanying nausea.

Still with me, because now we are at the heart of the matter…I told
you we’d get there right?

Now here comes the rant (because you knew there WAS one right?)  I had to
choose a primary care doctor so I picked one I didn’t know simply because all the ones I DID know either didn’t take my insurance or weren’t taking new patients. ¬†So I picked a guy I didn’t know but who was in a practice and could see me in a closeby office on Wednesdays (the day I can get a ride.)

Well, yesterday I saw him.  While I was in the hospital, my treating psychiatrists and doctors (yes, GPs) prescribed a couple new things (Abilify, Remeron) and changed a few things (Klonopin to Xanax and upped the Fioricet/Compazine cocktail to one time a day when needed.)
So here I am, going to see Dr. Pompous Ass. ¬†He didn’t get this name until yesterday but boy, he earned it. ¬†I get why he said what he did by the way. ¬†My rant is more about his attitude. ¬†Dick.

Anyway, I gave his nurse all my paperwork with all my new meds. ¬†Dr. PA walks in and says, “I don’t want to deal with all of your meds. ¬†I only want to deal with your regular meds. ¬†Your shrink can deal with your happy pills.” ¬†Then he started listing them.

After feeling like the biggest hypochondriac EVAH or at least a simulated medicine cabinet for the entire Israeli army, he concludes he won’t deal with my Lamictal, Compazine, Fioricet, or Remeron.
Well, for your information, Dr. Pompous Ass, the Lamictal is for seizures, the Compazine/Fioricet cocktail is for unrelenting headaches that I actually came to YOU for several months ago despite the fact my neuro had at ONE time prescribed the combo for a post lumbar headache I got. ¬†And…the Remeron, it’s not for depression, you ass, like I told you, and like I have asked you for for months, it’s prescribed so I can sleep longer than 2 hours at a time.

Idiot.

I am not even sure he put these back on the list but he treated me like I was a head case (okay, I am but I don’t need to be treated like one) and was actually rude. ¬†Scott was there and he thought the dr. was a pompous ass too.

I mean I get why he’d want my shrink to handle the cocktail of happy meds I am
on (I counted, I am on four altogether so its not like I am on some ungodly number) and that was fine. ¬†I am NOT fine that he won’t deal with the others so…

We broke up.

I haven’t told him yet since I have to see my new doctor first and that won’t be until August 27.

Don’t burn the bridge that renews your meds, right?

On August 27, Evan and I are changing to a really nice doctor who is a woman
(yeah!) and who also has a specialization in pediatrics as well as family meds. ¬†This should be really good for Evan since she’ll be able to understand the autism and how that affects him. ¬†I think that will be a win win for him and for me. ¬†I am not sure how she’ll handle my head case but I am confident that it HAS to be better than what I am getting now and even if it’s the same…I KNOW it can’t get worse.

The whole thing pisses me off but I don’t have a great rapport OR history with Dr. Pompous Ass so changing now is the right time. ¬†Also, this doctor is affiliated with the hospital I go to and I plan to hook her up with my shrink with a release so they can share information. ¬†As long as she deals with all of my OTHER meds I have NO issue at all with her passing the pipe of my happy meds to my shrink.

I just want what I need and what has been prescribed to be respected and
handled properly.  I want to be respected and treated with dignity and not treated like I am asking for something that I am not actually holding paperwork to show you it has been prescribed for me.

Let’s hope this works.

Fireside Chat With The Autism Mom: Life After the Autism Waiver

My son, Evan, is 21.  We were out of the country immediately after his graduation from high school which was an incredible experience.  I have to tell you, Israel is DA BOMB for autism services.  There are services for babies, little kids, big kids and adults.

TONS OF SERVICES!

So many services that they apologize to you for not being able to get your kid into a group home (if they so choose) for 6 months to a year.

SERIOUSLY???

In the US, you’re lucky to have a multi-year wait much less the blink of an eye that is a year. We really appreciated the services there but…all good things much come to an end and we returned last March for various reasons.

I got Evan back into therapy again at the John Merck Center here in Pittsburgh that specializes in autism spectrum disorders and their treatment.  Then I got him back with his case management service that helps provide various services he needs.  Unfortunately, the state cannot provide adequate services to everyone who needs them.

You know the drill…there are other children more severe than your child, yada yada yada. ¬†So we got limited funding which would get him a community aide for a few hours a week and at least get him out of the house and into the community. This was especially important since I was having seizures (and still am) and lost my license last September. ¬†We live in a pretty happening area but you need wheels to MAKE it happen. ¬†It’s kind of disappointing to me to miss out on it all (although since I am agoraphobic it’s really not as bad as I make it sound – I’m all “big dog on the porch” though, to talk about it!)

Evan feels so isolated because in Israel we were in Jerusalem and it was like paradise. He figured out the bus system and with his monthly bus card, he could go anywhere the buses or light rail went, including school which made him so much more independent.  He knew the bus system so well, when stranded at the mall by a visiting friend, he called and told me he had it covered and walked in the door 20 minutes later. He could shop on his own, buy iced coffee (an Israeli treat and very unlike the US version) and generally do the weekly shopping if asked and given the credit card.  He was Mr. Jerusalem and absolutely blossomed there Рincluding becoming fluent in Hebrew!

But now we’re home and there aren’t any buses and so he does feel kind of trapped.

Well, I was informed by our case manager that some full waiver slots were coming open. ¬†What that would mean is that Evan would have $30k to use for aides, supported work situations, camps, programs and other goodies we can’t even begin to imagine. ¬†When we had the original money for the aide for a few hours a week, we couldn’t even find an organization that could provide a local aide or even an aide close to Evan’s age. ¬†We had used the services before Israel and basically he would go out for dinner and an evening at Barnes and Noble with a kid who probably couldn’t get a better job. ¬†That discouraged us this time too since we wanted someone local to keep him in touch with his new community but also someone closer to his own age (they sent a grandma once) who could be more of a buddy and not so obviously an aide.

Once I heard full waiver slots were open, I started my campaign to get them for my son.  I called everyone I could think of, including the county social worker who would hold the determination conference, and begged.

I talked about my epilepsy and how my inability to drive really limited Evan’s life. I knew he was on the list but I didn’t know if he’d make the cut. ¬†After all, they were reviewing ALL the individuals, some older and some younger, and some with greater need. ¬†It was a crapshoot whether we’d get funding or not but I made sure I brought his case before the right people and fought the good fight.

And…he was the first to receive waiver funding this year. What this means is that he has this funding for life. ¬†FOR LIFE! ¬†Unless we move, of course, which I don’t think we would even consider unless we went back to Israel but I don’t see that happening except for vacations. He has 25 hours a week of aides who come to take him out, play basketball and do artwork with him.

It’s overwhelming actually to go from zero to 100 mph in such a short time period but I can see, while he is tired and a bit overwhelmed, he is happy. He gets to go to baseball practice and play on another league he wanted to join. ¬†The girls who are his aides are his age and they play basketball and catch and color with him when he wants to. ¬†They take him shopping with them and out to lunch. ¬†He is 5th on a waiting list now for supported employment. ¬†His psychiatrist and I think this is a great option right now as he prepares for regular employment (if he wants…but its his choice.)

Right now his days are filled which is exactly what I wanted for him. ¬†And my heart is filled for him. ¬†His world has opened and¬†it’s his for the taking. ¬†He arranges what he and his aides will do, he makes calls to schedule things and actually used the internet to find the local library’s address the other day so he could go there. I am so proud of him and glad that people listened to me with compassion for him. ¬†That’s what we need more of. ¬†I thank those people who made this possible. ¬†I actually called and thanked the county social worker who I doubt gets much thanks for the hard decisions she has to make. But we thank her.

And every time I see the smile on my kid’s face after his aides are gone for the day, I thank her even more.

Top 15 Things Every Mommy Should Have In Her SUPER MOMMY Diaper Bag

diaper-bag-4You’d think a mom of a 21 year old wouldn’t have a diaper bag wouldn’t you? ¬†And I probably wouldn’t except I ordered what I THOUGHT was a tote bag and it turned out to be a diaper bag. ¬†Vera Bradley natch, so you KNOW I couldn’t just hide it. ¬†No, being bright yellow with little flowers and a plastic liner just screamed “This is a DIAPER bag! ¬†USE me!”

So I did. ¬†And it’s kind of funny how useful it became. ¬†I could carry everything we could, should or would need, everything we might IMAGINE we would need and all those weird things (“Honey, do you have a lighter in there?”) you can’t even imagine you’d ever need.

Kind of like your basic “Let’s Make a Deal” bag, you know?

I mean, how many people actually HAVE a Sackajaweewa quarter and how many actually have it ON them at the precise moment their boyfriend’s mother wants it to complete her state quarter collection?

You guessed it…ME!

So here is a list of what I carry in the diaper bag for my 21 year old son who, while very high functioning, has less regard for his personal hygiene or the memory to remember to bring his batting gloves to baseball practice.

  1. antiperspirant – and not just ANY kind. ¬†No I go for the rad, Right Guard, kills anything germy or gross smelling on contact, gel variety. ¬†Believe me, this is a 21 year old’s diaper bag essential. ¬†I should mention I also carry same in the glove box and in my purse. ¬†Call it self defense. ¬†Some people carry pepper spray? ¬†I carry Right Guard. ¬†Don’t judge me.
  2. baby wipes РI mean, duh.  You know someone is going to spill something on the seat of the car and believe it or not, baby wipes are REALLY good at getting that and other unidentifiable substances out of car upholstery, clothing AND neckties.
  3. hand sanitizer. ¬†This is double or even triple duty. ¬†Not only can it make me feel less icky about the possibility that my kid used a public toilet, touched everything in there and didn’t see the sinks on the way out…but, should be come near me and reek of ripe burrito to high heavens, this on a baby wipe will KILL anything and refresh the pits. ¬†Then a fresh application of the Right Guard, waiting until it dries, followed by ANOTHER backup application has the back of ANY lengthy cartrip. ¬†I also occasionally wonder if it could save ME if I started licking it off my hands but I decided that wasn’t the best idea I ever had. ¬†Bring on the baby bottles of wine!
  4. Clean t-shirt. ¬†I found this to be essential after we were on the Ocean City Boardwalk and the scream echoed “I have BIRD POOP on my SHOULDER!!!!!!” ¬†Now I am prepared with everything listed above AND a clean t-shirt.
  5. plastic zip bags. ¬†These are extremely useful to organize the diaper bag and to contain those items that might pollute the other things if they get opened – like the Right Guard and hand sanitizer. ¬†If you store your baby wipes in one, it can also keep them from turning to paper towels on your trip. ¬†They are also good to keep books, snacks, well, just about everything you can think of , in. ¬†I also like to keep them arranged by “grab a bag for all your needs” – Right Guard, small zip bag of wipes, small hand sanitizer grouped together. ¬†That way I grab for one bag to neutralize a situation (pun fully intended!) instead of scrounging for each item and then shaking the wipes out of their original pack.
  6. Pens, styluses (styli?), small screwdrivers, nosepads for glasses, screws for glasses, a microfiber glass wipe and crayons (because you never know) all packed into their own bag.
  7. Contact lens case, glasses, sunglasses, contact solution and drops all in THEIR own bag.
  8. Sock yarn and knitting needles in a yarn bag – I love these. ¬†They are little nylon bags you can store your little project in and even carry around your neck to knit while you walk if you are so coordinated. ¬†I’m not but hey, I am a knitting fashionista so while I can’t do it myself…I can look like I can!
  9. For some reason I carry coins and cash from other countries. ¬†Weird but I do. ¬†Usually it’s because they are in my other things (like bookmarks in books or just stuck in my wristlet) and I have been too lazy to take them out. ¬†But…as you can see from the example above…a Sackajaweewha quarter can make an old lady’s week complete!
  10. Nail polish and nail polish remover wipes. ¬†(Boredom…take that!)
  11. Nintendo DS and games.  Yeah sure, we all have our iPhones and iPods now but occasionally while battery charging or just for a change, someone wants to go old skool and I AM READY!
  12. Snack crackers, mints and chewing gum. ¬†While we don’t eat this stuff every day…wouldn’t you know someone in the car cannot live without it at that VERY MOMENT???
  13. Eos lip balm. ¬†I’ve said it before…I love these. ¬†They are cute. ¬†That is all.
  14. Sunscreen. ¬†Do I need to say anything else when I have a child with white skin and blond hair? ¬†No. ¬†But even if you don’t have a child with white skin and blond hair, take it anyway. ¬†I get at least 60 SPF. ¬†Your mileage may vary.
  15. Band aids, spray neosporin,  and methialate (evil, evil laugh).  I thought of all of this this past weekend at the baseball game.  The little girl in front of me in the stands fell and scraped her knee.  Had I had my SUPER MOMMY diaper bag with me, I could have flown to the rescue with soothing neosporin spray and dapper Hello Kitty bandaids.

Of course there’s a lot more in there. ¬†My Buddhist prayer beads, extra earrings that might strike my fancy, tylenol, advil, tissues, packets of paper towels, books I am¬†might be¬†will never be reading, Neutrogena hand lotion and zit lotion, hair brushes, makeup bag (I mean come on…I AM a girl), maybe some essential oil that I smell to keep me from committing some kind of Mommy Homicide – you know, Life on the Streets? ¬†But whatever, I make my diaper bag my own and have plenty in there not only to protect but to also serve. ¬†I can handle anything from a boy in need of extreme deodorizing all the way to bird poop accidents.

Now tell me, WHAT’S IN YOUR DIAPER BAG???