Thursday, July 28, 2011

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Lt (Papa) Bear and Cadet Airman Bear are working the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. We record the location of every aircraft and track every takeoff and landing. If an aircraft goes missing, we launch a search and rescue mission. How many 12 to 18 year olds get to participate in something like that?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cadet Bear's Second Orientation Flight

Civil Air Patrol cadets don't just get one free aiplane ride, they get a series of flights, with a syllabus listing what they are expected to learn on each flight.
Here the pilot explains how to inspect an aileron.

Cadet Airman Bear points out the left elevator.

Buckled in and putting on his headset.
Taxiing toward the runway.

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Mumble, Mumble

Kelly at Unplanned Trip to Holland posted about her son's mumbling. GL doesn't do that exactly, but he will often come into the room mumbling, walk up to me like he wants to tell me something, and continue mumbling just softly enough that I can't quite make out the words. If I ask him what he said or what he wants, he says, "Never mind," or "I was talking to myself!" (In a tone that suggests, "How dare you interrupt me!") If I don't ask what he's saying, he'll continue mumbling until I ask.

The few times I have been able to pick out some of the words, he was asking for something. He apparently thought if I didn't hear the question, I couldn't say no. He seems to do this a lot when he's asking for something he's not sure he can have. I'd be happy to let him have many of the things he asks for but, since his requests are all over the map, I don't dare say yes without hearing the question. He thinks that's not playing fair.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Boy, Am I Tired!

We spent the day trying to trigger a seizure. GL was hooked up to a portable EEG machine. We let him watch as many videos as he wanted on an old-style (pre-digital, 30 Hz, CRT) TV screen. He rode shotgun for an hour drive on the freeway. We spent nearly three hours at Chuck E. Cheese. We lit fireworks leftover from Independence Day. (The small, legal stuff.) As far as we could tell, these things just made him tired, although he did throw up (only a little) on the way home from Chuck E. Cheese. He said he had a good time. He was actually quite pleasant all day, which is unusual for a day he gets to do any, let alone all, of these things. I suspect we'll pay for it tomorrow.

Seize Today!

We've adjusted GL's dosage, and the symptoms he was having seem to have disappeared. His neurologist wants to completely rule out any seizure activity. Since nothing showed up on the two-hour in-office EEG, today he's having a 24-hour at-home EEG. We're waiting for the technician to show up, but apparently the device fits in a fanny pack, and he can go about his usual activities. In fact, anything that he usually does that could trigger a seizure we're encouraged to do. We're praying that if he has had any seizures or seizure-like activity, the doctor will see it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Invent a wise saying and live forever!" - Anonymous

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Monday, July 18, 2011

GL was somehow under the impression BB was coming home today. Ever since I told him he's not, he's been banging on the walls and shouting, "I want my brother!"

Funny thing is, when his brother is here, all they do is fight!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


BB has camp this week. Not his brother's Special Needs camp that he will also be attending, but his own, nippical, ordinary Bible Camp. It seems odd that we're sending him to a Baptist camp, since we haven't been Baptists in years, but if our denomination has something similar, I haven't heard about it. MB took him to camp. They left yesterday morning, planning to visit family friend Mrs. C, who lives in the area, for the weekend, then MB will drop BB off at camp and return home Monday.

GL is much calmer and quieter without his brother around. We've said several times it would take much less than half the effort to raise one of these boys without the other, and it wouldn't matter which one. After this weekend, I'm inclined to say if we had only one, GL would be the easier. Things have stabilized; his meds are keeping him calm without making him dopey, but he's also much more pleasant without BB setting him off all the time.

I had big plans for the weekend. I knew as long as GL had DVDs, PBJ, and Mac & Cheese, he would be content and not require much attention. I'm a bit like him. Social interaction seems to take more effort than it does for other people, and we don't get as much out of it. Twice the effort for half the pleasure. And I enjoy my own company. I pity anyone who doesn't. Even in a crowd, you can never get completely away from yourself, so why not make friends? I know some people who are so dependent on their acquaintances, so shaped by them, that I suspect when they are alone, they cease to exist.

With no one to interfere, GL and I can enjoy sharing a space without needing to share an activity. Being alone with him is almost as good as being alone, and that's high praise in my book. I had a long accumulation of to-do lists full of items I haven't yet got to-do. What did I accomplish? I took a shower. Actually, two, one Saturday, one Sunday. I loaded and ran the dishwasher. Twice. Oh, and I caught up on my blogs. It took all weekend, but Google Reader now shows No Unread Items! They had been piling up for a while, partly because things have been a little busy around here, and partly because I have a habit of subscribing to more blogs than I can possibly read. While I was at it, I thinned my subscriptions. I started with the blogs with the most unread posts. If one to two months' backlog didn't contain anything I'd miss, out it went. I am now down to 92 subscriptions. I can't remember the last time I was below a hundred, and at times, it's been considerably more than that. Of course, in catching up on my blogs, I inevitably found posts in which they linked other blogs, and I had to resist the temptation to subscribe to those. I didn't add any new blogs! OK, maybe one or two. Now maybe I'll have time to post more to my blog, and fill in some of the many happenings over the last couple of months.

About 5 p.m. today, when it became clear that I really was going to make it to the end of my backlog, I noticed GL wandering around, looking like he wanted something. I had spent most the weekend ignoring him. He didn't mind, but maybe he would like a little father-son time. I tried to think of something we could do together, something that he would enjoy and I wouldn't mind doing. I know how much he likes Chutes and Ladders, so I asked, "Would you like to play a game?"

"Yes." he answered, "Clue Finders." So for the next hour and a half, he played a computer game, and I wandered around looking for something to do while I waited to get back on the computer and finish my blogs.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Up to around age 10 or so, GL would lose all ability to speak or respond to speech during a meltdown. We found that he could, however, respond to sign. If I gave verbal instructions, he couldn't process them, but by signing, I could get him to a calming environment (usually the bathtub.) We set about learning ASL as a family. An ASL interpreter in our church gave us lessons. We later moved away and haven't found another teacher and, while it is still difficult, he can now process speech to some extent during a meltdown. (He can also speak, usually yelling inappropriate things.) But I mention this because it was helpful to us at the time. Now when he gets annoyed, but before he gets to angry shouting, he will sign "No!" or "Sit Down!" repeatedly at the person he's frustrated with.
When GL is upset, he tends to yell insults at random strangers. We're working on it. When it happens, we remind him to use "appropriate words". When nothing but a bad word will do, we have taught him to "swear" using totally non-offensive interjections that we tell him are "bad words". Among his favorites: "bugs" "mud" and "dirt". As long as we act appropriately shocked, they seem to serve the purpose.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Looks like someone else has a similar problem

It looks like someone else has a similar problem to the one I had with

The Universal Amalgamated Journal Sentinel Tribune Post Dispatch News-Free Press Sun Chronicle Daily Planet Democrat Observer:

Life as the mother of 4: Globe Update
What problem, you ask? This one.
GL used to collect papers. Any paper that was not nailed down was his. Any paper that he could tear off or pry up wasn't nailed down. He would carry his papers around for a few days, then stuff them in his dresser and throw a fit if anyone tried to throw them out or reclaim them, shouting that we were taking or throwing away all his possessions. When he was done with a paper, he would throw it away. Sometimes he would claim a paper from my desk and walk directly to the trash with it. After all, it was his. Made it rather difficult to pay the bills.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sometimes you just have to laugh

Mama Bear was among those cut yesterday. She took it well. We had anticipated it, and she had been talking about looking for another job already. Not so for most of the people who lost their jobs. The idea of layoffs caught them by surprise, and they were even more surprised at who was let go. It did not go by seniority. Some people who had been there for over thirty years heard for the first time that there would be cutbacks and were out of work the same day. So far, my parents still have their jobs. We are waiting to hear whether they will be re-assigned.

Earlier this week, we took the car in for emissions testing, required here to renew the plates, which expire next month. They used to test by sticking a probe up the tailpipe, stepping on the gas, and measuring the exhaust. It was every bit as fun as it sounds. A few years ago, they switched to a system where they plug their computer into the car's computer, and the computer tells them you failed. Then you take the car to your mechanic, who plugs it into his computer to find out what the problem is. Sometimes, he can just reset your computer, and it will pass. Other times, it takes expensive repairs. Even if all he does is reset the computer, there is a minimum $100 charge for connecting your car to the the computer, in addition to the cost of any repairs. It's all a scheme to try to get fewer people to drive cars.

As long as we have owned this car, the Check Engine light has been on most the time. It runs fine, the computer just isn't happy. We've taken it in for repairs, and every time they corrected the problem the computer was complaining about, the light went out, but came back on within a week. It also randomly goes out for a few days and comes back on. Whenever we were due for emissions testing, we waited for the light to go out, then hurried down to the testing station. It usually passed. This time, the light went out about two months before we were due for testing, and stayed out. When we took the car in for testing, they had a new rule: if the Check Engine light doesn't come on when they turn the key, you automatically fail. If  the light comes on and stays on you fail. If the computer is having a bad day, you fail. In any case, you have to pay $100 to hook it up to the computer, spin the wheel, and see what you've won. Let's see, Bob, what's it going to cost me to register my car this year?

We've owned this car for ten years, and it wasn't new when we bought it. It has nearly 300,000 miles on it. It has run very well for us, and we were hoping to get one more year out of it, because we really can't afford to replace it just now. So we'd made an appointment to drop our car off for repairs the day Mama Bear lost her job. We dropped it off anyway, because you need a car to look for work at least as much as you need one to get to work. There is no public transportation in this town. (That's a good thing, by the way. Why is a story for another day.) The Check Engine light was out because...

the bulb had burnt out. The computer also said we had a bad catalytic converter (this car has two of them, at $700 each) but after a reset, all the codes cleared, and we passed, all for the low, low price of $181, not counting the $75 registration fee. That's one expensive light bulb.

So Mama Bear got a ride into town to pick up the car. She took GL, because he has been begging and whining for an adventure. That means riding in the car and getting something to eat. Since she was going  into town anyway, gas wasn't a problem, but teenage boys are expensive to feed at fast food restaurants, and whatever you offer him, he tries to negotiate up. She managed to talk him down to a visit to the big city library, which he's been asking for lately because they have several times the DVD selection of our local library. She just needed to stop at a couple of stores first. When they came out of the first store, the car wouldn't start. She called AAA. They had her describe the symptoms and put her cell phone in various places while trying to start it. Diagnosis: dead battery. It had a full and productive life, may it rest in peace. (Or be recycled into an equally reliable battery at an affordable price.)

They sent out a truck to give her a jump start, but estimated a 45 minute wait. In a car with a dead battery. In the middle of an asphalt parking lot. On a warm, sunny day in the middle of July. With GL already sputtering, "But-but-but, we didn't go to the library yet!" She called me, but I couldn't do anything because she had the car. I called around, but couldn't find her a ride. So they waited.

In the mean time, I called around to find out who had the battery we needed in stock for a reasonable price. That turned out to be Sears, at $64.98 for their bargain battery. When AAA showed up, they got the car started right away, then offered to sell her a Super Duper Battery for $125. When she politely declined, the man said, "But this battery comes with a six-year guarantee! If it fails in six years, we'll bring you a new battery for free!" Um, we weren't planning on keeping the car that long.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting for the Call

30 out of 170 employees at Mama Bear's work will be losing their jobs today.  We're waiting for the call. If it doesn't come today, she will still have a job, but of those that remain, 9 more will be re-assigned, most likely with a pay cut, and possibly made part-time, and so lose their benefits.

As long-time readers know, when my hours were cut, she took a part-time job to make ends meet. My job eventually disappeared entirely, while hers grew to full-time. I haven't been employed in the last three years. I have been GL's full-time caregiver since then, and home schooled both boys.

We'd appreciate any prayers, best wishes, or good thoughts sent out for us.


Monday, July 11, 2011

BB: GL, don't stick a light saber up my nose!

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And in this corner... Voltaren!

So many big things have been happening that I haven't had enough time to write about them, so I try to post the occasional little thing when I get the chance. I woke up one morning with a sore left wrist. I'm not sure why, maybe I rolled over on it in my sleep. I figured it would feel better in a day or two. It didn't. In addition to the continuous dull pain, I started feeling a sharp pain whenever I turned that hand palm up. Turning a key was especially painful. I never realized how many times a day I unlock a door with my left hand, usually because I'm carrying something with my right. Bending my wrist toward the pinky side also produced a sharp pain. That sounds like an easy enough movement to avoid, but lifting anything heavier than a coffee cup apparently causes my wrist to droop enough to that side to hurt. This was all inconvenient, but I figured I could live with it, and it wouldn't last long.

After two weeks of it not getting any better, I decided to see my doctor. I said, "Doc, my wrist hurts when I bend it this way." She said, "So don't bend it that way." She did take X-rays to rule out arthritis or fracture. (Maybe a stress fracture? or an old fracture that didn't heal properly? But I've never had a fracture.) So that leaves tendonitis. She gave me a brace to remind me not to bend it that way. I already had the pain to remind me, but the brace reminds me before I bend it far enough that it hurts. Presumably, that reminder also prevents me from doing further damage. I'm supposed to call her if it's not better in two weeks. She gave me a prescription for Voltaren Gel, which sounds like the name of a comic book super-villain. Or possibly a pro wrestler. Or as Dave Barry would say, "That would make a great name for a rock band."

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Nine o'clock in the morning, and it's already hotter than the predicted high for today. Accuweather, indeed!

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Monday, July 4, 2011


Our small town celebrates Independence Day with a parade of just the right size. It's big enough that some people come from larger towns and cities for that je ne sais quois you just don't get in a big city parade, but small enough that it starts at 9:30 a.m. and we are back home by 11. We and apparently quite a few other people complete the celebration with lunch and a nap. If you want fireworks, you'll have to drive to another town or buy your own.

This marks my seventh consecutive year of photographing the parade, but I didn't take nearly as many pictures as in years past, largely because the lineup doesn't change all that much from year to year. It starts with a kids parade that any kid can be in just by showing up, bicycle optional. Most of the participants are younger kids who decorate their bicycles, tricycles, and wagons in red, white and blue with help from their parents, who walk alongside or behind them.

Then a color guard from the VFW, followed by all the fire trucks and ambulances from the local fire department and those of several nearby towns, all blowing their sirens continuously, with occasional interjections from their air horns. GL covered his ears, but he handled the noise pretty well. Maybe next year I'll focus on his reactions to the parade.

It's not only the blend that's consistent from year to year, it's largely a repetition of the same entries. Each is assigned a place in the lineup, which does vary but seems somewhat random. Perhaps it's based on the order in which their entry blanks were received and processed. Scattered throughout are Jeeps, convertibles, vans, and busses carrying veterans of every war the U.S. has fought from WWII to the present. This is the kind of town where people still stand up and clap and cheer when the veterans go by. A few shout, "Thank you!"

There is an assortment of brass bands. Pretty much every business in town that owns at least one truck enters it in the parade. So do many businesses from surrounding towns. Every church and club and organization in town has some kind of entry. Every farm family enters at least one tractor, preferably the oldest one they can get running. I didn't take many tractor pictures this year. As with the fire trucks, I already had pictures of most, if not all.

Some entries leave me scratching my head:

I'm not sure, but I think it's (front row, left to right) a Civil War soldier, Betsy Ross, a Revolutionary War soldier, (middle row, left to right) Mr. T, the Statue of Liberty, a present-day American soldier, (back row, left to right) Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk, and Dr. McCoy. I didn't get it in the picture, but I think they had a banner that said, "Let freedom ring yesterday, today, and forever," and the name of the sponsoring church, which I'm almost positive was Methodist. So I guess they have a methodism to their madness.

Everyone with an old car, or just one they want to show off, enters it in the parade.

I'm seeing a subtle message here.

The two man rock band made its annual appearance. For the second year in a row, they got in near the beginning, then zipped down the back streets and to the start of the parade route and made a second appearance near the end. I think I heard that's okay as long as you fill out two entry blanks. I don't mind, I enjoy their music. They play mostly '70s with the occasional new song from the 1980's. I guess that counts as an Oldies band these days. When I hear the word "Oldies" I still think of '50s and '60s music.

Our State Representative was in the parade, as always. Did I mention that when Mama Bear had a question about something in his constituent newsletter, she emailed him, and he sent a personal reply the same day? 

Various sports / cheer / dance teams did their routines or just waved at people. 
One new entry this year was a high wheeler, or penny-farthing bicycle. When I say every business had a truck in the parade, I do mean every business.

This being a small-town parade, while it started out evenly spaced, it was soon bunched up, so there were groups of entries stuck in stop-and-go traffic, waiting for the entries in front of them to move, interspersed with gaps, some long enough that we thought the parade was over, but when we stood up to gather our things, we saw more coming. When the parade really was over, we weren't sure at first. There was a gap, followed by a police car (he was re-opening the street) followed by a long line of cars. But mixed in the line were several parade entries trying to get back home. We had our annual traffic jam, which sorted itself out in ten or fifteen minutes, and everyone went home for lunch and a nap.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011


GL bumped his arm.
GL: Ouch! I bumped my arm! I think it's broken!
BB: Can you move it?
GL: Yes.
BB: If you can move it, then it's not broken.
GL: You mean I won't have to get a sling and crutches?

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