Friday, July 28, 2006

Donating Blood

Lee & Diana just left for his appointment to donate blood. Lee has O+, and his blood is very much in demand. I don't remember what Diana's is. Mine is A+ (I only remember that because Carolyn told me I get an A+ in blood).

Diana will probably not donate. Lee wanted to bring her along today so she could see what it's all about. In the past she's been too light to donate, but over the last year, she's grown/filled out, so she meets the weight requirement now.

Lee donates every 3 months or so, I think. He started doing that when he began working at Dell. I haven't donated since I worked at First American, a long time ago.

One teacher in High School told us men just have that same blood cycling through over & over, unless they have some sort of bloody accident. Women get to replenish their blood supply every month. So he thought it was more important for men to donate blood regularly. I don't know how true that is, but it made sense to me.

I'm thinking Diana's do-good-deeds Girl Scouting background + free cookies won't be quite enough to offset the ick/pain factor involved with donating blood. If they could make it completely painless, maybe she'd do it. But I doubt she'll donate this time.

One other benefit of donating blood - they don't give you a donor card if there's something wrong with your blood (oh, say, like HIV). So it's also a test for your health that's free!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Too many apples

It's a bumper year again. We have been slicing & dehydrating the apples, but they are dropping out of the tree faster than we can do that. I can make apple pie filling & freeze it in ziploc bags in pie pans, and that would take up part of the volume. I can also make canned pie filling - I bought a special kind of starch that will survive the canning process. I can try making applesauce in the crockpot, but I haven't done that before and I'm not sure it would work the way I want it. I think it might come out more like apple butter, which is doable as well, I guess.

Oh, and Connor just picks them up and eats them, after close inspection.

Lee's suggestion was to get an apple press. You just throw the apples in there and press them down into juice. You have to heat the juice to pasteurize it, but then you can drink, freeze or can it - or make jelly with it. He did some research on apple presses. They aren't cheap. I don't think we're going that route.

In the meantime, I have the kids collecting the dropped apples. Some are already turning, and those go in the wheelbarrow to be dumped into the burn pile, along with the half-eaten ones from Connor. The rest I will wash and do something with... as soon as I figure out what I'm doing!


Saturday, July 22, 2006

No Big Pool Today

I bought a family pass for admission to the local college pool for the summer. After 10 visits, it's pretty much paid for. I know we're going more than 10 times this summer. Connor absolutely loves the pool. Especially the diving board (he's still just jumping off, not even bouncing yet).

The forecast for today is 102 degrees. It's very muggy and rains occasionally. There's a swim meet at the college, so we can't go to the big pool. I guess I'd better set up the sprinkler for Connor. *sigh*

Monday, July 17, 2006

Which one looks better?

Click on the photos for a close up view.

I took a couple of pics of this nice sunflower I didn't plant that's growing along the fence. My neighbor had planted sunflowers last year in hopes of hiding the chain link fence, I think.

Anyway, it reseeded, so now I have a nice big sunflower.

The first shot is just afternoon sun, the second is using the "backlight" feature. So which one do you like better?

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Lee's folks celebrated their 62nd anniversary this weekend. I don't know if I've ever known anyone else able to reach a milestone like that. Sure 50 years - I've seen lots of people get there. But they are well beyond 50 now!

After a jet boat trip & brunch, everyone went over to Kraig & Nancy's place. Connor loved the pool. That's pretty much all he was interested in. Trevor found a new ear to tell about Warhammer 40k, and Diana spent most of the day with her cousin, Daniel.

Lee had to work, so he didn't get to join in. Because of that, Connor & I stayed at his sister's place while everyone else was on the boat. It's just too hard to keep Connor safe right next to a swift-flowing river. We've done it before, but then both of us were there and we could take trade time watching Connor.

I always try to use the opportunity of having family around to teach Connor their names & stuff. He does better with some than others, and it also depends on what else it there that could distract him.

Still, he had great fun in the pool, staying in until his lips were blue. :)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Grophe-Eating Night

Okay, that's not the real name. That's what Trevor called it when we first moved up. He kept looking for the stand where they sold the grophes to eat. Some day I'm going to have to come up with something to eat & market it to sell on Graffiti Night.

We usually get 300-400 cars, all from 1960 or earlier. This year's oldest entry was from 1904. That's pretty dang old. They have events leading up to the big cruise on Saturday night, like ice-cream socials & a couple of Show 'n Shines, where you can talk to the owners & learn more about their cars.

Some are done up with cool purple lights underneath them, or headlights with pinwheels that turn as they drive. One looked like a horseless carriage, but my camera ran out of batteries before I saw that one.

This is just another cool thing about living in a smaller town. I can't imagine walking through Long Beach from dusk till after dark, just strolling with my kids through downtown. There are lots of food stands, live bands, and even a beer/wine garden that's roped off along the route. Most of the town comes out for this. The folks in the cars throw candy out to kids.

This year the Budweiser Clydesdale Horses opened the cruise for the first time. Connor & I had to drive on the highway for a small stretch, and they were in the center turn lane, making their way back to their big trailers. Those are some dang big horses.

I had a link to the newspaper's photos, but 1) you had to log in to see them, and 2) the above photos show the scene better than the close-ups from the paper anyway. So I'll get different & better ones next year :)

Sparklers are fun

Connor is getting better about the 4th. He only hid for the bigger fireworks in the street. He really liked the sparklers quite a bit. These are the metal ones, not the wimpy paper ones. :)

Our neighbor across the street winds up spending $300+ every year on fireworks. Consequently, we only get a few and some sparklers. Ol' Doug really likes fireworks. A lot. He keeps half of them for New Year's too. He told me this year the stand in front of K-Mart had a $200 firework. One. He was sooo wanting to get it, but maybe next year. He did have one the size of a six-pack that lasted about 10 minutes. But we had a few that were only $1.50 that I thought were at least as good, if not better. Guess it depends on where you get your fireworks!

Still, good times. But I forgot to make the Rice Krispie treats - oops.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

SAT score in

Trevor got a total of 1630 for his SAT score. According to his English teacher last year, 1400-1500 is considered "good" altho there's debate over that. Still, I'm very happy with his score.

There are 3 tests now, vs. the two that I had when I took the SAT. Trev did well with the verbal & math, but the essay sunk him a bit. He had already told me he ran out of time with it. In working with him last year with his English assignments, I could see he wasn't getting the idea of the essay. To me, it's a simple formula for presenting your arguement - introduce the idea, 3 reasons to agree, and summarize.

One aspect of Asperger's Syndrome autism is a lack of having another person's point of view. It's very difficult for Trevor to imagine someone not thinking the way he does, so the skill of debate is very hard for him to acquire. You need to prove him wrong to get him to accept something other than the idea he has. And if he's trying to convince you of something, he has no tools other than "I know I'm right!" Obviously, this makes it hard to write an essay.

Most of us would take different points of view, and then take them apart to prove to the reader why they don't hold water. Trevor will just go on and on about his point, but never provide the proof because in his mind, it doesn't NEED any proof. He's right, and that's all there is to it.

I can explain this to him over and over, but here's a quick little example. Over the last couple of weeks, Connor has been having fun reciting, "Snap, Crackle, Pop - Rice Krispies; Snap, Crackle, Pop - Cocoa Krispies; Snap, Crackle, Pop - Berry Krispies!" Connor likes to also just say the beginning part, and then whomever he's playing with is supposed to put in the "Rice, Cocoa or Berry Krispies" part.

With Connor's form of Autism, he currently doesn't have the capacity to make something up. He's 8 years old now, and pretty much every idea he has is somehow connected to something he's seen or read. There are no original ideas - he can change a phrase he learned to fit what he needs, but the rest of the phrase will be identical to how he originally learned it. Everyone in the family understands this except Trevor.

So we're shopping for groceries yesterday. Connor wants Berry Krispies. None of the rest of the family has ever seen Berry Krispies and Trevor says there's no such thing, but since we know Connor, we can accept there are Berry Krispies out there somewhere. But because Trevor hasn't seen them, for him, they don't exist. Diana was trying to convince Trevor that Connor wouldn't (couldn't) just make that up. No go. It wasn't until Trevor saw the box himself that he could accept there were Berry Krispies. He just can't factor in Connor's perception and accept it.

Yes, he can be taught all the rules of writing an essay, but if he can't create an arguement to support his thinking other than "because I know it's true," it's just going to be really hard for him to ever be able to write an essay to convince anyone else.

Which is why he has been taking Drafting, 3-D Animation, and hopefully this year, Welding. No essays required. Ever. We're focussing on the strengths here ;)

I am extremely happy he was able to sit thru the entire SAT test. Other parts of his autism are that he writes very slowly, using too much pressure, and that he has a tough time sitting still for an extended time. If he gets upset or nervous, he will feel sick to his stomach, and often, that means using the restroom (he did this during the PSAT and missed 20 minutes). We did do a practice test at home as well - the College Board site lets you download 50 pages of SAT style questions. I think he was pretty well prepared. I don't know that he needs to do the SAT again. And we could have asked for special consideration because of his autism (they would have given him more time on the essay, for instance). I'm very proud he was able to do well in the standard setting. :)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Early for USA, Late for Canada

Fireworks are still legal here. Although, not these kind.

Our neighbors down the street were shooting these off last night. Connor normally goes to bed around 9:00, but they started in around 9:30, so he had to get out of bed to watch. They were done by 10:00 - before any police showed up. Of course, the police won't come unless someone complains, and since they stopped by 10:00, I don't think anyone did. They were probably all watching, like us.

I was born in Canada, and I'm still Canadian. My parents live there, and I'm not sure I won't need to go back for an extended time in the future. If I change citizenship, that becomes problematic. My older sister did wind up moving back with her 3 kids, and my younger sister has become a U.S. citizen. I'm still at the point where I was at age 6 when we moved to California.

This is kind of how it's always been for me. My folks spoke german to us at home when I was growing up, because they considered moving back to Germany off and on, and if we wound up going, we girls would be able to speak the language.

The biggest downside of being Canadian is the passport hassle. This is going to be even more of a hassle since up until this coming January, I was able to cross the Mexico & Canada borders with just my regular ID & green card. I am in the process right now of getting a new passport. The last time I had a valid one was 1987.

It's even more of a problem for me because I don't have a birth certificate. I was born in Montreal, and was baptized in the Catholic Church three days after I was born. In Quebec at that time, your baptismal certificate counted as your birth certificate as well. It doesn't anymore. I need to get a birth certificate first, then I can submit my application for a passport. The form is available online in pdf format, and I've completed that. I'm sending it in this week. I have no idea how long it will take to get the certificate back. Then I'll have to send off for my passport. And because it's Quebec, the main language is French, which is just kind of funny that they keep that going, if you ask me.

In the meantime, I will enjoy the 4th of July (it was Canada Day on the 1st of July, btw) with the rest of the U.S.A. The only things different for me as a legal alien are I can't vote here, I can't be on jury duty, and I don't qualify for a lot of student loan programs which is the one the bothers me the most.

Lee tells me I should vote in Canada elections - I don't agree, since I don't live there and wouldn't have to live with the consequences of my vote. Plus, I'd really want to be informed, which is a little more difficult from here. If I wind up moving there, I will jump right on that.

Incidentally, all three of my kids are considered Canadian, until age 28. They are able to live, work & go to school in Canada if they wish. After 28, if they haven't gotten a Canadian passport or moved there, it's assumed they don't want the nationality, and they lose it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What we do around here in Summer

We live in an area surrounded by fresh produce. Strawberries weren't great this year, but blueberries and cherries are bumper crops.

I love blueberries. They are easy to pick, store, and taste great. They have all kinds of wonderful health benefits too. I never ate them all that much before moving here though. Probably because they were very expensive, and really tiny.

Our blueberries grow big. I picked 13.5 lbs. in an hour. They grow in big bunches, and you can set your bowl on the ground, and use two hands to just pull the berries off the bushes. Once you get home, you can just soak them to get anything other than blueberries to float to the top (dead flowers, stems, leaves, bugs) and I do pick off the stems. Then you rinse, dry & freeze them in big Ziploc freezer bags. They are great to eat frozen, or you can throw them into pancakes, waffles, muffins, whatever. Fresh blueberry pie is fantastic, though I didn't make one this year. Diana wants me to try to make spiced blueberry jam this year too - but that can wait until the Fall, when it's not so warm in the house.

Connor just calls them "cold berries" and will eat them non-stop if I let him (I don't). He likes them best frozen.

Cherries are in season now too. I picked Bing Cherries this year. I think we eat the cherries even more than blueberries right after picking. Cherries are more work though. First you have to find a tree laden with enough at the right height. Then you have to figure out how to place the ladder so you won't fall over while reaching for the ones you want. I got 13.5 lbs. of cherries this year. Once I get home, I give them a quick soak too, but then I like to pit them. Folks around here will just can them with the pits, but I don't want to have to try to make a pie filling with cherries with pits in them. It's easier to just do it first. It does get messy though, though, because the juice sprays a bit when you work with a cherry pitter. I got through about 8 lbs., and then I got a blister, so Trevor had to finish up for me. I halved & froze most of the cherries, but I held out enough to make cherry jam. I forgot to put in the lemon juice, so these will be a little soft-set. But they are still fine. I will probably make more in the Fall.

I'll be drying apple rings next, I think....

Saturday, July 01, 2006

They finally caught on

Lee & I email each other during the day. We send status reports on the kids, figure out what we'll do for dinner, remind each other about stuff we need to do.

Today he hasn't gotten any of my emails. Not from my regular account or the family account. He thinks I'm ignoring him, or I went somewhere for the day.

I think his company just blocked our IP address or something. Maybe I've sent too many emails? He hadn't gotten any comments about our emailing or anything, but who knows? Maybe I topped the 1,000 mark or something?

So babe, if you're reading this, you'll have about 10 emails from me en route that won't go thru. Altho I'm not getting the "undeliverable" thing in my mailbox either.

Or maybe you're joking with me? And you've gotten all my emails till now? Hmmmmm.

With Lee, you never know...