Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Special Exposure Wendsday-What I planned and What You Got (and Why)

I had planned in advance that today I would post a picture of Ricki working on Sukkah decorations. An easy post; all I would have to do is take a picture on Tuesday of Ricki working on her decorations (she’s making several...), and upload the photo.. Simple, no? Well, it SHOULD have been!
However, when Ricki came home from school, I was napping, and when I awoke, there was a minor problem in the house, and it took a while before I really got to spend more than a moment with her. Within five minutes I realized that Ricki was belligerent, and then I remembered: I had forgotten to give Ricki her daily dose of Concerta this morning. This happens sometimes, and if I remember early enough, I will even walk over to the school to give her the dose. But if I remember too late, I am usually in for a rough day.
Sooooo---today she was really an obnoxious pest, EXCEPT when she was busy with something, she behaved a bit better. But otherwise, she was fiddling with all the objects I was working with, removing her hearing aid, and being outstandingly ill-tempered.
Under those conditions, working on her decorations was out. She would not do a nice job, and it would be a waste of the materials.
Therefore, I have no picture of Ricki from yesterday.
* * * *
What you ARE getting is a picture of Ricki excited over a chipmunk. The picture’s quality is a bit poor (the lens was dirty), but her enthusiasm at trying to photogragh a chipmunk/ ground squirrel, is clearly evident.

For more of "special-exposure Wednesday", go HERE!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cooking for Holidays – Survival Techniques

[Note to non-Jewish readers: Some of what follows will apply to specific limitations that apply to preparation of foods on Jewish holidays (where the housewife often is using only one small flame, as she can’t turn it off once lit, until the holiday is over). So if something sounds “like French”, ignore it. MOST of this article applies to any occasion where you are planning on having several guest for a few meals.]

Cooking for the holidays, especially if they follow in rapid succession, one after the other (which actually, is not the case this year, for those living in Israel), can be daunting. Here are a few survival hints:

First Survival Tool: Planning
Taking the time to plan in advance can save you time later, when you really need it. You want to spend the last few days cooking, not trying to figure out what to cook, nor buying ingredients you forgot.
Sit down (this can be done weeks in advance) and plan what you are cooking for the holidays, what you need to buy, etc.
1) Plan what foods you want to serve for each meal, plus extras like cake, fresh fruit, tea concentrate, etc. Avoid too many fried foods at one meal (fried fish and fried chicken should NOT go together), and consider lighter side dishes (salads, boiled or steamed vegetables) with fried chicken or fish. Leave the heavier side dishes (if you want to make them at all....) for a meal where the main protein dish is baked or grilled.
Another thing to watch out for is repetitions: you don’t want to serve mashed potatoes as a side dish one meal (or one day)(or even possibly one week) after another. Try to serve different vegetables. Everyone knows that you can serve rice, potatoes, and kugels. Consider alternatives like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and eggplant, or cold salads with noodles and/or corn.
2) One you have your menu chosen, check it for feasibility. For a holiday that does not fall on shabbas, are you expecting yourself to cook three dishes yom tov (the holiday) morning on the tiny-weenie fire you have burning? If so, either your meal will be VERY late, or you will have a very exhausting holiday. Consider cooking some of the things in advance, and reheating them on the holiday. Also check that you do not have too many new and intricate dishes planned to cook for any one holiday. Yes, you can exhaust yourself cooking ten different elaborate dishes.... or you can cook one or two elegant dishes, and keep the rest a bit more simpler. Sometimes a simple addition of nuts to a salad, a nice garnish with a rare fruit, etc, will give your dish the “special” look you want without working yourself to the bone.
3) Another good hint, if you have two days of yom tov (holiday) in a row: Consider two alternative menus for the last main meal. One is to be used if your food from previous meals were mostly consumed, and another if you have a lot of leftovers. For example, You might plan to have pot roast the second morning, but an option to make chicken salad served on lettuce, if you have a lot of leftovers. Leftover mashed potatoes can become fried latkes (add in some dill, too), which can be spruced up with a bit of applesauce or red pepper strips on the side. This way maybe you can save that beef for a different day, and not be left with tons of leftovers the next day, after everyone else has gone home.
4) Now that you REALLY have finalized your menu, go over it carefully, noting what ingredients you need. Look for “special” ingredients you may need to go somewhere specific to buy, or that you usually don’t have on hand, as well as the amount of staples like eggs, oil, margarine, flour , salt, sugar. You want to buy everything you need in advance so that you are not flourless when you want to start your bread dough at 6 AM, and not short of eggs in the middle of the holiday. Then, go over the list again for vegetables and fruit, noting which vegetables you need for which meals. This list helps you not only in buying, but also in cooking. (“Do I have enough red pepper to add some extra here? No- I see I need for the Chinese vegetables and the baked salmon....”.)
Here is a BRIEF example:

5) Last part of planning is to note on your calander/ list of things to do WHEN you plan to defrost/cook each item. Sometimes you can combine cooking, saving time:
An (abridged) example:

Second Survival Tool: Take Care of Mommy
1) Try to do in advance what you can, whether it is cooking cakes, picking up that medicine you need on the day before the holiday, laundry, polishing silver, etc. (Even writing your blog and post-dating it!)
2) Make a good healthy lunch (vegetable soup) for the day you are cooking. Don’t snack on cakes, nor starve yourself.
3) If you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, nap an hour on the cooking day. You will get more done in the end, having more strength and stamina
5) On you main cooking day (at least) wear comfortable clothing and good supportive shoes
6) Put a happy lively music tape on in the kitchen as you work
7) Sit down (or lie down) 5 minutes every hour with your legs up.
8) Take five minutes to set any small children up with something to do, like drawing holiday pictures (you can give them stickers to add on), etc. Happy busy kids won’t (hopefully) be pestering you nor fighting endlessly with their sibling. Maybe reward an older sibling to supervise. If you want to involve them in the cooking, it is advisable to do so on earlier, less pressured days. If you want on the high-pressured days, probably it is best to limit their help to one item, or have each child join you alone for his part of the cooking.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

The “Broken Record”- Solutions (and a surprise addition at the end.....)

I assume that nearly all of my readers are old enough to remember regular phonograph “records”. My Dad had an extensive collection of records, almost all of it classical music. I remember a series of records produced by a musical Heritage society, which were very good, including one of Renaissance Dances. We were forbidden to touch them, until we had learned carefully the correct way to put the needle on the turning disc. This was to avoid scratches on the grooves.
Of course, the most serious scratch was one which would cause the needle to move back to the previous groove, resulting in a phrase being repeated continuously, ad infinitum..... The resulting defect was like Chinese torture to the listener.
Ricki, bless her, has her own version of this “repeating” torture. Her disc may be fine, but how many times can one listen to the same tape/ movie without going slightly crazy? This is especially true when the tape is very childish. [I once remember a psychiatric patient in the hospital I trained at, who played a hard rock song “I want to get out of this place” continuously, driving the staff crazy. I volunteered to work with her, and became somewhat addicted to the song myself, for a while. It would be fascinating to figure out why some people can hear a song again and again, loving it, while others are disturbed by the constant repetitions.] I suspect that one of the reasons Ricki can hear her tape or CD time after time is because she dances as she listens, and the dancing changes from session to session.
If you have this problem with your special needs teen, or pre-teen, I suggest earphones. It works like a charm. Except that Ricki can’t dance when using earphones. I am even thinking of getting Ricki an MP3 player, and transferring her favorite music to that, so that she can listen and dance without the rest of us hearing.....
* * * * * *
Of course, sometimes I wonder how G-d can stand OUR broken record every Yom Kippur:
“I won’t get angry at the kids
I will talk nicely with the neighbor...
I will call my Mother-in-law more often....
I will keep my diet....” ETC ETC.
An easy fast (to my Jewish readers), and a profitable repentance as well. (To me too....)

SOOC Sat/Sun-

Here is my shot for "Straight out of the Camera" (see HERE for more):

This was taken at my mother's home in Estes Park. In the early morning, looking down at the foggy mist huddled over the town....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On the Chareidi World- Men “Learning” as opposed to “working”

Often I hear rather seething comments from the more modern (Jewish) blogs about the chareidim (ultra-orthodox)not working, being leeches, etc. I would like to weigh in here with several thoughts. I have given these points a lot of thought, as I have all different types of viewpoints among my children.
The problem with all men "learning" as opposed to working (although many DO work today) is probably one in transition. Originally an answer to the near-erasure of the Torah world in the holocaust, society pressure has pressured everyone to "Learn". Slowly, however, we are seeing more people working at least part time.

However, as a nation, we DO need good learners, real Torah scholars, to deal with Halacic (Toarah law) problems, and continue to enrich our national heritage. These top-notch scholars, who study hours longer than any normal job, and who are part of our national culture, should be supported by the community at large, just as we support academics in every field.And they should be supported enough that they are above the poverty line.

I personally would like to see:
-more good job opportunities for the chareidim and more APPROPRIATE educational settings to attain needed skills. (When the city hall here offers the SAME vocational courses year after year, I wonder if they think that our city really needs (and can sustain) that many photographers and reflexoligists.....

-Since there ARE men who will want to learn even though they are not the best, I would like to see the girls seminaries offer more types of training. We are overloaded with teachers, and it is simply not a way to support a family. Let women who want to support a husband Torah student earn a decent living. Why should she be forced for lack of better options, to choose a field with minimum pay? And if this means starting to study for Israeli matriculation exams, let us have a kosher program to do this.

Until we do this, I feel that we will simply lose more and more youth from our community, as youngsters who do not want to live in poverty opt out of the current system. And THAT is a shame, that does not have to be.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Addictions and Walking

In “12-step program” terminology, I would need to confess to being a chronic, compulsive overeater (who is currently not overeating, due to personal choice). However, like most addicts, I have substituted something different. Presently that is walking.
Walking is becoming a necessary part of my day. It is not something I HAVE to do. I WANT to walk. For starters, I feel better, both physically, and mentally, if I get out and stretch my legs. The blood pooled in my varicose veins starts moving, and I feel much more energized as a result of getting “out and about”. And, I swear, the other day as I went downstairs, and stepped briskly out towards the sidewalk, I felt a rush of adrenalin, endomorphins, or something. It felt good. Really good. (I’m glad it’s HEALTHY!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Lady From Act Two

I was on the bus with Ricki the other day, after running a few errands. While we were out, Ricki had begged me to buy her some sweets, and I had refused. She countered with her “But I’m STARVING!” wail, which I pretty much ignored. I simply mentioned that soon we would be at home, and she could jolly well wait until then, and have a healthy nutritious supper.

Act one (on the bus going home)
Ricki asked a lady on the bus sitting next to us, what she had bought, pointing to what was obviously a food article. The lady replied by offering some to Ricki, and I immediately intervened, saying that we don’t ask strangers for food nor receive gifts from strangers. The woman understood my position, cooperated with me, and all was fine.

Act Two
The lovely lady from act one reached her stop, and got off the bus. Her place was taken by a 6th or seventh grader, who was munching on some type of junk food. Ricki started eying it, and the girl’s mother told her daughter “You can offer her some.”
WHOA! My internal alarm was buzzing at high pitch.
- “Excuse me,” I stated firmly to Ricki, “you are not allowed to request gifts from strangers.”
- (mother) “She didn’t ask, she was offered.”
-me: “True, but she was going to ask. And anyway,” (talking here simultaneously to Ricki and the lady) “Ricki, you are NOT allowed to ACCEPT gifts from strangers.” I added to the lady, “What, she’ll go around getting gifts of food from strangers as an adult?!? This has to stop somewhere.”
-(lady) “But I want my daughter to learn good midos (character traits).”
-(me) “Well, madam, I also want my daughter to learn proper behavior. You can explain what went on here to your daughter at home, and she will comprehend it, but if I give in even one time, it’s finished by my daughter.”
-(lady, grumbling), “Well, I guess I can’t argue with you....”

But what pleased me most was that the other people on the bus, were obviously agreeing with me, shaking their heads in agreement. After all, THEY (unlike this lady), had seen act one as well. Hopefully the “act two” lady will have learned the proper script by next time....I know that everyone else on the back of that bus did.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The New Scales... did I Gain?

In general, I allow myself a bit more food on Friday-Saturday (in honor of Shabbas, an extra hundred or so on Friday, and up to an extra 500 calories on Saturday. I am able to still lose a kilo or so weekly, and I get the benefit that I quash cravings during the week with the excuse that I can have some on Shabbas...
Well, this week, with Rosh HaShana, the extra clories went on for another day. So I was prepared to lose less or break even this week, weight-wise.
Then Monday was a fast day (no drinking/eating sunup to sundown). This sounds good, but it isn't. It is very hard not to overeat after a fast.
I admit that I ate a bit more than what I had hoped (I was hoping for perfect control), but expected to at least break even.
Well, I stepped on the scales today, and despite being very good except for those three days, gained 1 1/2 kilo! HOWEVER
BUT HERE'S the RUB: the pharmacy has a new scale this week, so I don't know if I gained, or its just because the scale is different. I am assuming that I gained, but have decided not to take it seriously, just to keep going. Eventually it will come off!
In any case, I am NOT goin to let this discourage me. I AM going to lose. I will continue. Next week has another fast day, and I will try harder not to overeat before/after. I bought a scale today to check portion sizes.
I WILL Lose (even during the next batch of upcoming holidays, which thankfully are on Saturday, so are basically like any other week, except that I will have more guests and will need to be in the kitchen more.)
I will lose.
I will.
This week, next week, until whatever it takes to get down.....

A Blessing Overheard

Last night I was sitting next to Ricki as she spoke on the phone to her favorite classmate, M., from last year.
M: How’s “seminar” (high school)? Do You like it?
Ricki: (Rolling her eyes as if any other possibility would be an absolute absurdity...) Yeah, its OK...

Than Ricki actually asked her about how the Rosh HaShana holiday last week went. After a few minutes of talk, Ricki suddenly got into a “blessing” mood. I suspect that certain girls at her former school encouraged her to give “blessings” to others, and sometimes she does so, with great belief and feeling.

“You should have a good year. And your sister, Shoshi should have a good year. A sweet, good, year. And your brother, tell him that he should be blessed with a good year. And your mother, she is sweet, and so smart, she should also have a good year. And also tell your Dad that he should have a good year.....”

I don’t like Ricki being encouraged (by the girls last year) to feel that she has more powers to bless than others. But I am sure that being Ricki’s friend and best companion over the last two years will stand in as a very good merit for M. on Yom Kippur (when our deeds are judged). And yes, may she and her family be blessed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kreative Blogger Award

“Staying Afloat” at “And miles to go before I sleep...” has given me the “creative Bloggers” award. Thank-you very much!
And here I will, as usual, bend the rules a bit. I am nominating 3 (not 7) bloggers (I always feel that 7 is way too many...):
1. Belinda, over at “A Journal in Photos” consistently catches the most amazing shots. I always feel that if you look for beauty (and G-d) in the world around you, you can find it. Belinda’s blog does this, consistently.
2. “A Soldier’s Mother” writes very descriptively of what it is like to be the mother of an Israeli soldier. While her blog may be too right-wing for some of my readers, don’t let that put you off. As a fellow “mom”, I know that her fears, and how she is dealing with them, are articulated extremely truthfully, and articulately.

3. Matt, at “Welcome to Illinois” is actually from London (click his blog sidebar “Why Illinois” to see why he choose that title) is one of the most honest, informative, and straight-talking blogs on Down syndrome that I have come across. (Even if his blog is, as he says, “a religion-free zone”.)

seven FIVE interesting (??) things about me:
1. When is Estes Park last month, I would have bought a T-shirt saying “I Climbed Longs” (Longs Peak, elevation 14,259 feet)( which I’ve mentioned previously HERE), because I HAVE (albeit as a child, and MUCH thinner than today). I was impeded by the lack of anything even CLOSE to my size. LOL people would NOT have believed me, anyway!
2. I wrote an award-winning poem in statewide competition in seventh grade. I used to write poetry a lot. Then life came along and I got too busy. Maybe I should restart.
3. I used to scuba dive with my Dad. I even considered becoming an oceanographer (which probably would have pleased my Dad, but I chose nursing instead).
4. I was a real outcast in school. I was overweight, too. Once in Junior high school, a local “exclusive” teen store had a drawing for a free sweater, and I won. They QUICKLY retracted their plans to photograph the winner for an advertisement. But at least I got the sweater.
5. I used to give a lot of charity to the “special ed” school in our town, hoping that the merits would protect me from a fate I couldn’t “handle”. (I was older, and my Mother-in-law kept warning me that I would have a child with Down syndrome.) Well, I was wrong on both accounts. I HAD a child with DS, and low and behold, I managed pretty good....
IF you MUST have your SEVEN interesting points, please go HERE.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Battering Away at that Wicked Little Man in My Head

What frustrates the blazes out of me is that wicked little voice in my head who keeps trying to ruin everything. The one who points out the cake in the freezer, who says that it is too hot to go out walking, etc. He is cunning, always coming up with "new" ideas, and methods.
"Just one more piece..."
"After all, it is the holidays..."
"Tomarrow's a Fast Day..."
And I know that he will never go away. Just have to keep battering away at him, and let him know that NO, I won't listen....

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Margarine, borekas, and “loshon hara” (Slander)

A few days ago, Ricki and I were studying the special foods eaten on Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year), one of which is dates. To add a bit of fun (and life skills), I wanted to bake a “date spead” cookie bars with her.

That’s when I discovered that during my trip to Colorado, my baking supply of frozen margarine bars was used up, and NOT replenished.

Figuring that the grocery store was closed already, I sent Ricki to request from the neighbors 2 bars of margarine, to be returned the next day. Ricki went, and quickly returned with a bar, telling me which neighbor had lent it to us. So I informed her that we needed another margarine, and could she please try a different neighbor?
She left.... and I waited.... and waited....and eventually she came back, triumphantly bearing the margarine.
“Who did you borrow from?”
“Oh, I bought it (charged it) in the grocery.”
“What, they’re still open?”

That’s when I noticed the crumbs on her face.
“Ricki, did you also buy borekas and eat them?”
“I don’t want to speak any Loshon Hara (slander)” was her reply. Now I know what they studied in school today, probably: Not to slander others.....

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cackling Hens [A Bonus Post (instead of Sunady AM)]

If you look HERE you will see that I once vowed that I would never post just to hear myself talk. And, actually, I am afraid that this is, a bit, what has happened. (I thought that this last week's posts were OK, but the week before was not as good....)
I try to post every day (except Saturdays), and lately it has been harder to do that. I feel that a lot of things that I want to say, I HAVE said, earlier, in posts that I could not improve on.
Lately my life has undergone drastic changes. The biggest is that Ricki is in special education, and I am no longer “working” hours a day preparing materials for her inclusion, as I had to do in years gone by. As a result, I have had more time for myself (like walking), and this blog’s readers have undoubtedly noted the shift in topics. In addition, all the last two year’s worth of behavior modification with Ricki have had the result that while she still has her problems, and antics, she is much better behaved (ie, much more boring...) than before.
So what I am saying is this:
When I have something interesting to report on Ricki and our live together, I will post about that. The main thrust of this blog has always been about Ricki, and I still feel that there is place in the blog-world for a REAL look at life with a teen with Down syndrome. But I probably will be posting much more about other things as well, and I hope I don’t loose my special-needs readers as a result. And occasionally, when I am just too darn busy, or really have nothing to say, I will probably skip a day. But (at least in the meantime), I should be blogging pretty regularly, so if I miss a day, don’t wait three weeks to come back...
Next Post will be Sunday evening (G+2), G-d willing.

The Earth is the Lord's - 2009

Saturday and Sunday are Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year), followed by a fast day on Monday. Both feasting and fasting are hard on a diet, I hope am determined to survive both, and at least not gain this week.
I will not be posting on Saturday –Sunday.
May we all come to realize the Greatness of G-d in this world, and through our actions proclaim His importance in our lives. SHANA TOVA.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Effecting Lasting Change in Ourselves, Influencing Others – Part 3

[If you have yet to read parts ONE and TWO (earlier this week), please do so before proceeding.]
A vignette: Sunday morning I was making breakfast for Ricki, and darted into the living room to do something. To my surprise and horror, Ricki was standing nearly naked next to our big open window, getting dressed. And, unfortunately, this was not the first time I had caught her doing this. I had previously “told her off” about such behavior, talked about modesty, etc., apparently to no avail.
My first impulse was to yell at her, but up to now that hadn’t really worked, had it? My “first-aid”, “band-aid” reaction was to quickly change the balance of benefits/ harm of her behavior, with an explicit threat of exact consequences to any continued parading around the house in unclad state. She beat a hasty retreat to the bathroom.
However, if I want to make a permanent change, that is not enough. If I only have threats in my arsenal, what will prevent her from repeating this behavior, when I am not home?

There are basically three steps that need to be done: Evaluate, Plan and carry out intervention, and reevaluate.

Step one: Evaluate!
The first thing I need to do is evaluate the offending behavior. For ingrained, long-term activities, this may take a few days. You want to know:
-when it occurs
-with whom (Do only you have this problem with your child? Does the child behave this way in school? With husband/siblings/ grandparents?)
- any pre-disposing conditions ? Is the child hungry/tired?
-What is your usual reaction, and how does the child relate to that?

“Voyurism in the window” evaluation

Predisposing conditions: hot weather, not yet received Concerta may make her more eager to “start up” with Mom

Step 2 : Plan
So how can I change this behavior? I can arrive at ideas by looking at my evaluation list, and trying to reinforce GOOD behavior.
1. First and foremost, I have to be careful to not give Ricki extra attention for the behavior. Any rebukes, etc. must be done in a low-key way: Quietly with no fanfare.
2. Talk to Ricki this afternoon about how that now that she is a big girl in seminary, she needs to be more careful about tsnius (modesty). Talk about the inherent dangers, the responsibility that she has. Mention that you realize that it is hot to get dressed in the bathroom, and suggest that she wear a robe to her room, and get dressed there in front of a fan.
3. Go with her to buy a nice terrycloth robe
4. Promise her a prize (specify!) if she gets dressed during the next week modestly (elaborate)
5. Try and go to her door and say how proud you are of her (attention!) at least once while she is dressing in the room.

Step 3: Reevaluate
Within a week, see how things are going.Am I doing what I planned to do? What6 are the results? If the behavior persists, threaten (and carry out) consequences. Also consider giving the Concerta earlier.If all of this fails, evaluate again and try and make a different plan.

Hopefully, by targeting both the harm done by the behavior (and making her aware of that), and by decreasing her “gains” from the behavior, a change can be effected. I wrote this plan out on Sunday. I hope to report to you next week if it succeeded.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Special Exposure Wednesday- A Sassy Teen

So much for the “Oh, they’re SO Loving!” promise I got 14 years ago.
A teen is a teen. Even if they have Down syndrome.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Elul asnd Rosh HaShana: For Ourselves, and as a Parent PART 2

[ Note: This is a three-part post, dealing with Teshuva (repentence), change, and helping our children to change. While the first section(s) may look to be wholly Elul-Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) oriented, special needs readers are urged to read them, as the conclusions reached will impact and dictate the later post on effecting change in our children.]
Please read yesterday’s post if you have not done so yet.

Therfore, if we want to effect a change in ourselves, we need to first make An Accounting of the Benefits and Cons of our behavior:

It is important to think carefully into WHAT the BENEFITS we are enjoying from the behavior we are engaged in. Only once we acknowledge these benefits for what they are, do we have a chance at changing our behavior. (I will elaborate on this point further down.) And we need to really verify in real-life terms what the detriments are. To me, the loss of not being at Ricki’s nephew’s wedding in 13 years (or so), means more than writing “a heart attack”.

Rosh HaShana Before Yom Kippur
Now this is one of the reasons why Rosh HaShana (the Jewish New Year), the crowning of G-d as King, comes before Yom Kippur. Because I can not do teshuva (repentence) if I do not see clearly the disadvantages of my actions. How can I truly hope to change my behavior (say, in poor concentration in prayer) if I am not fully aware of the holiness and mightiness of G-d, and my loss of a spiritual connection with Him if I continue sinning?

Effecting Permanent Change in Ourselves
However, realizing the detriments of a wrong behavior is often not enough. Especially when dealing with a behavior that gives us pleasure or other benefits. In order to effect permanent change, we also have to look at how we are BENEFITING from that behavior, and either:
1. find a different, acceptable way to obtain that benefit, and/or
2. eliminate the need for that benefit.

For example, the overeater above has several benefits from overeating. What can be her (his) response to them?
1. “calms me down” – learn other ways of relaxation. If under stress, try to stop and do deep relaxation for five minutes, put on a soothing tape (or MP3 player)
2. “wakes me up when tired” – Try and get more sleep. If extremely tired, and feeling the urge to overeat as a result, try and get even a half-hour nap. Otherwise, maybe try putting a “snazzy” cassette on.
3. “social benefits”- try and manage parties (once you have taken a break for a month or so) by claiming “sorry, but it’s doctor’s orders....”
4. Can eat cakes, etc. Allow yourself one fattening snack a week, in MODERATION (pre-measure it in advance), and ONLY if you have dieted well the remainder of the week. Thus you can tell your evil inclination: “OK. I will have a (small) piece of cake on Saturday.” This way you are able to YES have a BIT of cake, and are learning good moderate habits for the future. [Now if your “vice” is something that should not be done in moderation, like bad-mouthing your Mother-in-Law, just write a letter spilling out your anger, and BURN it!]

Thus, by seeing the detriments and harm of our behavior, and substituting better actions for the benefits, we stand a decent chance of succeeding. In addition, it would be wise to institute some type of record-keeping system, or support group, when needed, to help insure that we do not conveniently “forget” the lessons we have learned.

[A further post on applying the above to special-needs children will be in a day or two.]

Monday, September 14, 2009

Elul asnd Rosh HaShana: For Ourselves, and as a Parent

[ Note: This is a three-part post, dealing with Teshuva (repentence), change, and helping our children to change. While the first section(s) may look to be wholly Elul-Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) oriented, special needs readers are urged to read them, as the conclusions reached will impact and dictate the later post on effecting change in our children.]

As we draw near to the high holidays of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur (and the days of repentance between them), we are inevitably faced with the question: What good is it to “repent” when I KNOW that I inevitably will become lax, and fall back into my former bad habits. I think that we all know the frustration of wondering why we “can’t” keep our diet, still find ourselves yelling at our kids, and even listen to the neighbor’s evil gossip , despite our determination to make a change in our behavior.
True change is not easy. Our sages say that if one can change a bad character trait in 70 years, he is doing pretty good. [And isn’t it amazing how we see that this is so true for ourselves, while we still expect our children, spouses, and cranky neighbors to change as soon as we inform them of their misdemeanors....?] So HOW do we effect a more lasting commitment towards change?
Two Questions:
1) People who are overweight usually believe (as EVERYONE ELSE does), that losing weight is simply a matter of having enough “will-power”. If this the case, why would a person who has lost 35 kilos (as I once did), and who had the will-power to do so, suddenly not have will-power, and gain it all back (and with interest, as well)?
2) Why is the Jewish New Year before Yom Kippur? Wouldn’t it make sense to repent, and then crown that achievement with a celebration of G-d’s kingship (which is essentially, what Rosh HaShana is)?

Misdenomer:” Will Power”
True change is not dictated by will-power. Witness the drug addict, or drunkard, who has absolutely no will to change his obviously destructive habits (obvious to everyone but him...). Enter a good, experienced “intervention” guide, and the chances of him effecting a change are pretty good. Why? How is that? Because the intervention is designed to make the addict take a good hard look at what the losses from his addiction are, and to remove the “benefits” he has been receiving courtesy of enabling behavior by others. An addict in an intervention may be told by his co-worker “I will no longer cover up for you at work”. His daughter, after telling her Dad how much she loves him, and admires his abilities, may regretfully inform him that she will no longer let him visit her house, unless he starts treatment, because of the effect it is having on HER children. Bit by bit, the parties to the intervention show the addict that the “pros versus cons” has changed, and that it is no longer to his advantage to continue his substance abuse.
So what has changed? His self-control? NO! What has changed is his perception of the results of his behavior.

This is why it is easier to diet when you are extremely overweight, and your varicose veins are hurting. They are a constant, real reminder of the results of overeating, much more than the scales which we may (or may not) step on. And that is why it is so easy for the dieter who has lost a significant amount to gain everything back. He may still be getting compliments on the “new, thin” body while he has already slipped and started overeating. He is able to have the joys of overeating, along with social accolade all at once. And how does he deal with the long-range effects of overeating? For the meantime he is “forgetting” that point, or kidding himself that “next week” he will return to the diet, while enjoying the immediate “benefits” of cake and pie.
[To be continued, G-d willing, tomarrow.]

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The First Aid Class

Last night, as Ricki was getting undressed, I noticed a HUGE wad of cloth around her knee, under her hose. My daughter had inserted two professional pressure bandages into her sock, treatment for some miniscule “sore”. She has done this before (she usually puts toilet paper as “dressings”), but somehow she had gotten into (and decimated) our first aid kit.
I was just gratefull that she had placed it high enough that her friends (from her old school)hopefully didn't notice....
Well, at least there is ONE good side to it. Ricki’s new school has one weekly hour of study of “first aid” (avoidance and treatment of everyday illnesses). That is one class she is sure to love.......

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The tart apple crumble that Ricki and I had made on Wednesday afternoon for Shabbas (Saturday) lay on the pristine white tablecloth. So did the honey cake that Ricki (or her teacher, see HERE) had made in school. Until this morning, I had been VERY good, having not even tasted Ricki’s honey cake (promising her that I would try it on Shabbas), and had had a scant half-teaspoon of the crumble. This morning, rather than having my Shabbas treat of fancy cereal for Kiddush*, I had had a bit of the crumble with a leben (low-fat yogurt), and literally a sliver of the honey cake.
But even though the calorie count was about the same as a good serving of cereal, I used to eat much larger pieces of cake for Kiddush, and I was sitting there contemplating why I was still hungry. “Give your brain a chance to register that you’ve eaten”, I cautioned. “You are NOT going to blow your diet with cake.”
It didn’t help very much. So I got up, put the cakes away, and pulled out a good book. THAT helped.

* Kiddush a Jewish religious ritual, is a blessing over wine or grape juice said on Friday night and Saturday morning. It must be followed with a meal (with bread), or the consumption of some food with grains, like cake, crackers, or cereal.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Hot Potato

Usually I avoid all homeopathic concoctions, alternative medicines, and “wonder” supplements by a wide breadth. The reasons I have outlined, very well, HERE

However, the other day a very good friend urged me to try a new “diet” supplement. Since it was both pricey and privately marketed, I had grave doubts. But she was giving me free samples, so my initial reflex was “Why not?”
But on arriving home I decided to check out the ingredients on the internet. It turned out that the product makes you feel “full” by filling your stomach with fiber plus the liquid that you drink with it. So what would happen if I would have used this product? The tummy that I have laboriously worked to “shrink” to a smaller size, which today is happy with much smaller amounts than I once ate, would get re-stretched and bloated out. My hunger would return whenever I would NOT use the product.

Well, that was one idea I dropped like a “hot potato”.

New Schedule

Ricki's teacher called me yesterday, in order to let me know what the new schedule of studies is, and more importantly, what material they will be covering in each subject. All and all, it is a well-thought-out program, certainly one that I can live with. It seems that much of the year's success will depend on how many aides there are, and if the material in each class will be close to her level.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ricki’s Nephew

My oldest son’s eldest son, Ricki’s nephew, is eight years old. As a baby, Moshe Leib was (under my darling daughter-in-law’s watchful gaze) Ricki’s first experience with babies. My daughter in law slowly and patiently taught Ricki how to hold babies, how to be careful, etc. He grew, and Ricki, a full six years his senior, played games with him as he learned colors, numbers, and reading.
About two years ago he started being puzzled by her occasional belligerent behavior, and sometimes childish reactions to various situations. He was beginning to realize that she was “different”. At that point I urged my daughter-in-law to explain to Moshe Leib about Ricki’s intellectual disability, and his obligation to respect her despite her deficiencies. Moshe Leib’s mother talked to him, and often in the past two years I have noticed an understanding glance cross his face as he dealt with her.
But this week Moshe Leib did the nicest thing. He took the time to write Ricki a letter congratulating her on entering high school, and wishing her success in her studies. He told his mom “I’ll call it ‘big girls’s high school’”, explaining that “she’ll like ‘big girls’ if I write that.”
He was correct, and she was also thrilled to get a letter. Moshe Leib himself profited from a return card from her.
Now isn’t that tremendous?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

special Exposure Wednesday- in the Rockies and Doing it Yourself

Note that in this picture, my mom is waiting patiently while Ricki manages her bottle of drink herself. Now this does not mean that Ricki didn't request that WE give her a drink. She did, and we refused.
Ricki came home from "cooking" class with a cake yesterday.
"Who sifted the flour?
-"The teacher."
"Who added the ingredients?"
-"The teacher."
"Who stirred the batter?"
-"The teacher."

Now, it may be vital that for the first few lessons, that a teacher explain a technique. Or perhaps to give the girls some pre-holiday activity the school elected that they see a honey cake being made. But my mind flashes back to my visit to the school half a year ago, and my noticing then that in the cooking class, only the teacher had a rolling pin. Ricki is pretty good at following a well-written recipe. I hope that today's cake made by the teacher (IF Ricki is to be believed) is not a harbinger of things to come.....


PS> The teacher today gave a nice list of what they did today... it helped clarify a bit some of what they will be studying.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

WHAT Are You Studying?

Until this year, Ricki was in an inclusion setting. She also had a one-on-one aide, who consistently wrote me what was studied that day. And I had the textbooks. This was very informative for me, as Ricki’s answer to “What did you study today?” was invariably answered with a shrug of the shoulder and a mumbled “I donno....”.
Unfortunately, this is STILL her answer, but now that Ricki is in “special education” I don’t have the aide’s detailed description of class content. Nor any textbooks. Occasionally there is homework (from which I can infer studied material), but little more than that.
Yesterday I received in Ricki’s school diary a copy of the class schedule. It listed, among other things “first aid”, “business skills”, “science”, and “computers”. “Life skills” was notably absent from the list. I assume that “first aid” is about taking temperatures and treating everyday illnesses. I suspect “business skills” will be a work-shop type of activity (at age 14?!?). I wish I knew more. I will need to ask, but am waiting a bit, trying to be as diplomatic as possible. The math homework was WAY below her level, so in the homework area I wrote in a few examples closer to her level. (Hope the teacher NOTICES it!)
Patience is a virtue.
Patience is a virtue.
Patience is a virtue.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lifestyle Changes... not Yet a Molehill

Wearing a pedometer and tracking my steps on walker tracker is changing my life. It used to be that if I needed an item from the local grocery, I would send a child to go buy it. Or, if that didn’t work out, I was likely to “do” without it. But not today. Today I am much more willing to schedule into my day errands outside the house, or to suddenly decide to “go and get it myself”. What seemed to be a terrible schlep ( the “mountain”) may not yet be a molehill, but my attitude that “I can do it, Why not?” is coming more and more to the fore. I am even GLAD for a chance to “stretch my legs”, and this morning when I was out walking, I even RAN to cross the street before the stoplight turned to red. PROGRESS!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Belligerent Ricki and the Soya Patties

Ricki came home at three o’clock and asked me to type the access code to the computer. I refused, stating that computer use would be only in the evening, after various other activities. (First comes homework, some studying with me, some fun activities, and a bit of sport.)
Within five minutes a bored Ricki was heading to the refrigerator. “I’m STARVING...” said the teen, only two hours most after having lunch at school. She quickly grabbed TWO soya patties.
“Ricki, I don’t allow. If you are still hungry, take a fruit....” She refused to put the patties back, and frankly, I didn’t have the strength to take them from her. “Ricki, if you don’t put them back, there will be NO computer this evening.” I gave her the option of waiting until I counted to three, but it didn’t go.
All evening she was complaining about being bored. I didn’t open the computer. I hope she learns the lesson. Mommy means what she says.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Good Peer Pressure

Here in Israel, kids in school have a “mini meal” at about nine-thirty or ten AM. Traditionally, this is bread, which IF a child didn’t eat breakfast in the morning, makes sense.
For the last several years, Ricki has not eaten this meal, because she DOES eat breakfast at home, and anyway with her Concerta medication kicking in full force, she isn’t hungry.
Now she is in a new school, and is interested in having her 10 o’clock snack. The first day I packed her some a pear, but she returned it untouched. Wednesday, she asked to take cookies (I limited the amount), and she ate them. Since Ricki is rather overweight, I was not too pleased with this turn of affairs.
Then on Thursday, Ricki prepared for herself a cucumber and red pepper, and a few grapes. “I want to take like Ruti does.” (Ruti is her friend.) For once, hooray for peer pressure!

PS No, in the end she didn't eat it!


(Was written on Tuesday evening).
I wanted to go "walking" this evening, when Ricki had some free time, but didn't manage to. I was too busy. All (but ALL) of Ricki's new clothing need alterations, due to her excess weight. I have to buy for her width and then shorten skirts, and shorten the sleeves. (Shortening the sleeves on ONE blouse easily takes me 1 1/2 hours....)
And if I go out NOW at midnight, there is too big a chance she will stir, see that I am gone, and pop out of bed.....
So I'm left with the 7000+ steps I already logged today, and possibly the chance to go to bed at a half-way reasonable hour.....

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Only Healthy Living

Yesterday my son-in-law's younger brother died. At age 26! APPARENTLY healthy until 14 days ago, he collapsed suddenly after three months of super-strict dieting. His death was compounded by swine flu, and the main cause of death was simply full systemic collapse.
I see so clearly that the best chance we have of sticking around in this world for a reasonable amount of time is simply HEALTHY living. Not dieting per se, but consistently exercising, eating correctly, and sleeping normally (I still am behind here, but am working on it....).
NO shortcuts. Just living healthy each and every day.
8 hours sleep.
Eating sensibly.
Not being a "computer 'potato'"
Walking and walking.
Laughing and smiling.

Loving our family as long as we are around....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Clothing Shopping—Improved!

On Sunday I went with Ricki to buy some vests for school, and again on Monday to look for some clothing for the upcoming holidays.
I am happy and proud to report that Ricki really behaved VERY well. Both times.
In one store we saw a mother with her older daughter (with Down syndrome), and Ricki apparently remembered her from camp a year ago. Ricki tried to start a conversation with the young lady, but she didn’t seem so interested. Her Mother, however, did talk a bit with Ricki. Then the mother commented to me. I saw you together with her on the bus a few years ago. What a difference in behavior!”

Yes, behavior limits and modification WORKS.
Yes, it takes planning.
Yes, it is work.
But its one of the most rewarding things I have done.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First day of School / an HONEST Chance

Yesterday was the first day of school. The driver didn't show up, but at least Ricki got up (and awake!) on time. She was very pleased, however to have an old friend (from her exercise club) in her class. I told this girl's mother(who also is going from inclusion to special ed), that we MUST give the teachers the benefit of the doubt. (After all, they ARE working a hard job for peanuts....). Let them get to know the girls and their abilities. Let us establish OURSELVES as normal moms, not professional fault finders. In another month or so, if we think anything is reaslly necessary to change, THAN we can broach it. But lets give the teachers an honest chance first.