Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How are the new meds working?

GL has had some pretty good days lately, and some pretty horrible days. At this point, I'd say we get about an equal number of each. He's never had much of a middle ground. It's a definite improvement. Before the new med, every day was horrible. But we know he can do better on the right combination of meds, so we aren't there yet. It's good to have a break now and then from the screaming, but this back and forth is wearing, too.

Yesterday was mostly good. We finished school on time, then went to the park and flew rockets. BB asked if he could use the computer, and I let him. But then he gave GL permission to play an online game. GL is not allowed to use the Internet or play any games but the ones we choose. (He has no concept of moderation, and it only leads to behavior problems.) BB is not allowed to give permission. So we had some yelling about that. Then a screaming fight about bedtime.

This morning GL was up at six, wanting to play the forbidden games. Then he went around and screamed everyone awake. If you need an alarm clock you can't sleep through, let us know. We'll send him right over.


Sunny Porch

I like this porch, with its colorful trim and the light and shadow on the creamy tan brick. Nothing like a lot of vertical and horizontal lines to bring out the fact that I didn't have the camera quite level, though. Huh.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

View to the Lake


Monday, October 26, 2009

Photo Contest

The rules allowed three entries per person. Two of mine didn't print. I posted one yesterday. Here is the other.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Gospel

I submitted this photo electronically, but it wouldn't print for some reason, so it wasn't in the voting.



This made me laugh.

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A Sunny Smile

Not LOC, but someone decorated the garden outside for Halloween.


Saturday, October 24, 2009


This photo goes well with our church name. When we were meeting in the Upper Room, you could actually look out the window over Lake Michigan, and during the sermons, I usually did.

I got a comment on my last post from "Web Design Company". It's either a legitimate comment from a name I don't recognize, or it's spam.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thoughts about Web Design

I like pages that have excellent content, are pleasing to the eye, are well thought-out, and load quickly. One reason is that I use dialup, and a poorly-planned page will cause my connection to time out before it finishes loading. If I haven't lost interest (or patience) and try again, the same portions of the page usually fail to load. I'll never see those photos (the problem is usually photos) unless I make a special trip to a place with broadband.

The other reason is that there is no excuse for a slow-loading web page. Even if I had broadband, I could tell a slow page from a fast page, and know the creator of the slow page was either inept or careless about his work. A modicum of common sense and forethought applied to a slow page could make it fast. For a measure of your pages' speed, along with ideas for making it faster, search "page load timer". (without the quotes)

First, think. What slows a page most? Actually, it's videos, but those will never be worth downloading over dialup. That's not to say you can't use them, but use them sparingly, and realize you are limiting your audience, however slightly. Dialup users are not evil Neanderthals. They are frugal, or at least broke, and some of them are more intelligent than you. They may also be more numerous than you think.

Second is photos. That's not to say you can't use them, but use them sensibly. If you have a story to tell in photos, usually a thrilling event, be selective. Don't dump the entire contents of your memory chip directly to the Web. Choose your best shots. This makes you look like a better photographer than you actually are and, in this digital age, costs you nothing. When you have selected your photos, don't send them at full resolution. (Do, however, keep full-resolution backup copies.) Few people have their displays set above 1024 x 768, so there's no point in sending more pixels. In the context of your page, they will almost never be shown full-screen, so 800 x 600 is plenty. Often 640 x 480 is arguably enough, but this depends on what you're trying to show, and how much screen you have to work with.

Spread your photos over several posts or pages. Your host dictates the order in which data is sent, and it often chooses badly. Limit the data on each page so your reader isn't left staring at an annoying ad, wondering whether your scintillating commentary and outstanding photos will ever appear. Better to leave them wanting more than bore them till they click away.

Third is background. Think of it as the breading on chicken-fried steak. Good meat doesn't need it, and bad meat isn't helped by it. It's amazing how many bits are wasted on backgrounds that add nothing to the content. This isn't to say all pages should be plain white. But unless artistic expression is the main reason for your page and you have a lot of time on your hands, you would do well to stick to one of the simpler default backgrounds. If you decide to design your own background, stick with simple color schemes. All text should should have a solid background in a contrasting, but easy on the eyes, color. No purple on black. No red on blue. There's a reason most books have been printed in black letters on white paper for hundreds of years.

If you decide to include a photo at the top of the page with your title, choose one photo, and keep the resolution reasonable. Remember your readers have to wait for that same photo to download every time they visit before they see any content. I quit reading one of my favorite blogs because I had to wait for the same eight hi-res photos to download every time I visited. I tried using Reader, but gave up when the author put eleven photos in one post, at close to 1 MB each.

And remember, nothing says "amateur" like an animated background! Speaking of amateurs, I sincerely hope you aren't one of the six people who still think background music makes your page jazzy and up-to-date. You can link mp3 files and even MIDIs for your readers to click on, but if they like background music when they read, they probably already have some on. Not to mention how annoying it is to hear the same music repeated over and over and...

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Photo Contest

Our church is having a photo contest. Of course I missed the announcement because I was on the trolley, but as I understand it, the idea was to submit photos that show what our church is about, to be used in promoting the church. The deadline was last Sunday. Of course, I took all my pictures last Sunday morning, then spent the afternoon sorting them and choosing the ones to submit. After I uploaded them, I thought about posting some of the shots I didn't use to the blog. With MB and AB egging me on, I selected photos for possible posting. Some were "artsy-fartsy" but didn't really show anything about the church. Others represented it in one way or another, but weren't quite as good as the ones I selected.

Geese on the soccer field. I took a lot more, but one's enough, don't you think?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cake class lesson #1

Well it's not art, but it tasted good. I am learning a lot. I think I will really like cake decorating.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guess What?

The kitchen windows went so quickly yesterday that I decided to wash the boys' bedroom windows today. We have new windows that slide up and down like a conventional double-hung to open and close, but also tilt inward so you can clean the outside from in the house. The outside went rather quickly, but when I dried the inside, my squeegee kept hitting tiny, clearish bumps. When I tried to wipe them with a cloth, they smeared. I finally figured out what they were. Someone has been wiping boogers on the windows!


Fall Cleaning continued

Got the kitchen windows washed and school done. MB and BB put the out-of season clothes away, and found a big bin of clothes we'd missed. We tried them on the boys this morning. Never did get a meal in the Crock Pot.


What phrases get uttered most in your home?

These phrases work here.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Math: the Continuing Saga

GL is still working on 1 + (number). If I ask him, "What comes after (number)?" he usually gets it right. He even occasionally translates 1 + (number) to what comes after (number) on his own. But he usually counts from 1 unless I remind him. He's also making fewer counting errors.

I got a pot of beef stew in the Crock Pot yesterday, but it wasn't done until 8 p.m. I let it cool and put it in the fridge. This morning I transferred it to Smart Spin containers, and put the crock in the dishwasher. I'll try to get another meal in the Crock Pot today. We got the boys' summer clothes in boxes, but not neatly enough to close the boxes. Next we need to pack them up neatly, carry them down to the basement, and make them fit. The basement is, of course, a whole 'nuther project. It's sunny and relatively warm today, so maybe I should do the windows while I have the chance.

The car started making a funny noise Sunday. Then vibrating at certain speeds, then the check engine light started flashing. Took it in yesterday, and found out it had a bad ignition coil. This model has a separate coil for each cylinder, mounted directly over the spark plug. The guys who design these things should have to work on them. $83 for the coil, and $194 labor. Ouch!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Catching up

Pulled the boys' winter clothes out of storage today and had them try everything on. We always have to make an abrupt change because GL will insist on wearing the most inappropriate thing for the weather that he can find. Finally packed up the shorts and summer clothes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Cleaning continued

Finished the kitchen yesterday, well that is, except the oven and the inside of the fridge, which are each whole-day projects in themselves. And the carpet. Removed five inches of debris clogging the vacuum. Someone had vacuumed up the remains of a balloon. It sounded a little funny, but I couldn't see any obstruction, so I kept using it. Debris continued to accumulate, but it still managed to keep sucking. By the time I found the clog, it had filled the hose from just behind the beater bar all the way to where the wand separates so various tools can be attached. Clear as mud?

I had to take the head apart to get my finger in there, and push from the other end with a long-handled spoon. Took me about an hour to clear it out and put it back together. Now my vacuum sounds happier, and my carpet is much cleaner, but I still can't get the jelly out. My mom has a carpet cleaner she'll loan me. Maybe that will get it out without the expense of renting a machine or calling in a professional.

I did the bathroom this afternoon. We have a small bath, so it doesn't take so much time as energy. I'd been spot-cleaning whatever got too disgusting, so it wasn't truly horrible, but now it is deep-down clean. Or as deep-down clean as it is likely to get. We were out of soap scum & crud dissolver, so I tried straight vinegar in a squirt bottle. Does a great job on soap scum, but leaves behind a film of its own. OTOH, it costs about $2/gal vs. $13/gal. So next time I'll use vinegar on the soap scum, and crud dissolver on the vinegar film, and I should come out ahead, right?

GL continues to show incremental improvement. We're starting to assess what didn't get done while we were under siege, and take on those tasks one at a time. With meals on hand to reheat, I didn't have to cook today. I meant to put some beef stew in the Crock Pot today, but didn't get to it. Maybe tomorrow.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall Cleaning

We've been slowly ramping up GL's new med this week. He's still not getting all the sleep he needs, but he's getting more than he was. He's still frequently unpleasant, but more tolerable than before. I even had a decent night's sleep one night—the first in months.

I read with envy the chicken soup exploits of the Domestic Goddess. I can throw together a pot of chili that's edible (the chili, not the pot) follow a simple recipe, and even improvise if I find I'm missing an ingredient or two. But when it comes to planning a meal that: (pick any two)
1) we haven't had three times already this week
2) can be made without a special trip to the grocery store
3) can be on the table soon enough to qualify as the next meal, so we don't have to skip a meal
4) my family will actually eat,
we RazzleFlabben couldn't think of a cardboard box. And while you're at it, could you make it economical, nutritious, high in fiber, and low in fat and calories? Sometimes I wish this were an old-fashioned full-service gas station. (Or service station. Remember those?) All I'd have to ask is, "Regular or Premium?" (or Unleaded for those people with fancy new cars) and, "How many gallons?"

Feeding GL is relatively simple. He has self-limited his diet to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Jif peanut butter & Great Value Strawberry Preserves on Sara Lee 100% whole wheat bread with the crusts cut off, Corntown extra butter microwave popcorn, and Dean's chocolate ice cream. He eats at random intervals, but at least he usually knows what he wants. If you think he eats this way because we cater to him, you've never lived with autism. He makes his own sandwiches, but I cut off the crusts. If I don't, he tears them off, and throws away more bread than he eats. He spreads some peanut butter and jelly on the bread, and a little on the counter. Whoever decided to carpet the kitchen must not have had kids. You can mop a hard floor, but how do you get jelly completely out of the carpet? My feet are always sticking to it. He pops microwave popcorn. I'm not ready to let him use the stove or scoop his own ice cream.

BB is simply a picky eater. Even his favorite foods he will sometimes eat and sometimes not. When I cook, I make enough for him, but it's up to him whether he eats it or waits for the next meal. MB works a split shift, so she eats with us once a day at most. And she's on a special diet. So although I've already cooked for GL, unless I want Mac & Cheese again, I'm cooking for myself. With limited time, energy, and creativity, I need a plan. I've heard good things about Once a Month Cooking and Dinner's in the Freezer, but I haven't got a whole day to spend on cooking, not even once a month. We've had some success with the Crock Pot slow cooker, because I can make a big batch and reheat portions as needed, but lately, when I need a meal, I need it now, not three or four hours from now. I just haven't had the energy to plan that far ahead. So we end up eating the same three recipes over and over.

Today I was somewhat more rested, GL hurried through his school work (he was eager to watch a movie) and BB got down to business, and mostly left GL alone. So right after lunch, I got to work on some slow-cook potato soup. It was ready in time for supper. After supper, I even got the rest of the soup into Tupperware (actually Smart Spin containers. Dishwasher and microwave safe. They nest together on the included carousel and all three sizes use the same interchangeable lid. Buy these and throw all your mismatched Tupperware away!) and the crock in the dishwasher before bedtime, so I can make up a big batch of something else tomorrow. At this rate, I'll always have a selection of meals in the fridge that I can microwave in a few minutes!

After I got the soup in the Crock Pot, I felt so good about it, I started my Fall Cleaning. "Don't you mean Spring Cleaning?" you ask, "and isn't this the wrong season?" No, I mean Fall Cleaning. After you've been cooped up in the house all winter and are beyond cabin fever, ready to go stir crazy if you have to spend one more minute within these four walls with these impossible people, can you think of a stupider way to use the first warm, sunny spring day than inside, cleaning house? And who's going to notice, anyway? As the weather improves, everyone wants to spend more time outdoors. By the time you're back inside for any appreciable time, the house is already dirty again.

Now on cold, rainy days in October and November, when you just had all summer, and usually some good weather in September to be outside, you don't miss being out there; you've had your fill. It's not that cold out yet, but it's wet and windy. Your domestic environment is showing signs of months of lick and a promise housekeeping. You have summer clothing and equipment for summer activities to put in storage. You have stuff that has somehow multiplied when you weren't looking and is beginning to crowd you out of the house. The look of the place has gone from lived-in to depressing. And you'll be spending the majority of your time indoors for the next few months.

Quick, before Thanksgiving, when you'll get too busy, pick an area and get to work on making it more livable. Move the furniture and vacuum under it instead of just around it. Declutter! Gather up the stuff you don't use or love and donate it. If no one will take it, throw it away! "But I spent money for this!" you say, "I have to keep it to get my money's worth!" That money is already lost. Don't throw good money after bad. You will be richer without it. We call this process "making the house bigger". Just think how much it would cost to build an addition that would give you the added space you get from clearing this stuff out. Now think of the added taxes you'd pay to earn that money. And the added property taxes on your house for the added space. And the added income tax on the money you earn to pay the added property tax. By clearing stuff out, you're getting all that added space for free!

Before you think I did this all in one day, let me say I only started on one room. The kitchen. I dusted, which I do once a year. I vacuumed that nasty carpet. I moved the fridge and the dishwasher and vacuumed under them. I cleaned the outside of the dishwasher, microwave, fridge, and oven, I wiped down the countertops and stove top and cleaned the sink. If I have this kind of energy tomorrow, I'll start cleaning the inside of things.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

They're at it Again!

If you look at Cake Wrecks, you'll find that the book tour turned into a "Wreck" of its own, when Jen's husband and co-blogger, John, fell seriously ill in Dallas. Well, Jen and John are nothing if not determined to bring sweet, hilarious, wrecky frosted goodness to the masses! They are back on the road, making a re-scheduled stop in Austin on Saturday!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Here! It's Here!

Long-time readers of this blog already know that we are big fans of Cake Wrecks. The blog can be a little slow to load*, but it's worth it! The night I first discovered it, I stayed up way too late reading the archives and laughing until my ribs ached. You all know how much we need laughter lately. That's why we've been eagerly awaiting the book, which promises "over 150 Cake Wrecks, including 75 percent never-before-seen content." It's here!

For you newcomers, Jen explains: "A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places. Now, don't you have a photo you want to send me? ;)"

Look at the blog. Read the archives. Buy the book. Laugh your butt off. You'll be glad you did!

*Since its recent redesign, it has a little too much content on its home page, IMHO. But if you have a good connection, you might not even notice. If you paste into Google Reader, new material appears quickly enough, even over dialup! If you're a bit puzzled by the obscure jokes in current posts about the book promotion tour, most of them refer to past Wrecks. Read the archives. You're sure to find something to tickle your funny bone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

You Can't Make it Up This Good

This only made me laugh because it's so typical of what so many churches are doing. It's sad, really:

Children with Special Needs, Our Vision

Take a look at Children with Special Needs, Our Vision. Now Bethlehem Baptist Church is not a small church by anyone's definition, and I don't know how much of this vision has become reality there, but this is an ambitious plan for any church. That's why I'm all the more impressed with the way LoC has worked to include GL and others who might have easily been overlooked. As the footnote says, "*Participation is dependent on evaluation and availability of volunteers."

In Sickness and In Health...of your child

I ran across a link to this post on another blog recently. It describes something I've had a hard time articulating. It is hard to keep your balance. There are some temptations that make you feel guilty even when you say no to them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Trying Not to Laugh

Second day on new med. GL slept until 8 a.m. this morning. (He was up at 4 a.m. Saturday. He's been up between 2 and 5 most mornings lately.) He was scheduled to acolyte today. We never know how that will go; sometimes he does very well, and other times he has to be taken out part way through the service. We decided to try, because we are usually playing it by ear anyway.

First, we had to get his alb to fit. He is taller than most of the other acolytes, and has always had a disproportionately large head. They have kids' sizes, which won't go over his head easily, (he's got his head stuck in them more than once) and adult sizes, which drag on the ground, but nothing in between. I got him an adult size. The belt went around him 1 1/2 times, almost twice. I hitched up the robe, cinched it with the belt, and tucked in the free end. Before long, the belt loosened enough that the robe slipped, and he was treading on the hem. I asked for help, saying that we needed to fix his belt, so he wasn't stepping on the train. He objected loudly, "There aren't any trains in here!" and wouldn't quiet down until I assured him that all trains would stay on their respective tracks.

He was a taperer today, and he was a little confused about where to stand, because he has always been crucifer before. But he managed the first part of the service just fine, and slipped out for Sunday School during the sermon, which is his usual accomodation. When he returned, he had a hard time settling back in his seat. I went and sat behind him, which seemed to help. The service wasn't any longer than usual, but the longer it went, the more frustrated he became. I couldn't tell what he was upset about, and I don't think there was anything in particular wrong, he had just had enough, and was ready for the service to be over. He was whimpering, with occasional tears. He wanted to leave right now, and go ride the trolley, but he didn't want to miss Communion. He couldn't decide whether to stand up or sit down, whether to stay or go.

When we said, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again," he stood up and announced in frustration, "No, He won't!" I saw the whole front pew trying very hard not to laugh. I tried, unsuccessfully, also.

When the other acolytes went up to the altar, he wouldn't go, but he refused to leave without Communion. So I sat with him until the acolytes' turn to receive. We went up together and received with the acolytes. I whispered to the seminary student who was assisting, that GL needed to leave, and BB could replace him. He said, "That's okay, I'll carry the cross."

We went to hang up the alb, and BB met us, ready to take over. I told him he could help if he wanted to, but it was already covered. Our church offers a choice between Mogen David from the chalice and Welch's in tiny plastic cups. GL usually takes the Welch's. Because that wasn't ready, he drank from the chalice. I don't think he's ever tasted wine before. As we were leaving for the trolley, he said, "That was some grape juice!"

After we returned from the trolley ride, several people complimented GL on his good work. He may not do things the same way as the other acolytes do them, but he works a lot harder at it, and people seem to understand that. They also encouraged us to keep working at including him. We were invited to eat with a family from church. MB and BB went, which is refreshing for them, but GL and I had a much-needed quiet afternoon at home. We appreciated the invitation but, "Home's the best place for all people like me."

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Friday, October 2, 2009

A New Doctor

We saw GL's new doctor today. He took his time. He actually read all the notes we made and asked intelligent questions about them. He discussed pros and cons of various treatment plans, and made recommendations. He asked if we had questions, and when we did, he answered them. He recommended changing only one thing at a time, so we know what's working, and what isn't. He recommended starting a new med at a low dose, and increasing it gradually, unlike the old doctor who would cut off an old drug cold turkey and start the new one at full dose. He wrote a prescription for a new med, plus refills of everything we were low on. We could even read his handwriting.

He wants to see GL every six weeks, but said to call him if GL doesn't start sleeping better in 1-2 weeks. Things look very encouraging.