Saturday, December 04, 2010

Playing with Trains

Over Thanksgiving I went to my Mom's and got the H.O. trains that I received for Christmas when I was a kid (probably 8 or 9?). Today Christopher wasn't feeling well so to keep him occupied, I took them out and set them up. I think at first he didn't know what they were, until he saw the engine.

Yes, these are probably 30+ years old and still work great.

I figure I have to refinish the table anyway, so why not?

Having lunch while the trains go by.

Note where the speed lever is. He's definitely my kid, wants everything to go faster! I would slow it down so the engine wouldn't flip off the track and he'd say 'push that button. Faster'. He's struggling with his 'B' and 'F' sounds so it came out 'push that button bastard'.

Had to explain several times not to put things on the track!

(Yes John and Pat I only took my trains. The rest are either at Mom's or in Dad's basement.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

AT&T DSL Billing issues - update

I'm posting this so others can find out what is going on.

If you signed up for the AT&T DSL promotional offer where you get half off for 12 months and still haven't seen a credit on your bill you need to call them.

After four months of being told it may take 3 months to see the credit, I finally had enough and vented on Twitter. Someone from AT&T replied and asked me to send her the information about my account and what was going on. (I like that they responded, by why was a public bitching session required to get help?)

Today I received a call from an AT&T Escalation representative and here is what she told me:

When I signed up for the DSL, the person taking the call was supposed to submit a request for the discount, but in my case DID NOT. The rep told me that she made the request and has manually credited my account. Since it will now take 3 months for the credit to become active, she is going to manually credit me each month.

First, how old are the AT&T billing systems that it takes 3 months for a credit to be applied? Seriously, I'm in 'computers' and this is the dumbest thing I've heard in a long time. One month I get, 3, come on.

Second, how didn't the people on 800# not see that there was not a credit request each time I called. Or are they just trying to get me off the phone?

So if you are having the same problem, bitch on Twitter (@att) or call and ask for proof that your credit request was submitted. Escalate if it wasn't so you aren't waiting ANOTHER 3 months.

Anyway, this should be fixed now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Setting a precedent!

At first I was going to write this posting as an apology to Meghan's future boyfriends and spouse for setting a bad precedent, but then I realized it is just part of being in a relationship. As a parent I have the view that the main things I need to do for my children is provide them a loving environment, the self esteem to do what ever they want and the education and background to succeed. I can't be responsible for her (new found) expensive tastes.

What the heck am I writing about? Well, today is Meghan's 16th birthday. Being a child of the 80's I've always had in my mine that I need to buy my daughters diamond earrings on their 16th birthday. So on Thursday I stopped at Deb's favorite jewelry store, The Shane Company and bought her a pair of diamond and white gold earnings. Of course I can't buy something like that for my daughter and forget my wife, so I also got Deb a pair of gold hoop earrings.

Yes, the whole time I was looking at them I kept thinking back to the Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwald's character giving the diamond earring that her Dad bought her to the dirt bag. I hope Meghan has more sense than that ;)

While the guy was filling out the paperwork he was nicely trying to upsell me. (which is fine, I expected it and he wasn't pushy, which is why I really like going there.) I had mentioned that we'd bought a lot of stuff there over the years and I guess our record in their CRM system shows it, since he said "Wow, yes you have". I made a joke about my 'annual tithe to Tom' and he gave me a strange look, so I explained. 19+ years ago Deb and I went looking for engagement rings and ended up at their store by Windy Hill. She saw the ring she wanted but we didn't get it. I of course snuck back and bought it, thus starting the precedent with Deb.

For many, many years, everything I bought Deb for Christmas or our Anniversary was from The Shane Company. For our 10th anniversary I even brought Meghan with me to pick out the anniversary band. At one point I started joking that at Christmas I was paying my 'annual tithe to Tom' (Tom Shane is the guy you hear on the commercials and he is the CEO. He's also been mocked by SouthPark and the local jewelers as 'Mister Happy'). So as the guy tried to upsell me, I kept responding with 'have it'. I even pointed out that I have Tanzinite earrings, which they didn't ever sell any more!'

So whoever you are in Meghan's future, I'm not really sorry for starting her down this path!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Special Needs Trusts

One of the stranger things all parents have to do is prepare their wills. Having a baby is often the first time most of us think about our mortality and what will happen if we were to die.

15 year ago, Deb and I did a will when Meghan was 6 months old. We didn't have a lot then (the bank owned 90% of that house then!) so the will was pretty basic and done through one of these boilerplate law offices. It covered the traditional 'and other children not yet alive' clauses so we didn't think about it much since then.

Similar concerns about life insurance. We bought it, we pay the premiums each month and I don't think much about it.

Then I read an article a couple of months ago about the realities of having an autistic child. As most wills are written, when the estate of the parents is closed, the money from the estate goes directly to the children.

Reality of autistic children though, is that additional money may DISQUALIFY them for some services. Most government services are based on the income level of the recipient (not necessarily the family) so a sudden influx of cash would remove services.

Worst case scenario is he would lose all his services for as long as the cash lasts, then go back (usually after a waiting period), with no income. Which is not what we want.

While we have no idea what Christopher's life is going to be in a year never mind 14 when he's 18, we do need to think about it.

The solution is what is called a special needs trust. When the estate is executed, the money for the child having special needs (not just autism, but anything unusual) is placed into a trust with an executor who decides when/how the money is used. The nice thing is this trust is NOT included in the income of the child, so any services are not lost.

Reading about this, and the realities of grown autistic children, I reached out to a friend to find a lawyer to help set one up.

However, nothing needed to be changed. The basic will had a clause that allowed the executor of the estate to decide if one of the recipients of the estate was not fit to receive the money, to establish a trust for him or her. Basically, the special needs trust for Christopher was already in place.

Even the lawyer was surprised, since he had never seen a generic will written in Georgia that had that clause.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Algebra book review "Hot X: Algebra Exposed"

Now that everyone is finally back in school, I have a book review for you guys. For the record, we are starting the 5th week of school here. We've already received the first round of grades and have adjusted priorities as required ;)

Meghan is now a Sophomore in High School, but it seems like 10 years ago that she was taking 6th grade math and asking for help. And I couldn't remember how to do about 20% of it (one day out of five). Back then I found a couple of books by Danica McKellar targeted at Middle School girls that helped both of us figure it out. First book "Math doesn't Suck", second "Kiss My Math". Through middle school and part of Freshman year I was able to keep up with Meghan either by memory, or reviewing one of the books. Of course I made her read them too! Second half of High School Algebra 1, though had me doing a lot more research to remember how to do thing!

Throw into the mix Courtney as a 6th grader last year and we were doing a lot of math in our house!

Danica released another book over the summer "Hot X: Algebra Exposed". This would have been great last year. Between reasonable explanations of FOIL (come on everyone, say it with me! First, Outer, Inner Last!. Anyone else remember their freshman math teacher saying that over and over? Hi Ms. Elias!) Polynomials and graphing, this book is pretty good. While I didn't work through all the problems (that sounds like homework Mom!) I did review each of the sections and it is pretty good.

I even read several of the sections for teenage girls. Many of them are from successful women who struggled with math or school in general and how they succeeded! Probably the best one is Danica ripping on Twilight. From page 26: "And, oh yeah, if a guy says he might hurt you or that he's "dangerous" - seriously, run! ... You are way too smart to let you hormones make important decisions for you, little missy." I think this is great!

As I pointed out with the other two books, even if you have boys, get the books. You can read them and help them (come on, when was the last time you heard FOIL before this review?) or they can. Just tell him you promise not to tell anyone you have them ;-)

And I'm sorry that that FOIL song will be going through your head the rest of the day.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

25th Anniversary of Hurricane Gloria

With the East coast of the US getting ready for a major September Hurricane, I was reminded of another hurricane that hit the east coast 25 years ago: Gloria.

In 1985 I was a 17 year old high school senior. My parents had left a few days before the storm to go to Hawaii for their 20th wedding anniversary, leaving my brother Patrick and I home. Pat was a freshman in HS at the time. Our older brother John was away at college, and apparently my parents told several of our neighbors that if they saw John, Ed Lizak or Jason Ross to call the police since they weren't supposed to be there. Makes you wonder what they expected to happen?

My aunt was supposed to be staying with us while they were away, but something happened and she wasn't there the day of the storm.

The storm came through pretty quickly and was over. It was surreal that a few hours after the storm was gone it was sunny and clear. Pat and I started surveying the damage and found a few downed trees and a lot of leaves and limbs around. We lost power during the storm and it wasn't until the next morning that we got it back. Somehow our phone line was hit by flying debris so we didn't have a phone for several days.

Once the rain and wind stopped I drove down to Country Inn Pizza to see if they had any pizzas. Yes, in hindsight that was a stupid thing to do. Luckily the roads were fine. I figured they had natural gas ovens so they should have been okay. Apparently several dozen other people thought the same thing and by the time I got there they were out of dough! So I went to the 7-11 and used a pay phone to call Deb and my Aunt. Yes kids, this was before cell phones and the internet.

When I got back home it was getting dark and Pat and I were hungry, so we broke out the camping gear, including a Coleman lantern, and started eating all the frozen food so it wouldn't go bad. As it got darker I remember hearing many of our neighbors trying to find charcoal, flashlights etc. Pat and I sat on the deck eating and listening to the radio. It was fun to listening to them curse and yell while he and I were relaxing making sure Dad's beer didn't go bad. At some point after dark one of the neighbors came over. At first I thought he wanted to see if we were okay since he knew our parent's weren't home. Instead he wanted to know if we had another lantern!

The power came back the next day, but it took a few days to get the phone fixed.

Looking back, I don't remember being scared or even worried about it.

Living Houston during the summer of 1989 was a different situation though ... And a topic for another blog!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why I bought an iPad for my 4 year old

Back in mid-June I asked on twitter and Facebook if anyone had recommendations for a case for an iPad for a 4 year old. Very few people knew then that Christopher is PDD-NOS, so there were a few wise-ass comments, a few that questioned my sanity and a pointer to the Belkin case at Best Buy.

The first time I saw an iPad was at work where my boss bought one for the office to play with. I was fourth or fifth in line to get it, and loaded a couple of kids games on it before bringing it home for a long weekend. Much to my surprise, Christopher figured out how to use it immediately. He hadn't (and still doesn't) show any interest in the iPod touches the girls have so I didn't expect much. Boy was I wrong. Within a few minutes he knew how to open the games, close them, touch the screen, draw in the drawing app and navigate.

The weekend went by really quick, but one thing was clear, we needed to get one for Christopher. So I ordered one in June. The original idea was it would be Deb's and that Christopher would use it for educational games etc. Well, as those of you with kids can probably guess, that didn't happen ;-) The device was delayed in shipping, so I received it on a Friday, loaded it up with apps and Deb took it and the kids to Connecticut for their summer visit on Sunday. It would be almost 3 weeks before I saw him using it after the first day.

(FYI, I did come up with some ideas on how to use one in a business environment when 'playing' with the work one.)

While he was in Connecticut and Maryland visiting family, everyone commented on how well he used it and the ways he was interacting. They didn't have wifi in either place so the fun didn't start until they got home ...

The first thing we noticed the few days he was here, was he would interact with Talking Carl, tickling, yelling etc. which in July was very unusual. Then Christopher was mostly consuming media, not interacting with it.

One of his favorite games called '5 in 1' which has matching card games (think 8 or 16 cards face down, pick one and find it's match) using letters, numbers and animals. Not a week before the iPad arrived he wouldn't do something similar for his pediatrician, but he picked up on it pretty quickly. He now has another using Thomas characters but that's only 8 cards so he gets bored quickly with it.

The biggest investment at the time was a PECS card application called Grace App for Autism ( While technically not a PECS application (I think PECS is a name brand) it is an application that he can scroll through and find the picture cards to build a story strip to let us know what he wants. It was $35 which is pretty expensive for an application, but the first few weeks was pretty handy. One nice feature of the application is we can upload our own pictures to it, so I scanned all the ones we've made the previous 15 months and put them on it.

Christopher is talking a lot more now, but sometimes when he gets frustrated that we don't understand him he'll open that app and find the picture.

The iPad also came in handy when potty training. He's been very difficult to potty train, since he doesn't want to sit still for very long and can't really play with his trains or Legos on the toilet. One weekend in early August I sat him on the toilet, loaded up a movie on Netflix on the iPad and spent the whole weekend in the bathroom. We watched movies, played games and read stories (There is a really good Toy Story Disney book app that is free). By the end of the weekend he knew to go the bathroom on the toilet and we've pretty much stopped wearing pull ups during the day.

Except that now he wants the iPad exclusively to watch movies. So I logged out of Netflix automatically and told him it was broken. He seems to understand that so the drama stopped. Until someone showed him the YouTube application. You want a headache? Go to YouTube and search for "thomas the tank engine accidents happen". I don't know the story behind it, but basically it is videos of Thomas engines crashing to a song 'Accidents happen'.

Next huge drama was that those videos were all he wanted to do on the iPad, so I had to hide the app. Something good did come out of it though, he started mimicking some of the crashes using his trains, which is something he hadn't done before. So we're torn between him obsessing about those videos and how he's starting to mimic! (Also, there are some bizarre videos on YouTube about Thomas. He didn't know what to think when Thomas went into the shed and blew up the place because he was the mad bomber.)

Also, Christopher started ABA therapy in early August and his therapist is using the iPad for games, interactions etc. His therapist says it is a great tool for the things they need to do.

So yes, I bought my 4 year old an iPad. And so far it is one of the best 'non-traditional' thing we've done to help him.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Potty training a really tall boy who likes to climb

Those are M&Ms taped to the wall about 2 feet from the ceiling. Those are the 'rewards' for going on the potty. Except that he is so tall that if he stands on the chair or toilet that he can reach them unless we put the up really high.

The chair is for me or Deb to sit in while he's waiting. And so we can hold the iPad ;-)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book, Book, Book at 5:30 am

The little guy woke us up at 5:30 this morning. Why is that worthy of a blog post instead of a Facebook or Twitter update? Well, because he woke us up with a book. And he kept saying "book, book" over and over until Deb read it to him.

The last few days he's insisted that we read him the same book, each night and last night he went to sleep holding it. The book? The Berenstain Bears on the Moon. This is unusual because up to now he hasn't had a 'must read' book. He has some he likes us reading, but no 'must have' book before bed.

This got me thinking about other books that our kids made us read and books that have specific meanings at various times in our lives. I've been meaning to do this since the Spring. I even sent myself an email outlining this post ;-) I don't remember the trigger specifically, but I'm pretty sure it was something that Elizabeth Lynn Casey did. Who is Elizabeth Lynn Casey? She is the pseudonym for a woman I went to High School with. Turns out she paid attention in the various English classes and is pretty good author. She also has a really good blog here. (No she's not related to Deb, though Deb's maiden name is Casey and I'm pretty sure they knew each other in High School.)

Making good use of Social Media, Elizabeth has questions for her readers or answers questions about her writing almost every day. I can't find which post prompted this idea for me, but here goes. (If this is bad, its her fault ;-)

I don't remember reading books as a little kid, but I know I did read a lot. I distinctly remember going to the library several times with my Mom and that there were always books around our house. My first memory related to a book is reading an Erma Bombeck book and sharing one of the more funny passages with my Grandfather. Only to have him question my Dad about why I was reading things like that as a kid. It took a few more years before I could read things my parents had!

I remember reading Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, war stories, history and mysteries. I remember going through a Alistair MacClean and Agatha Christie phase and even reading all of Leon Uris' books as a teenager.

I also remember really clearly having my copy of Star Wars taken away by a teacher who caught me reading it in class instead of the science book. That was one of times my parents had the 'we're disappointed in you for doing it, but can't really punish you because it was a good thing to be doing' lectures. Yes there were many, many of those as a kid.

Throw in The Outsiders, That Was Then This is Now, Guadalcanal Diary and many of the fun "school" books and I was always reading.

The book that stands out the most for me in the Green Berets. It was the book I was reading when the really cute brunette 15 year old looked over the seat on the airplane and asked me what I was reading.

Skip ahead a bunch of years, the cute brunette and I had our first Daughter and started reading children's books. Meghan had two favorites, which we read to her every night. The first, Guess How Much I Love You we could recite in our sleep. And probably did a few times. The second was the Sandman. Being a good father I of course made the books fun. One of the pictures has Big Nut Brown Hare bending over to jump and I got Meghan to say 'he's pooping!' each time we got to that page!

Then Courtney came along and she liked the same books as Meghan, but really liked Good Night Moon and some annoying Barbie's little sister horse book. I couldn't stand the Barbie book, but she had to have it each night!

As the girls got older their reading tasks got better (or not ... Twilight, uggh) and I found I was reading a lot of things they were. Yes I've read Tale of Desperaux, Spirit Bear, Deep Dark and Dangerous and all the Harry Potter books. It is a lot of fun to talk to them about the book that we are both reading!

A few days ago I started reading the Berestain Bears book to Christopher and he immediately was interested. He studied each page and even pointed to a few of the pictures and said the appropriate words or word-sounds. As part of his therapy we stop him ever minute or so when he's doing something fun and get him to interact. So things like 'say 'A' or 'say 'rock' or 'what is this?'. With this book he is very responsive. So when ho woke us up at 5:30 Deb read the book to him, but he never went back to sleep!

I hope that when my kids look back like I am now that they have fond memories of all the books we've read together.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Book review: Making Sense of Autistic Spectrum Disorders

There is no easy way to start this post, so here goes. Our son has been diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD). In particular he has been diagnosed as PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified). I won't get into a lot of details here about what is different about PDD-NOS and "autistic" but he is being treated by a Developmental Pediatrician for (among other things) Autistic symptoms.

So why am I writing this? Two year ago Christopher started Preschool at the same church-school that our other daughters went to. He was definitely different as a toddler than both girls, but they weren't that similar either. By Christmas we knew something wasn't right, so we started having him tested and eventually moved him into a special needs preschool at the local public elementary school. As good as Christopher's doctors, therapists and teachers are, I still found myself overwhelmed with what was going on.

His doctor explained things well, we asked lots of questions and took lots of notes, but sometimes we missed things, or got so hammered by what was going on we missed subtle things. And, at least for me, I was afraid of the answers to some of my 'why' and 'what will happen when he's older' questions, so I didn't ask them.

We were given a lot of books, articles etc. I spent a lot of time reading on the internet, but still didn't have a good idea of what was going to happen. Honestly, we still don't know, but the book I am going to review below helped answer a lot of questions.

I found this book by accident. I was on the campus of Georgia Tech before a meeting and decided to kill a few minutes in the Barnes and Noble there. I saw this book on one of the tables, read a few pages and immediately bought it. To this day I haven't seen it in any other Barnes and Noble when I'm just walking around, so I got lucky that day.

The author is James Coplan, and from what I've been able to find out about him, a respected Developmental Pediatrician with many years of experience with Autistic children.

The first part of the book is about what the Autism Spectrum is, how your child can be diagnosed, some scientific information about what may cause Autism and what it means. It tackles head on the "Explosion" of autism diagnoses the media has been hysterical about and talks about what scientists do know and what has been proven false. Even if you don't read the whole book, find it in a bookstore and read Chapter 4.

Having completed the evaluation process for Christopher, what he writes about was still fresh in my mind. Several things I hadn't heard before were presented, several that I had heard but hadn't quite comprehended were touched on. Fortunately for my understanding, but unfortunate for Autistic children, the 'what' was presented and the author clearly stated when they don't know 'why'. There are still a lot of WTF things that are proving scientifically/statistically valid that can't be explained. Things like the jump in head circumference as an infant that has a high correlation to a later ASD diagnosis.

The second part talks about intervention approaches, progression of therapies as age and abilities increase including a pretty good set of chapters about school and how to tell your child their diagnosis. We are still really early in these processes, but it was relieving to see some of the 'next things' that we will be doing in the years ahead.

The last chapter in this section was one of the best in the book. He hits heads on the "Quackery" that is in the Autistic community. From the outright frauds, to the overzealous but good meaning therapists who say they can "cure" Autism. Having already thrown money at Christopher's therapy a few times it was a good reminder that there are no quick fixes. (Though sometimes the unexpected 'new' thing helps a lot. I'll write about the iPad we bought Christopher in another post.) The author also makes a suggestion/plea to the parents to be more open to letting their child take part in well defined and well supervised trials to see if new treatments work or to help with the "pure science" that we lack in understanding these diseases.

The last section was very refreshing and touched on the topics of the family, financial planning and what may happen in the years ahead. He included an example of a prescription he wrote to the parents of a severely Autistic child. What was it for? "Dinner for two, refill six times, take as needed". He even asked for the receipts to prove the parents were taking time to maintain their relationship. He also reminds us to take care of our other children. This is one area where I think we are doing okay, but sometimes you need to be reminded.

The final chapter in the third section is about the practical matters of finances, special education rights and planning for the care of your child after you die. Not something you want to think about, but one of the examples hit home. The parents were no longer able to restrain their 12 year old autistic son when he hit puberty and had to place him in a group home. While I don't think we'll come to that with Christopher, at 4 he is already head and shoulders over most 4 year olds and is very strong. That could be us some day.

The book ends with a lot more medical/technical discussions and several dozen pages of references and resources. The section about the drug treatments and why they help is fascinating.

Unlike most of the other books and articles we've read about ASD, this is the first that either doesn't dumb it down or have 12 syllable words ever other word. The flow of the book is very good and I found it easy to read. I did have to put it down a few times to digest what we may encounter with Christopher.

For anyone entering on this journey and feeling overwhelmed, this is a great book to start with. Every chapter has tons of references if you want to dig deeper into an area when you are ready.

So do we know now what is going to happen with Christopher? No we don't. We've seen some significant improvements based on some therapies (and time) and others that didn't seem to help at all. I still lay awake many nights wondering what is going to happen to him and us. I worry a lot about the impact of this on our daughters, but I am also impressed and proud of how they are coping and how this is shaping their views of what they want their futures to be. We're still optimistically putting money every month into his college savings and so far haven't had to divert those dollars into his treatment (don't get me started on the insurance practices I've learned about, but I can say they have been both good and bad.)

What does this mean for this blog? Not much. I'm not going to be blogging exclusively about Christopher, Autism research/breakthroughs etc. I will blog about things that we find out that help or didn't, but I'll still blog about general family things.

Making Sense of Autistic Spectrum Disorders
James Coplan, M.D.
ISBN 978-0-553-80681-6

Friday, July 02, 2010

I think it is that one Dad!

Today I was working on the Capri and Christopher wanted to see what I was doing.

After "helping" me as I took off the door panels and removed the mounting hardware from both doors, he wanted to help me with the brake proportioning valve.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Random thoughts: NetFlix

A couple of months ago I dropped our Showtime/HBO subscription via DirecTV. We found that we weren't watching anything on those channels or that what we were watching we actually were DVRing and watching weeks/months later (Dexter comes to mind).

I also found we were getting a lot of movies, some old, via Hollywood Video and later Redbox. (The Hollywood Video that was near us is long gone now)

So, I got us the 1-DVD at a time NetFlix subscription. This also includes free unlimited streaming via our Wii.

We've ended up using this more than I would have expected and not in really 'bad' ways. First, the streaming to the Wii is great. Lots of kids stuff, but also older movies and TV shows that we wouldn't explicitly go looking for in a video store. (Anyone remember Heavy Metal the movie? It is on there. And it isn't nearly as good as I remember from college ;-)

The streaming can also be a to PC, so we have it setup in the 'gym' so you can watch something on the PC while working out. (Technically it is my office, but that is where the elliptical machine is) This is where streaming TV episodes is really useful 24 minutes per episode is a good workout!

We now have a 'system' for using the 1 DVD at a time.
- Saturday or Sunday night we either watch a PG movie or PG-13+ for Deb and I (closest thing we get to a date night these days ...)
- Monday drop the disk into the mail, put a PG or G movie into the top of our queue for the little guy (or something the Courtney wants to see)
- Wednesday it arrives. He watches it Wednesday or Thursday morning
- Drop it into the mail on Thursday and push something Deb and I want to watch to the top of the queue
- Get a new DVD on Saturday and repeat.

Only snag is when Courtney (12) wants to see something that isn't for the little guy. Then he misses out that week, or we get it for the weekend and I miss out.

We still have a 20+ DVD queue of things that I want to see, so this should work for a many more months. At $9/month vs. 40+ we were spending on HBO and DVD rentals it is actually a pretty good deal.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

18th Anniversary Weekend

On Monday we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. The day ended a very busy, but very fun weekend.

Saturday was the annual Silverpop family party. The last few years were at the Atlanta Zoo, but this year we did something totally different: Malibu Grand Prix. As our CEO said during his 30 second speech during lunch, the day was for the families, and the company was thanking them for putting up with the job. Pretty cool thing to do, especially in this economy.

The park was for our use only from 9 until 12 and it was great not having lines or rude people to deal with. Courtney is tall enough to drive a go-kart so she was excited. Christopher is tall enough to ride, so he and I must have been in 6 sessions. There was also a bouncy so he stayed busy!

I managed to break one of the go-karts during our first session. I was going around the sharp left turns sideways and Christopher was loving it! One time though we bounced sideways and the clutch let go. We had to be pushed back to the start.

Tired little guy:

On Sunday I took the kids to the pool while Deb got ready for our 'date'. I had bought tickets to see Avenue Q but didn't tell her where we were going or what we'd be doing. Only that she had to be ready to leave at 3:30.

We first went to an early dinner at a good Italian restaurant (Scalini's for the locals) and I still hadn't told her what we were doing. When we got to the theater she was surprised and still couldn't figure out what the show was about. Her only clues were the t-shirts they were selling "The Internet is for Porn" and "It sucks to be me".

We arrived a little early, so we had a drink and 'people watched'. Yes, there is a very interest crowd at musicals. From parents with tweener kids, other couples on dates, to a 'blue hair gang' just about every demographic you could think of were there.

The show is hysterical, think Muppets with adult problems and adult adventures. I particularly liked the 'bad bears' that kept encouraging the other characters to do stupid adult things like Long Island Ice Teas!

I almost cried I was laughing so hard at this song:

After the show we got some dessert and went home.

I took Monday, our actual anniversary off, so we went to breakfast with Christopher and he and I played at a park while Deb went to the Dentist. I know, not sure why she picked that day for her appointment!

In the afternoon we took all 3 kids to see Shrek in 3D Imax. Damn that was expensive. Christopher would not wear the glasses and got upset when I would, so I kept taking them off, waiting until he looked at the screen then putting the back on. I think the movie was okay. The 3D scenes I did see were pretty good.

The kids also finished school last Friday, so we're settling into our Summer routine. Except I still get up at 5:50 to go to work!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Busy Spring

This was one of the busiest springs in a long time. Between Softball, Girl Scouts and general kids stuff we were socked.

Courtney's team again had the best team in her park, but this year wasn't as lopsided as previous. Every team except one had a chance to beat every other. And the one the didn't had their pitcher break her leg in the third or fourth game, otherwise they would have been competitive as well.

Courtney had a lot of good hits and one great one. Against one of the tougher teams she hit a ball in the air over the right-center fielder's head and scored a home run!

Unfortunately they came in fourth in the end of year tournament, but they played hard the whole time.

This year I wasn't "dugout dude" since the girls are old enough to manage themselves. So Deb and I split going to the games. It was strange not being the dugout for the first time in probably 3 years.

We did a lot of projects this spring, but the biggest was expanding the swingset. This is the set we bought for Meghan when she was 3, so it was getting a little worn. And filthy. Also Christopher keeps running to his Godmother's house since she has a climbing wall on her swingset.

So I replaced a few boards and expanded it a little.




Yes I have some staining still to do.

No I don't know who gave a 4 year old a 3 lb BFH.

Friday, March 05, 2010

I think the FAA is overreacting

Yes, the dad let the kid into the tower where technically he shouldn’t have been. But the infraction is minor. The dad told the kid what to say, the kid said it exactly and the dad went back to work. I don’t see how this was a problem.

As a kid I used to love going to work with my Dad. First because they had a breakfast cart that came around each morning with donuts, but second because I got to see some cool stuff. His work was the first time I saw Green-bar paper and a computer. (Think late 70’s here people!). At the time I thought it was cool, but I had no idea what it would be used for some day. Or that I would become a Computer Scientist in school. I also loved going to Tarrytown, which was where the research arm of General Foods was located. I got to try Pudding Pops before they were released and a couple of other cool things. (I later got a Summer intern job in Tarrytown, which was cool, except for trying the fat-substitutes that Entenmann’s was testing those days …)

I also remember one day, probably in 7th or 8th grade where I signed up for the ‘mayor for a day’ program through my Boy Scout troop. While I didn’t get to be the Mayor of Danbury (Jim Dyer was in those days, so no comments about me approving the Mall on swamp land), I did get to shadow the guy who ran the Danbury airport. I remember seeing the tower, where the planes were stored, looking at the lights on the runway, watching one of them get replaced. It was a really cool way to miss a day of school.

Honestly, when I heard about the JFK kid, I was jealous. I didn’t get to direct any planes when I was ‘in charge’ but I can only imagine how cool that would have been.

So as others have suggested, discipline the Dad and Supervisor, but don’t fire him. Bad enough the kid thinks he got his Dad in trouble, but can you image how he’ll feel if he gets fired?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

What my kids what me to read

As a parent I find myself looking for books that my kids would enjoy reading, even if it isn’t something ‘typical’ for their age or interests. While my oldest has a vampire fixation right now (and I’m eagerly awaiting her to change!), my middle child is pretty open to reading anything. She is also not above recommending to ME what to read.

This is a fun change from when I read what they were reading to help them understand their assignments. I remember reading Tale of Despereaux in one night because my oldest didn’t understand what happened in the dungeon. It is also different from when they read the books that we had to in Elementary and High School (The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird etc.) and I reread them because I remember how good they were. (Everyone still remembers what happens to Johnny right?)

So her recommendation for this week: Deep, Dark and Dangerous. A Ghost story for middle schoolers, she was totally engrossed in it a couple of weeks ago. She told me bits and pieces about it, so when she finished it the other day she started nagging me to read it. So I did. Pretty good story, kind of obvious once you get about 1/3 of the way in if you have experience with other mysteries or ghost stories, but I don’t think a 12 year old would have figured it out as soon as I did. That said, it does have a couple of twists at the end that I didn’t see coming, but that weren’t totally out in left field.

Since turnabout is fair play, her next ‘recommendation’ is a book I got her for Christmas that she originally didn’t want to read. But once she read a couple of chapters she was all over it! The book is Flight of the Phoenix, the first book in the Beastologist series. I’ll start that next week.

Now I need to find something for the Freshman that doesn’t involve vampires …

Monday, February 08, 2010

Odysseus's Resume

Meghan had a really cool homework assignment today: write Odysseus's Resume. (Yes, the guy who Homer wrote about. No not that Homer!)

Either she doesn't think I'm funny, or she didn't get my sarcasm gene. I made a few recommendations for what she should include and I'm sure she ignored me.

My favorite though was under accomplishments:

"Reintroduced Archery to the Royal Court. Led the Reduction in Force of the Queen's suitors."

I know, random.

Colorguard and Percussion Band Event

This past weekend Courtney had her first Colorguard competition. Meghan does Colorguard for the high school and this winter they started one for the 'feeder' Middle Schools for Meghan's school. Courtney watched Meghan at most of the football games this fall, so she wanted to try.

They'd only been doing it for 3 weeks, so their performance was short, but they all looked good. It was obvious a few of the girls were nervous (so were a lot of parents!) but they all did what they needed to. I didn't see any obvious mistakes and I think everyone was excited and relived when they finished.

Before Courtney's turn, there was a high school Percussion competition. Wow, that was something to see (and hear). It's one thing when they are on a football field, but inside a basketball gym you could feel some of the cymbals crashing and see the control and speed they have when drumming. One group, which I think won, were dressed in all black and the drum line wore black hoods. Very cool to watch.

Courtney has another competition in a couple of weeks, so I'll get some pictures then.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

50,000 miles already

Wow, I've been racking up a lot of mileage lately. Yesterday I hit 50,000 miles on the Mustang. It's on 06 I bought in March of 06 so I'm well beyond 1000 a month.

For reference I hit 30,000 after 30 months.

So far so good with the car. Only major cost has been tires, but I expect to need new struts and shocks soon. No new modifications, all spare change is going to the Capri.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Screaming steering repair

Anyone with a Caravan or Town and Country and 'screaming' power steering? Our 2003 had it until this morning. It was pretty annoying and 'sounded' a lot more expensive then it turned out.

The sound is what you'd expect when you're low on power steering fluid, except that the level in the reservoir was fine. After putting it off for a couple of months I was going to take it to a shop this weekend to be fixed. So I did an online search to see what they were probably going to have to do (and pay).

Boy was I shocked by how many other people had the same problem and what the solution turned out to be. Basically, the cheap ass Chrysler engineers put a filter in the reservoir that can't be replaced without replacing the whole thing. And it clogs pretty easily, starving the steering pump and making the noises.

Following the steps here, I bought the reservoir here and did the install. This video helped a lot to see what was needed.

The only thing I did differently was to use an extension on the 10mm socket to reach the nut beneath the suction hose. The extension allowed the ratchet to clear all the hoses and the nut was easy to remove. Took me about an hour total.

So for about $30 I solved what was others were charged hundreds for by the dealers and shop.

No, I didn't work on the Capri today.

Monday, January 25, 2010

She still needs to get good grades though!

Today my youngest daughter told me that the little guy is 'going to buy us all houses when he signs his NFL contract with the NY Giants.' and that 'she's going to have a dozen dogs and turtles'. She then went on about what kind of dogs etc.

I asked her about the house and she said that's what football players do for their sisters. I guess she better be nice to him!