Thursday, July 30, 2009


Recently I read several blog posts that really got me thinking about special needs children. One was Just a babe with a kid who has special needs by Ellen at To The Max. In it, she talks about attending a conference and telling person after person that her son has cerebral palsy as a result of having a stroke as a baby. She talks about getting "the sympathy stare" and how she had trouble with that because she doesn't see his life as tragic. Many of her readers replied, talking about what the sympathy was for. Sympathy for the extra work involved? For the fact that their special needs child wouldn't every do the things regular kids did? Many ideas were tossed around and most of them seemed to be rejected.

The same day, Once Lucky posted on Where's my white picket fence? about the DNA testing done after her recent miscarriage. She discovered that the baby she'd lost had some genetic defects and that knowledge gave her some much needed comfort. She felt the miscarriage was supposed to happen.

The very next day after reading those two posts, Azaera from Taking It Day By Day joyously posted about her disabled son's first words AND Ellen (from To The Max) posted I think this blog has multiple personality disorder about how just a day after saying she didn't want sympathy, she broke down crying after seeing a boy run into his father's arms.

Finally, this morning Azaera posted Consolation where she talks about no longer taking comfort in the idea that she lost her first pregnancy to a miscarriage that was supposed to happen because now that she's the parent of a special needs child, that idea would imply that her son shouldn't be here either.

(Please know that I'm paraphrasing EVERYONE. No one said those exact things in that exact way. And even if they had, these are people talking about their own lives and circumstances and not meaning to pass judgement on anyone else.)

So... I keep thinking about this and turning it around in my head. And I've come to some conclusions.

I don't know what other non-special-needs people are sympathizing about. But as for me, I think that my reaction ultimately comes from the fact that I'm offended. Not by the person with special needs. But I am offended by the disability itself, that any child (any person!) should be in pain, should struggle to do things that should come easily. I view spina bifida much the same way I would view a pedophile. It is not welcome in this world.

Of course that would imply that I view special needs children and adults as victims -- helpless tragic figures who are weak in spirit or need rescuing. Well, I suppose if I was to be entirely honest, part of that is true. I do see the special needs populations as victims. But I don't view victims as automatically being weak or needy. I am constantly amazed by the tenacity and strength of people who overcome horrendous circumstances. My grandmother survived the attempted genocide of her entire country. She came to America at 14 years old, pregnant and married to a man a decade older who she'd met only the day before the wedding. She was uneducated because her schools had been destroyed. She spoke no English and knew no one other that her husband, a taciturn man who was almost a stranger to her. Decades later I asked her why she had a drivers licence even though she never drove and why she always insisted in voting in every election no matter how unimportant the election was and how sick she was. She told me, "Because I can." That strength, that determination to let nothing stop her... that's how I view victims.

Those with special needs do have my sympathy, but also my respect. And I do agree that no baby should be born with a disability and that a miscarriage can be better than a short life of great suffering. But that's because I abhor the disability, not the disabled. The disabled are like everyone else, I suppose. Some are nice and some are mean. Some are fun and some are boring. And some wallow in being victims while others fight against it with a vengance and perseverance that I can't imagine having.

I hope I haven't offended you guys too much and I promise to hop down off my soap box now and think of something funny.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The chaos

This week has been a bit crazy. Quinn hasn't felt well. He had a fever and diarrhea and was just in a bad mood. Of course because he was moody he refused anything that wasn't exactly the way he wanted it. That means he wouldn't eat much, wouldn't take medication, wouldn't calm down.... It was not a fun week. About the only thing he did cooperate with was diaper changing. And he kind of cooperated too much. He's almost three now. He's SO ready to potty train. He is fully aware of what's going on with his body. He'll bring me a clean diaper, the box of wipes, then say, "You got a dirty butt?" Sometimes he'll bring me a diaper a few minutes BEFORE he needs it. But hell if he's willing to sit on a potty. He hates them. So for now we're just sticking with diapers.

Other than that nothing is going on. And I do mean nothing. Upward Bound ended yesterday so Scott is done working, Zaven is back home, and there are no plans. None. Caly is still out of town, but the rest of us are just sitting back, taking a deep breath, and trying to catch our breath. There are a lot of projects in the works... but we'll start them all in a few days. Right now we're trying to adjust to the sudden absence of pressure. Upward Bound is almost like a force of nature in our summers so when it ends you just need a few days. I wish I could explain UB to you. I'll try to soon. It deserves a post of it's own. But right now I can't wrap my head around it enough to put it into words. That and I really have a ton of housework to catch up on. With Quinn sick (and screaming constantly) I just let everything fall to the wayside. I really, really need to go do some dishes and laundry and take the trash out. Sigh. Wouldn't it be nice if housecleaning ended too?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Great eHow Experiment

Just over six months ago I joined eHow. I did it because a friend invited me and it looked interesting. If you aren't familiar with eHow, it's a website filled with thousands of articles about how to do things. How to fix your fix a flat tire, how to make your own soap, how to write how-to articles. It's the go-to place for how-to articles.

My friend who invited me to join sometimes writes articles for them, and she was encouraging me to do so as well. Whe explained that you can make a lot of money writing for them and that it was easy. I joined... but promptly realized that I couldn't think of anything that I knew how to do. Plus the site was overwhelming. All the good ideas seemed to have already been taken and the advice I got in their foroms was almost as complex as the site itself. There was a lot of talk about SEO's and CTR's and actionable verbs. I decided I would wait until I had more time to figure it out. Then I forgot all about it.

But then about a month ago and a half ago I decided to give it a try. And it turns out that it could be very cool. Here's how it works:

Step 1. You write step-by-step "How to..." articles.

Step 2. eHow and google put ads on your articles.

Step 3. People looking for DIY projects or car advice run a google search and find your article.

Step 4. IF you've written a good article and tweaked it following the advice in the forums, the ads your readers find will be ads for products they want. So if you wrote about how to build a flower box, your readers will find ads for lumber and fertilizer and seeds.

Step 5. People click on those ads and you get a little money from each click.

Step 6. You get paid.

Step 7. You get paid again.

Step 8. You get paid again. Because your article stays posted on a major website that gets millions of views, you'll get paid every month for as long as eHow exists and people click on ads.

How well does it work? I don't know. I think that it depends on how much you write. But there's a boatload of people on their forum that are making hundreds each month and some that are making thousands each month. And the genius is that your work keeps earning money even if you just decide you're done writing and walk away.

Christmas ~ Ready, Set, Go!

Yes. It's six months away. So why the heck am I posting about getting ready for it now? Well, it's all Zaven's fault. Zaven's birthday is right at the end of June. When he was little and I was only shopping for one (slightly spoiled) toddler, I would shop for his birthday during the first half of the year and his Christmas presents during the second half. And it's still a handy way for me to keep myself organized.

I know what you're thinking. No. I am not a nut and I'm not Martha Stewart. But I do have to make some kind of shopping plan for Christmas because I have 6 people in my family. If we wait until November or December to shop then I would HAVE to put it all on a credit card. That means paying interest and fines and fees and suddenly I'd be spending a lot more money than I can afford. So I kind of spread the shopping out a bit. More importantly, if I have months to look for a great deal or to get creative about gifts I can save myself a small fortune. And I think I can help you save a small fortune, too.

First, a caveat. There are some great deals to be had just before Christmas. I'm not asking you to give those up. Ideally, you'd have the majority of your shopping done early but still have lots of wiggle room in your budget for last minute shopping. The difference is that if you do it my way, you'll be shopping those sales for fun and/or to buy gifts for a future birthday or anniversary, not because you're frantic to get a gift that you need right then.

Sooo.... here's the plan. Step one, make a plan. Pick one sunny Saturday and spend an hour thinking about Christmas like it's right around the corner. What if it were November? What would you be freaking out about? We're all freaking out about something during Novemeber aren't we? So imagine it's a Thanksgiving weekend and you've just finished eating (and cleaning) and you're about to make your to-do list. What exactly do you need to get done? Who are you buying gifts for? And what would they like? And how much money will you be spending? And what about food? Drinks? What about decorations? Lights? The tree stand?

Are you freaking out yet? Don't. Think about it for a minute. The food and drinks? Well, what do you normally serve? I just bought a whole sirloin for $1.99 a pound a few weeks ago and it's in my freezer waiting to be turned into a roast beast that the grinch would gladly serve. I'm not much into baking cookies and yeast rolls in this hot weather, but if I mix up the cookie dough and freeze it, it'll be ready to slice and bake this winter. Same goes for the yeast rolls. Frozen doughs last a long time. Farm fresh green beans would be awfully nice to just defrost come December. Get the idea?

And what about the decorations? Those lights and tree stand? It's yard sale season folks. You can pick them up for a few bucks if you need. In fact you can pick up a lot of your presents at yard sales, too. No, I'm not talking about giving folks used junk. But honestly, don't most kids outgrow their toys and clothes before they wear them out? Yard sales are filled with worn out junk... and with really nice toys that your kids might love. And they're filled with stocking stuffers, pretty flower pots and baskets that you can fill with all those free toiletries you've been getting at Rite Aid, and even a few kids clothes that still have the tags on them.

No, the toys will not be in their original boxes. But here's how I deal with that. Santa's presents don't come with the packaging. What kid likes those twist ties and hermetically sealed plastic anyway? Even when the elves buy from the stores, they remove all the packaging. In fact, Santa doesn't even wrap the presents he leaves at our house. They're just set under the tree on Christmas eve. How do the kids know which present belongs to which kid? Santa very kindly sets a child's full stocking on top of their gifts from him. He's so nice.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Humongous Entertainment

Back about 15 years ago there was a company called Humongous Entertainment which produced a series of computer games for kids. Little kids, I should say. Their target audience was kids aged 3-8. They had several series of games: Freddi the Fish, Putt-Putt, Fatty Bear, Pajama Sam, and Spy Fox. They also made Backyard Baseball, Football, etc. The sports ones eventually started being geared for older kids, but the others were just for young kids. The games fall into two categories: Junior Adventures and Junior Arcades. Junior Arcades are just boring arcade games. But the Junior Adventures are so much fun for a little kid. I know. I got them for Zaven when he was little. He loved those games. Then Caly did. And now Zoe does. In fact, when I dug them out for Zoe, Zaven and Caly started singing the theme songs.

You can download the games for free for a time-limited trial here. I think the trial is for a half hour. I'm not sure. You can probably download them for free to keep somewhere. But I have no idea where. And you can buy them at Amazon for about $10 each. My personal favorites are Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo and Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise. Fatty Bear is fun because as you play the game you get a recipe for made-from-scratch chocolate birthday cake. Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo is fun because of the songs. They stick in your head. (We kept singing the Zoo, zoo, zoo song on the way to the zoo.) Anyhow, my kids love the games. They're very simple compared with modern games, but they're good ones. Non-violent, very simple to play, but they're designed to teach problem solving. I hope you enjoy the free trial. And be sure to click on the "topiary creatures" outside the zoo entrance to hear them sing my favorite song.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Zoe with a violent E.

For Zoe's 5th birthday, she decided to mark the occasion by changing the way her name is pronounced. It used to be pronounced with both vowels long. Now only the O is pronounced. Caly asked if it was still spelled the same way, or was spelled Zo. She told us that it's still spelled Z-O-E. But the E is violent.


Here are the zoo pictures. We had a great time even though we didn't really see many animals. We went to the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee and they have a marvelous play area. We hung out there for a few hour and only saw the animals adjacent the that. But we went ahead and bought a year-long membership so we'll be back to see the others.

My how she has grown! She wasn't even one when this picture was taken.

P.S. As soon as we got home we read "If I Ran The Zoo" by Dr. Seuss and then she wanted to play Putt Putt Saves the Zoo on the computer. If you haven't played any of the Putt Putt games, you should try them. They're so much fun for little kids. Plus I just love the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo song. I can't get it out of my head today.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome to the Zoo! Zoo! Zoo!

This weekend is Zoe's birthday. We wanted to do a party before school let out, but we had to do Zaven's and Caly's parties so that didn't work out. Then we never got the list of phone numbers that her teacher had gotten together at the end of the school year. Since this was a crazily busy summer we've decided to wait for the party until school starts again. For those of you not in the southeastern US, that's not as far away as you think. Our school starts in mid August.

So, to mark the day... we are going to the zoo. It's supposed to be low to mid-70's and overcast, but no actual rain. A perfect zoo day. I promise lots of pictures.

Meanwhile, our phone was actually finally connected. It's the wrong phone number so they have to change it or we have to make a new sign. But after a year and a half we can now make phone calls.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Double click on the image to see it life size.
Maybe it will make more sense to you.


Caly is heading off to camp this morning. I'll be leaving here in an hour to take her. Meanwhile Zaven is already gone for the summer and Zoe is spending the week at Grandma's house so that she can visit her cousin and go to VBS. That just leaves me and Scott and Quinn. This is sort of a dry run for the fall. Zoe will be in all day kindergarten, and Quinn will be home with me. I both look forward to it and dread it. It will be nice to have some time to connect with him when no one else is around, but the mornings will be rough. I am not a morning person.

I can't help but think that this is also what our family will start to look like on a full time basis. Five years from now, Zaven and Caly will both be in college. Five years is a long time... isn't it?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New colors

I've been messing with the colors again. Did I fix the comments button, Tara? It's hard to tell when I'm editing the html, but it should be more visible. Now all I have to do is update the pics. Although I rather like seeing the old ones because it's nice to see how the kids used to look. They're changing so fast. Sigh.

OK. Bedtime. Or maybe the late, late movie.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to get better customer service.

Staples back to school sale

2 packages of Photo Plus Paper (60 sheets of 4x6 paper) at $9.99 each
2 8-packs of pencils $0.01 each
2 packages of Copy Paper (500 sheet ream) at $3.69 each
2 packages of Bic Velocity Fashion Pens at $1 each

Use the $5/20 coupon on the front of the ad
Use 2 $1/1 Bic pen coupons at

Spend $22.38 plus tax out of pocket
Get $25.32 back in rebates **
$2.98 moneymaker after rebate!

Now you can also TRY to get wal-mart to match the sale. Some will and some won't. They'll match the pencils for $1 and the Bic pens for $1, but they probably won't match the rebate or $5 of $25 coupon from the front cover. I say probably because on computer stuff wal-mart is supposed to match the sale AFTER all the discounts and rebates. This isn't a computer, but it's worth a shot.

**I did the math wrong a minute ago. I thought the photo paper was $0.01 after rebate, but it's a buck after rebate. I've updated my post to reflect that. For the rest of the flyer, go here and click on sneak peek, then enter your zip.

The phone company

I made this post just over a year ago about dealing with some customer service issues I was having at the time. I was fighting with my bank and my insurance company about a missing payment. That problem was never resolved.

I was also arguing with the phone company. A year (and several dozen phone calls) later, I may have just won the argument. The service technician that I've been asking for since February of 2008 has finally actually made it out to the building and discovered that Holy Cow! The phone service was never hooked up! Actually, I'm fairly certain that this is not the same installer or repairman who didn't come in Feb of '08. They've probably hired and fired a half dozen different guys since then. It's been 17 months after all. And the guy who came wasn't even the business-lines installer or repairman or whoever. He's supposed to do the residential service. He was actually covering for someone else.

But the exciting (excruciating?) part is that this guy told us that not only was our service never properly hooked up to the box on the outside of our building, the line coming in from the pole isn't even active. The box that splits our line from the main bus is defective.

What does this mean? And why do I care? Well, it means that in theory I can get a copy of his official report and have proof that we were never provided with phone service. And I care because I had refused to pay for my non-existant service and now I have this black mark on my credit saying I don't pay my bills. I didn't pay the bill. But I didn't pay because they didn't do the work. I'm not in the habit of donating money to large corporations just for the hell of it. I actually want something for my money.

I know you guys don't care about this. I'm trying to make myself stop. But honestly, this was the most frustrating process. I tried for months to get phone service and they kept telling me it was on already. On but not actually connected via a wire, apparently. And I gave up trying to get the service for almost a year. We needed it because Scott was trying to start a business, but then he was offered a teaching job. When the teaching job ended, he wanted to start his business back up again and needed the phone. So I started calling them back up and trying to get service. They are the only company that provides new service in our area, so I had to go through them. And this time around it was even more frustrating. I couldn't get new service until I'd paid for the old (never functional) service. I couldn't get a service call for the old service because it had been cut off for non-payment. I basically couldn't do anything unless I coughed up $300 for services which were never rendered. Finally, I asked someone to look up the record of their last service call. If they could show me where their own tech ever said it was functional I would just pay the $300. I waited on hold for 3 hours while she looked. She kept coming back and saying that she could just call me back. I said that I'd fallen for that line before and was not hanging up. So she finally found the old service record which said that someone had come out (but didn't say it was functional) and was of course followed by a phone call the very next day from us saying that it still wasn't working. And she couldn't find any record of anyone ever coming back out to fix it despite the dozens of calls we made requesting repair. So she set up the new line for me. I had to make a $100 deposit but that's supposed to be applied to the new service, not go towards the old line that never got hooked up. We'll see.

Anyhow, I may yet have a phone line down at Scott's office. Maybe. I think.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Today sucks.

Technically, I think I'm talking about yesterday. I don't know. I'm tired and can't make my brain turn it all off. Stupid little things are getting to me. I don't know why. Maybe it's the lack of sleep. It's stuff like how Quinn sleeps only when I'm awake, but the second I lay down he wakes up. Or the fact that Zoe wants to be ON me whenever I lay down. Not snuggled up beside me so tight that she almost pushes me out of bed. That's a typical night. I was referring to the atypical sleeping literally on top of my chest or side or legs or head. So maybe I'm actually annoyed because people are actually quite annoying today. Yesterday. Shit, I can't think. I'm going to go to bed and see how long until someone lays on top of my head and smothers me. Hopefully by the time I wake up it will actually feel like tomorrow (today?) and I'll start fresh.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bad Math? Or Miracle Toilet Paper?

I have math issues. And I feel the need to blog about them. Sorry, but I need to.

Let's start with some basics.

Just say I had 10 books.
What if you had 4 times as many books as I had? You'd have 40 books.
And what if you had "4 times more" than I had? You'd have 40 books MORE than me. So you'd have 50 books.

Are you following me so far?

Now what if you had "4 times less" than I had? Technically, there's no such thing as 4 times less. But what if there was? Well that would be 40 LESS than I had. If I had 10, you'd have negative 30 books. Maybe your best friend borrowed 30 books from the you? I have no idea. But mathematically, if you had 4 times less than 10, you'd have -30. "4x less than..." is not the same as "one-fourth of..." Four times less than a positive number is always a number less than zero.

So when Charmin's new ad says that if you use Charmin, you'll use "4x less" vs. the leading discount brand of toilet paper, do they really mean that if I buy Charmin I will use a negative number of sheets of toilet paper? I'll be able to not just use less toilet paper... I'll be able to make toilet paper? Because I'm having a little trouble believing that once I switch to Charmin I'll start magically shitting out clean sheets of toilet paper every time I go to the bathroom.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I screwed up the pictures in my last post and now I can't fix them because I'm out of town. OK. I'll do it in a day or two. I'm visiting with family, plus my mother in law seems to be having a mini health crisis. I'm not sure what' wrong but she's not well. I don't think she'll have to be hospitalized, but her blood sugar is off, she's dehydrated, and I think she's just pushed herself to her limit and not taken care of herself while she was doing it. She does it from time to time and I've pretty much given up on trying to talk her out of it. I know she won't listen.