Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Milestone

I had no idea I was close to any sort of milestone with the blog, and then I got my little weekly e-mail from Site Meter. As of today, I have had 1000 visits to the blog! Frankly, I'm shocked! And I know, some of you guys have had way more than that, but that's not bad for a new guy!

When I started this, I had no clue that anyone would ever find it and read it. Except for Sara, who promised she would! Thanks, Sara!! But other than that, I figured it would just be for me.

And I still write for my own enjoyment. But I also love the fact that I've gotten to know some of you who read and comment regularly by going and reading your blogs. I have fun sharing bits of my life with you. And I really enjoy reading bits of your life.

I've still got a lot to learn about the blog world. And a lot to learn about exploring my own 'voice' as an blogger/writer. And I'm looking forward to it!

Thanks for making it interesting and fun!

The Power Of The Pick

So everyone knows my kids got Nintendo DS Lites for Christmas. And we bought them cause they asked (begged, pleaded, made promises they can't keep, etc). But I did not truly understand the power!

The first day they played Animal Crossing Wild World and Mario Kart and Bust A Move and Nintendogs. They were happy.

And then came the day after Christmas. They wanted to go online.

Huh? I mean, they had mentioned during one of their scheduled begging sessions that they could play with each other wirelessly. I thought that was a good and sister both preoccupied so I could focus on my own idle pursuits. But no, they didn't mean wirelessly as in...within 20 feet of each other. They meant WIRELESSLY. Talking to the world!!

And they were ready to go. Would I help? Sure...let's get that manual and see what needs to be done. Well, the manual had me take that little plastic toothpick (the technical name is 'stylus'...but we all know it is just a plastic toothpick) and tap the screen a couple of times. That was it! Couldn't be easier. Now they could actually connect to anyone in the world who had a games with them...invite them to come and appear right on their little hand-held game! It was very cool.

I'm now hiding the extra toothpick for myself. I'm quite certain that toothpick contains the power to rule the world!!!

(Insert evil, mad scientist laugh here!)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Living With Extremes

I've mentioned along the way that Son16 has some special needs. Well, in fact, he is diagnosed with four different syndromes. They each play a part in how he (and we) gets through the day. But special days really turn up the thermostat on some of his issues...and Christmas brings two extremes that are hard to deal with in the beginning and a real joy to observe in the end.

The closer we got to Christmas, the more we saw his anxiety begin to peak. This is typical. He just gets so anxious about what gifts he will get. And he can't just ask a few times a day. Oh no. His obsessive-compulsive disorder won't allow for that! He asked dozens...seemingly hundreds of times a day. Over and over we had this conversation this year as he worried about whether or not he would get a Nintendo DS Lite...

Son16: So am I going to get a DS this year?
Me: Now you know I'm not gonna tell you what your gifts are.
Son16: But I just have to know.
Me: I know you want to know, but I'm not gonna give it up.
Son16: Can you just tell me if I'm getting a gift in the electronics category?
Me: Nope. All I can do is promise you that you'll be happy on Christmas morning.
Son16: So that means I am getting one???
Me: No, it means I'm not telling you what you are getting but you'll be happy with the things you get.
Son16: (huffs and puffs and stomps out of the room)

We had that little chat every day...several times every day. And his anxiety level went up every time.

And just when his head was about to explode...Christmas arrived.

And we see the other side of his personality. And let me tell ya, you have not seen unbridled excitement and enthusiasm until you see a kid labeled as 'severe' on the ADHD scale open that gift he has been wanting! Jumping, screaming, dancing, shouting. And the joy doesn't just last for a few minutes. It doesn't wear off as the day goes along. Oh no. Once again, the various syndromes feed on each other and the thrill of the gift lasts for days and days and days! It is fun to see that!

And just in case you are wondering, yes, he got the DS Lite. In fact, to avoid all the bickering, Daughter13 got one, too! And we've barely seen them since Monday morning!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sudoku Madness

My wife has the 'madness'. She loves sudoku puzzles.

It started innocently enough this summer when I was doing a puzzle. She asked me to show her how it worked. We solved one together. She never looked back.

She has now completed approximately 283,000 puzzles (rounded to the nearest 1000). And one of her favorite gifts under the tree yesterday was probably the least expensive. A gift bag filled with books of sudoku puzzles, pre-sharpened pencils, and cap erasers. Pre-sharpened pencils allow the puzzle fanatic to immediately begin solving without that pesky pencil sharpening chore. She liked that. And the pointy corner of cap erasers apparently make it much easier to erase the various little potential numbers in a square. Gotta have that.

And it wasn't long after the shredded gift wrap was whisked away that she was happily sudokuing. (I think I just created a verb! Webster, where are you??)

I couldn't let her top the 300,00 mark without a bit of a challenge, though. No 'easy' books for her. And one 'fiendish' level...just to test her advanced sudoku skills.

Merry Christmas, honey!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Race Is Over

It was a nail-biter from beginning to end! Christmas Prep bolted from the gates for an early lead. That quick start helped Christmas Prep hold the lead going into the first turn. But Father Time, a veteran of the race, never lost focus. Moving onto the backstretch, Christmas Prep stumbled. Father Time, in a relentless and steady pace, caught up and pulled ahead. Finishing the backstretch and moving into the final turn, Father Time pulled farther ahead and seemed to take control of the race. Moving into the home stretch, Father Time never faltered. But the race wasn't over. In a renewed burst of energy and speed, Christmas Prep made a move on the outside and started to close the gap. And with the finish line within reach, Christmas Prep pulled even with Father Time! In a photo finish, it was Christmas Prep by a nose!!!

We made it. Hope you did too! Merry Christmas to all who visit!!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Where the brave dare not go...

Yep, on the Eve of the Eve, we had to go shopping! With all that has been going on in our lives, we just had not finished. And it wasn't like we were missing a little thing here and there. Nope, these were key things we needed for the kids. So off we go to various stores in the area.

And what one word would describe our experience? Waiting. Waiting in line through numerous light changes to get through an intersection. Waiting for a parking place while folks who are leaving fumble for their keys and their cell phone and their seat belt. Waiting for enough room to push our carriage in the aisles of the stores. Waiting in line to check out. Waiting.

Through it all, store employees were in remarkably good spirits. And most shoppers seemed to be in pretty good moods. In fact, only once did we feel enough stress to momentarily 'go to our happy place' in our heads! So the waiting did not turn it into a bad experience.

But don't get me wrong. That does not mean I wanna go again tomorrow!! Not a chance! Our only outing tomorrow will be the Christmas Eve service at our church tomorrow night. Other than that, I'm ready for egg nog, cookies, and hanging out with my wife and kids.

I've been waiting for that for too long!

Friday, December 22, 2006


Today is the first full day of winter. As the earth turns on its axis and brings us into winter, pagans recall the celebrations of our ancestors. The bonfires and the Yule log, said to foretell good luck if it burned for twelve hours. Our ancestors also bring us the tradition of decorating our homes with evergreens as a way of reminding us about the life in nature when much of nature around us seems to die away. Even mistletoe, thought to provide healing and protection, was used in decorations.

We embrace the dark and cold of winter. We gather together with our families and friends around the hearth. It is a time of rekindling relationships and connections with each other.

But we also we lean toward tomorrow, and the day after. Always leaning toward the light of the longer days.

Blessed Yule.


Okay, the exclamation point makes it seem more profound than it is, but I still feel like I'm finally bouncing back from the doldrums and starting to have some Christmas spirit. Thanks to the folks who left comments or sent e-mail. It was so nice to get support. And nice to know I'm not alone in feeling the stress!

Today is our last day of school (yes, I'm actually posting from work for once....shhhhhh) and then I'll get to be at home with the family for ten days! Lots of relaxation. Lots of time with the kids. Lots of time with my wife. No doubt, plenty of good food and beverage. And all the other goodies that come with a break from work.

As we head into this last weekend leading up to the big day, I hope all of you who were struggling are rebounding! Let's kick some holiday ass!! :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I wish I had a river...

I wish I had a river
That I could skate away on

I think I'm doing this Christmas thing all wrong. I mean, it's supposed to be fun, right? In the movies, folks are practically skipping down the sidewalks as they do their shopping. The first tree they see is the perfect size and shape for their house. Gifts come pre-wrapped. Strangers greet each other with warm holiday wishes. And around every corner there is a jolly Santa, a cup of eggnog, and one more chestnut being roasted.

So why do I feel overwhelmed and exhausted?!?!? Shopping has turned into a series of stores that don't have what I want. Every checkout line is 2.6 miles long. Oh, and here's a tip, get your checkbook out before the cashier is standing there staring at you. Our tree sits half decorated while the kids finish projects and study for tests. And the daily debate over whether we should cook or just suck it up and eat take-out one more time is being won almost daily by the take-out option.

I know, my mother-in-laws recent cancer diagnosis is weighing heavily on us. Every little thing seems like a tremendous burden. Life feels, as my wife describes it, like running underwater. Requiring lots of energy just to slowly move a few steps.

I assume we'll get it all done and have a nice little Christmas. And grandma is all finished with her initial round of chemo and feeling pretty darn good, all things considered. And the kids are patient and understanding. Well, at least understanding. But it's been a very hard week. And it's only half over.

(Pardon the depressing tone. I tend to be more upbeat but I just needed to vent and whine a bit.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

When the students go to the mall...

My profile lists me as a teacher, and I am. But I haven't worked in the classroom for several years. I work in a school for kids with special needs and my current job is technology director and development of professional development activities. But I still get invited to help out in the classrooms now and then. And today was one of those days. I got to go on a field trip to do Christmas shopping with a class. What an interesting experience! Each student had brought a shopping list from home with some gift ideas (suggested by the parents) for members of their family. So we loaded up the vans and off we went!

The main objective of this trip was the mall. But before the mall, we made a stop at Target to try to knock off some ideas at a discount. The student I was assisting had candles on the list for several folks. Of course, he had to sniff EVERY candle in the store. And I don't mean every scent. I mean EVERY CANDLE!! The 3-inch jasmine. The 4-inch jasmine. The 5-inch jasmine. You get the picture. Just knowing what jasmine smelled like was not good enough. Of course, he wanted me to sniff them too and offer guidance! By the time he finally made a choice, my sense of smell was pretty much shut down from too much sniffing!

Its funny to shop with someone who has been carefully taught to pay attention to prices. He clearly had the idea that the cheaper it is, the better off he would be. For example, in addition the candles mentioned above, his list had 'tealights' for grandma. And there were many options. Plenty of little red and green holiday tealights in tiny glass holders. Plenty of various colored and scented tealights. But he spotted the giant bag of 100 white, unscented tealights with just their little tin-cup holders. And 100 candles for only 2 bucks seemed like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! It took a lot of convincing that, while that was quite an irresistible bargain, the other options really were a nicer gift for grandma.

It's also interesting to shop with kids who have limited organizational skills but very strong ideas about where they want to go. My kid had a definite series of stores he wanted to visit in the mall. Of course, we walked past all of them 6 or 8 times in the process of visiting them in the order that existed in his head! But we had plenty of time so I was happy to just tag along.

It was a fun day. We had a nice lunch together. And he'll be able to put a present under the tree for all his family. And with all that walking, I shouldn't have to exercise for a week!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Totally Dumb Questions

Today I visited the friendly periodontist. A nice little follow-up to the broken tooth incident. And the receptionist handed me a bunch of forms to fill out prior to the examination. The usual stuff about insurance and who to call if I keel over in the office. That kind of thing.

And then there was the Health Form. Checking off Yes or No to the typical questions about past diseases, etc. And then we got to the part that made me go...huh?!?! A series of questions...each phrased the same way....with multiple choice answers to circle. For example:

Have you ever knowingly been exposed to [insert various disease here].

And the choices for answers: YES NO DON'T KNOW


If each question asks if I've KNOWINGLY been exposed...aren't the only possible answers either Yes or No? Is it even possible to not know whether or not I knowingly did something?!?!

Who creates these forms???

Monday, December 11, 2006

A different direction

When I started this blog I thought it would be a place for me to record my thoughts, share about my day, try to tap into a tad of creativity, and just enjoy being out here with others. I didn't envision sharing sad news.

But we don't control these things. This past Friday, my mom-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia. She entered the hospital on Saturday for additional tests. And today she began a seven day treatment of chemotherapy. She will get those meds 24/7 for the full seven days. Afterwards, they predict she could be in the hospital as long as 30 to 45 days for recovery, additional tests, etc.

My wife's mom and step-father usually visit at Christmas and we were looking forward to seeing them this year. This unexpected change has certainly shaken us all. We'll be working to find a bit of our Christmas spirit again and enjoy the time with our kids. But it definitely alters many of our plans and hopes about the holidays.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ultimate Shopping

Son19 and Daughter13 requested some furniture for their rooms as Christmas gifts. Not an entire bedroom set but just a few odds and ends. And they were very clear about what they wanted. They wanted furniture from IKEA.

If you've never had the experience of IKEA, you've missed a rare shopping event. If you get there early enough, they have free coffee and breakfast for 99¢. And that's just to give you the strength for the rest of the day.

The store itself is laid out in a winding maze. You only move in one direction, thus assuring you will pass every item they have for sale. And they have a LOT of items for sale for every room in the house! And many of those items are displayed in 'room' settings so you can see exactly how it will look when you get it home. Assuming you live in very tiny compartments. But it still looks perfect they way they show it off.

And it is all so...modular, clean, ideal. It seems so obvious that this furniture will make your life more organized, less cluttered, better. Suddenly there is the urge for a new coffee table and bookcase. Or a new desk chair. And the kitchen utensils are precisely what I need at home! And look over there at those lamps!

Of course, you can't put this stuff in mere shopping carts. Oh no, only light bulbs and various little baskets go in the cart. Everything else is coded by Aisle Number and Bin Number. You write it down. And as you leave the store you pass through a self-serve warehouse where all the stuff you saw earlier is laid out before you, disassembled and carefully packed in boxes, ready to go home. It is sort of a miracle of marketing combined with self-service on everything from mouse pads to sofas.

And once you've paid, but before you leave the store, they reward you once again with food. Hot dogs, Swedish meatballs, various imported food and drink, all sorts of little treats for the ride home.

And there's the problem. The ride home. Suddenly you realize you've got 900 pounds of boxes that you have to fit into your car. Packing them carefully, watching the tires flatten under the weight, it all gets packed away in every crack and crevice.

Too bad there is just no way to see out the rear view mirror on the drive home!

Friday, December 08, 2006

One Possible Solution?

Some of you will recall the broken tooth right before Thanksgiving. And that was the second one in the past couple of months. Well this fella may have found the perfect solution. Seems he tooled his own set of teeth out of stainless steel! Let's see those suckers break!!

A handsome look, don't ya think???

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's Making A Really Bad Noise

That's what I said when I called the garage to schedule some repairs for my wife's car. And I'm not kidding, it was a very LOUD vibrating/banging/zombie-escaping-from-the-crypt kind of noise! And it needed professional help.

Not as if I would have taken care of things had the noise been a wimpy wheeze instead of the ear-shattering noise that it was. I am not mechanically gifted. Motors are a mystery. Hell, toasters are a mystery! So when the car does something it should not do, I call in the pros.

We dropped it off last night so they would have the entire day to disassemble, diagnose, and repair the vehicle. And we were prepared to lose Son16's college tuition, if necessary, to pay for their work.

We arrived today, clutching our checkbook, to get our car. Before looking at the bill, I inquired as to the nature of the noise. The repairman gave me that look. You know the one. The one from our childhood. The one the grownups gave us when they wanted to communicate the sentiment: "You definitely should know better." And then, in one question, he completed the humiliation...

"When was the last time you checked the oil?"

Gulp. Where was that 'manly Tony' when we needed him?!?!

We paid sheepishly for the oil fill up, drove home, and along the way, stopped to buy the family KFC Mashed Potato Bowls to drown our humiliation.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Blogging can't be bad...can it?

I mentioned recently, after going a week without posting while my mom visited, that I really missed this. In only a few weeks I've found that I really enjoy blogging. I like trying to be a bit creative with my posts. I pay a little more attention to routine events of the day just in case I can find a fun angle for a post. And even though I really am doing this for my own creative outlet, I really have enjoyed getting comments and establishing a bit of communication with several other bloggers.

But in addition to exploring this for my own fun, my job as a technology coordinator for a school has given me the chance to create a couple of blogs for our staff. Those blogs have different areas of focus, providing opportunities to share and collaborate on research and other information. This seemed like a perfect solution for staff members who don't always have time to get together for professional development. But then I read this article with this comment:
Our bias toward groups is counterproductive. And the technology of ubiquitous connectedness is making the problem worse. is making us more reliant on group collaboration...and this is a bad thing? He continues with this comment:
As for the Internet and our newfound ability to tap into the masses, a more subtle form of havoc arises. Simply put, when you make it easy for everyone to put in his two cents, with little filtering or accountability, the scum tends to rise to the top.
Scum? Improved communication leads to scum? Blogging won't save the world. It may not solve many problems at work. But can better connection really be a bad thing? I have to disagree with the article. There are a few jobs where you want someone to make a decision without stopping to chat. If I'm on the surgical table, I want a doctor with enough skill and confidence to do the right thing without having to call a meeting. But in many situations, I still believe that collaboration is a good thing. And as our jobs and our lives push us in directions that make face-to-face meetings more difficult, I have to appreciate a technology that makes it this easy to share.

And on a personal level, I really do like this. It may not make me a better person, but I am having fun. And that's a good thing!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The 360 Degree Procedure

It seems the German scientists are on the ball with this one - a condom that fits every man. How so, you ask? What a great question. And the answer...........

(drum roll, please)

It is a SPRAY ON CONDOM. I kid you not. I can't make this stuff up. Go here and see (well, read) for yourself!

Bottom line, the gentleman would insert his penis into the spray can, push the nozzle, and be coated with a with a rubber condom with a procedure described as "once around and from top to bottom a bit like a car wash"

Will it replace the need for an old-fashioned condom? Or just replace the need for a partner?!?