Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Two out of three ain't bad

I can tell it's important to you and all....

But Chist on a stick, if you're going to be all high and mighty about it, can you please make an effort on spelling?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The magic of Christmas

N on left, me on right

Boo has been making Christmas cards for a few years now. I'd say three, maybe four. She has always enjoyed doing crafts, so it seemed like a good way to channel her energy for the weeks leading up to the holidays. I always had extra store-bought cards for if/when her creativity dried up. I certainly didn't want to be some horrible mom, forcing the poor kid to make card after card, the tears and the glitter mingling.

It's supposed to be a happy memory.

Which is why I only make Nea do one or two cards a year, since she hates crafts.

Anyway. One step in our creative process is cutting up the more useable cards from the previous year. I give you one such repurposed card, surrounded by more innocent efforts.

I wish you could see the glitter in the fartcloud better.

N and I really egged her on, among our peals of laughter. Her comment was "Are you sure this is appropriate?" Great. Outdone in maturity by a seven-year-old. Ouch.

My best effort for what the inside of the card should say was, "Wow, even his farts smell like Christmas!" I think N's was, "The magic of Christmas lies in your farts," but I could be misremembering. I was laughing pretty hard.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday downsizing ideas

I enjoy reading about other people's perspectives on holiday gift-giving. An idea we are not implementing, but that I like in principle, is the 4-gift Christmas: something to wear, something to read, something you want, something you need. Perhaps you can suggest this to the grandparents, if they tend toward the Giant Pile of Plastic every year.

Another idea that I am using comes from Bitch Ph.D. A booklet of certificates for activities, instead of things. Makes a great stocking stuffer!
  • good for one trip to the playground
  • good for one trip to [local pizza joint]
  • good for one trip to the park
  • good for one trip to the library
  • good for one playdate with a friend
  • good for one trip to the pool
  • good for one trip to the zoo
  • good for one trip to the Morton Arboretum
  • good for one hour of cuddle time in bed
  • good for one movie with popcorn
  • good for one bike ride
  • good for one obstacle course challenge
  • good for one session of cookie baking
  • good for one picnic

I'm going print them out on fancy paper, cut them out and staple them into a book. I'll probably draw pictures to explain them for Nea.

Because, as we all know deep down inside, our kids really want to hang out and have fun with us more than they want another Littlest Pet Shop toy or video game. At least that's what I believe.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Speech therapy games and ideas

Need some new ideas for speech practice at home? Here's a CASANA list that might be useful.

Monday, November 30, 2009

One of my favorites

i carry your heart by e e cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Yeah, yeah, it goes to 11

I've had my doubts about the pain rating scale that doctors use for quite awhile. If you've seen a doctor in the past 8 years or so for anything pain-related, you've seen it.

Image 1: Happy smiling face at 1, crying sad face at 10.

NPR even had a story a week ago about what a breakthrough this was on helping people manage their pain. Um, ok. If I'm discussing pain with a doctor, it's at least a 5, or I'd be at home, drinking tea on the couch. Anyone who says 10 is either addicted to painkillers (and hoping to score more) or lacking in imagination.

Let's take that old standard, childbirth, as a ten. Well, what if you were giving birth and someone started stabbing you repeatedly in the foot? While splashing boiling water on you? And pulling out chunks of your hair? You'd feel silly then, wouldn't you. You'd already self-reported your pain at the top of the scale.

So, under the premise that "It could always be worse" (my personal rallying cry), let's just save 9 and 10 for wartime and torture. So we've now shrunk the useable part of the pain scale from 5-8. That's not much of a range.

All this to say I have pleurisy. After my usual hemming and hawing, I gave it a 6.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Did I mention that UnitedHealthcare sucks?

Yeah, the problem with giving free tote bags to people when you give crap service is that they might, I dunno, change them. And carry them all over town. A lot. (previous post on UHC saga with advice)

So, UHC lied and said they paid those 3 speech therapy sessions from November 2008. As in, a year ago. The last several times I talked to them they said, "You no longer have coverage with us." And I said, "No shit. I'm still trying to get you to pay for something that every person I've spoken with at UHC says we should be covered for under our gap exception FROM LAST YEAR."

So I heard a rumor that the insurance companies hate it when you file a complaint with the state's Department of Insurance (
Illinois). I hear there's loads of paperwork. So tomorrow is my last call to UHC.

Thanks to the power of Twitter, here's just a few of the dates when I've tried to get these claims fixed:

  • I'm on hold with United F'ing HealthCare.
    9:43 AM Jul 27th
  • Can NOT believe that UHC still hasn't paid 3 Easter Seals bills from November. Q: Could they possibly suck more? A: No.
    7:10 AM Jul 27th
  • UHC rejected our 3 claims from November 2008 *again*. They once again assured me that they will be corrected this time! No, really!
    9:28 AM Jul 30th
  • On phone with UHC about those 3 November charges AGAIN. Do NOT use UHC if you have a choice! #UHC sucks
    11:59 AM Sep 4th
  • Look at me! On phone with United Health"Care"! Again! Person telling me how it's probably my fault November dates not processing. #UHC sucks
    10:05 AM Sep 14th
  • Just wrapped up a call with United Health"Care" regarding those same! 3 November! dates. Feel strangely optimistic that they might fix them.
    9:52 AM Sep 21st

We've had BCBS for a year now. It's been fantastic.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Next two book club selections

First up for December: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I've already read it, so that frees me up to finish some other giant piles of books next to my bed.

For January, it's The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I've heard good things -- looking forward to it.

There are many remarkable things about our group. My favorite one, though, is that none of us scrapbook. That's probably why we get along so well.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vantage Lite - tips on getting started

We finally had our first training on the Vantage Lite last week. It was very helpful, but really the biggest take-away from the 2.5 hours was one simple thought. If most language is based on the same 400 words used over and over (and it is) and that core vocabulary is in the talker already and fairly easy to navigate with some practice … then why are we assuming we need to program in the specific nouns for Nea's science unit?

The example given was, don't point to a picture of an apple and ask the child, "What is this?" and they go off and find the button and press "Apple". Instead, ask questions around that picture that uses core vocabulary as the answers. So I decided immediately that I had to experiment with Nea and her talker. I went home and asked her to tell me everything she knows about penguins.

What color are they? (black, white)
What do they eat? (goldfish crackers - har! and fish)
What do they like to do? (swim)
What would you wear if you were visiting them? (swimsuit)

Then we found the penguin button, too, but we'd used the talker so much before we even did that. It was fun, and she enjoyed it, and I hope doing activities like this will help her realize that the whole world is pretty much in that box. She just needs to learn how to use it more.

Because, you see, the talker is difficult in many ways, but the hardest for us is that Nea can talk a little. It's hard for her to decide to go through the effort of figuring out how to say something on the talker when she might be able to get her point across to us by speaking. This will resolve itself in one of two ways, of course. Either her speaking will improve to the point where she doesn't need a talker. Or her talker skills will increase to the point where it's not such an effort to say something.

Today I took some online training with the woman who developed the software we are using, WordPower. The most useful part of today's session was seeing how powerful the Vantage Lite can be once Nea is more literate. The word prediction is especially helpful. If you know how to read.

A couple links:
It looks like most of them are geared toward Unity, which is the software the Vantage Lite comes with. But what's a little customization.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


My parents are back from Europe, and they brought us (reverent voice) Luxemburgerli. Yes, apparently they love us. Sadly, they did not bring us enough Luxemburgerli. Because there is no such thing. There are never enough. It's the heartbreak of Luxemburgerli, really.

Many Spr√ľngli locations, but only in Switzerland. Big big sigh....
Now I'm just torturing myself. Ugh, so awful! Wah boo hoo, no more Luxemburgerli.

Monday, November 9, 2009

National Blog What Now Month?

I guess I signed up for NaBloNeMo (National Blog Neglecting Month) by accident. Instead of the better known NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Do not confuse either of these with NaPoBloMe, which I expect would be different. Eh, what the hell do I care.

things i do not like
yappy dogs

lukewarm baths
cottage cheese

Chrissie Hynde's voice

things I do like

movies, especially with popcorn
Peanut M&Ms
all food, really, just about*

Ira Glass's voice

*cottage cheese is not food

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tricky treat

We really do live in a wonderful town. These people were driving around giving out candy on Halloween, freezing their butts off. Sure, sure, so much for all our safety training. "Don't take candy from strangers! Don't go up to cars filled with strangers! Don't go up cars filled with strangers trying to give you candy! Don't go up cars filled with strangers trying to give you candy that are dressed up like the Munsters!"

Oooo! Free candy from strangers! I think all they heard was "blah blah blah candy! Blah candy blah blah!"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wow, it really is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day!

As usual, it's the library's fault. It's the library's fault that my house is unorganized. It's the library's fault I don't greet my husband at the door with a pitcher of martinis, or whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing these days. Because the library feeds my reading addiction. Of all the nerve.

So, a few months ago I checked out a copy of Mother Earth News (I've blogged about just that activity before). That issue had a review of this book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I put the book on hold at the library, as I was intrigued. I used the Internet to perform the hold, as I am slothful and enjoy reserving books from the comfort of my unorganized home.

Yesterday I made the basic bread recipe. Today, I ate the first slices. Alone. With Nutella. Several of them, to be honest. I immediately decided that perhaps you, my adoring reader, had heard of this book but had not yet taken the time to investigate further. Well. Let's just say that the library copy will not do. I will be purchasing a copy. I gleefully look forward to the light whole wheat, oatmeal, and sunflower seed breakfast bread. And the pizza dough. And others.

It's super easy and tastes just like the fancy bread from the store. The expensive stuff. Crispy exterior, chewy yet light interior. I mean, look at the cute things. Are they not adorable? Do you not want to just EAT THEM UP. With very little effort you make enough dough for 4 small loaves, which you can make at any point in the next two weeks. Like you're really going to wait 14 days. Sure.

You know, I'm sick. I probably shouldn't share this bread with the rest of the family. That seems foolhardy, doesn't it? No need to risk further spreading illness.

Remember, buy through my blog to help support Heifer International! Thank you!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Book Club

Next month's selection: True Colors by Kristin Hannah. I knew that name seemed familiar; she also wrote Magic Hour.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The laffs, they are good for you

You know I can't be serious all the time. Here's a few of my favorite places to visit when I need a little break, every 2-3 minutes or so.
  • I won't shop there, but I sure will laugh at their customers. I looked through all 50+ pages the first day I found this gem. I herby present to you: The People of Walmart.
  • I love Etsy. I do. But there are some strange things out there. For actual sale. On the actual site. No joke. Really. It's Regretsy, man.
  • I'm a sucker for the old "good lord, people are stupid, oy" stories of Not Always Right.
  • And then there's the wacky Awkward Family Photos site. Really. Me likey.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Update on the Vantage Lite

The problem with being all subversive is that you then might obtain information that you perhaps didn't want. But let's start at the beginning. Ever read A Prayer for Owen Meany? It's not my favorite John Irving book (speaking of which, who borrowed and didn't return my copy of Cider House Rules?!). It's not even one of my top three. But the one thing that stays with you after reading it is the feeling that sometimes it takes years of things falling into place before you understand the journey.

The two most important things that fell into place for us and our path for getting Nea the help she needs for her apraxia are:

  • Meeting and learning from the wonderful parents in the monthly Windy City Apraxia group. I only attend 3-4 times a year, but I always learn a lot.
  • Reading Schuyler's Monster. That book has taught me how to never give up in the fight for the right services for my child.
Two weeks ago I learned from the kind parents of WCA that there is a counter that can be activated on Nea's talker. You can then download the information and see everything: time/date/which button pressed. I immediately realized the significance of this, of course. I called PRC directly to learn how that works. Since, you know, we've had no training yet. Let me clarify. No one on Nea's team, not her SLP (speech and language pathologist), not her special ed teacher, not her mainstream teacher, not her parents, have received one bit of training. After 7 weeks of school.

Doesn't this seem like something you read about in a "taxpayer's money being wasted" article? Something like "In other news, a $7500 device was supplied to a special education student, but it lies nearly unused, as no training was ever provided." Luckily! Luckily I am so clever. Remember how since I lost the battle for holding Nea back from Kindergarten this year, I asked for and received a 30-day IEP review meeting to discuss how the placement was working out for her? (link to that post) That meeting is this coming Tuesday.

You bet your sweet bippie I'll be asking how they plan to rectify the situation. Do we need an aide to work with Nea? I'm thinking we do.

I left a message for the special education facilitator this morning to see whether all the right people were invited. I briefly mentioned the lack of training to date. I wondered whether someone from the cooperative that supplies our schools with the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device should be attending our meeting. I very much look forward to solving this issue.

So, would you like to know how many buttons on Nea's talker are pressed in an average 6 hour school day? How many would you guess? I mean, obviously how many words you say per day will vary based on many things. There are scientists who study that sort of thing.
The answer, for Nea, is less than 20. In half her waking hours. Five days a week. Less than 20.

And sure, you could say that she verbally says a lot more. And she does. But how many is that in an average day at school? Seriously. She's the quietest kid in the room.

This isn't my most lucid blog post. I'm swinging between being angry and depressed. Which is probably good, since I need to be clear-headed and logical by Tuesday.

Making lemonade

Thank you, thank you for nominating me for the Lemonade Blog award! Shelley, aka Coaxing Words from Shea, was so kind. I will mull over my nominations and post them next week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Packing healthy lunches

Need some new ideas for packing school lunches? I like this Cindy's Porch chart. Just print it out and hang it on the inside of a kitchen cabinet. Maybe spend some time discussing options with your child, and crossing out any items that are unacceptable.

I finally couldn't take the "cheese cracker?" "cheese cracker?" "cheese cracker?" "cheese cracker?" 5 year old anymore, and my kids are now packing their own snacks into little reuseable containers. We did 3 containers for each kid yesterday, with "cheese crackers" (AARGH), pretzels, yogurt-covered raisins, graham crackers, sunflower seeds, and various other options. They got to pick which to mix and match. Now every morning after they have dressed, pottied, brushed teeth and hair, and put their pajamas on their beds, they may pick one of their ready-made snacks and put them in their backpacks.

I'm planning on having them do more helping with their lunches, too, starting very soon. Why should I get all the fun?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy organic potatoes

I planted 24 potato plants in the old compost pile last May. Of the Katahdin variety. I've been taking up a plant or two at a time, using them fresh. I made the best oven-baked fries evah! recently. Tonight it'll be meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner. YUM.

Shown in the photo is what I harvested in 5 minutes today, with a background of a pumpkin I didn't plant (It's magic! It just showed up and took over a massive patch of land!) and 2 butternut squashes (that constitute two-fifths of the pathetic butternut harvest this year). See the quarter for size reference. I'm guessing I'll get at least 50 pounds of potatoes this year!

That potato behind the quarter has to be at least a pound. It's huge. I'd love it and hug it and call it Big Momma if it weren't already cut up and boiling on top of the stove right now. Sorry, Big Momma! Better luck next time!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Today this child said to me "Mama! Wake up! It's morning time!" You know, I'm beginning to think she's coming along with this speech thing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh, how convenient!

So we've had the Vantage Lite for three weeks or so now. We're still getting used to it. Still waiting for training from the school's augmentative communications department. I figured out how to edit it today. I added Nea's favorite button from her last talker (aka the doorstop): My sister's name is (Boo).

Something struck me when we first started looking around the menus and such. Can you find it in the photo below?

(I know it's a bit hard to see. There's a larger photo at the bottom of this post.)

Yeah. Imagine. What a world we live in when the communications device companies whore themselves out to the fast food companies. Unbelievable. Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall for that meeting? What do you pay to product placement yourself on a comm device? And the bubbly parents: "She can't say much, but boy, she sure figured out how to ask for shit on a bun quickly, didn't she? Our little angel! Naturally we take her whenever she asks. It's what she wants!"

Can you tell we don't do much fast food around here? Actually, this week was pretty exciting because I decided to make it my goal to have a vegetable garden planted at our grade school next spring. A friend of mine wants to overhaul the school lunch program. Naturally these two goals dovetail nicely. The PTA meeting is tomorrow, so I hope to meet the head of the recently resurrected garden club. And the head of the wellness committee.

It appears from this week's email trail that my goal won't be nearly as difficult as I first thought. Others are also interested in growing food on school property. The kids will learn about nutrition, science, cooking, gardening.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Next choice for book club

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It's a long one! 973 pages! Better get cracking!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Relaxing at home, just me and my PTO

I decided in mid-August to take this week off from work. It's important to schedule vacation time at my company ahead of time, so it's in the work plan and all that. We've been on reduced hours for at least a year now, but we have quite a bit of PTO (Corporate Speak: Planned Time Off*, which includes sick time and vacations. How sick days can be planned has never been made clear. Anyway, it's a great system for healthy people.), so it doesn't affect me much.

So, Monday was Labor Day, and I spent the day sick in bed with a cold. I still feel like crap today, but have been slogging through my To Do list in a Germanic fashion regardless. In my typical ridiculous way, my week off had two objectives:
  • Objective #1: Meet and talk with all our teachers and specialists, now that Nea is at a new school (our home school).
  • Objective #2: Work through and eliminate the piles of papers in our house that never get addressed.
Let's first turn our attention to #1. I have 1.5 days left, so it's still IN PROGRESS, but the schedule is:
  • Meet with speech therapist.
  • Meet with occupational therapist.
  • Meet with Modified Instructional Program (MIP) teacher.
  • Volunteer in Nea's mainstream classroom.
  • Volunteer in Boo's classroom (twice).
  • Added bonus: Attend parent's version of the sexual abuse prevention program, which the first graders will receive next week.
Did I mention I'm sick? Anyway, I think we can all agree I have met objective #1 with an astonishing, resounding, overwhelming PASS.

I'll get back to you on Objective #2 some other time. I have to go rest. I'm sure it'll happen! Maybe tomorrow! I still have time. Right? Am I right?
*ETA: I just realized (an hour later) that it actually stands for Paid Time Off, which makes more sense. I'm too lazy to rewrite the paragraph, so I'll just mention my error here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

August in Minnesota

This happened a little while back, when we were up in the beautiful BWCA, attempting to camp despite the on-again-off-again rain.

Setting: in the cabin my parents had rented.

Nea: Night-night ou-dide? (Sleep outside?)
N: Yeah, in a tent!
Nea: WHY?!
N: Because it's fun. Why, don't you want to?
Nea: Nope!

But we did (Well, for the one night. We had hoped for 2, but the weather was not ideal.), and it was fun yet a little damp. Right before Boo fell asleep she said she wanted to go to a hotel, but that was just a fleeting thought, thankfully. We were not eaten by bears. Nor did we go to the outhouse in the middle of the night and fall off a cliff. We also did not get mushroom poisoning, despite eating one Reizker (German, which is how I've learned the little mushroom lore I know) - Lactarius Deliciosus (Latin) - saffron milk cap or red pine mushroom (English).

We had to split the one specimen seven ways, so the portions were very very modest. I had heard about this particular type of mushroom my whole life, so it was nice to finally get a taste. Very deliciosus, indeed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You know, gardening and apraxia!

I like to say my blog is about gardening and apraxia. A few months ago while searching for more apraxia blogs, I found another blog about gardening and apraxia. Imagine my surprise! I don't know if Shea's mom would call her blog that. But that's the power of Google, isn't it? Someone more or less like you. Out there. Telling stories that are different, yet strangely familiar. Here’s my favorite two posts from recently:

Not very coincidentally, school started the day I last blogged, a week ago. I'm sure to catch up on recording some thoughts soon. Really! Just because I made two batches of applesauce and a batch of yogurt today, and worked, and oh yeah, the crosswalk I've been fighting for for three years went in today (hurrah!) and the corporate fiscal year ended on Monday and people were laid off, and oh dear god I think I should go to bed now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Apraxia Handouts

For those of us with kids (with apraxia, obviously. Otherwise that would be weird.) starting school, here are some new handouts that might be useful. The first one made me cry. Of course.

Follow Casana on Twitter for more good updates: http://twitter.com/Apraxia_KIDS

Nea started Kindergarten today. She was fine. It went well. I had forgotten over the summer what a punch in the gut it is when I ask her how her day was, and she can't tell me.

But she is stringing together more and more words. A few days ago she said, "No, Papa bru air." (Papa brush hair.) And on the way home from our trip to Minnesota she said, "O-mo dere?" (Almost there?) a bunch of times. Totally cute. And today she said, "No spiel ou-dide, rain" (No playing outside. Rain.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

The advantage of having the same friend for 18 years

Scenario 1: My friend Jill is driving her minivan and asks me to pay the $5 parking fee, as she has no cash. No problem, sez I. I open my wallet and consider my options. Do I want to break a 20? Sort of, but that’s annoying at a parking garage. Hmm, I have a lot of singles. I could use those. But that’s kind of obnoxious at a parking garage, too. I have a $5 bill. I guess I’ll just use that. I hold it up to the light, idly checking the anti-counterfeit strip. Jill is still driving down the long ramps, around and around toward the exit. She turns to me and says, “Is that the one, then?” We dissolve in laughter at how ridiculous I am.

Scenario 2: We’re putting together dinner. It’s steak salad with garlic bread. She makes the garlic bread the way her mom does, with floofy white bread and butter and garlic salt. There’s a little bit of bread left. We’re discussing how our parents sometimes undermine our attempts to have our children eat healthy meals. Jill says, “Yeah, we were eating dinner, and my mom gives my daughter three pieces of buttered bread! That’s just so unnecessary.” I nod and make sincere “I agree” noises. She looks over at me. I’ve stuffed another piece of the leftover white floofy bread into my mouth, so I can’t actually talk. We laugh so hard I’m worried I’m going to pee my pants.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Week 9: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Total Jog: 12
Total Swim: 7
Total Tennis: 5

I'm wrapping up a week ahead of schedule on my self-imposed exercise routine. I'm going to be too busy to work out next week. Overall, I'm feeling pretty good. I'm definitely in better shape. A little firmer. A few pounds lighter. Not much, but still. Clothes fit a little better again.

Let's do the math. I did a total of 24 jog/swim/tennis sessions. That's an average of 8 instead of 9 for the 9-week period. I can live with that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fall gardening

Here's a fantastic resource for anyone who has heard of fall gardening, but hasn't actually figured out how it works yet. Plug in your region and what month it is, and it'll tell you what options are available to you: Mother Earth News - What to Plant Now

Hey, look, I'm a hippy! I read Mother Earth News now! AND I LIKE IT. Naturally I get it from the library. I'll report back on how my fall gardening experiments go. I sure wish I could find brussel sprout seeds. Next year, right?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week 8: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Total Jog: 11
Total Swim: 6
Total Tennis: 5

Turns out that publicly declaring one’s intentions to work out a lot does change one’s behavior. If I’m on the fence about going for my jog/swim/tennis, knowing that I won’t lie to my Adoring Public is enough to make me go through with it. But apparently not enough to make me catch up on the swim/tennis. Hmmm.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Biking with kids

N and I met partially because we both biked. More accurately, I was looking at the personal ads and circling ads with the word “biking” in them. This was back in the day before online dating. The stone ages where the Chicago Reader had actual print ads, and the person placing the ad could opt to have a recorded message to talk about themselves a bit more, and you could email or voice mail the person you were interested in. N still has a copy somewhere of my message to him. I asked him which Muppet was his favorite.

Anyway. Biking. We biked on our third date. We biked quite a bit during our kid-free years. We bought a house a block from a major biking path. I dream of a vacation where the whole family bikes down the path next to the Danube. My 82-year-old uncle still bikes. He’s cool.

When I was pregnant, I didn’t bike. Seemed too risky. When the kids were under a year, we didn’t bike with them. Too risky with their weak little necks wobbling under the weight of the helmets. Then we bought a bike trailer, and we used it some. Then we got two kid seats that go on the back of the adults’ bikes. Then we got two Trail a Bikes. It’s complicated because the kids are always changing size. Have you noticed that? Currently we’re doing pretty well with the two Trail a Bikes. Nea started using hers a full year younger than Boo did. That “my sister is so cool and I want to be just like her” thing is really working for us.
For shorter trips, they use their own bikes, of course. It's the longer trips where they need some help. Anyone have a full-sized tandem they don't want anymore? We're thinking that might work for us in a few years.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gardening advice for the day

Diversify. My bush beans are being eaten by chipmunks or rabbits and are a loss, but my pole beans (3 different varieties) are doing great! But even there, I have a favorite type that is outperforming the others. I will plant more of those next year. Cherry tomatoes ripen earlier than the larger varieties, and therefore are more productive in a freakishly cool summer like this one (in Chicago, not Seattle). I have at least 5 different types of tomatoes this season. How else will you know what works best in your soil/climate/light conditions?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Week 7: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Total Jog: 10
Total Swim: 6
Total Tennis: 4

Wow, I never thought I’d become such a jogger. However, it’s really helping my tennis, I guess, since my serve has really improved. The backhand has not. Beth and I don’t even keep score; we just have fun. It was a good workout this week! Did I mention I got my racquet from Freecycle? Love me some Freecycle. I requested 2 adult racquets and got 3 adult, 2 kid, and some of those fancy zippered racquet holders.

I also got a Wii EA Sports Active game. Boy, am I sore AGAIN. I’ll be comparing it to Wii Fit and My Fitness Coach pretty soon. I should probably use it more than twice before spouting off my opinion.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Next book club selection

One of my very very favorite books of all time. A book about reading. So meta, isn't it?

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

I actually blogged about this book before in one of my favorite posts. I can't wait to read it again!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sprouted Lentil Salad with Garden Veggies

After reading for the billionth time about how healthy sprouts are (the Magick of the Seed is Released!), I finally decided to sprout some lentils, which took only 2 days, and I threw together this really tasty salad. Other sprouts I want to experiment with include alfalfa, buckwheat, onion, radish, quinoa, sunflower, peas, and bok choi. Where’s a good place to buy seeds in bulk?

Sprouted Lentil Salad with Garden Veggies
Dijon vinaigrette (like this, except I used balsamic vinegar)
Fresh chopped herbs (oregano, dill, chives, whatever)
Shredded zucchini
Chopped tomatoes
Sprouted lentils ("how to" directions)

Mix equal parts zucchini, tomatoes, and lentils. Add some herbs. Add vinaigrette to taste.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Week 6: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Total Jog: 8
Total Swim: 6
Total Tennis: 3

Well, it appears that tennis, like many sports, take more effort to arrange than, say, jogging by yourself. Even swimming has its limitations, as the pool is only open hours that are less than convenient by my standards.

It was a revelation to me, many years ago, when I realized it wasn’t so much that I didn’t like exercising; it was more that I hate team sports, especially ones with balls. Which is most of them. This summer did start as an experiment, and I did leave out one of my long-term loves, biking, on purpose. I wanted to see whether I could expand my horizons. The answer is mostly “no” as we see here.

But my swimming has improved. I’m up to full-on breaststroke, which (in my head) resembles closely what you would see in any televised swimming event. I wear goggles, and my head goes under water on every stroke. Yep, I’m a professional. Let’s gloss over the bits where I gasp for air at the edge after most laps. Let us not talk of my freestyle and backstroke. And future bikini shots can be ruled out entirely, never mind what the comments said the other week. You crazy kids!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back to the CASANA conference discussion

The session was called "Planning for Preschool and School Age Transitions for Children with CAS." Sounds bland enough, no? Yet a huge number of participants were crying throughout the presentation, and the presenter also struggled to keep her emotions in check. Here’s the slide that probably signaled the start of the waterworks:

Common Fears of Parents
  • Loss of close relationship with EI (Early Intervention, which is birth to age 3)
  • Inability to “see” what is happening with child
  • Fears that no one will understand child; child won’t be able to say what happened; will be left out, picked on
  • Concerns whether staff will really care
  • Self-doubt – “I have no idea what is appropriate!”
Can I tell you how VALIDATING that is? That other parents are also having minor nervous breakdowns going from home-based, family-centered EI to the school system? And then from the preschool setting to actual kindergarten? I hear the next most-awful step is aging out of the system entirely at 21. I will continue to hope that Nea’s problems are resolved by then. It came up in her IEP meeting, though. Because IEP meetings aren’t gut wrenching enough. Let’s definitely bring up another bombshell point.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Garden status

Gardening is usually a good news/bad news situation at any given point. The good news in this cold summer is the zucchini, which have not succumbed to vine stem borers (yet), the first time in several years. It’s my first year with pole beans, and they are huge and producing nicely. I really enjoyed our first foray into lettuce. I tried some different peas, which are 6 feet tall and lovely for snacking. Much more productive than the other kinds I’ve tried. The potatoes are looking good. We’ve eaten two.

It’s been the best raspberry year ever. What’s even funnier is that they started out on the neighbor’s side of the fence. Those people moved, and the new people chopped theirs down. Luckily they were already established on our side. Then the “new new” neighbors pruned my canes down and I was pissed, but it turns out that helps make them more productive. Guess I should have read up on that.

Due mostly to the weather, I’m guessing, the tomatoes are pathetic. We’ve eaten a handful of cherry tomatoes, but that’s it. Cucumbers aren’t getting any bigger, either. The damn bunny continues to eat my soybeans and bush beans. Earwigs have taken up shop in the bok choy, ewww. And the eggplants are roughly the same size as they were in May.

Still, plenty of time before the frost. I should start another round of lettuce and baby bok choy, which doesn’t have the infestation problem.

I learned this year that a common weed, Lamb's Quarters, is very nutritious and can be cooked like spinach. Since my spinach is pretty pathetic, I’m definitely going to continue experimenting with the weed. Why not, right? It’s the edible version of garbage picking.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Week 5: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Total Jog: 6
Total Swim: 4
Total Tennis: 3

Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Giving advice: the gender gap

When I went to college, my parents gave me some parting advice. Mom said, “If you need money, just let us know. We don’t want you to go hungry.” Dad said, “If you break an egg and whisk it into your soup, it’ll keep you full longer.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pop-up book

So, just for a little more explanation. You know how when you are knee-deep in shit you forget to explain the context? This is the context.

Nea can say the words: pop, up, and book. But if you ask her to say “Pop-up book” it all falls apart. That’s apraxia. Later, when she gets better at phrases, she’ll still fall apart when you ask her to say a sentence. And even later, when she learns to say a whole sentence, she’ll still fall apart when asked under pressure. Or when she’s asked to give an immediate reply.

It’s a little depressing.

A week ago we were in this great little store in a great little town. The shopkeeper gave each of us a penny and told us to make a wish and throw our coins into the fountain. I made my usual wish, but my penny bounced out. She said I could make another wish. And I got all teary. Another wish? I haven’t had another wish since Nea was 18 months old and started speech therapy.

Resources to share with your speech therapist

I'm really annoyed that, as far as I know, none of the Easter Seals Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) from our center went to the conference this past weekend. Our SLP did ask me to share my knowledge, so I just sent her an email with this information:

Online courses for SLPs
Overview documents
Dynamic temporal and tactile cueing for speech motor learning

Also, word pairs. For example, Nea can say "K" in the final position. So, use that to work toward initial K sound. I'm using Lightning McQueen for this, naturally. We are practicing MIC-KEEN for his last name.

Apraxic kids should be pushed to make 100 word/syllable/phrase productions per every 10 minutes of speech therapy. (!)

I'm tired of both the Easter Seals and school SLPs not knowing enough about apraxia. Techniques that work with other speech problems (articulation, stuttering, etc.) do NOT work with apraxia. Having an SLP with little training in apraxia is just as bad as not getting ST at all.

Monday, July 13, 2009

2009 National Conference on Childhood Apraxia of Speech

I went to the CASANA* conference and the only tangible thing I got was a wristband that says “Every Child Deserves a Voice.” Boy, the learning and memories, though! They will change our lives. I have so much to say, and I’ll be writing about a lot of it in the coming days. Next year’s conference will be in Pittsburgh, so maybe that’s more convenient for your family, and you can start planning for that. I seriously can not recommend it highly enough. Having a huge room of people all with the same intent (“How do I help my child/my client/my grandchild with apraxia?”) feels so different. They all understand.

Just to show how intense it was, these are the lectures I attended, each 1.5 hours long. Note the veritable listing of Who’s Who in the Apraxia World as presenters:

  • Session 104: Effective Strategies for Your Next IEP Meeting
    (Charlie Fox)

  • Session 201: Multi-Sensory Therapy for Childhood Apraxia of Speech: Having Fun while Building Speech (David Hammer)

  • Session 302: Enhancing Social Language Skill Development in Children with Apraxia of Speech (Margaret (Dee) Fish)

  • Session 401: PROMPT: The Nine Key Treatment Components and Their Use with CAS (Deborah Hayden)

  • Session 503: Incorporating Phonemic and Phonological Awareness in Speech Therapy to Improve Speech and Literacy (Amy Skinder-Meredith)

  • Session 601: The Kaufman Speech Praxis Treatment Approach: Shaping Successive Word Approximations (Nancy Kaufman)

  • Session 701: Introduction to Dynamic Temporal and Tactile Cueing for Speech Motor Learning (Kathy J. Jakielski, standing in for Edythe Strand)

  • Session 803: Planning for Preschool and School Age Transitions for Children with CAS (Sharon Gretz and Kenda Hammer)
Much more to follow.
* Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America. I call it apraxia on my blog, but the real name is CAS, Childhood Apraxia of Speech. That differentiates it from the other major form of apraxia, which occurs in adults after a stroke.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Week 4: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Total Jog: 5
Total Swim: 4
Total Tennis: 3

Played tennis with a wall! Only lost one ball on top of the school roof, even! I think my tennis game has improved dramatically from "wow, so sucky" to "only somewhat sucky" -- great strides, my friends.

Ran twice. The second time I did 4 miles in a pathetic jog/walk. Took me an hour, but the weather was lovely.

For those of you not grasping the non-athletic abilities of Bluestem, please note that there are NO underwater turns in her swimming. Nor really any sense of dignity or style. She regularly switches in the middle of a lap from old-lady-breaststroke to laying on her back and weakly kicking her feet. She generally does not put her face in the water during her so-called freestyle laps. Are we getting the picture here?

Lastly, I did a My Fitness Coach (Wii) session that was set to "upper body," and my legs ended up so sore that I could barely go up and down stairs for 3 days. Yep. I'm ready for my first Ironman.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Words, words, words

I’m mentally preparing myself for two full days at the apraxia conference. This essay just helped me turn a corner. I’ve now starting called Nea’s problem a “speech disorder” instead of a “speech delay”. Seems much more accurate and appropriate, especially now that she is 5.

Funny, really. I know the definition of apraxia: "Apraxia of speech, also known as verbal apraxia or dyspraxia, is a speech disorder in which a person has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently. It is not due to weakness or paralysis of the speech muscles (the muscles of the face, tongue, and lips). The severity of apraxia of speech can range from mild to severe." It’s been staring me in the face for a few years now. And yet I still called it a delay. Wishful thinking or just ignorance?

I wonder whether using this terminology earlier would have cut down on the annoying comments (
previously discussed).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week 3: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Total Jog: 3
Total Swim: 3
Total Tennis: 2

Swum in a lake, even! Played tennis with a friend! If by “played tennis” you mean, “just volleyed awhile because I’m not good enough to bother keeping score.” I’m still behind on my tennis, though. I’ll have to try to catch up before the next heat wave hits later this week.

And did the 10-minute advanced boxing on the Wii Fit and couldn’t lift my arms for two days.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My two great loves, together at last

It's my first year growing pole beans. I started them on the East-facing wall of the garage on some trash-picked trellis things from last year's haul. That N wanted to throw out ages ago. He put some eye hooks into the soffit and hung twine since the trelliseses weren't going to be tall enough. The question now is, do I seriously need to get a stepladder everytime I want to harvest?! I can see why bush beans caught on. Those soffits are 10 feet up and the beans are still climbing.

They sure are tasty, though. I have lazy housewife beans from my aunt and "magic" beans from my neighbors. They start green/purple but turn green when you cook them.

I also have yard-long (aka asparagus) beans, but they aren't doing a darn thing. Yet.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Week 2: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Total Jog: 2
Total Swim: 2
Total Tennis: 1

The heat index was over 100 nearly the whole week, so although there was talk of tennis, my friend and I decided we’d rather live. I did My Fitness Coach once, too. So, not ideal but not awful, considering the weather, how much overtime I worked, and a certain birthday party that needed to be organized and held. See? I have excuses! Those are pretty solid, right?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Eating locally

I made $400 off my butternut squash today. I know, it sounds crazy. But they had a photo contest at work, and I submitted 2 squash photos and won first and second place! Clearly I am a fine and talented photographer.

Well, it would seem more impressive, except there were no other entries in the “green initiatives” category. Takes a little bit of the thrill out of it, except that, hey, $400. Then I won a book in a raffle. That was a little embarrassing.

And! This feels like a dream, but it actually happened. I presented on “eating locally” at my Big Corporate job. It went over big. Huge interest, lots of questions, and I had a quiz and corporate-sponsored lettuce seeds to give out. There’s talk of starting a gardening discussion forum. On the Big Corporate Internal Web Site. Turns out that public speaking isn’t as awful if there’s something you really want to talk about. (see previous Big Corporate
Public Speaking Experience).

I discussed the
Obama white house lawn vegetable garden, CSAs and farmer markets (Chicagoland 2009 Schedule), and the buy-these-organic dirty dozen. And how to know which foods are in season when at the markets.

Then I plugged Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver some.

I also went with the logic of trying to make gardening sound easy, so we discussed perennial fruits (strawberries, rhubarb, grapes, kiwi vine, raspberries), fruit trees (apple, pear, peach, cherry, serviceberry, etc.), vegetables (asparagus) and herbs (chives, oregano, sage, mint, thyme) for zone 5.

I have to figure out how to make a living at this.

Book club pick

Book for August: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I don't know whether I've read a whole lot of Swedish mysteries. Or any. But that's what book club is all about. Reading things you would not have heard about otherwise.

Happy summer reading to everyone! Anyone have an enjoyable/intriguing book suggestion with good discussion material? I haven't chosen one for September yet, which is my next hosting month.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two weeks until the big apraxia conference

I'm in tears, having just read an essay a parent of an apraxic child wrote for the CASANA scholarship. Ah, the heartbreak of apraxia. Looking forward to the conference coming up! I think I'll bring a box of tissues.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Passing on the gift

“For most of the poor in this world, stretching out their hand for help weighs heavily on their conscience. When these receivers are capable of giving to someone else, a feeling of dignity beyond explanation overcomes them. After all, the idea of changing someone’s life for the better with a selfless gift, even one as simple as an animal, is a revelation in itself. If every one of us in this world, old or young, gave what we could afford to someone less fortunate than us, the world would be a better place to live in. “ -- Heifer

I finally donated this blog’s Amazon proceeds to Heifer again. It was nearly $25 since December. No wonder we’re in a recession, people! You aren’t purchasing enough! (Kidding!) As always, thanks for remembering to click through the ad in the left sidebar. Every bit helps someone get on their feet.

You can read about more Passing on the Gift ceremonies here. Brings me to tears every time.

Oh, and if you are vegan, they have tree donations now. I'm just saying.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Week 1: Jog, Swim, Tennis

Well, the good news is that I attained my goal of jogging once, swimming once, and playing tennis once, despite the record-breaking rainfalls. I even did a round of Wii My Fitness Coach and some Wii tennis.

The bad news is that Dad was right. There! I said it. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. He warned me that tennis is a dangerous sport, due to the sudden shifts in direction during play. I reassured him that I wouldn’t try too hard, har har. But I pulled a groin muscle anyway. I didn’t even have that injury in my most probable list. N and I both royally suck at tennis, so I’m surprised I even managed to work hard enough to hurt myself.

Anyway, it’s not too bad, and I think I’ll be able to resume my plan if I take it easy for a few days. It does mean no little-old-lady-breaststroke, though. My preferred mode of swimming. Guess I’ll have to do mostly backstroke. I can’t do freestyle for very long. I blame my miserable lung capacity, but it’s probably technique and laziness as much as anything.

In summary:
Jog: 1
Swim: 1
Tennis: 1

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Apraxia, again

I don’t talk to the kids on the phone that often. Generally there they are. Right next to me. But when I was in Toronto last week, I spoke with both of them daily. Boo sounds so much younger than going-on-7. Cute and perky and really young.

Talking to Nea was difficult. I know that sounds stupid, but I don’t realize how much I depend on her gestures and context to help. Context is everything. “Yellow but” is either “yellow school bus” or “yellow karate belt”, but usually it’s less clear than that. “Stop” is either “stop” or “camp.” I mean, the substitutions are endless. But if I’ve spent the day with her, I generally know what she’s talking about, in general. Usually. You know. Generally. Mostly.

She had her 5-year checkup yesterday. I love our doctor. He’s always been really great about referrals or anything else we need. They had this exchange:

Dr. Dave: So, Nea, where do you like to go?
Nea: Park.
DD: And what do you like to do there?
Nea: Peel. (aka, spiel, German for “play”)
DD: (pause) And are you good at that?
Nea: Yeah!

Dealing with the apraxia always hits me the hardest around Nea’s birthday. Soon I'll be the mother of a 5 year old who can barely talk. It didn't sound as bad at 2. Or 3. Or 4. But 5? Yeah, that doesn't seem ... right.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The history of objects

I spent a few days among conversations regarding the history of family possessions. I’ll assume you can figure out roughly why. My parents both grew up during the war. You know the one, the one right after the Great War, known as the War to End All Wars. If you are from a family that fled repeatedly, you might have noticed what a toll that takes on how many things your family has from the old days. We have a few books. Part of a plated silverware set. Some photos. Not much.

My grandfather gave a stranger the coat off his back once. Back when that meant something. We’ll have to explain these things to our children. No, he couldn’t go home and put on another one. No, he couldn’t get another one at the store. A similar, yet different, scenario is the best scene in
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (spoiler below).

When the older generation dies, who will remember the stories behind the common humble objects? The spoon that doesn’t match, worn with use? The cracked children’s book, yellowed and falling apart? How long will we remember our family history, and the choices that were made under pressure, of what to save and what to leave behind?

How will our kids have any emotional connection to their possessions, when they are overwhelmed with plenty? I justify our filled bookshelves and toy chests with the “I bought it used! It was cheap.” motto. My parents always say, the only two things no one can take away from you are education and the memories from traveling. Which can probably be condensed down to just education, really. They have a valid point.

A rich lady is fleeing Paris, slowly and with all her worldly goods and luxuries. She thinks it’s fun and generous to hand out candies to the local kids, until she goes to buy more and realizes that the war has caught up with her enough that the stores are empty. At that point she panics and hoards the rest for her own family.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer resolution

Summers should be different. They should stand apart from the rest of the year. I’ve decided to try an experiment for the next 10 weeks. Each week I will jog once, swim once, and play tennis once. Using the ever handy mapmyrun.com, I see my usual jogging path is 2.5 miles. Walking to the pool and back is 1.2 miles. To the tennis courts is 0.8 miles roundtrip. Now, I figure the weather will be a factor, especially since it’s been so cool and rainy here in the Greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Area. So, if I jog more at the beginning and swim more when it’s hotter, no big deal, right? I’ll aim for 10/10/10 by the end of the summer. Since tennis partners aren’t always available, I’ve decided that hitting a ball against the side of our grade school should count, too.

The real suspense, however, will be how my body will fail me. Who wants to place their bets? Here’s some likely contenders: carpel tunnel (already have a little problem there), tennis elbow (have never really played, so this is a wild card), throwing out my back (not high returns on that – fairly likely), heat stroke (not at the rate this summer is going, but August is always hell around here), knee problems (another dark horse – no problems here thus far. However, both my brother and my mom have had meniscus surgery.)

Weekly results will be posted on Saturdays. This week (naturally) started out strong, with a jog yesterday and a swim today. I'm nearly done already!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


N trashpicked one of these and wow! The kids loved it. They climbed in it one at a time, and we rolled them back and forth on the patio. N is planning to saw it in half when the kids are not in it (ha) and will use it to make some footings for the bird feeder and such.

I'm excited that he didn't buy it. Score.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Twelve years ago my dad had his first heart attack. When he called and asked me what he should do about his chest pains, I said, "Call 911." Later I found the piece of paper he'd written it down on. I spent the next 20 minutes wandering around my condo, wondering what I needed to bring to the hospital. I ended up bringing a few books.

I have a deep automatic response to the information that someone will be lying around doing nothing for a few days. The response is to supply the affected with reading material. Much of my hoarding behavior is centered around making sure I have just the right reading material at hand for any given scenario. Too tired to continue a novel? Try an aged newspaper! Newspaper too unwieldy in bed? Maybe a nice magazine! etc.

Speaking of magazines, I, like many people, have trouble getting rid of magazines once they are in the house. So glossy! So I've come up with the perfect solution. I check them out of the library. Our library carried all the good leftist rags (Mother Jones, Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening) and as far as I noticed, none of the right. I'm really enjoying trying new ones and returning them after three weeks. Why, it's brilliant, this library idea. Ours also has Wii games. Truly magical.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Different kind of family vacation

My husband ("N") and I first met in October 1998. Within the first few weeks of dating I found out he'd never had a passport. I told him that he was going to need one if we were staying together. He received his first passport in January 1999. We went to Switzerland to visit family and hang out that February. If you've been paying attention, you'll already have noticed that this means that his passport expired in January 2009.

We recently decided to visit my aunt in Canada this summer. As in, immediately. Eventually it dawned on us that N's passport had expired. And though you can walk into a passport office and immediately receive your first passport, renewal is only available by mail.

So. I'm going on a road trip with my dad. Just him and me. There's a first time for everything. Imagine! I only have to pack for one person. I don't have to play tour guide/entertainer the whole time. Probably can skip packing the crayons and kiddie snacks. It's like a whole new world opening up.

I plan to crank my favorite music the whole time. Dad loves that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Profound apraxia at age (nearly) 5

I've been noticing that dd2 talks and sings to herself more these days. A month ago I listened in as we were walking home from the library. She said, “Two peepo in uh cah” (Two people in a car.) I mean, no one other than me probably would have understood the whole thing, but WOW. 5 word phrase? Unheard of!

Today she wanted more of some candy she'd had earlier. She told me, “liddle whi din eat” and then she said “dum”. So, little white thing (to) eat. Gum. I LOVE her workarounds. A skill more vital to a kid with profound apraxia? Can’t think of one! A sign of intelligence, I’m sure we can all agree.

Boo read us two books from the library today. She’s really improving. Nea likes to mumble the words to herself as her sister reads. It’s a little annoying, this small echo as we read along, but I’m not about to tell her to stop trying to say all these new words.

All the cool kids are doing it

Well, Baywatch did, anyway. Post a deer photo. And if he says it's cool, you can bet on it.

OK, fine, mine doesn't have lasers. Mine are Appalachian deer, though. They like to keep it more traditional.

Somehow I'm skeptical about this catching on as a system-wide meme. But I've been wrong before. Now I'll be able to yawn and say, yeah, I was hopping that bandwagon in the early days.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A little extra cash

I don’t know how many focus groups I’ve done in the past 8 years. I’ve discussed diapers and baby wipes. Snack foods, salad dressing, and frozen entrees. Shampoo. Herbal supplements. I’ve had people come to my house and show me a plastic wagon (Radio Flyer style). I’ve had people come to my house and look at my hair. I’ve been mailed samples to try. I’ve been interviewed in groups, large and small, and individually.

I’ve been paid $100 for 20 minutes. I’ve been paid $60 for 45 minutes. I’ve been paid just for showing up. I’ve had to take used diapers back to the office in a big bag to prove I didn’t turn over the product secrets to the competition. I’m not allowed to talk about the potential products. It feels like being an industrial spy, except the pay isn’t nearly as good.

Lately I’d say I’ve been doing one study every other month or so. It’s obviously easy bucks for little effort. Many are in the evening when child care isn’t a problem. Today I did one downtown after work, so I just had to walk over a few blocks.

What’s somewhat surprising is that we hardly ever get to see an actual product. It’s more “Does this ad work? How about this wording? Would you try a product flavored with whale poop? Why or why not?”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The littlest blues brother

Here's Nea. It's apparently genetic, this ability to look good in any hat. She gets it from me.

Did I mention that the Vantage Lite just happens to be what Schuyler uses? Oh. I guess I did. But there's a brand new video on her dad's blog! Watch Schuyler order dinner using the same comm device we'll soon have.

And since you can see it in the background of the first photo, here's what happens when you trashpick a planter and turn it into a patio pond. We have 3 koi (Kabuki, Rockstar, and Snowball) and 2 goldfish (Stealth, who is brownish and hard to spot, and Little Bert, who is actually Ernie-colored). The plants are real, but the flower is fake.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lest you believe I only grow veggies

As I have mentioned before, we have a little prairie going. It's probably about 30 square feet. There's been talk of expanding it, but I dunno. I like it small. I'll have to catalog what's in there one of these days. We have the standards, plus a few more exciting varieties: black-eyed susans, echinacea, prairie smoke, yellow coneflower, butterfly weed (one of the 17 types of milkweed native here), queen of the prairie, beardstongue, lupine (pictured*), spiderwort, beebalm, goldenrod (there's 14 varieties in Illinois -- I don't know which we have), coreopsis, daisy, wild indigo, and, you know, some grasses.

What is amusing yet frustrating about starting your own prairie is how difficult it is. What I haven't listed here are the numerous plants we want to grow, but have had zero success with. Prairie dock being the first example that springs to mind. These plants took over millions of acres without human help. Why is it such a struggle? Probably not enough fires scorching through our yard. Thankfully.

View photos of the plants mentioned and many other native Illinois prairie plants here.

* I took this photo. I'm very proud of it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Our own Big Box of Words

Big, big news around here. After trying out two other communication devices (Dynavox 5 and PRC Springboard Lite), I went out on a limb and asked whether we could get one we didn’t test drive: the Vantage Lite. The school agreed!

It just so happens that Schuyler uses one (see video). We’re hoping for purple, though, not pink. Anyway, I am thrilled that we will have a new tool for Nea to learn on starting in August. It has a keyboard for her to spell out words. It has much better sound quality than her old Doorstop, er, Dynavox. And I don’t have to worry that she’ll outgrow it anytime soon.

Ah, happy times.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In which I expound the virtues of spring. Again.

Ah, spring. Springspringspring. You rock. I love you. I love your rhubarb, asparagus, new fresh leaves on the trees, your hostas rocketing out of the ground. Your flowers. Bluebells. Daffodils. Tulips. Hyacinths. Lilacs. The cute little seedlings lovingly planted and tended to.

Spring, did I mention I love you?

Ahem. Anyway. Back to asparagus. It’s been a good year for us, relatively speaking.

Isn’t it adorable, all purple and spikey? Then you steam it, and it turns green, boo hiss. But a little lemon off our Meyer lemon tree on top, and it’s quite enchanting.