Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Because it's Mardi Gras / Carnival / Fasching

Here' s a little photo scanned from a while back...

It's Shoo & his shadow, Tim!


And here's Lee & Carolyn.

I'd wish you a fun Lent, but that's kind of missing the point...


I did the taxes - what do I get?

The weekend before last I went thru the file cabinet and sorted all the accumulated paperwork into little stacks across my dresser, ironing board & sewing table. Then last weekend we loaded up Turbo Tax & I shut the door off from the rest of the family & other distractions.

Actually, our taxes are pretty easy. We don't mess with the retirement stuff, we just own the house and we work jobs that handle the tax side of things for us. I don't like estimated taxes - been there, and I don't want to be there again unless I earn such a ridiculous amount of money that I don't care if the accountant makes mistakes.

Still, I *did* go sorting thru all the medical statements & Quicken & everything to make sure we could claim the medical deduction. Then I find out since we refinanced & combined a 1st & 2nd mortgage that we didn't have enough interest paid out to warrant itemizing. The standard deduction was better.

Then there was this new thing with getting gift cards with your refund. Since we're intending to add a sink, shower & vanity to our existing "water closet" - there's only a toilet in there now - I went ahead & put $1,000 into a Lowe's gift card, so we get $100 free with that. If I were a flower-sending person, I'd have done the FTD or whatever that was, since you spend $25 and get $50. Good deal.

So, this refund will pay off the Lowe's stuff we still have on 0% apr until September, plus help with the bathroom. I'm good.

I still think I deserve new shoes or something for doing the taxes tho...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Why clean when you can do this?

Yesterday I asked Trevor to rearrange & tidy the movies & games in the cupboard under the TV. Guess how long this took... Note that Trevor is 5 foot 8 now...

If you said 90 minutes - you're right!!

The lovely entertainment center was made by Lee's dad, btw.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Know your kids

So we're hearing more on the kids involved with the school shooting. The victim is no longer in critical condition, and now just in "serious" condition.

The shooter was arraigned yesterday. It's weird driving past the courthouse and seeing the vans with the big ol' dishes and call letters I don't recognize parked out front. The brother of the shooter called the kid a coward as he was being led out. He'll be tried as a minor and will be out of jail by age 25 at the latest.

So - the victim is 16. He was cited by the police on Valentine's Day for spitting on someone (not the shooter) on the bus. He's supposed to be going to trial for possession.

The shooter is 14. He's in the at-risk program at school. So he already had issues before all this.

My own kids know if anything - be it harassment, threats, whatever - happens with them, they are to immediately let us know. In the past, we've moved them from classrooms, or taken on the bus company for allowing distructive behavior. The staff knows us by reputation and they are very accomodating. Part of this is because Trevor has an IEP for his autism. We are very "in touch" with the schools our kids attend.

Did the 14 year old have that kind of support at home? Did he realize if he was being bullied or threatened that he could go to any teacher and report it? Or did he just feel no one cared enough about him to help and so took the matter into his own hands?

Most of the teachers we've worked with are pretty good. Some are absolutely excellent and I wish I'd had them as my teachers. Then again, we have the ones just punching their clock and waiting for retirement. It's easy to tell which is which.

I don't know the shooter or victim. I know teenagers though. It's really hard to reach a kid that doesn't want to be reached. What can you do? The majority of the responsibility lies with the parents. It's up to us to know what makes our kids tick. What can you do with parents that fall down on the job? I don't know. If your kid is considered "at-risk" should the parents be made to go through counseling? Parenting classes? Boot camp? How do you fix this problem at the root?

I have personal experience with a woman who is a horrible mother, co-worker, person in general. She uses the welfare system and takes whatever she can get where ever she is. And her attitude is that her life sucks, so it's up to her to get what she wants, any way she can. Her daughter is growing up with this kind of example. She's in High School as well, and smoking at the bus stop (so far). I'll be surprised if she graduates. Mom & daughter call the police on each other a lot. They have been through counseling through the school system (at least). You can just see things getting worse & worse for both of them. What do you do? If you try to help, you get caught in mom's cycle of using everything she can from you. Ugh.

So - I don't have any answers on how to fix this kind of thing. Any suggestions?

Friday, February 24, 2006

One of Connor's favorites

An odd thing you can't stop watching...


If you're going wear bright colored cowboy boots, it makes you pidgeon-toed or something.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Well, dang

Small towns don't deal so much with gangs, but apparently shooting someone at High School happens.

This morning on my way to work, I was caught in traffic by our High School. I decided to pull into a gas station, and the attendent (we don't pump gas ourselves) told me that there was a shooting at the High School. Cripes. My kids go to that High School. So I say a quick prayer, and continue on to work.

On the way, there's a bunch of police and emergency vehicles next to a BBQ place I pass. There's a green backpack on the ground and a lot of activity. That's where the shooter was caught. He was probably there while I drove past.

At around 7:45, the shooter opened fire on a 16-year-old boy, hitting him three times in the stomach and once in the arm. He then ran off campus with other students chasing him. The victim was talking and trying to get up before being convinced to lay still and wait for the ambulance. He went through surgery to have two bullets removed and is in ICU, but expected to recover.

I got to work just after 8:00, and the staff in our classroom had already heard the news. One of my co-workers has a daughter at the High School who had called her mom right off to let her know she was okay, but was in lockdown. My school was put into lockdown mode as well, since the shooter had been running on foot, and we're in walking distance from the High School.

I got on the email system and was able to get a message back from one of Trevor's teachers right off who told me he didn't recognize the victim, so I knew it wasn't Trevor. Later, another teacher contacted me to let me know Trevor was safe in his class. Diana called me a little while later. She had seen the kid on the ground, but not the shooting.

At around 9:30 AM all the kids were released from lockdown & sent home on their busses. They have no school tomorrow either, and there are counselors available for anyone that needs them.

This whole thing could have been a lot worse. We still don't have any information on the motivation behind the shooting. My kids say that they often overhear people making threats to other people, but no one takes them seriously. My kids don't know either of the students involved, so the effects of this whole thing aren't as strong for them as for other students who knew either or both of the boys. Diana said she realized that something like this could happen at her school, she just hoped she wouldn't be involved if it did. Trevor figured it was bound to happen sometime.

I guess we all have our things to deal with. I remember worrying about nuclear war in high school. But when I was in high school, kids got into fist fights. No one thought about killing people at school with guns.

My kids' defense for something like this is to not ignore the "outcasts" at school. They don't judge people on their appearance or their lifestyle. Both of my kids are pretty accepting, and Diana goes out of her way to include the kids that seem to be left out. That's pretty much all they can do at this point. Now we'll have to see how the High School responds...


Monday, February 20, 2006

Socks are hard

I like to knit. My sister & I spent some time in a school in Germany, and all those girls would watch TV every night and knit. Besides having to watch "Bobby from Dallas" in a "new" show we knew was from 6 years earlier and enduring "The Man From Atlantis" dubbed in German, we were bored. So one of the girls took pity on our fidgeting fingers and lent us spare needles & yarn & got us both started.

So since '83, I've been knitting off & on. Usually it's pretty easy stuff though - mostly rectangular shapes like scarves & baby blankets. I occasionally make a pullover or hat. Lately all these nice fuzzy yarns have hit the market, so they've been fun to play with. Then I found this chunky warm yarn, and decided to go ahead & try making socks.

First off, you can't use the standard knitting needles - you must have double-pointed needles, which let you slide the yarn from one side to the other so you can knit on both ends. These are not usually sold at Wal-Mart, Joann's or your standard one-size-fits-all craft store. You MUST either visit a yarn website or go to a yarn store. I think we have one yarn store in town now, so that's where I got my (german made) double-pointed needles.

Then you need pretty good eyesight to even SEE the instuctions printed on the inside of the yarn label. I managed it anyway, but I did have to drag out my book entitled "Knitting Know How" to figure out what they were talking about on the label about picking up stitches.

There are 4 needles in use at this point.

You need to split the yarn once you get to the ankle and make a "heel flap." Then you have to go back & pick up stitches along the sides to bring the heel around and make it all one circle again. I don't have any problem casting on or off, but counting each line is a pain. That's not necessary with rectangle shapes!

But I'm happy how they turned out. I will probably go ahead and use the double-pointed needles for other things, like hats or something, but I don't know if I want to try socks again for a while.

Still, with the weather we've been having, it's nice to have some really warm socks!


Welcome Rocky & Family

During Christmastime, friends of ours doubled their family with the addition of twin baby girls. Considering that my three were all overdue and 7.5 to 9.something lbs at birth, these little gals are teeny tiny. We like to go visit and hold them, and they are doing very well. For visual proof, check out the new link on the right - Rocky's baby twins.

Another one assimilated into the blogging world!


Saturday, February 18, 2006

My Online Game

The above characters are Suella, Mietze, Aladria & another version of Suella from a different server. You can get pretty creative with character creation on this game.

These various gals are different levels & do different things. The first Suella uses fire as her power, Mietze has those Wolverine claws, Aladria uses radiation & the last Suella is a weather & earth controller. You earn the capes in the upper levels, as well as different costumes. I'm showing all the original costumes for these characters. They range in size from very small to huge as well, tho mine are usually medium height & build.

Most of my characters are made to be teamed with my husband's characters, except Mietze, who is pretty good solo. She's currently my highest level gal, because she gets the most time online. She's also the current leader of her supergroup, because she's been in it the longest & the other folks quit (I'm not doing anything with that tho). Fire Suella is in a different supergroup and people team up to take out the big bad guys - sometimes you have to be in a team to take out the bosses.

There are different storylines with different kinds of baddies. They range from mafia-types to undead & ghosts. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm generally riding my exercise bike while I play. And I do ride faster if my character is about to die. It's pretty cool to be focussed so much on the gameplay, and totally forget I'm exercising. I'll finish my missions and check the bike monitor & find I've gone 20 miles & burned 400 calories. I keep a liter of water handy, and normally get thru at least that on a session.

I find this kind of workout is the best for me. I like walking outdoors, but I need a buddy to do that. I don't mind the gym, but paying for membership bugs me. This game had an initial cost of $50ish and costs about $12.00/month. The bike was $350ish back in 1989. I think I'm getting my money's worth. The YMCA here is $60/month for a family membership - and no one was going. Of course, I need the computer too, but I already had that anyway.

Another thing I like about CoH is the fact that no one can use bad language very easily (you can get around it with spaces & stuff - but if someone wants to type the "F" word during chat, that makes it a lot harder). If you slip and type "poop" or something similar, your characters speech bubble says "$%^&!" or something like that. It's the same no matter what you curse - but I think it looks worse if I only said "Poop" and other people might think I said the "F" word! Heh. At least I don't have to worry about my kids reading bad language when they play.

If you ever decide to visit Paragon City, give me a holler & I'll give you a tour.


Got him!

My husband started his own blog. Much better than mine :P

He's got moving pictures & everything - the dancing girl reminds him of how I used to dance back when we were going dancing twice a week (pre kids).

So go look! See the link at the right for "Lee's tid bits."

Ciao! (I'm still living Olympics....)


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Actually, it's autism

We have two sons. One is 16, the other is 7. Both have autism. From what we've learned so far, most likely somewhere in my genetic coding, there's a defect in part of the "X" chromosome - the part of the X that's missing on dad's contribution. Which why our daughter shows no autistic tendencies. The autism was kind of dormant, until the boys were vaccinated here. The vaccinations used had mercury as a preservative, and something got messed up.

Our older guy, Trevor, has Asperger's Syndrome, and the younger one, Connor, is language-delayed. If you could merge both of them together, you'd fill developmental holes on either one. It's weird.

Kids with autism always have social difficulties. They don't learn incidentally from just watching & listening to other people around them (which is how typical people learn how to behave). So, instead you have to teach each thing to them, and then help them adapt what they've learned to other situations. If you don't help with the adapting part, they don't transfer their knowledge & learn to generalize to other people & places.

Autistic kids are also very literal learners. Most don't understand metaphors - if you say, "Gosh, it's raining cats & dogs outside!" They'll go and look for cats & dogs falling from the sky. Obviously you'd expect that from a 3-year-old, but not a 12 year old.

Asperger's kids are kind of described as "Little Einsteins." First off, they generally are extremely well-read, and can converse ad nauseum about their particular interest. They don't engage in conversation though, nearly as much as they lecture on their favorite topic. Secondly, they immerse themselves so much in their favorite thing to the exclusion of everything else (eating, bathing, other people, etc.). They work well in little cubicles :) So, with an Asperger's kid, you want to aim them toward something they can actually use as a career - ours is learning CAD programming and 3D animation.

The language delay is a bit harder. Connor learns a lot of language from his favorite videotapes & movies. He'll just change the lines a bit to fit his situation (which is a good thing!!). So a couple of years back, when Finding Nemo was his favorite flick, he'd call me as Dory calls the whale over - only instead of "fella" he put in "mommy." ("Come here, little Mommy.")

Temple Grandin is a woman who has overcome most of her autism. She described when she was young why she didn't pick up language easily. She thought adults were speaking "adult language" so she didn't even listen. It was only when she was being spoken to directly that she paid attention. That would make it pretty hard to learn language, wouldn't it?

Connor can read & decode written words pretty well, but he doesn't always comprehend what he's reading. He reads because he likes the alphabet and how certain words sound. He's not trying to use reading to gain information at all.

So - between the two boys, we're working harder with Connor. Trevor needs a lot of contact with his teachers to explain his behavior at times. Connor needs more support both at school & at home.

An example of Trevor's take on things: When he was in 5th grade, his class worked for 3 weeks on a bird report. When it came time to turn in the reports, the teacher sent a kid around to collect them. The kid missed Trevor. Trevor put the report back in his desk. When I asked him why he didn't turn in the report, he said the kid didn't get it from him. When I asked why didn't he take it to the teacher, he just stared blankly at me. He had put the report back where it had been okay to put it before. The importance of turning it in was completely lost on him. He had gotten it done, so it was done.

With both of our sons, it's really important that people working with them are aware they are not doing things they do on purpose. They do their weird little things because that's how they have learned to act in that situation. The trick is teaching them the appropriate way to act when their method isn't the right way. And you really have to go step-by-step. Role play. Change circumstances, etc. until you know they have a handle on the main goal.

It sounds a little overwhelming, but you do get to start off slow - they grow with you. And you learn to advocate for your kids & you lean on the supports your community provides. I have a couple of autism consultants I can call on to talk to teachers who don't want to change their teaching methods to accomodate my boys. They both have Individualized Education Plans, and those serve as a legal document to ensure their goals are being met.

And I do Girl Scouts with my daughter so our lives don't revolve around her brothers all the time - because it's easy to fall into that. I do another club for me, but I'll post more on that later.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super commercials bowl

I don't do football. I'm a hockey fan (Canadian and all, eh?). So I just wanted to see the commercials. Living in the Northwest as we do, most folks were rooting for the Seahawks here. We had a kid that went to a local high school playing for the Steelers, so I was hoping they'd win (and they did!).

Anyhoo - my favorite commercials were the Burger King Whopperettes and the Fedex Cavemen. The rest of the time I was knitting socks (more on that later).

Compared to hockey, football is a pretty slow game. I think that people that can ever get to live hockey game are pretty interested in it after that - it's the getting to the live game first part that you need to do. It's a real spectator sport, and the athletes can actually hear you, since the arenas are obviously much smaller than the football arenas.

Hockey was also good to teach your kids lessons. When you hit someone with a stick, you get a time out in the penalty box. That's way better for them to comprehend than moving back 15 yards. Heh. Ah well.

I think I recognized about 10 of the prior MVP's that strutted out at the beginning before the game started. That's not too bad for never really watching football. I also knew who Vince Lombardi was. I know a lot more about hockey though. And for some reason I still can't comprehend, I just happen to know baseball teams. Why? I have no clue - but if someone says, "Who plays in San Francisco?" I know immediately it's the Giants (altho previously I wrote 49ers). Oakland A's (athletics), Boston Red Sox, whatever. Seriously - maybe I was baseball fan in a former life. I've been able to do that for as long as I can remember. Weird, huh? Since I've been more aware of the hockey scene, I think first of the hockey team now. If they don't have a hockey team, it will definitely be a baseball team. I have been to one actual pro game - I saw Ron Cey get beaned in the head. I took that as an omen to stay away from baseball games :P

But everything is on hold for the Olympics. I've cleared out the Tivo, and Opening Ceremony is Friday night - w00t!

I generally cheer for 3 countries that I have ties to: the USA since I live here, Canada since I was born there, and Germany because that's my heritage. I love watching the alpine ski, bobsledding and speed skating. My husband likes the curling - he just thinks it's a cool sport. Sadly, our last trip to Canada, he wasn't able to try it out since they were holding tournaments while we were there. We all played 5-pin instead.

I think the battery on my bike thingamabob is going out. It just shut itself off while I was biking - grrr.

So happy Superbowl Sunday and enjoy your week!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Anime & Manga

My daughter is 15. She is a sophomore in High School, with pretty decent grades. She's in love with a cartoon character. You may think this is very strange, however it means she's not out experimenting with real boys, now, is she? If she wants to wait to start dating until she's in college, that's fine by me. Her current perception is that most boys her age are stinky slobs that pick their noses in public -- unless they are gay. That may have something to do with the fact we live in the Northwest, but again, fine by me.

But why does she love this cartoon guy so much? Well, it all started when she was in Kindergarten & used to watch Sailor Moon. For those who don't know, Sailor Moon is a teenage super-heroine in Japan. She fights with her buddies, the Sailor Scouts and they are all very leggy and western-looking. Rather than the typical cartoon shows we enjoy in the states, Japanese cartoons (anime) have long intricate plot lines. There's a lot of action, romance, character development, etc. They can be quite addictive. Manga are the comic novels drawn in the same style (remember Speed Racer? Kimba?).

In Jr. High, she discovered a monthly book called Shonen Jump. She subscribed immediately (she has a paper route and can afford these things), and has a complete collection from three years ago. This magazine features things like Naruto, Dragonball Z, Ruroni Kenshin, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu Yu Hakasho. Shonen Jump also takes time between comics to enlighten the reader on Japanese customs and culture. Because of this, our daughter is now a huge fan of Japan. She cooks Japanese food, decorates her room with Japanese things, and is President of the Japanese Club at her High School.

If you go into any bookstore nowadays, you'll find hundreds of Manga books. And How to Draw Manga books. And a bunch of kids and teens sitting on the floor, reading manga books. Cartoon Network airs "Toonami" which is mostly Anime shows from Japan, dubbed in English. Our daughter's favorite is Full Metal Alchemist (and she wears her FMA gear from Hot Topic). Before that it was Inuyasha.

She just loves everything about Japan, Manga and Anime. If she wants to dress as a Digimon character to school, that's okay too (not the monster, one of the kids - even if it is a boy - Koichi). She's having a good time, she knows Al from FMA is a cartoon, and as long as she keeps up her grades, etc., I have no problem with the whole thing.

If you want to take a look at her webcomic, check out this link. And post comments if you have something you want to tell her. She loves getting comments and fanart.


Hope that works - I have to go watch TiVo now.

252 cal, 44 min, 9.8 miles

Thursday, February 02, 2006


My husband likes to keep up with technology as much as we can afford. Recently, he convinced me to try TiVo. We only just got off our antenna (all of 3 channels!) to Dish Network, so all of a sudden, I have 7 years of Stargate SG-1 to view. I have to admit though, for those of us trying to never miss our favorite show, it's pretty sweet to just program in the "season pass" and not even worry about recording repeats by mistake. Being able to catch up in your show is nice too - if you come home 15 minutes into it, you can watch the recorded part and zip through commercials until you're viewing the live show again.

Another cool feature is you can tell it to find any programs with certain actors or themes, and it will notify you when it finds them - say you want to see what Jackie Chan movies are coming up, now you can set it to record.

I'm really more thrilled with the possibility of being able to see all the Olympics this year. I usually wind up recording over the tape I thought I'd already seen, only to find out it was the one from the day before. That can't happen with TiVo. :)

Now I just have to make sure it's not all full with Full Metal Alchemist episodes for our daughter.

But, yeah, we're keeping the TiVo.

52 cal, 11 min, 2.2 miles.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Here we go!

Okay - I've been sucked in. This looks like fun, and since I'm a talkative sort, I figure I can do my fair share of posting stuff I find interesting.

Just FYI, I am probably (should be) riding my Schwinn any time I do this, so if you see Minutes/Miles/Calories at the end, that's what that's about. :)

This post will need to be short since my little guy is asking me to "stop the bike, get tater tots." And no, I can't POWER my monitor with an exercise bike!

So - there you go!

:) Tina