Monday, April 9, 2018

Chagrin Valley Soap: A Review

Normally, I wouldn't be posting because I'd be at work. But today the only assignment available starts after lunch. The family is doing well. HB's therapy has resumed and his behavior has improved quite a bit at school. This may have to do with the new behavior plan in place for him and it might have to do with therapy resuming and it might have to do with me taking a long term sub position that was also half days through the month of March. Therefore I was able to take him to school and pick him up afterwards instead of him being sent to after care for an hour or so.  Knee is doing well. He started getting an hour/ 4 days a week of small group classes in addition to his speech therapy that he receives. I think it's already helped him significantly in this less than a month time because he seems to be getting letters better, he's spontaneously wanted to read a book, and he's been writing things.

But you're not here for all that. You're here for the review. So here's the review:

Many months ago I did some digging for a zero waste option for shampoos. I discovered a small-sized company that makes all sorts of zero waste things including shampoo bars. I decided to get some samples before committing to something that I hated.

 The samples came in little brown paper wrappings. The full sized versions come in a box.

Here are the samples outside of the bags. They are neem & tea tree oil, charcoal, and some sort of butter type. My hair is actually great, but my scalp is another beast. I'm prone to dandruff and oily buildup. It's really bad. My hairbrush looks awful. And you'd think "Oh, well then, get something extra strength. That'll fix it." Um, I wish. If I do that, it causes my scalp to be great and my hair to look limp and lifeless because it's terribly dry and prone to breaking. So you see, dear friends, if there was a magical way to get my oily scalp to get further down my hair shaft than just the folicles I'd be set. In any case, my hair looks like a grease trap at the scalp and dry as the Sahara at the bottom.

Needless to say, I need a shampoo that can deal with my head. And this is the best zero waste option I've found so far. The neem & tea tree oil are awesome. They help kill whatever fungus grows on my scalp which causes the dandruff (yes, you have fungus and bacteria all over your body. This is normal. If I grossed you out, I'm sorry.)  The charcoal does the same thing. The butter stuff is I'm sure really great for dry hair/dry scalp, but it was awful for my hair.

So when I reordered I ordered the neem & tea tree oil one. My routine is that I go a couple of days between washes. I wait until the oil on my head is really greasy so my hair tips don't miss out on some moisture. Then I kill off the fungus by lathering up my head while paying attention to scrubbing my scalp. Then I repeat the process. If I don't repeat the process, I won't have stripped all the excess oil out of my hair.  My hair will be only partially cleaned. This seems to be the best way to maintain fluffy hair without looking like I walked through a fryer.

I also bought their winter soap (which is only available in winter) because my skin is dry. Always dry if I regularly shower (which I need to do or I smell. Joys of being an adult). That stuff is fantastic. Dr. Bronner's was leaving my back area especially dry and itchy. But their winter soap hasn't been a problem at all. My skin remains moisturized without being smelly.

So check out Chagrin Valley Soaps if you are struggling to find something that works with your weird skin issues (or normal skin issues). You won't be disappointed. And no, nobody sent me a free sample or asked me to review them. I needed something that worked for me. I liked that you could search for your specific needs and could easily find what you needed on their website so I ordered their product to test on myself. Turns out that they really do know their soaps. That's the only reason why I wanted to let you know about their company. I doesn't hurt that they use zero waste packaging, are family-owned (subsidiarity, Catholic people!), and make everything in the USA.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Finally Some Answers About Knee

Dear Readers and Family,
First let me start off by saying. Thank you for all your prayers. I was concerned that Knee was having difficulty at school for a reason. I suspected that it was dyslexia. I was concerned because he's in kindergarten and it's unusual for them to test someone with that specific type of learning disability at so young an age.  A good number of children show some slight signs of dyslexia because they are young and their brains are still developing.  That doesn't mean that they have dyslexia, but given that my father is dyslexic I had my doubts that Knee wasn't also suffering with reading difficulty. As you may remember, my father was so concerned that me and my brother were dyslexic that he was diligent in looking for the signs. My brother and I are not dyslexic.

Knee however is dyslexic and he also has dysgraphia.

Here is the letter from his school (edited for internet anonymity):

Hi, Mom and Dad,

Briefly re evaluation for Knee:  Knee DOES qualify for special education as having a Specific Learning Disability in Written Expression and Reading Comprehension (which is unusual for kindergarten to be specific to comprehension).   In other words, he does have dysgraphia and dyslexia, which are terms synonymous with the educational Learning Disability terms.  Fully average IQ and fully average language skills.

We will discuss what supports Knee can/will get at the meeting we have scheduled for him.  I sent home a behavioral assessment form since his classroom teacher has concerns about his behaviors.  I have seen him laying on the floor refusing to work at times.  It's possible that some of his frustrations in class could be related to difficulties with learning, especially since he is probably aware that some things are difficult.  When he was testing with me, he did a nice job of making an effort and following directions, stayed on task well for his age, was chatty, and was was (sic) great to work with.

School Psychologist

I'm definitely sure that his behavioral issues are frustration related.  He's very rarely like that at home. Normally he enjoys working on his homework until you get too corrective with him and then he yells at you. I get it. It must be monumentally difficult for him to have dyslexia and dysgraphia. It also explains why he has difficulties in speech that are unrelated to anything hearing wise.

It explains why all of his grades are great except that he is below average in reading and writing. He has a learning disability. He catches onto things very quickly but he back tracks, seems to forget, things when it comes to reading and writing.

What does this all mean for Knee? I'm not sure because our meeting isn't until March. My guess is that they are going to continue to send him to the reading lab at school and make modifications for his writing. I'm guessing that they will pass him into 1st grade (which was a concern of mine) and allow him to work at his own pace.

It's great news because it means Knee will get the help that he needs for the rest of his life. He'll also be getting early intervention so it's likely that he won't fall too far behind from his peers.

Now I'm sure people are going to wonder why on earth I think this is a good thing. Having a disability is not a horrible thing. Nobody is perfect. We have a name and a diagnosis for each of our children's struggles. Not everyone has that much. Some children and adults go their whole lives struggling and not getting resources that they need because of stigma. Having a learning disability or a developmental disability or a physical disability or some combination is not awful. People just need to get over that.

My father has gone his whole life dealing with this. He went to college and earned a bachelor's degree. He retired having had a successful career. My father reads. He read to me as a child. And he did all this without modifications or interventions because they didn't have that things like that for children in the 1950s.  I don't believe it was fake either because my father fully admits that learning foreign languages is a great deal difficult for him as an adult. It will be so much better for Knee. So much.

So all I feel is relief. He's going to be just fine and it's all because I pushed for it. The lesson to be learned parents is if you are seeing something, talk to your children's teachers. Ask if they see something too.  And ask for testing if you both agree something is off.  Don't wait.  And if you do wait, don't blame yourself either. Getting children tested and having others listen to you takes time. It took me 2 years to get Knee into speech intervention and yes, I pushed for that too.

Just don't ignore it because of stigma.  Both of my kiddos are going to be fine. What exactly is "wrong" with them anyway? Nothing. Having a disability isn't "wrong."  I just means that their successes are going to be different. Difference is a blessing. It's division and ableism that is diabolic.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Going Zero Waste: A Guide

I'm a little bit bored today. Both of my kids are home sick from school. Fortunately it's not the type of sick that sends me into a panic. HB does have strep throat....again. Therefore the doctor gave him another round of antibiotics but from a different class. Yesterday he barely spoke because he said it hurt too much. This morning he was jabbering away and declared how happy he was that his tonsils have shrunk. I think he'll be returning to school tomorrow after he's been on the antibiotics for the required 24 hours.

Knee has a rather nasty cold. He's really congested and has a dry cough. When he talks, you can hear it in his voice. So I forced him to take a cough syrup to break up the obviously large amount of mucus and sat him on the couch with a water bottle and box of tissues. He'll probably be okay to go back to school tomorrow after a day of couch surfing. Sometimes colds make you feel worse then they really are. It also doesn't help that he keeps sniffing junk in. I thought I would clean out my car from all the kid trash that's accumulated and churn out a blog post. I suppose I should be grateful that they aren't so sick that they can't couch surf, but I hate having not a bunch to do. I'd rather be at work covering for teachers who also have sick kids. Then again I'm glad that neither has scarlet fever again or the flu.

What is zero waste?
Basically it's a lifestyle for how one produces waste. I'm not talking about bathroom waste. I'm talking the trash variety. It follows the principal of 5 Rs in this order Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. 

What do you mean Refuse?
Refuse means to refuse to bring into your home something you don't need. This means refusing junk mail, business cards, freebies, and swag.  It can also mean borrowing instead of purchasing. Borrowing or renting a prom dress instead of purchasing one. Borrowing books, dvds, and cds from the library instead of buying them. Renting or borrowing tools that you need for a one time job. You'd be surprised how borrowing a tool from a neighbor leads you to actually getting to know them.

What do you mean by reduce?
Reduce means reducing the amount of stuff that you purchase so it works hand-in-hand with refuse. It also means being wise to what you are purchasing. You can reduce the amount of food that you purchase so it doesn't spoil. You can reduce the amount of packaging that you bring home by buying things not in packaging. You can buy fresh green beans without the packaging found in canned or frozen.

What does reuse mean?
That one is easy. I use reusable water bottles, reusable dishes and silverware, reusable shopping bags, etc. Basically if there is a reusable version, purchase that over the disposable version. It can also mean reusing the packaging of something. I know it's a southern thing to reuse glass jars and plastic butter tubs. That's putting reuse to use, shouldn't accumulate a million butter tubs if you can help it. You should find a way to reduce it by purchasing butter in the paper-wrapped stick variety for example. I can also mean purchasing things that can be used multiple times. For example, it may be better to buy a prom dress second hand if you are also going to use it for homecoming, a wedding, or any other more formal occasion. I have a prom dress that I put a shirt over and it looks like a skirt so it's more dressed down for everyday wear.

What do you mean by recycle? I already do that.
Most people do recycle, but this is why there's a word order to things. If you refuse an item or reduce it's packaging to none, you therefore don't have to recycle as much stuff. Some things like plastic are difficult to recycle. Truth be told reducing the amount I have to recycle is difficult in my house hold, but I'll explain that later.

What is rot?
Rot is composting. I've tried my hand at composting and let us just say that it's difficult to do backyard composting when you live in the desert. I have looked into a service that is similar to a trash or recycle pick up except it picks up your food scraps. It costs a fee. I'm thinking we may try that route instead. 

How do you go about zero waste?
Well the first step is to do a waste audit. Basically it's to go through your trash and see just what it is that you are throwing away. Then you think of a way to reduce that or find an easier to recycle alternative. The problem that I find is that I live in a household with 3 other people. I can only think of alternatives for myself and my own waste. I do have some leeway over the younger set, but not complete control. For example, my kids take reusable water bottles with them. They wear clothes that are second hand just like I do. That said there are problems. I can't refuse to take their drawings and worksheets. Those come stuffed into their back packs. I can't make them give up their favorite ketchup because it comes in plastic bottle. Believe me I've tried to switch them over to a glass type but they hate it. I've found their ketchup in a can, but that's the best I can do. Even then I have to put the ketchup into a squeezable bottle or another glass bottle. And because they are children, it's easier for them to use an all-in-one pump bottle to bathe themselves with. I haven't found a place to refill it that isn't across town thus wasting gas.  I also can't get my husband to switch either. I've tried tissues to handkerchiefs but he hates them for one example. Without making my family hate me for it, I can't force them to think about their waste. I can only focus on myself.

So what have you done?
Well since food is the largest issue because it involves all of us, I've reduced my waste in ways that I can. I buy my clothes second hand, but I've done that for a while now. Nobody wears my clothes. Also nobody uses my toiletries. I switched to bar soap both for my body and hair. I switched to recyclable toothbrush, tooth powder, and deodorant. Currently I'm trying out makeup that comes in recyclable packaging. I also have switched to recyclable dish washing powder and laundry powder that both come in cardboard. I take my lunch to work in reusable containers with some exceptions. I can still work on those exceptions though. I think it's my next project. Trying to find alternatives to foods that I typically am the only one consuming like tea.

The point is that you make the changes in small steps. You will find that you won't be able to switch for everything. For example, my medication, which I only take, has no packaging alternatives. You do your best, but you won't find perfection. The idea that a person can store their waste for a year in a single mason jar is a bit over the top for most people (my medication bottles wouldn't fit in said jar). You do your best for what's available to you and what's affordable. Things that are consumable are often the most expensive in non-packaging varieties (fresh beans are more expensive than the frozen or canned variety). Sometimes they are cheaper in the long run but have a larger up front cost. Reusable feminine hygiene products work that way. Look through your garbage and pick one thing to start with. As they say it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Does Siri Have a Soul?: Some thoughts on Netflix's Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon is Netflix's new series based on a book by the same name. Last night Hubby and I watched the first episode. In the episode we are introduced to the characters, the plot, and a sub plot. The sub plot is what I want to largely focus on because it involves the Catholic Church.

The show is a sci-fi. Humans now create digital downloads of themselves that they then can transplant into human bodies. Naturally the Church protests this, but is it because of what the series surmises?  Altered Carbon says putting your digital download into another body does something immoral to the soul and that humans who do this will go to hell.

Yes, the Church would have a problem with it, but not for the premise the show has.  The problem is the treatment of the body.

Catholics believe that angels are pure spirits or souls. Humans are soul and body. A soul is there just like the body from the moment of conception. Once the body dies the soul separates so even if you have a way of digitizing the brain signals, it's just a copy. It's not any different than a body cam digitizing a person's actions. A body cam is not a soul. Siri likewise is just a computer algorithm. She's not a person even if her creators digitized a human voice. So even if you redownload the person's digital copy into a box like Siri, that's not the person. That's computer code. There's no soul there even if that digital copy is the person's conscience. It's basically an AI.

The problem in Altered Carbon is with the reuse of the body. Bodies are treated like car parts. The digital copy of a person is uploaded into a very much human body. The body doesn't have to look like the original person. It's someone else's body. In the first episode a 7 year old murder victim is redownloaded into an 50 year old lady's body.

The Church teaches that cloning and creation of human bodies for the use of their parts is immoral. You can't create a designer baby for the purpose of having a boy or green-eyed child. You also can't create a person in order to have a living organ donor, which we can now do. Therefore it stands to reason you can't take a person's body and insert a digital download into it. Nor enhance it as the book says the bodies are sometimes treated.

This abuse of the body and reducing ourselves to being purely cerebral is what the Church would protest. And like forced abortion, if a Catholic specifically says not to treat bodies in this manner, but the authorities upload them anyway then the Catholic's soul isn't going to hell. The Catholic isn't culpable for what happens after their death to their own bodies. The persons culpable are the ones doing the uploading. The television show seems to make the premise that Catholics are worried about their own souls going to hell. That wouldn't be very linear in how Catholic theology teaches.

Needless to say the series gives a lot of food for thought about how the roles of technology and Church teaching will continue to evolve.

Monday, January 29, 2018

100 Things Gone: The Revival Edition

You know the ol' saying "When we make plans, God laughs." Yeah, that kinda happened when I planned a declutter challenge. If you remember, one my children came down with Scarlet Fever. So I had to post pone it.

Today is that same child's 8th birthday. I took today off (despite being asked by multiple people to come in and work) so that I can surprise him by having lunch with him. It was a struggle but I thought about it and said which is my priority: my child or helping other people's kids or making a great memory for my child or money. It doesn't happen often so I went with my kiddo. I do worry that Knee will be upset by this, but his birthday landed on a Saturday so technically I did spend lunch with him on his birthday this year too.'s freed me up this morning to work on finishing the declutter challenge. I'm telling you though there's soooo much that I could still declutter in my home. So much. So I'll probably end up doing another declutter challenge again sometime in the spring. I just cannot fathom how we end up with so much. I feel like I'm on top of the clutter, but I guess not as much as I want to believe.

Are you ready?

3 pairs of well-worn kids shoes, scrap fabric, several holey socks, 6 holey kids' shirts, a stretched out 2 piece swim suit, 1 pair of holey capris, 1 shirt, several old stained old pillow cases
 This entire assortment is 34 items. All of them are in such bad shape that I'm going to recycle them in textile waste. MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Driving) has bins throughout my city. You drop them off and somehow they receive the proceeds of old shoes and clothing that are no longer wearable.

1 large coat
 This is my husband's coat. He never wears it. It's a size large. If anyone in the family would like me to ship it to them, I'd be happy to. Otherwise I'm probably going to sell it. I have his permission.

4 pairs of shoes
 The two on the left I'm going to try and sell since they've hardly been worn. The two on the right I'm going to donate. They are in much better shape than the shoes in the first picture and can be donated. Please for the love of peanut butter; don't donate items to charities that you wouldn't give to a friend. If charity shops receive gross, nasty, unusable stuff, they have to dispose of them properly by law. This takes money out of their pocket that could be going to help someone find a job or get off the street. Recycle the well worn items instead or if not possible toss them.

Box of assorted toys
Story time! One day after religious education, I asked my youngest son, Knee, who is six, what he learned today. He said they talked about sharing. When he got home, on his own, he grabbed an empty box and said he was going to go through the toys in his room and donate some of them. Apparently during religious education, they also talked about donating as a way to share with others. The fidget spinner was not included in his purge. That I found cleaning up my closet. It was intended as a spare gift from Hubby from a vacation, but the kids have a couple of fidget spinners each and they don't really play with them much. So we decided to donate this one.

This brings my total for today to about 45. Day 1's total was 27. Day 3ish's total was 40ish items. So I've reached my goal and have or will discard 112 items!!!


Now to drop off some items. Hope you have a fantastic week. Remember to wash your hands often because this flu season is awful.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

An Update

HB is doing so much better. He was drinking lots of water but then he stopped. It's causing his intestines to back up again. I keep reminding him to drink more. The day before yesterday I had him watch a video about why we need to each fruits and vegetables. He's heard about the importance of fiber and how it keeps his stomach from hurting (along with the water). So yesterday he proudly told me about his attempts to eat an orange. I call it a win. For now he's still on Myra-lax. I don't think it has anything to the autistic-gut problem connection that so many autistics face. I think it's his diet and the fact that since it's been cooler he's not been drinking water at school. 

Knee is going to be tested similarly to HB's battery of tests at school. Mainly the psychologist wants to figure out how he thinks. If she sees that there's a huge difference between how he thinks and what his grades are, then he has a learning disorder. If there's an issue in how he thinks, it's a undetermined developmental disorder. Technically he already has a developmental disorder in his speech and language area. His speech teacher says that even though he does have a frontal lisp, it's really the development (or rather lack of) that's causing his speech problems.  And speech is often the first sign of some sort of disorder. Knee doesn't have hearing issues and he didn't have problems with his ears (like multiple ear infections) so it's something else. I'm pretty positive of this.  He's way behind his class. If he is found to have an underlining learning issue, then they'll update his IEP and he'll receive modifications such as permanently being assigned to the reading lab and being taken out of class to work one-on-one with the SpEd teacher. It is unusual at this point to say a kindergartner has a learning disability but since I've been around with HB, I pick up warning signs real early these days. I just rather him get early intervention now rather than watch him slip further behind and struggle to catch up.

As for me, I've been a rather popular substitute teacher. I keep getting requests from people all the time now. I enjoy working with the middle school/junior high age group. I like my job for now because it's flexible and I don't have to take any work home with me (unlike regular teachers who grade, have conferences, after school stuff, etc). Work is very steady. I work full time. The downside is I don't get any benefits or perks. So as the kids get older and more self-sufficient then I think I'll start working toward becoming a certified teacher probably as 1st-8th grade.

Hubby is also adjusting to me working fairly well. I was expecting it to be more difficult, but minus a few small discussions he's been okay with having to shoulder more responsibilities particularly of the child kind. You have to understand that he's not used to taking off work for a sick child or talking to teachers regularly. Until this year, he's never met the kids' pediatrician. I imagine that it's a bit like a 1960s revolution. Women went from being home all day to suddenly holding down full time jobs and balancing children. For the record, it was his idea that I go back to work. I wasn't trying to "liberate" myself or anything like that. That doesn't mean though it's been easy because it hasn't been. But it's nice to not have to take the kids to school anymore.

Monday, January 8, 2018

100 Things Gone- Postponed!!! AKA Sicky Edition

So the update....

On Thursday I ran HB to one of those Minute Clinics. He had been vomiting the day before. She ruled out the flu and thought it was a virus of some sort based on the symptoms. His fever was 99 and he was a little bouncy.

But then that night/early morning the vomiting returned in full force. His fever spiked. I moved him to the couch at 5 am and gave him Tylenol. At about 9, I went to move him so he could sleep in a bed.

And that's when I completely freaked out. I had given him Tylenol because his fever had been 104 and he was still warm. He was down to 101. But what freaked me out was the rash.  It covered him head to toe.  I was panicking. This is not good.

I called my husband because I couldn't think straight enough. I needed an outside voice to present me with a course of action. In the end, I called his pediatrician's office and cried on the phone with the receptionist. "I can't get his fever under control and he's not drinking water. I'm keeping him hydrated with ice chips only." 

The nurse was less impressive when she called back. "Some fevers have rashes." Mmm kay. "If he's dehydrated he'll have to go to urgent care to get a IV"  Yeah, IV with a kid with autism...that's not gonna go well. She finally agreed to fit me in in an hour.

And there we were. HB literally walked in, sat in a chair, and threw up. I was talking across the room to the receptionist to get checked in. His brother had to hand over our paper work.

The doctor took one look at him and said "I know what this is. And thankfully this isn't the flu because that's trickier to treat. This is scarlet fever. I can fix that, but just to be sure we're going to have to take a swab."

The swab was difficult. The nurse held his head, I held his arms, the doc did the swab, and Knee held a bowl in case he gagged and threw up. The doctor told us we needed to get him hydrated before urgent care closed or we would have to take him in.  She figured a dose of antibiotics would turn things around.

And oh, boy it did.  He went from looking awful and feeling awful to demanding to eat pizza when he could go back to a normal diet.

Scarlet fever is nothing to mess with. It's strep throat on steroids (not literally but you get the point). Not only is the bacteria causing throat issues it's dumping poison into your skin which is why you get a rash and a high fever. It's really uncommon now but highly contagious.  And if you don't treat it, it can lead to all sorts of lovely complications involving your organs. So I was right to panic.

My husband who listened to me hysterical on the phone thought that I was being a bit over the top because he'd already seen a nurse....until he got home....and looked at HB....and went "woah, he really does look awful."  And it was only in a matter of hours.

And this is why I haven't finished the challenge.  I'm strung out and tired and had to call out from work. It has not been our holiday.

Oh, and the car.  Yeah had to replace the radiator. It had a crack in it. Can we have a Christmas season do over?