Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oscar Wrap Up 2013

This is an indulgence.  Pure, unadulterated pleasure.  There is no purpose to this post other than to think about and talk about something I really love: gowns.  Oh ya, there are the awards, the host, the speeches and all that.  But the real reason I watch the Oscars is for the amazing dresses.

Unfortunately, I forgot to tape the pre-show this year, so when I watched the Oscars I could only see the dresses of the ladies who either presented or won awards.  But I did my homework the next day and watched Fashion Police, several belated red-carpet shows, and also checked the internet for a more comprehensive list of dresses.  And here are my comments:

1)  Lady In Red:  Red was in.  Red is such a lovely color on most complexions, from pale to golden to brown.  But you have to be very careful about clashing with the red carpet.  This year's biggest success in red goes to:  Sally Field, one of my Best Dressed nominees. That dress was exquisite!  It was a fun nod to the era of her movie, Lincoln,and you hardly ever see a mature actress wear something so fun!  I loooooved it! 

2) Beyond the Pale:  There are some women who look lovely and ethereal in pale. But most look just washed out.  Why women insist on wearing blush/champagne/nude almost every year is beyond me.  Jessica Chastain got so much press for her dress this year, but it just didn't do it for me.  It probably was an amazing dress with that intricate beading, but who knows?  It just didn't show up. 

My only favorite pale dress of the bunch was one of the least favorite of almost everyone else:  Anne Hathaway's pale pink satin.   I loved the color, I loved the neckline.  I thought it was such a different look than we ever see!  Ok, the nipple darts were extreme.  And the necklace didn't suit the high square neckline.  But the dress itself, I thought, was chic and fresh.

3) Metal-head.  Did you notice all the metallic-looking dresses this year?  I felt like there must have been a sale on chain mail somewhere!  Some were good (Halle Berry and Norah Jones) some were bad (that strange concoction of Naomi Watts's).  But this was definitely the hot trend of 2013!

4) Women Of Color:  I always like it when stars are willing to wear a bright, unique color.   Last year there was lots of emerald green.  This year, it was deep blues.  Like Jennifer Hudson's deep blue lace.  YUM!   I loved that Jennifer Garner wore a frothy purple color.  But there was too much froth on the back of that dress!  Kerry Washington wore that coral dress with the beading on the top.  I am not a huge fan of coral, but it was a bold move and the beading was divine!

5) Skin!  I completely reject the idea that a woman of a certain size has to come dressed like a nun.  When a curvy woman is willing to bear a little leg or, gasp, have her elbows show, I applaud it!  Why shouldn't she look sexy too?  So I had to give a thumbs down to Adele and Melissa McCarthy's dresses for being so boring and prudish.  Even though I wasn't crazy about Octavia Spencer's dress color, or the material, or, well, really anything, I loved that she had the confidence to wear an off-the-shoulder dress with her arms showing.  And Queen Latifah wore that flowy, showy white gown like a true queen.  You go, Girl!! 

5)  80's Rewind.  I don't know if it's because I was there for this decade of dresses the first time, or if it's just because I hate shoulder pads so badly, but the last 2-3 years when these super-80's dresses have shown up, I have just wanted to gag.  No more so than with Jane Fonda's yellow dress this year.  Because she might have actually pulled it out of her closet from 40 years ago!  And again, the same stigma that applies to curvy ladies seems to apply to the older crowd too. "If you've hit 45, you must be disgusting and we must cover you up."  BAH!  Helen Miren dresses with class but also skin every year and she looks amazing. 

6) Baby Bumps:  Usually the pregnant ladies go for a long, flowy chiffon thing with tons of cleavage.  I know, it's hard to dress a giant belly and you think your boobs will distract!  But that look gets old.  This year I saw two of the most original and attractive looks on pregnant women I've ever seen.  Yay!!!

Additional Thoughts:

7) I've never seen Helena Bonham Carter look so good.  Ever.  I mean, the girl likes to wear hideous dresses for some reason.  It's almost like she is constantly channeling Bellatrix Lestrange!  But this dress, although I could still find complaints about it, was the most normal, attractive dress I've seen her in since she did A Room With A View.  I'm surprised she didn't make it onto Fashion Police.  Those girls rag on poor Helena every time.  I think they might have had some positive things to say this year!  (Until her hair, at least.)

8) Most original dress goes to this lady.  No idea who she is (Sunrise Coigney?)  But her dress is very very unique.  I don't care for the leather top, but I LOVE the skirt.  And I think she made the boldest fashion statement on the carpet, so I had to include her. 

9)) I'm not a big fan of Renee Zelweger.  Not even close.  And what was up with her not being able to read the award cards?  TWICE?   But I have to admit, she looked amazing in her gold dress.  Like she was poured into it.  The woman does have a good body.

10)  I can't tell you how sick of Kelly Osborne's lavender hair I am.  I'm all for funky colors.  But the lavender looks like old lady hair!  It just doesn't suit her. But the dress she wore...now that suited her!  I loved it.  The architectural lines around her shoulders and neck were so beautiful.  And she is a woman with a few curves, so even better.  Well done, Kelly!

11) My favorite movie of the year, perhaps the decade, was Silver Linings Playbook.  I didn't know how I'd like Jennifer Lawrence as someone other than Katniss, but she pulled it off.  WELL!  And so I became a reluctant fan.  I can't say I was such a huge fan of her stiff bell-like dress.  But when she fell on the stairs when accepting her award, and picked herself up laughing and just went on with it, I became a huge fan. There is nothing I admire more than grace under pressure...or total, worldwide humiliation!

12) EW!  Usually there are 3 or 4 dresses I don't care for and 1 or 2 that jump out as horrific.  This year there was only one for me.  One horrific dress, paired with one horrific hair-do, atop one horrific actress.  The trifecta.  And the award for Worst Dressed (+ Worst Hair + Worst Actor) goes to Kristen Stewart!   Hint: Before you wear a bustier top, get something to boost! 

Though this gunny sack look on Helen Hunt did run a close second.  UGG. 



13) And The Winner Is: Two more of my best dressed nominees (along with Sally Field) are Alecia Vikander and Zoe Saldana.  Zoe Saldana's gown, which got no press coverage at all, was breathtaking! The subtle grey layers at the bottom and the flowers at the top? Amazing.  I have no idea who Alecia Vikander is, but her pale blue lace dress with the 3/4 sleeves was so beautiful.

But ultimately, the prize goes to Zoe Saldana.  I just adored this dress!

So enough of the dresses. (Can there ever be enough of the dresses??) My only other thoughts on the Oscars are that Seth McFarlane was hilarious.  He got mixed reviews, but I loved him. 

And, ARGO?  REALLY??? ARGO?!?  You don't know what a huge Clooney fan I am--it's borderline obsession.  As in, almost all my "celebrities-I-bump-into-who-end-up-falling-in-love-with-me fantasies" are of Clooney.  And I have a decent sized crush on Ben Aflack.  And I liked the movie.  So I really say this reluctantly, but, ARGO???  It was good.  But not Best Picture good.  I would have voted Silver Linings Playbook.  And I would have totally understood if Django won.  But Argo was just a movie to me.  In 5 years, I won't even remember it. 

So there.  That's my 2013 Oscar recap.  Bring on the Emmys!!!


Focalin, Yay!

This is the story of my sweet daughter Daphne and how Focalin has changed her life.  Daphne has ADD.  I call it ADD although the clinical name du jour is "ADHD, Non-Attentive Type."  She doesn't have the H, hyperactivity.  She is just completely out of focus, lost in space, most of the time.  So I call it ADD because, well, it just makes more sense for her.  Daphne is not a naughty child.  She isn't a bad child.  She is naturally sweet, charming, and fairly obedient (though she has a wicked sneaky streak).  Her behaviors have all tended towards simply not being present in her own life but living almost entirely in her head.  I have two other children.  So if you're quick to blame it on parenting, the facts point elsewhere.  My other kids seem to have no troubles obeying, listening, following instructions, remembering things--at least as much as kids that age do.  Whatever Daphne has, it is biological.  It is REAL.  And it needs help.  Enter Infuniv and Focalin. 

Daphne was diagnosed in Kindergarten.  Although she had 2 years of preschool and knew all her letters and sounds, and was put into the more advanced Kindergarten class, within weeks her teacher had called me to say that Daphne was falling behind.  The class she was in had reviewed letters and sounds and had moved on to reading, but Daphne could not keep up.  She never paid attention, was never on task.  At first I thought, "Well, she's 5.  It's pretty normal for a 5 year old to be off task."  But when we discussed it more, the teacher said she was "SIGNIFICANTLY more off task than any other child."  So they moved Daphne to the slower class.  But even here, Daphne floundered.  She just didn't seem to be able to stay focused on what was around her, not even for a few minutes.  When I went in and observed her in the classroom, she had a glazed look on her face. At home she was very lively and chatty, and I expected her problems in school to revolve around getting in trouble for talking too much.  But to my surprised, she never made a peep.  She sat there almost in a coma, her mind obviously elsewhere.  When they sang, she was silent.  When they read a story, she didn't look at the pictures.  When the teacher asked a question, Daphne, my little know-it-all, never raised her hand.  And the look on her face said it all:  I am not present.

So we reluctantly took Daphne to the pediatrician.  He gave us some tests to fill out and one for Daphne's two teachers.  When we brought them in, it was confirmed.  Daphne had ADD.  She also was low on the spectrum for ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder).  I hadn't heard of this one, so I looked it up.  What it basically comes down to is the inability to perceive authority as something different from one's self.  In severe cases, it can mean a lot of worse things--really destructive, awful things.  But for Daphne what it basically meant was that she wasn't hardwired like most people to perceive that a teacher or a parent or a policeman or anyone else was a figure of innate authority who should be slightly feared, definitely minded.  To her, all people are on equal footing to herself.  So unless what they're asking makes sense to her and fits her own desires, they can be ignored without consequence.  This makes parenting/teaching/otherwise disciplining VERY challenging.  Where my other children, and the other children I've taught as a teacher, innately understand that you should follow adults, she doesn't.  Everything must be explained in a logical, rational way and it must be brought to coincide with her view of the situation, or else it is disregarded.  This includes matters of safety!  If she decides that nice strangers are OK to talk to, the rule about not talking to strangers is disregarded.

So, moving on, we talked as a couple about whether or not to put Daphne on medication.   But two factors ultimately made us decide to try.  1) My mother has severe ADHD for which she has taken medication for about the last 10-12 years or so.  She spent most of her life without it, without knowing why life was so hard for her.  Once the diagnosis was made, and medication ensued, her life changed.  She could think, learn, perceive...function!  Meds were not a cure-all, but the difference between her on and off meds was remarkable.  2) Daphne simply wasn't learning.  At all.  She wasn't learning and she was struggling socially.  She wasn't self-aware enough to realize she was behind or "different."  But others noticed.  She didn't make friends at school.  She had a hard time keeping friends in the neighborhood.  Her ADD was already having a huge impact on her life, and she had only just started school.  We knew there were possibly other methods of dealing with ADD--not med related--but we felt time was of the essence with her, and the longer we let it go while we experimented, the further behind she would get and the harder it would be to catch her up.  So we started, with some reservations, on the pharmaceutical path. 

Med #1 was Adderall. Adderall is a stimulant.  I don't know the whole chemical background of ADHD and medication, but I know that there are chemicals missing in the brains of ADHD people that most people have.  And these meds stimulate the production of these chemicals.  Well, Adderall turned Daphne into a monster.  Within 2 days, Daphne was frustrated, angry, emotional, irrational, confrontational.  She also completely stopped eating, had no appetite at all, and couldn't fall asleep at night, which undoubtedly only exacerbated the emotional symptoms.  She was so mean and aggressive that I would go to bed in tears every night.  After only a week of the proposed 4 week trial, I stopped giving Daphne Adderall.  No benefits at school could outweigh these side effects.  Within a day of going off Adderall, Daphne's side effects subsided and she returned to her normal, happy, pleasant (though distracted) self.

Med # 2.  Tourette's Syndrome runs in our family.  And one of the minor side effects Addreall also caused in Daphne was tics : squinching of eyes, squeezing of hands or doing gestures with her hands, moving her lips or tongue in odd ways repetitively.  And since my mother has Tourette's, which is aggravated by stimulants, we chose to try a non-stimulant med next.  My mom had had good success with Strattera, so that's what we chose.   The Strattera seemed to work well at first.  We watched Daphne closely for signs of the aggression, irrationality, and mood swings, but none appeared.  Her appetite and sleep were also seemingly not affected.  So then I waited to see if there were any positive effects from the med.  A couple of weeks after she started it, her teacher reported that Daphne had improved dramatically at school.  She was participating, staying on task, completing work, and learning!  So this was great news for us.  Unfortunately, over the course of the next 6 months, the negative symptoms we had seen with the Adderall began to occur with the Strattera.  They came on much more gradually.  But by the end of the school year, I almost couldn't live with Daphne anymore.  She was so hostile, so emotionally fragile--the slightest little thing would send her to wails and tears--argumentative, and hard to deal with.  She also began to have trouble sleeping and eating again.  I started withholding the medication on the weekends just to give Daphne's body a chance to sleep and get calories in, and I noticed that on those days, she was so much more pleasant and rational.  So I made the tough choice to take her off meds.  Within 3-4 days, Daphne was back to being happy, cheerful, cooperative, and loving.  Man, what a difference!!  And since it was summer break, I wasn't too worried about her focus issues.

Med # 3.  Flash forward to 1st grade.  We started Daphne at a new school, a second-year charter school.  We knew that new charters often have some growing pains, and we were prepared to be patient as the school worked out the kinks.  But we weren't prepared for a school that was a complete and utter mess.  A combination of radical educational theories (no homework, "green" learning - no books or papers, multi-sensory learning--kids having to spend part of each class up and moving as they learned, and class rotating like they do in high school) as well as a terrible teacher and a complete lack of curriculum meant that Daphne's opportunity to learn was severely compromised.  Add to that that she was unmedicated for her ADD through most of the year and it meant that Daphne lost an entire year of school.  Over the summer, before 2nd grade, Daphne had her 7-year check up, and the pediatrician recommended a new medication, Intuniv.  Intuniv, he said, had a very low side-effect profile.  It was new.  But we might want to give it a try.   Since going off Strattera, the worst of Daphne's bad behaviors had subsided.  But she was still far more difficult to deal with than her siblings (due to her ODD) and was still struggling to hear me talk to her and complete any small task I asked of her.   Knowing that she had a new school year coming up, I decided to give it a try.  Intuniv was a success!  Of sorts.  It did not, unfortunately, affect her focus much.  She was still very inattentive and struggled to complete even the smallest tasks.  But the Intuniv had a marked affect on her ODD.  Daphne became much less argumentative.  She began to listen to her mom and dad, to consider our requests as actual options, and to obey.  Her teachers at church remarked that she was so much easier to handle.  She didn't become docile or boring; she retained her lively spark.  But she just became more...."normal" in terms of being able to follow instructions like other children.  So that was a great blessing.  Being Daphne's parent suddenly became a positive experience instead of a constant tug-of-war.  Daphne has been on Intuniv about 9 months now.  It continues to help her ability to listen and obey and we have noticed few side effects.  (At first it made her VERY talkative.  She seemed to have a motor mouth that we could hardly shut up.  But that subsided.  It also made her VERY tired at first.  We knew that would happen, but it took trying different dosages and different times to give it before we found the best one - 2 mgs taken at 4pm, or , along with Focalin, 1 mg at 8am and 1 mg at 4pm.   She does still have short wakeful periods at night that she didn't have before, but overall the side effects are way less than the positive effects.)  So Yay for Intuniv!!

Med # 4.  FOCALIN!   Although Daphne's Intuniv helped her ODD and the negative behaviors that go with that tremendously, it did little to nothing for her inattentiveness.  We still struggled to get her to do any sustained activity for more than a few seconds, and the more "painful" activities, like trying to read or do a chore, were impossible.  Every attempt to get her to sound out words ended in tears.  Her Sensory Processing Disorder also was making life miserable.  She would only wear one pair of shoes (heaven help us if she misplaced them!) no socks, no jeans, very few pants, and only shirts with no embroidery or embellishment of any kind (they bothered her skin).  Getting her dressed every day was a nightmare.  Tears and screaming always ensued.  This is what eventually drove me to a new pediatrician, one who specialized in psychiatric issues.   While visiting the NP, Helen Aoki, she honed in on the fact that Daphne was so terribly behind in school (we had started at a new school by then and she was more than a year behind her peers).  She wanted to focus more on fixing that than the sensory disorder because the consequences of Daphne getting even further behind were much more severe.  (Daphne had been put in a remedial reading group with a speciality teacher, and even in that she was below the lowest child.  Essentially she was at the level she was when she started Kindergarten.)  So when she suggested a stimulant medication, my first reaction was to revolt.  But I heard her out, and she explained why Focalin was different than Addreall and the other stimulants.  In basic language, scientists had managed to isolate the particles that tended to cause the side effects, and Focalin was only the pure essence of the med without the side effects.  I was skeptical, but I absolutely knew that Daphne's lack of focus and inability to learn at all in school was extreme and would cause her to fail school ultimately.  (I had been in to observe her again, also to guest teach in her glass, and even when I was there, she couldn't manage to pay attention to me at all.)  So we tried the focalin and....


I had her teacher carefully observe her.  Earlier in the year, the teacher had created these half sheets she'd send home daily where she'd assess Daphne in 6 areas where she struggled (behaviorally) and would give her a smiley, middle, or frowny face for both am and pm.  Daphne typically would get between 1 and 6 smileys a day, a few middles, and the rest frownies.  Well, the first day on Focalin, she had a perfect score--12 smileys!  The second day, 12 smileys!  The third and fourth days, 11/12 and 12/12 smileys.  I called the teacher to ask her about it--I wondered if she were being more lenient because she knew I was expecting results.  But no, she said, Daphne seemed surprisingly focused, was where she was supposed to be when she was supposed to be there.  She took correction much better and apologized immediately for being sassy.  She was finishing her work in class and getting along better with the other kids.   Needless to say, we were thrilled!

It has been about 6 weeks now since she started the Focalin.  She has never had less than 10 smileys on her teacher sheets since then.  Her test scores have improved, her all-around behavior has improved, and her ability to get along with other kids and teachers has improved.  I don't see the affects as much at home because the pill only lasts about 8 hours.  It's wearing off about the time she gets home from school.  But even with that (and on weekends, where sustained focus isn't as prevalent), I still see positive improvements.  And remember that sensory processing disorder?  It has come much more into the normal range.  She still has issues with all the things she did before--socks, shoes, tags, seams, jeans, etc.--but she is rational about them now.  You can calmly explain to her that sandals are not appropriate for winter, and that stockings must be worn to church, and more often than not, she'll comply.  There are still occasional melt-downs over shoe choice, and she still refuses to wear jeans (more out of habit than anything, I think), but we're making progress.  And there are far fewer come-aparts over clothing (or anything else now).  Daphne has become pleasant, cooperative, happy, fun, and is channeling her vast imagination and creativity for good instead of evil, LOL!

So anyway, I'm very happy to say that the combination of Focalin and Intuniv have been a godsend.  We could not be more thrilled with the results and are carefully monitoring her for any ill side-effects which may crop up.  But so far, there haven't been any of note.  So if anyone reading this is on the fence about trying Focalin, I highly recommend it.  Of course, everyone's body chemistry is different.  And a pill that works for one person might not work for another.  But this one has been so good I think it would be worth giving it a try.  The positive effects on Daphne socially and academically (as well as to our relationship as mother and daughter) far outweigh any small negatives associated with the meds.  Having a happy, productive, socially accepted child with a positive self-image is the greatest thing a parent could ask for.