Thursday, July 31, 2008

Further Proof the Internet Will Explode

I'm finally doing something with my Facebook page. I have friends, woohoo. In fact, Ed commented on the fact that I put up my marital status and it said "Suzanne got married" and yesterday's date. He congratulated me on my marriage.

So far, I suspect it will be a whole lot of nothing-but it did find me a few people from high school that I'd always wanted to say Hi to again. You know, the people who actually were nice and friendly, no matter whether you were popular or not.

In some down time today, I calculated that I am averaging 40 posts a month. At that rate, I'll fall just shy of 500 posts for 2008. Guess I better step things up, eh? If I do hit 500 posts this year, I'll be 20 posts away from 1000. When I started this thing, I never thought I'd get that many posts in-or that I'd meet so many people as a result. Awesome stuff.

Where's that darn Prize Patrol?

I sure can use them right now, since rent's due. Have you seen them?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What's For Dinner Wednesday

It's a wonder I did make dinner today. I've had no energy and a headache. A soak in the tub is in the near future. However, there are fans that I can't disappoint, lol!

Oh, and Saffa Chick has jumped on the What's For Dinner bandwagon. If you want to see yummy meals from Down Under, check her out!

Yesterday, I promised Gameboy that he could have pizza tonight. He was instructed to remind me to make dough first thing this morning. The child who has to be reminded to do basic things like brush his teeth and take his meds reminded me as soon as I awoke this morning that I needed to make the pizza dough.

This time, I was smart. I made a double batch of dough, so that it's ready whenever Ed might need it. The kids love the homemade variety and I like not paying for pizza out-especially since the only good pizza on this side of town is a little pricey (but worth it).

Then we went down a different path with the pizza. Both boys wanted white pizza. It started with a brush of olive oil, copious garlic, sausage and finished with mozzarella and asiago cheese. A little asiago goes a long way-and it is Chef's favorite. Here's one of the individual pies they enjoyed.

For my dinner, I finally tried making something that has been bugging me for years. Planet Hollywood has Captain Crunch Chicken on their menu and it sounded good, but something else always won out when I ordered my meals. Then, we've seen a Diners, Dives and Drive Ins with a Captain Crunch coated French Toast and it put that in my head. Tonight, I finally searched for that Captain Crunch Chicken recipe. Here's my result:That's a side of fried sweet potatoes. Yes, that is an appetizer plate, the usual portion size for me.

Anyway, if you were wondering about the chicken on the Planet Hollywood menu, but were too timid (err, chicken) to try it? It turned out great. It's got onion, garlic, salt and pepper in the recipe to counterbalance the sweetness of the Captain Crunch. It worked fantastic. I know they serve it with a dipping sauce, but honestly, this stuff didn't need a thing.

Oh, where are my vegetables? I really was in the mood for some garlic green beans ever since I saw that finale of Next Food Network Star. Alas, my bowl of them showed off a bunch of freezer burn that was hidden prior to microwaving. Today, you get to see a What's For Dinner Reject: my green beans: The next trip to the market will require a bag of green beans, because I won't rest until I have some.

I think the beauty of the Captain Crunch Chicken is that it will probably stay nice and crisp for reheating. Its a good thing there are plenty of leftovers.


What is the difference between the animal above and me?

I'm wearing jammies.

Today has been a total veg day. I'm battling a headache and have no drive to do anything. Oh well.

What's for Dinner post later...have to work up the energy for it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Aquatica, the Sequel

We went back to Aquatica today. For those keeping track in the home game, this makes the second visit for three of us-and the first visit for Gameboy and our friends, Bob, Maureen and their son.

We got a great day, with the requisite afternoon thunderstorm that cleared the wimpy folk out. It's things like that that make you say "DUH, you're at a water park to GET WET!" We love it when people do dumb stuff like that, because two of us were able to ride a bunch of the slides with minimal lines.

I did have every intention of taking some pictures for those Googlers who visit the blog at least twice a day for an "Aquatica" search. However, the lure of all the fun activities kept me from taking many. I got some at the beginning of the day and some shortly before we left of my boys on the sandy beach. That's it.

I've got patches of lobster red skin to show for all the sun today, but it was worth it.

Why? Several reasons:

*Gameboy had a fantastic day. We've known for a long time that Gameboy+Water activities=compliant kid. Now that he's been there and has a distinct favorite ride, we can use that as a reward for good behavior.

*We had company with us. Bob and Maureen have been busy unpacking and settling into their new home. I'm glad that they liked the suggestion to join us, because it was nice to hang out with another family. What was cool is that I took their son to ride some slides and Maureen took my kids on the rapids. Cool deal!

*We got to experience more rides, but we spent the most time on the same ride as last time. (Roa Rapids). I love this ride and it moves up many notches in my book, because we got some genuine laughs from Gameboy on it. He even suggested that we adults just let the three boys ride the Rapids as long as they wanted ON THEIR OWN!

Yes, at 10:30, he was very rigid and nervous to do the laps around the rapids. As a parent, I anticipated this and escorted Gameboy around the ride, talking him through how you work with the water's flow. I knew that he was getting the hang of it and enjoying it when, a few circuits later, he was venturing off ahead of me and keeping close to the sides because that's where the water runs fastest!

*We found four low slung beach chairs to deposit our towels and bags (but the valuables went into a locker). However, when we took our first break from the Roa Rapids, the gentleman who'd had his towels draped on the chaises next to us offered them to us! It was very kind-and nice that we all had someplace to vegetate.

The rides?

I only sat at the edge of the wimpy wave pool this time, because I'd gone off to do the slides this time. However, I will give the larger wave pool major props-it's the fun of being ocean side without the sandy bottoms.

Roa Rapids got 14 thumbs up (every one of us loved it). This trip, I used the flotation vest-and that most definitely enhanced the fun. We kept on going and going. Heck, I said to Gameboy that the next time here, if he wanted to just spend the day on the Rapids, we'd do it. (I think I'll be held to that, too)

We did the Loggerhead Lane again, but I was able to check out the Tassie's Twister this time. I have to say that it was worth the wait. From the top of the tower, you do a speed shot down a dark, enclosed tunnel (in a raft) to a 'bowl' where you spin around and then finally, you're finishing the descent (usually backwards) down into Loggerhead Lane's lazy river. A note here: if you arch your back on the raft (as if it were a luge), you'll get more revolutions in that bowl!

Hooroo Run has a large raft for two or three people (we had two) and on this one, we didn't have to cart the raft up to the top of the tower. The wait was long for the short ride, but it was tons of fun. Think of your typical playground slide, but 5 stories tall, with water running down it and you're riding in a raft.

I've now been on all four runs of Whanau Way (three today), and I have to say I like the Blue and Green ones the best. They're covered and dark and enhance the experience. Both days, I ended up doing runs one right after the other and man, five flights of stairs back to back is tiring! (both times, the equivalent of 15 flights in less than 20 minutes!)

We wanted to do Dolphin Drop, but the line was long all day, until we were dressed and leaving the park at 6:30. I promised the boys that once September rolls around, the crowds will be manageable and we'll do it.

The only negative that I see here is that we had lunch this time. There isn't a lot of variety. Yes, we all found something to eat, but the two counter service places served all the same items except one had pizza and the other had cheese steak sandwiches. I'm hoping that the menus evolve that you can choose from a larger variety in the future.

It was a good, tiring day. I'm sure that now that Gameboy has been, we'll probably get nailed to go back at first opportunity. Works for me.

Yet Another Sign the Internet Will Explode

I joined Twitter.

Back in January, I saw it on Bonnie's sidebar and thought "Wow, that's neat." I contemplated getting in on the action. Based on her Tweets, though, I suspected that it was a feed reader of all the comments she made on other blogs. That scared me off.

The idea that my comments I made elsewhere would be attached to the blog made it an unpalatable option. I started the blog to voice my thoughts, but the reality is that sometimes, the things you want to say can't be said where you want to say them.

This has been vaguely mentioned before. I even made a statement that if what I said offended anyone, they should stop reading. It was a rough patch that many steady bloggers go through.

I was wrong. Unlike Fonzie, I can say those words, lol. I found out that those tweets on Bonnie's blog? Just proof that the woman is very prolific (and funny). My comments to support others, vent about shared experiences and digs at politicos wouldn't make it onto my blog (be glad of that, my friends!) Twitter is like commenting on a blog post, without the post itself. So far, my feed looks like a span of non sequitirs.

Several of my favorites in the blogosphere already are on Twitter. Many of the Tech TV refugees have been Twittering for ages. I decided to join and get that feeling of awkwardness I left behind when I graduated high school! The "I'm going to be chosen last for kickball again" feeling, but with millions of people instead of just the mean girls of Merrick.

If the Internet explodes? I didn't do it! If it doesn't, you can find me on Twitter. I'm Suzannadanna.

Everybody now, sing along with Genesis..."I will follow you, if you follow me..." Uh oh, there go ALL 5 of my followers. Maybe I haven't figured out this Twitter thing AT ALL!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Smilie Award

Lately, I don't feel like my usual, chipper self. Worries about Gameboy, about my lack of sales success at work and worries about how the heck I'm going to pay the bills have really colored my blog with the frowns that I feel.

Imagine my surprise when I went to go read one of my favorite bloggers, Geggie and found she'd bestowed me with the Smilie award. It was a bonus in my eyes, since she recently had to take her blog private and gosh, I had a few days of Gail withdrawal!

Why did Geggie bestow me with the award? I guess (despite my opinion to the contrary lately), she feels I exemplify the rules stated here:

1. Must display a cheerful attitude. (not necessarily at all times--we are all human)
2. Must love one another
3. Must make mistakes
4. Must learn from others
5. Must be a positive contributor to blog world
6. Must love life
7. Must love kids

It really make me stop and think that sometimes when we struggle, there is someone there to lift our burden. Thanks, Geg! Your blog already enriches my life with insights, experiences and ideas. (and I still have to try those awesome recipes you keep posting!)

Of course, with blog awards, the experience becomes richer when we share the award with others we also feel demonstrate the criteria. There are rules to follow, too. In this case, they are few and simple:

1. The recipient must link back to the award's creator (
2. You must post these rules if you receive the award.
3. You must chose 5 people to receive the award after receiving it yourself
4. You must fit the characteristics of the recipient of the award, as posted by Mere.
5. You must post the characteristics of a recipient.
6. You must create a post sharing your win with others.
7. You must thank your giver.

It is hard to just bestow this on five honorees, as I can think of so many who do a better job of fulfilling the rules than I do. However, I take inspiration from the fact that I didn't get my dose of Geggie and name five who's blogs I would most definitely miss if I couldn't access them:

1. Days Go By-Jess has such a well rounded blog: life, family, thought provoking news, fun, parenting. SHe recently participated in BFF in Niagara Falls and the few days that she didn't post were boring. Glad she's back!

2. Functional Schmunctional-Grandy is relatively new to blogging, but she is a pro through and through. She's got a great view on life and personifies "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

3. Imaginary Binky-Sarah is another person that I miss when she takes a blogging break. She's the blogger I most wish lived next door, because I think we'd just have blast sitting in the yard and talking and laughing. (The neighbors would think we were crazy, though).

4. Mandyland-Mandy is one of those great people that can crack you up with one line. If I'm having a bad day, her blog can post a picture of something ridiculous and turn the frown upside down. She's got one of the best jobs on the planet: she gets paid to eat pizza!

5. Wanderings of a Saffa Chick-I live vicariously through Saffa's posts. She lives Down Under, but has spent time living on three continents (and I believe she's traveled to a fourth.) Saffa has a joie de vivre that translates so well to print. She's a hidden gem of the blogosphere.

Ladies, thanks for providing great reading every day. Please go forth and share with five of your friends so we all can check out new blogs to read. Everyone can use a dose of smiles!


Last week, I wrote an open letter to Michael Savage after hearing his comments about Autism. Living with an Aspie is not easy, and the frustrations came out in that entry detailing an average day.

A friend commented that I should write a book about parenting a child with Asperger's, as there are very few books detailing the experience. I thought about it and realized that Holly is right. When Gameboy was diagnosed, I found many books detailing what Asperger's IS, but not what living with it can be for everyone in the household. There is not much out there about the day to day nitty gritty of life with Aspergers.

Some days, Ed and I feel like we're sinking. It's easy to feel that you're alone in this thing, because those who are on the outside looking in have NO IDEA of what it entails. The fear in the pit of the stomach that you get when the phone rings and the caller ID shows it is his school. The fear that he might be suspended from school for an outburst, or if you're lucky, that they just ran low on the Strattera.

Or when we realize that he's 12 and still has training wheels on his bike, hasn't learned to swim and has to be told to do everything from getting dressed, to brushing his teeth, to putting the dirty dishes in the sink and even that he needs to take his medicine. That we couldn't even consider sending him to Boy Scout camp because they would be blindsided by his meltdowns and we'd have to drive eleven hours to collect him from camp when that happened.

This summer has been one of firsts: the boys have spent time at home alone and we've got family nearby to ease some of the burden. This has been both good and bad. We feel that Chef is excelling in the adventure. Meanwhile, Gameboy is stumbling.

He's been punished for breaking the rules time and time again. A basic absolute with an Aspie: if you make a rule, you have to enforce it. Fail to do so ONCE and suffer the rest of your life with the child reminding you of the one time you didn't do it. You can't change your mind once he's given a directive. Ever.

After a brief honeymoon period of staying at Mema and AJ's, he is now comfortable letting them see more of his true self. They're not enjoying the experience, and they're not getting the full tilt boogie Asperger's freak outs we do. He can hold his emotions in check somewhat at school and their house, but he lets it all hang out for us.

Jane had a situation that I think opened her eyes to why we don't get out and do much as a family, why Ed and I are always frustrated and have to plan even the simplest outing like the military plans an invasion. She thought she'd take the boys to Toys R Us so she could pick up a game system.

It was like telling the crack head that he was going to the crack house. Of course, he thought this meant his aunt was going to buy him what he wanted. When she said no, it triggered a Defcon 4 meltdown. In his black and white view of the world, this was like telling him "Yes, you're a crack head and I'm taking you to the crack house, but you're not going to have the crack. You can look, but you can't have any." We screwed up. Again. We forget that no one else knows the degree of this disorder in our son.

We didn't explain that any trip to any place that holds an item of Gameboy's obsession requires at least a 30 minute debriefing of the child before even leaving the house. Instructions on what will and will not happen, what the consequences will be, why we're going, how many stops we will make, how long it will take and that the trip is for XYZ purpose must occur. And people probably wonder why I don't want to go anywhere on my days off anymore. It's so draining and frustrating to have to spend 20 minutes telling the child we're going to the supermarket and what will occur just to go buy a friggin gallon of milk and loaf of bread. (and once he realizes that the loaf of bread is in the house, your ability to use it in the manner intended has now gone up in smoke-he'll eat it at first opportunity.)

When he was diagnosed, my siblings Legacy and Peg told me I was over reacting, that there was nothing wrong with my child. "He's so smart", as if that negated the diagnosis-that smart people aren't supposed to be mentally ill. It wasn't until the federal government decided he was eligible for Medicaid and SSDI that they conceded that there might be a problem. They only saw snippets of my son.

Once in a while, I meet another parent of a child on the spectrum and the experiences always feel like divine intervention. The other parent tends to show me a look in a mirror: relief that someone else understands and gets what your day to day life is like.

Sometimes, we have to restrain ourselves from giddiness that for a few minutes, you're in the company of someone who just GETS why you're asking "does he sleep?" "what food does your child actually eat?" "have you tried..." That light, giddy feeling of being understood? It's fleeting, and all too infrequent.

Alas, we tend to retreat back into our cocoons, afraid of getting hurt. The parents of neurotypical children think we're horrible and inept. We know they're whispering behind our backs. "God, that child is a terror-he walks all over her!" If only they knew that this is a child who is heavily medicated and this is GOOD compared to where he was even a couple of years ago.

We Aspie parents have been hurt time and time again by the comments of others who made snap judgements after a five minute observation of our lives. Hurt by daycare directors who didn't want to address our child's needs and kicked our children out. Hurt by the paraprofessionals who are charged with being an aide to our child-but don't want to learn about Asperger's. Hurt by parents in the neighborhoods who think that its funny for their kids to pick on a child who has a mental disorder and do nothing to teach their children to respect the differences. It'd be nice to say I don't care what other people think, but that is a lie that I can't bring myself to say.

I thought about Holly's comment, and realized that she's absolutely right. There isn't anything out there that paints the true picture, that gives coping strategies or finds the humor within the stress, worries and fears.

Holly's a speech pathologist in an educational setting with a perspective I respect. She works with exceptional students and their parents. I suspect she has seen first hand that the special needs family tends to withdraw onto their own life raft adrift in the ocean and sending up unseen flares.

Writing a book seemed crazy, but she had the right idea. I love to write. I dissected the concept and came up with a Suzanne Solution. Why not blog about living with Asperger's? That wouldn't seem such a daunting task, because I already have that habit. Summarizing Gameboy's day wouldn't add much to what I already do. Heck, it'll make those doctor's visits easier, because we could print out the entries for Dr. N. (or I could send her the link!)

I plan to talk to Gameboy about it in the next few days and see if he wants to participate in creating content for the blog. You never know, it might inspire an obsession besides the games. Lately, we feel so much more that we're failing miserably, but writing it all down may make it apparent that there are improvements happening. It'd be nice to be able to look back and say "Wow, look at what you do now that you didn't a week, a month, a year ago."

In a departure for me, I decided that this would be a private blog in the event that it later seems worthy of shopping to a publisher. However, I value insights and opinions. I gladly invite those whom I know (on the Internet and IRL alike) to read and comment. Just drop me a line at SuzanneSez at gmail and I'll add you to the list.

Wish me luck that what lies ahead is helpful to our family-and possibly to other parents in Aspergersville.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

A Tough Act to Follow.

Have you ever had the front man/woman of your favorite band depart for greener pastures? Sure you have! Did you fear whether the replacement would be able to do justice with the original music? Worry that the band would no longer be a favorite?

There's one thing you can be sure of in the music business, and that is: people will leave bands. There is something about those artistic types that is certain. If the creativity isn't happening or their contribution not appreciated, they'll take their party somewhere else.

Sometimes, the replacement is just horrible. Sammy Hagar springs to mind when he joined Van Halen. (Gary Cherone was worse and I have a hard time knocking the man) Each is talented in his own right, they just didn't meld with the rest of Van Halen. Besides, how to you even attempt to follow up a larger than life front man like David Lee Roth?

One of my favorite bands replaced their charismatic front man, Fish. I was biased for a long time, refusing to accept the new guy for his abilities. I'm glad I was finally convinced (by Ed and Merv) to give Steve Hogarth another chance. While I love both incarnations of Marillion, I tend to lean toward's Hogarth's era.

Sometimes, tragedy strikes and you lose the lead. Last year, Brad Delp of Boston killed himself It was a huge loss to the music world and I'd wondered if they'd continue to record and perform as Boston. Brad had a very distinctive voice-would they be able to find someone to fill his shoes?

Ironically, the Internet smiled on the remaining members of Boston. One of their fans in North Carolina sounded just like Brad Delp, and posted recordings he'd made of Boston to his My Space page. To the casual listener, it was Brad they were hearing. To the members of the band, they could tell the nuanced difference in the recording enough to KNOW it wasn't.

Tommy DeCarlo
is a working class guy, a manager at a Home Depot, and sounds EXACTLY like Brad Delp. He also has been a huge fan of the band for years. Now, thanks to My Space, he's their lead singer.

While Brad is a tough front man to follow, IMO, Tommy is helping to heal the hurt left in the wake of Brad's death. I'm hoping the band is healing, too.

So, what about you? What bands that you like changed their lineup? Was it successful?


First commercial break for NFNS, and Donna calls me to vent about what's bothering her, too.

Gosh, this reminds me of being a teen and doing the same with friends as we watched TV.

Update: Adam cracked me up. Now I'm bummed that Aida's going to do his concept!

Another Update: Aaron rocked it out! His personality FINALLY shows up when he needed it!

This is too funny!

CONGRATS, AARON! Can't wait to see Big Daddy's Kitchen!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yay, Cake!*

I thought the family forgot my birthday. Mainly because not a word was spoken of it until I arrived home tonight!

I found a lovely homemade card from Chef Jr, in which he summed up the comments he makes each day when I get home:

The aforementioned "Yay, Cake!"* Carvel, even. I think the plus of two birthdays in one week is that there's a good bet that one of us will be sharing a Carvel Cake with the rest of the family.
We even got the jackpot on this one: crunchy heaven. Woohoo!

The planned post today was nagging me, because I felt it would work better in two years. You now have to wait until 2010 for "88 Lines about 44 Birthdays", LOL.

*"Yay, Cake!" is the response heard from Gameboy for a few years as soon as anyone finished singing "Happy Birthday"! It was extremely cute, and we still do it sometimes...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Saying Goodbye to a Furry Friend

Over the years of writing the blog, I'd thought that I'd written about my friend Jill's cats. I remember composing a blog that detailed her five felines and their very different personalities once when I was cat sitting. I even took pictures of each of them to catalog. Each of them gladly complied with my paparazzi photo session, some seemed to even be mugging for me. (I need to find those pictures.)

I just went back through the pages to find it to link to my post for today. Then I realized that I wrote it, but ultimately decided not to publish it, feeling it was up to Jill if she wanted to share the stories of her cats. Now I regret the fact that I censored myself.

While I love pets of all kinds, I am most decidedly a dog fan. In your face animal over indifference or apathy any day, as far as those friends in fur suits are concerned. Couple that with the fact that I'm severely allergic to cats and it probably is a good thing. I seem to handle being in a house with cats fine, as long as I don't sleep there.

When Jill moved to Florida in 2005, I was the friend who lived nearest and was asked to cat sit whenever she traveled. Let's just say she travels far more than I ever do, but not as much as some of my internet friends. It's been an enriching experience, more for me than the cats, I'm sure.

She moved here with five cats with very unique and endearing qualities. The eldest, Shasta, a orange tabby, was the quintessential 'big whoop' cat-but he ADORED attention, the grooming brush and treats and rewarded each of these with the loudest purr on the planet. A mush ball, if ever there was one.

The most ardent cat hater would probably have done a complete 180 if they spent a day with him, because he just had this way of looking at you that conveyed "I understand you and agree 100%." In February 2007, Shasta suffered a brief illness and died at the age of 18 at home.

Last week, Jill IMed me with the news that Simba, her mackerel tabby, wasn't acting normal. She had plans to take him to the vet. The initial report was that he seemed to be running a fever and was dehydrated. He was given some antibiotics and came home.

Simba is the cat in her brood that shows the most dog like tendencies. Many a visit cat sitting involved the grooming brush and Simba leaving copious amounts of gray and white fur on my clothing while purring contentedly at getting bunches of attention. As he's only 13, I figured he had many more years of depositing white fur on my black work clothes to come.

Jill shared an update yesterday. Simba was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which is extremely rare for cats. It was the worst case that the veterinarian had ever seen. He could perform surgery and extend Simba's life up to six months. Without treatment, he'd only live another few weeks. Either scenario meant he would be in pain.

Jill made a difficult and humane decision, that she would put Simba to sleep before he endured the suffering that is to come. She brought him home from the vet to say goodbye last night. In the morning, he will be put to sleep.

Goodbye, Simba. You will be missed, furry friend.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tipping A Hand

I'm a Food Network junkie. Admitting it is the first step, right? Anyway, it's what I watch when I have control of the remote.

Currently, they've got the foodie's equivalent of rabid sports fandom: Next Food Network Star. I've been watching this for the last three seasons, with an eye towards entering the competition myself.

Last year, there was a contestant that, week after week, would screw up or just be a jerk, yet he made it to the finals. No sooner had they hit the commercial break just before then end of the second to last episode did they air a commercial for a NEW show debuting. That commercial tipped their hand that Joshua Adam Garcia (who referred to himself as "the JAG") would not be the Next Food Network Star.

How's that, you wonder? Well, "the Jag's" show concept was Latin inspired foods. This new show? "Simply Delicioso", which featured Latin inspired foods with a different host (the cloying and phony seeming Ingrid Hoffman). I'd turned to Ed and said "JAG isn't going to be in the final two", all the while doing a happy dance that he'd been eliminated.

Then we saw that Amy Finley was eliminated, but the beginning of the finale showed that JAG eliminated himself from the competition when it was revealed he had misrepresented himself, his training and his military background.

This year's bunch has been quite different from the previous two years. I really liked one contestant, Adam's, quirky and fun personality, but felt he didn't have what it took to carry a show. This past week, he wowed them with his food (but his personality was subdued). I'd thought this meant he would finally go home and leave challengers Aaron and Lisa to battle it out. (My vote is for Aaron).

In a first for NFNS, no one was eliminated this week-there are three contestants going into the final episode. Curious, I went to the Food Network website to see the sneak preview. In it, the three finalists are charged with creating a pilot episode with Producer Gordon Elliot (so glad to see him gracing the airwaves here!).

Gordon is shown in consultation with Lisa, Aaron and then Adam over what vision they have for their shows. Adam's is to create a show where he utilizes the Internet to get ideas, inspiration and questions from the viewers. Cool concept, right? I thought it was a good fit for Adam's comedic abilities.

Tonight, Food Network tipped their hand again. Another promo for a new show was aired. In shades of last year, it had a hostess talk about her show, how you can email your questions and ideas to "Ask Aida." Same concept, different host.

So, when you see my show concept on a promo next year before you see the finals with me on it, you know I don't win!

Sorry, Adam. I'm hoping you get a show on Fine Living or one of the other Scripps networks as a consolation-you've got the personality for television.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Nikons

Back in 2002, Ed bestowed me with a digital camera for Christmas. He did tons of research, as he tends to do with any gadget purchase and he went with that year's top pick from Leo Laporte, the Nikon CoolPix 2500. It is a 2.1 megapixel camera and it set him back a nice piece of change.

I love the camera. It's easy to use and turns out a decent picture. Even an SLR snob like me learned to leave the bulky camera bag behind when we go out, because it's done a darn good job in a variety of settings.

A few years later, Ed suggested getting me a better camera, and he'd take mine. Fate intervened, though. We happened to acquire another Cool Pix 2500 for $75., all because my habit of carrying the camera everywhere meant I had a card and battery to test one that was being sold in an unclaimed items sale. Having two of the same camera is pretty cool, much like the many Minolta SLRs that we had among me, the ex, my Dad, Giggles and Dave. The same camera meant there was another battery or card at the ready when yours was dead or full.

Eventually, Donna decided she wanted a digital camera and turned to us for input. Bawb happened to be here from California, and he offered some insights as well. Ed and I pointed her towards the newest Nikon Cool Pix at the time, because we felt it would be a good one for a novice, based on our experience with ours.

Alas, we were wrong in our assessment. Donna recently lamented to me that she needed to find a camera for her Europe trip next month. I asked about the camera and that's when she told me that she HATED her camera and didn't use it.

The long and the short of it is that she sent her camera here and I'm sending her mine for the trip. Granted, the resolution on hers is much better, but that doesn't help much when the pictures are blurry.

Blurry? Why are they blurry, you ask? That's because the S9, unlike the 2500, has an abysmally slow shutter speed. Yes, one can learn to compensate for that problem. To a point. When it is clearly a good 1...2...3...4...5...6 and Click, even a statue couldn't keep up. I took some indoor pictures and had this problem. It might be better outdoors.

Donna, I'm sorry. We steered you to a dud camera. Mine is on its way, with cheat sheet and a 1GB card that should cover you for a week.

What's For Dinner Wednesday

In the quest for NFNS, I wanted to conquer the staple of Southern Menus, Barbeque. I love getting the good stuff when we're out-it was high time I attempted a recipe on my own.

A coworker pointed me in the right direction. Guy is a whiz in the kitchen himself, and his specialty is Carolina 'Que. He was kind enough to hand me his recipe last week after I'd mentioned getting a Pork Picnic on sale. Too bad I left the recipe at work.

I remembered what the key spices were and Guy's instructions. A quick trip over to the Food Network site found me something close. Their Carolina BBQ had Celery Salt, and Guy's had mustard powder.

This is where I diverged, in the interests of ease. I put the Picnic in the crockpot, slathered those spices in, added a cup of cider vinegar and realized I didn't have enough moisture. I remembered Alton's Dr. Pepper Country Ham glaze, and another recipe for Root Beer Pulled Pork, but I went for Atlanta's finest soft drink to increase moisture. A can of Coke later, and I felt that I had the right mixture.

Twelve hours of slow cooking netted meat that was really easy for Ed to pull apart and a quart of liquid and pork fat. What to do, what to do? Make some homemade sauce, of course.

The liquid was left in the fridge for a day to solidify the pork fat to more easily remove it. Then, it was added to a saucepan with tomato paste, brown sugar and more vinegar. On its own, it seems one dimensional, but with the Que, it's pretty tasty. However, I'm stirring some mustard into the remaining sauce to give it the punch it needs.

No, I won't be a contender for Memphis in May, but for a first time effort, it turned out pretty tasty. More practice is needed. Any takers?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An Open Letter to Michael Savage, Autism 'Expert'

Today, I was given a link to conservative talk show host Michael Savage's recent broadcast about Autism and what he called its over diagnosis. Less than twenty seconds in and Mr. Savage's ignorance has me seething. I was compelled to write this letter and share it with the Internet.

Mr. Savage,
I appreciate anyone who wants to do something to further the cause of autism research and understanding. You sir, have done neither. I have a piece of advice for you: stick to what you know before running off your mouth.

Last week, you claimed that 99% of those out there diagnosed with autism are 'fakers'. Similarly, you say that if you can't SEE the disability when someone has a handicapped placard, they also are fakers. That's a battle for another day.

You ask why the definition of autism has been changed to include autism spectrum disorders. It's quite simple. Research, research and more research. Those who were classified as 'odd' or 'different' even ten years ago now can receive treatment to better help them understand and assimilate into society, thanks to all that research. That's the hope, anyway.

The medical community is over diagnosing autism? Seriously? Let me give you another situation. Would you say that doctors are over diagnosing cancer? Of course you wouldn't. A generation ago, we hardly ever heard of anyone getting (or being treated) for cancer. Over the last 50, 20, even 10 years, diagnosis and treatments have taken astronomical strides. In our grandparent's day, people would die never knowing they had cancer. Now, cancer is not a death sentence.

My son is a faker, and his doctors have over diagnosed him. So you say. Have you met him? Have you spent more than ten minutes with ANYONE diagnosed on the autism spectrum before you made such a bold pronouncement? Where did you get this data from?

Tell you what, I've got a great idea. How about you come to my house and spend a week with us. No, wait a minute, let's make it two weeks. What do you say to that?

The first week, you can spend with my son, Gameboy, without benefit of any medication that in your expert option has been over prescribed. Then the second, he'll resume his medications. This way, you can go back to your listeners and back up your statement.

I'll clue you in on what your days will be like, just so you're not coming into this completely blind. A typical day with a child on the autism spectrum:

You will awaken way too early to find that Gameboy has raided the pantry or fridge. Typically, he will eat a whole bag of hamburger buns, a half bag of cereal, a bag of corn chips or most of a bag of bread around 5:30 or 6:00am. As a result, we don't have these items in our house very often. It sucks to try to make sandwiches or burgers.

Next, you'll fight him to brush his teeth, wash his face, change into clean clothes and take his medication. Oh right, the first week, you won't have to worry about medications. Gameboy will start his first round of badgering you to let him play games-that is, if he hasn't already snuck the games into his room and hidden under the bed.

Next, he'll complain that he's starving. Never mind the fact that he ate 6 portions of cereal, or 8 buns or something else that isn't suitable. He expects you to make all his meals Previous experience as a short order cook might help here.

Any time you tell this child "no", he'll whine loudly, state "But I wanted" or "NOOOOOOOOO" or "You said I could..." even when you didn't. No amount of talking rationally helps here, he'll still whine and complain until you scream loudly that he's going to lose more game time or tell him that he has to go to his room.

He's only this way because we're so permissive, right? Tell that to my neighbors who hear him crying all day long, and me or my husband yelling. We believe in corporal punishment, so that argument won't work, either. Your absent father statement doesn't fly either-my husband does more than his fair share in child rearing in this house.

Let's move to lunch. Don't forget his medication. Oh, good luck figuring out something he'll eat. Autism spectrum children are known for their extremely picky eating. We're lucky, Gameboy will eat a larger variety of foods than most, but much less than the average child. Factor in that many ASD kids also have food dye allergies and it makes meal prep interesting if you aren't a diligent label reader. Luckily, what's in our pantry is 99% appropriate for Gameboy.

By this time, you will have probably begun to notice how much he talks about games. All. Day. Long. Everything pertains to games. You and Gameboy probably will get along great, since you both monologue on topics nonstop, frequently things you known nothing about. Telling him to knock it off doesn't help. This is where his OCD over rides everything else. He has to finish saying what he's started to say and will drive you crazy. Oh wait, he's a faker, so I guess it won't bother you much, right?

We're still in summer break here, so at this point, you might want to get him involved in an activity. A swim? A ride on a bike? Oh, yeah, there's a related diagnosis, Dysgraphia. See, many ASD children have gross and fine motor skill issues.

At 12, his handwriting is laborious and slow. He doesn't have the coordination to swim or ride a bike. His still has training wheels and I can't tell you the last time he even tried to ride his bicycle. Besides, he'll bug you for the video games-even when he's been on restriction from them for two weeks and doesn't get them back for another week. He'll drive you so crazy talking about games that you'll tell him that asking for them one.more.damn.time. will get him another day of punishment each time he asks you.

Why's that? Because his disorder prevents him from having any impulse control. He'll do something, knowing full well he'll get punished because HE CAN'T STOP HIMSELF FROM DOING IT. Yeah, I know, I'm a lousy parent and I don't know how to set boundaries. That's why I'm inviting you here for two weeks, because you are the expert! Right?

Somehow, you'll get through dinner. Should be easy, right? It's the calm before the scream and cry fest that is bedtime. I'll tell you, it's the same song and dance every night, so you'll hear such great nuggets of joy as:
"I'm not ready for bed"
"I'm not tired"
"But I don't want to"
All of these will be yelled at top volume, over and over, in a screechy whining that makes Veruka Salt seem like a pleasant, well mannered young lady.

If you do succeed in getting him into bed and the lights out, your job won't be done. He'll sneak into the bathroom with a book until you send him back to bed. He may snag a hand held video game and hide under his bed with it. He may try to sneak out of his room to get other things to bring in until 3:00 or 4:00 am . That's because, he, like all those other so called fakers, has a sleep issue, too. He's on two medications for his sleep issues, but they mean he may get six hours of sleep instead of four.

You'll see that it's not as simple as saying we parents are too permissive or that his psychiatrists are just diagnosing this disorder so that we can get federal funds. Do you know how much a month SSDI he is receiving, with our household combined income last year of under $30,000? Take a guess, Mr. Savage, since you're such an expert.

Are you ready for this? $105.00. Yes, that decimal is in the right place. My husband had been unemployed, and Gameboy's check went from $79.00 to that huge sum. I'm funding my Hawaiian vacation with that kind of moolah, wouldn't you say? That amount didn't even cover his medication copays.

Then there's the eight months that we either had no insurance or insurance that didn't cover his prescriptions. We spent $1200 to $1300 a month on those medications. Medications that you don't think are needed, because he's faking. Milking the government, you say? Heck, the subsequent financial tailspin of paying for those contributed to my foreclosure this year. I didn't ask the government to bail me out of that, thanks.

We're not even going to get into the fact that at 12, he's aged out of daycare programs. Problem is, he's got the emotional maturity of a 3 year old, so it's not good to leave him alone for long. His father and I haven't enjoyed many of the luxuries that most parents do. We don't go out, because we don't think the average babysitter can handle him.

Heck, some days, I don't think even I can. I sometimes think that maybe he should be hospitalized so that he doesn't become a danger to himself because of that lack of impulse control. Then again, that would be milking to government, too, wouldn't it?

So, Mr. Savage, we're ready for you. I'll put the boys bunk beds back together and have them share a room. This way, you can have your own room while you're here. You won't be needing a hotel room, because parenting (even for two weeks) is a 24 hour job. I'd suggest you rest up before getting here, because you won't get any once you're here and doing a better job and dealing with my son and exposing his fakery.

Since you're such an expert and want to HELP children legitimately disabled by Autism, this is the perfect opportunity for you to put your money where your mouth is. You know so much about ASD, it'd be a joy to gain your insights and wisdom on a personal level. Perhaps you can even do a remote from our house while you're here, kind of an "In the Trenches Look at a Child Faking their Autism"? Wouldn't that help your ratings?

Mr. Savage, I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Just give me a little heads up of when you'll be here, I do need to carve out some time to get the room ready for you.


Suzanne Sez

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Great Birthday

Chef got the day he wanted yesterday. It's nice when we can actually do what is requested!

First up, he got the breakfast of choice, sausage gravy and biscuits. You can definitely tell these boys are raised in the south! Afterwards, dad brought out his new bike. Smart child that he is, he ran to hug Daddy.
His other requests were dinner at Red Lobster and a visit to Sea World. A quick call to Sea World found that tonight was the last night they would be open until 11pm-so we didn't have to rush over and deal with the heat (and tons of Brazilian tour groups, either-just some of them).

One of my coworkers asked me to stop by the store because she had a little something for the Crustacean Kid. It ends up that Kristen had a $25 gift card to Red Lobster. Awesome! Chef could now choose whatever he wanted on the menu. Of course, he went for the biggest, baddest crustacean meal around.

First, a salad. If the dressing has cheese or garlic, sign him up.

Next, he worked on the plate of crab legs, lobster tail, and garlic shrimp. We ended up sharing around and as a result, he also had scallops, clams and fried shrimp. Yum.
All the seafood at one meal made us a bit goofy.

With his new email account, we signed him up for the Red Lobster Fresh Catch club, and he got a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert. It was a tough call, but he chose dessert.

Next stop, Sea World!

The first stop on most trips here is the Sharks! Encounter. Pretty funny, because we had to drag Chef in the first time we'd visited the park. Here, a photo of the fish that looks like a salad.

There were two things we haven't seen before, because they're only run during the later hours that we tend to miss. The first was Shamu Rocks:

It was a pretty cool show, with various snippets of rock music and the killer whales performing the acrobatics that are cool to watch.

Wish this one wasn't so darn blurry.

Mama and baby whale. I think there's a picture in here from our visit back in early spring, baby has doubled in size in a short time!

Afterwards, we took in Wild Arctic and the Penguin Encounter, then settled in for almost an hour to wait for Mistify to begin.

Had we known what we were in for, we would have skipped it. There is a handicapped viewing area, which we were eligible for since I use the walker. However, it's an obstructed view and there were bright lights on that area (the rest of the waterfront area had the lights turned out). We were underwhelmed. We'll give it another try by going to another viewing area, but I think we're rather spoiled by the dozens of viewings of Illuminations, Wishes and Fantasmic.

We were out the front gate at 11pm and home before midnight. It was a darn good day.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

July 20, 1999

It started innocently enough. "New house, new baby." Ed had friends moving the crib into the third bedroom of our townhouse, while I was directing them to send those items to the basement-that third bedroom would be an office.

His push for the house was more inspired by a desire to add to the family than anything else. He knew I wouldn't agree to more kids until we owned a home. My plan was to spend a year settling in, then try for number two. Six weeks later, he convinced me that waiting was ridiculous. My apologies to my friends suffering from infertility, we got pregnant quickly.

Not quite two weeks later, I got the flu. Bad. I stopped at Wal Mart on the way home and picked up a pregnancy test and the TheraFlu. It was early, but I didn't want to use any flu medications if I was pregnant. A faint line showed up and I spent the weekend without any meds.

My OB/Midwives didn't schedule a first prenatal visit until ten weeks, so I waited until I was five weeks to schedule that first appointment. I'd seen the hippy flower child midwife, T, for an annual exam. She gave the all clear for trying for number two and didn't indicate that I should be concerned or call in as soon as I got the positive pregnancy test.

Meanwhile, I called when I was five weeks and a couple of days, and got an appointment in mid December. That sounded good, I even got in with my favorite of the four midwives, L. There were four in the practice and each was a distinct type:
M-the motherly type who gives you the worst case scenario and is very protective
L-another motherly type, but very nurturing and balanced
T-the hippie flower child who spoke of nothing bad
C-the woman who seemed to hate women, yet was surrounded by them all day

In my years of going there, I made it a point that I didn't see C, but the other three were all good and if given the choice, it'd always be L first, then M or T. That first phone call, I lucked into L as the first available.

Two hours later, I got a phone call. "Suzanne, can you come in to see me today?". It was L. I was thinking that maybe she wanted me to get a script for the prenatal vitamins, since I'd been borderline anemic the last go round. I'd already asked T if having the DVT put me at risk back at that last annual, and she said I was fine. I wasn't worried-concerned, but not worried.

It was after hours, and a secretary was waiting to bring me to L's office. We sat down and she gave me some stunning news. "Suzanne," she said, "You are considered a high risk candidate with your history of DVT. We need to put you on blood thinners for the duration of the pregnancy and run some tests to find out why you had that DVT. There's a 40 percent chance you'll lose this baby in the first trimester."

I was numb. Lose this baby? I had even asked if there was anything I needed to be aware of, was I at risk because of that blood clot and was told no. L apologized for the misinformation, but I truly was high risk. We discussed possible causes for the DVT, and agreed that it just could have been the combination of pregnancy, c section and depo provera shot two weeks post partum (at that time, they'd just okayed it for use 2 weeks post partum, but not long after my DVT, they went back to not giving shots until six weeks). L gave me some lab orders and assured me she would not rest until we had some answers.

The bottom line was that she told me that I was to leave retail for the pregnancy, that I was to take it easy and get those labs done ASAP. I left the office with a script for heparin, to be given by injection. (first, 5,000 units once a day) The next morning, I went to get blood drawn and some answers.

There were some answers, but nothing definitive. I showed several markers for Lupus, but didn't have it. L confirmed that I had arthritis from those tests (they were thorough!) and that I had Factor V Leiden, a clotting disorder that affects 10% of the population. That might have caused the DVT, but we'll never know for sure. One thing that came of it is that L recommended that I switch over and see the four OBs instead, assuring me that with a high risk status, they'd be best equipped to handle my situation. Bummer.

The pregnancy was a case of "If it's a chronic issue and I have it, it will act up like it never has before." Five inhalers, several severe hive breakouts, arthritis making me curse the two flights down to do laundry and picking up my nearly three year old Gameboy.

My belly became a patchwork of bruises from the shots. First one a day, then after the second prothrombin, two shots. Then four. We stopped at 6, for 30,000 units a day when my prothrombin finally came up to a safe level to prevent clotting. I gained a perinatologist and got level three sonograms at each visit with Dr. K. He was visiting from England on a fellowship and I considered myself very lucky-as he was very familiar with treating clotting issues in pregnancy.

With all those ultrasounds, it was hard not to see what we were having. Dr. B, the joker of the practice, came in one day and said "I'll bet 20 bucks you're having a boy", but he did it in such a way that I didn't realize until after Chef was born that he'd been looking at one of the biophysical profiles from the perinatologist as he was walking into the room.

Throughout the pregnancy, the OBs all told me that the clotting issues made having a VBAC the best option for me. I was okay with that, as long as this child was healthy. However, the further along I got and the harder it was for me to breathe, I questioned the logic. At my 37 week appointment, I asked Dr. B what they were going to do when I passed out from pushing, as I was having trouble with just normal breathing!

He said excitedly "Would you like to schedule a C section?" Apparently, they had weekly high risk patient meetings where the doctors reviewed treatments of their high risk patients. (Pretty neat, IMO, and very wise in a large practice to keep everyone up to date.) For several weeks, they'd all agreed that it'd be safer for me to have the C, but realized they'd put such a scare into me about having one that they waited for me to bring it up on my own.

Alas, Dr. K had gone back to England, otherwise, we would have already delivered Chef by then-his advice was to administer surfactant at 35 weeks and deliver Chef at 36 weeks(partly because he was afraid that Chef would be as big as Gameboy). Instead, my OBs took me to 39 weeks and I got to choose his birthday.

I'd spent five days in the hospital when I had Gameboy, so when they put the calendar in front of me, I first counted back from my birthday, then asked which doctor would be available. First choice was Dr. L, who'd delivered Gameboy (for purely 'same doctor delivered you' reasons), but he would be out of town. After that, it was no question, is Dr. B at the hospital on the 20th? He was, and that's how Chef Jr got his birthday.

The morning of his birth was anticlimactic after the pregnancy. Kristin stayed with Gameboy while Ed and I went to the hospital at 6am. I was brought into a small room, and assigned my own nurse. She was great and allowed me to cheat by sucking on a Jolly Rancher when I said I was parched. I had a slight delay-someone's baby decided they were coming before Chef. :)

Once again, I was able to walk into the OR. Midwife T attended my second delivery, just as she'd been at the first and was there with a shoulder to lean on while they did my spinal. We were in a jovial mood in that OR suite when Ed was ushered in.

It wasn't long before Chef was pulled out-a BOY! I was more amazed that I could breathe! We surprised the doctor that we hadn't chosen a name AND that when Chef was taken to the nursery, Ed stayed behind with me. Apparently, dads always go with the babies, but I think after all I'd been through this go round, Ed wanted to stick close by.

After a few minutes, I sent him off to see his second son and they stitched me up and sent me to recovery. The big difference with a morning delivery than a night delivery is that I stayed right in the maternity ward in a small recovery room with one nurse keeping watch. Ed came in with me when Chef was sent up for an ultrasound (we'd seen something on one of those biophysicals that needed to be checked out-and he was fine) and the nurse commented that I was the most relaxed patient she'd ever had.

Ed asked if I wanted anything, and as I knew I was in for a long time in recovery thanks to my pale complexion, I asked him to go get me some magazines or something. That nurse was shocked and had a good laugh at how mellow I was, I was reading magazines right after having a baby.

I didn't get to see Chef again until lunchtime. It was at that time that Ed said he was pretty much decided on Chef's name. Looking at him, his name fit (and Ed succeeded in naming both boys). A few hours later, Ed brought Gameboy in to meet his brother, and my gosh, he got huge in a day's time.

Nine years later, this kid is our ray of sunshine. He lives to make us laugh, even when he's not trying. He's such a blend of so many of our family members that it's scary. He'll say something that sounds just like Gramps or Pop Pop would have said.

The journey to get to him was a rough one-but one I'd do all over again.

Happy Birthday, Chef!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Suzanne's Soundtrack....Saturday?

As tomorrow is Chef Jr's birthday, I'm pushing up the Soundtrack Sunday post. There is still alliteration in the title, it's just Suzanne's Soundtrack Saturday. Think of it as an early birthday gift.

This week, a chance listen to "One Thing Leads to Another" by the Fixx brought about the erroneous statement from someone that that song was their first hit. Um, no, it wasn't. The album "Reach the Beach" that it came from wasn't even their first.

The reason why this little bit of information sticks in my head so strongly is that the very first video I saw on MTV (I think in November 1981) was the first hit by the Fixx, "Stand or Fall". Great song, interesting video.

It made me ponder why I never bought any of their albums. I liked all their releases. Then I realize that the reason why I never did was that I knew I could see the videos on MTV. Video Killed the Radio Star, indeed.

(btw, that was a very old song in the Suzanne household by the time MTV used it to usher in their new channel!)

Such is what happened to many of those acts that are so strongly identified with the early 80's and the infancy of MTV. In thinking about "Stand or Fall", and wanting to listen (a fix of The Fixx, as it were), I went to the best place on the net to relive those days: You Tube.

Took a tour through The Fixx titles, and found several more great songs by acts that I really, really liked-but never bought a disc of theirs because of MTV. For example, Toto's Africa:

Don't get me wrong. The majority of my disposable income went towards adding to my record collection. However, the addition of MTV to musical alternatives made my buying habits change. Instead of being a pest and calling WLIR's Airline over and over (so much so that I made friends with some of the staff-Don, for one!), I now had a 24 hour television channel that basically had a 50 song play list at any given time.

If it was an act that I liked, and MTV didn't feel they were worthy of airplay, well, I ended up buying the album for my fix (ha ha). However, if the act was in heavy MTV rotation, they moved down the list of stuff to acquire. Joe Jackson? He didn't rate a purchase until I bought my car four years ago! Somehow, his compilation seemed a good stop gap until Ed and the CD collection made it to Florida.

So, what about you? What's the first song you heard on MTV? Do you remember life before it arrived? Finally, do you agree that they sold out but the Who hasn't?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Number Nine, Number Nine

Chef turns nine on Sunday. This is the first year where the child has been anxiously counting down to the big day. Aren't we lucky! Actually, I think we are-he's the one child on the planet who is PISSED that I didn't let them wait until his due date to do the C section-he wanted to share our birthdays.

His first request for the day was a meal at Emeril's at Citywalk in Orlando. I made the reservations ages ago and planned for the Sunday off. Then he changed his mind and decided he wanted a bicycle. Our respective wallets sighed in relief!

Thus began the searching. Then, more searching. After lots of conversations and some negotiations, a decision was made. He's getting a trick style bike Sunday morning. It's being hidden in our walk in closet, since he's got uncanny sleuthing skills.

That Orange County Chopper bike served him fairly well, but gosh darn it, kids GROW.

Pictures on Sunday, if I can get him to slow down long enough for me to get some!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In the Blogosphere, you can hear...

The theme from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". Many of my fellow bloggers are off to BlogHer, a three day event designed to celebrate the joy of blogging AND give pointers on how to improve your mad blogging skills.

Would I like to go? Heck, yeah. It sounds like fun and learning rolled into one. I'd probably be a little star struck, too. It would be awesome to meet some of those bloggers I've been reading for a while and aspiring to be as good as they are.

The reality is that it costs far more than I can afford. It's one of those "I'd love to do this" things, because how often does one get into a room full of people who wouldn't respond to the statement "I blog" with:
1. Oh, you're on MySpace?
2. Isn't that for kids-you're too old for that crap!
3. The internet is full of weirdos, you know!
4. Why would you want to do that?

Those first three questions just put a neon sign over that person's head how clueless they are about the internet. There's more to blogging than MySpace would lead you to believe. Sure, there are real bloggers on MySpace, but they are few and far between. Most people are there for the messaging. At that, if they're cool and hip, they really are using Facebook and/or Twitter, anyway.

Blogging is for anyone with a desire to write something, anything. When my Mom got diagnosed with cancer, I wanted to spend the time with her at the chemo sessions by having her tell me stories about her life. I wanted stuff to share with the kids as well as learn things that I never heard before. Unfortunately, time was not our friend. That desire to keep a record of life's happenings, big and small, is something that doesn't have an age limit.

Yeah, the internet is full of weirdos. And cool people. And everyday, just like you and me people. (I'm a weirdo, so you can count me in that first group). As in real life, consider the internet a can of mixed nuts-some you like, some you hate, some give you bad gas and some you wonder why they're in the can.

I've been blessed with some awesome friends that I've met thanks to the world wide web. Its pretty darn cool that eight years ago, I got involved in a Yahoo group of about 150 people and now have two of those people living in the same town and another living 45 minutes away. We all got together because of a shared employer. Blogging has been equally generous in finding new friends. My life would not be as interesting if it wasn't for the weirdness of the Net. Bring it on.

That last one I mentioned, Why blog? Well, Why not?

Several years ago, a friend of mine felt that what I was writing in emails to her was something that should be shared with the world at large. She bugged me for a while about it, even sending me links to blogs she enjoyed. (alas, those couple of blogs are now littering the trash pile of the Internet labeled "abandoned blogs")

The idea was daunting. Am I funny, interesting, or compelling? Sometimes, yes. More often than not, no. At first, I felt like I was the tree in the forest-heard by no one. If I was heard, I didn't know it.

Then, I started getting nagged. First one person (thanks, Jill). Then a few more (thanks Jeff, Donna, and Joyce). I'd start hearing "You haven't blogged in a few days, where's your post?" That, my friends, is manna from heaven when you like to write. Picture Sally Field and her "Norma Rae" Oscar acceptance speech. It kept me going, even when I felt that what I wrote sucked. Oh, and that Sitemeter thing? Crack for the blogger who wants to know that people are reading this thing. (You can all comment, oh those who come from hither and yon. I don't bite. Much.)

This past October, I got the crazy idea to join NaBloPoMo and write every day in November. Then another event for the month of December. Then a year long one. Was I crazy? Sure (we've already established I'm weird, now proof that I'm crazy, too). Was it the right thing to do? Most definitely.

Eight months later, cut me and I'd probably bleed a future blog entry. This blogging thing has become more of a habit than I ever thought it would. It's so ingrained to blog daily, that I doubt I'll be able to quit once the obligation is over.

So, while the Blogosphere may have many inhabitants vacationing in San Francisco, the rest of us holding down the fort are both wishing we were there and keeping things running. It's not exactly a desolate town out west, now is it?

Who knows what next year will bring? At the very least, for me, it'll probably bring at least another 365 posts. In a perfect world, I'll be in San Francisco next year, with bloggy buddies like Lotus, Sarah, Grandy, Jessa, Geggie, and others and posting updates from an iPhone.

Hey, I can dream, can't I? Perhaps I need to see who'll share that $199 a night room with me. Oh, and find out who's luggage I'm stowing away in, too. And crossing my fingers that those who are in my daily 'must read' tab are going, too.

See you at BlogHer 2009...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's For Dinner Wednesday

What I put in the crock pot yesterday ended up not being dinner. Instead, we replayed some recent favorites.

Gameboy is addicted to the pepperoni rolls. I made dough before running errands this afternoon, figuring that he'd have that and Chef and I would eat the shredded Tex Mex chicken. When I got home, however, I realized that Gameboy had helped himself to most of the pepperoni I'd earmarked for it. As I tried to figure out what to do (use that shredded chicken or something else, Chef said he'd rather have pizza, anyway.

Cool. There was enough pepperoni for a half size roll and I could use the rest of the dough for pizza. Out came the ingredients and twenty minutes later, this is what we had:

Ed ended up having my original meal for tonight, Shredded Tex Mex Chicken. My thought process was to make pulled chicken, but in an enchilada sauce. The first taste told me it needed *something*, but I hesitated on putting more cumin in it. I love that flavor, but too much in a recipe and you end up with gritty food.

Tonight, I added some salsa verde and salsa. It tasted much better than the enchilada sauce alone. I had a sample on a flour tortilla with cheddar and sour cream. I still need to tweak that, but you may see photos coming to a What's For Dinner Wednesday soon.

Weird Dream

There must be a run of weird dreams. ShannyMar had one the other day that she recounted.

Mine was just weird:
Ed and I are walking into a cocktail hour, dressed up. It apparently is a reunion for my high school. (the last one I attended was my 10 year, if there was a 25, it'd be next year) It is being held at one of the fancier hotels on Long Island. We're mixing and mingling, but the consistent thing is that no one believes I am me. My answer was "Yes, I cut my hair off!" (it's been shoulder length or longer since I was 12.)

At one point, the president of the choir 'tests' me by asking questions to prove I was who I said I was. Questions like "Mr. Thayer had us rehearse this song for the choral festival, but we did what other song instead?" He finally believes me.

While I'm in conversation with him and another choir member, I notice the room emptying , and I assume it's to go into the ballroom for the dinner. However, Ed and I walk out into the grand hallway (strange thing here: it was like the grand hallway from the Huntington Hilton, but the ballrooms were like the Marriott) and it is deserted, with just a handful of people. The ballroom is empty, so it's just me, Ed and the handful of people we'd been talking with.

We go search in the kitchen and other parts of the hall, and the staff say that the party is supposed to last until 4am, but it's like 9pm and everyone else is gone. The staff is now playing cards, because there's nothing to do-and tons of food in the kitchen.

When we get back to the main hallway, a few people walk in. One of them is my friend Judy, and we recognize each other immediately. I didn't go to high school with her, though-we met in Maryland and she now lives back on Long Island. She and I sit at a table and she, Ed and I catch up on what's happened in our lives.

Next thing I know, I'm walking in a hilly neighborhood here in Florida the next morning. I forget most of it, but I pass by two churches that are near us (but it's not hilly there) and on the stage are several of the musicians who appear in the "I Can Imagine" Christian Anthems commercials.

I can't say it's from eating strange food before bedtime, but it was weird!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Scouting We Will Go

After a six week hiatus, thanks to Ed and I both working Tuesday nights, we're about to head back to Boy Scouts. Gameboy is happy about it and even put up with my insistence that he shower and brush his teeth!

This came about thanks to a change in my schedule. My job has set schedules, and my old rotation was Wednesday/Thursday off. Now, I'm Tuesday/Wednesday. Not perfect, but good enough. Somehow, Ed will have to arrange Monday nights off when the kids go back to school, so that Chef Jr can attend Cub Scouts.

(Oh, Vern's Nephew is still announcing his presence. Ow.)

Woohoo to our friends Bob, Maureen and their son. As I write this, they are caravaning down here to their new home. They sold and closed on their home up north yesterday and make it down here with plenty of time to spare before school begins in August. It'll be nice to have them here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why Internet Backgammon Frustrates Me

You're playing a game of backgammon. It's going well, the randomly selected opponent seems to be fairly well matched to you, then:

You roll a double (they bail)
You send one of their pieces to 'the jail' (they bail or say "that was luck" with the darn pull down menu messages")
They take forever to start their turn, but are on you if you waste a second moving your piece

It makes me long for the days of playing against my siblings.

Don't even get me started on the frustration of internet hearts. I'll play against the computer, thanks...

Wii Not So Fit

I finally got around to checking out my Wii Fit last night. Without TV or Internet, we've been watching a progression of movies. Last night, I wanted something different. Chef Jr encouraged me to break out the box.

After a few hiccups with the balance board, I got on it. After cautioning me that most people stand with their weight unevenly distributed, it checked mine, only to find I'm only the tiniest fraction left of center. Not exactly what the dire prediction indicated.

Then, it tested how well I balance. This was preceded by a stern lecture that poor balance and posture cause health issues. Again, I was tested. Again, I came up with nearly perfect balance. Hi, Clumsy Dwarf here. Pleased to meet you. I've got no grace, but I do have good balance.

Finally, my Wii Age was determined. I've heard others speak of scores in the 70's when they're 30 years old. The thing calculated while I worried.

The grand result? Are you ready for this? Really?


My Wii age puts me at two weeks older than I actually am. Don't get me wrong, I can definitely get in better shape and improve my balance, but I'm showing up as nearly my actual age! Where's the motivation?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

I can't do the topic I want to today. It requires a map with some landmarks posted on it!

So, I present what happens when you own an iPod and want to blast a song from a surround sound system. As any good shopper knows, when you're considering a sound system (or dreaming of owning a nice one), you should bring your own test music. Stuff you know intimately. Stuff that if someone played you ONE bar of it, you'd know exactly where in the song it is.

If I've only got one song to test a system, it will be October Project's "Take Me As I Am". It provides some quiet parts, wonderful multilayered instruments, great vocals and some very powerful (aka LOUD) segments. The link provided is a YouTube someone made with the song that gives you an idea of what I am talking about.

The first two October Project cd's, if they were albums, would be worn out from the thousands of playings from either Ed or myself. Thankfully, the CD medium and the iPod don't suffer those issues. In making a playlist the other day, I saw that "Take Me As I Am" is the most played song on the iPod, more than double the second place song.

However, I Was playing with a JVC sound dock TV to see how they worked and I wanted to listen to this song in the surround sound set up with it. The saleperson told me that the JVC doesn't let you access the full playlist. It plays songs in alphabetical order. You can jump 50 songs at a time, then one at a time to get where you want.

Yikes! I'm thinking those 160 gig iPods would be a pain in the tuchus with this system, and my 2500 or so songs were difficult to get through. (plus, that remote didn't recognize me pressing down half the time).

What I did notice is that I was very happy to finally get to the T's. Then, I got to Take and thought "Whew, finally!" It took twelve songs to get to "Take Me As I Am" There are a lot of songs in my iPod with Take as the first word. (even more with YOU.)

Just an observation from my weird mind. Oh, and that JVC? I wouldn't consider it for that reason. I'd probably go with a Klipsch dock where you can access the whole system and your playlists. JVC should consider that in their next generation. When you spend all that time and effort in making playlists of your favorites, you do want to access them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Great Authors

Those who know me well, know that it's hard to get my nose out of a book. (much to Ed's frustration). I've got a nice bunch of authors that if I find something by them that hasn't been read, I'll grab it.

Such was my experience at the library the other day. I scanned the shelves, in search of tomes from favorites that I haven't enjoyed yet. Keyes: nada. Kellerman: nada. Cabot: nada. For some reason, I forgot to check on Clancy-I know there's at least three I haven't read. Next up was a score: Nelson DeMille's Wild Fire was on my list to grab, but the local library in Brandon never seemed to have it when I was looking for it.

I've been a fan of his since Dad passed me his copy of "The Charm School" soon after it came out. (I come by the book bug honestly, as Dad usually had four or five books going at a time). That one was a nail biter, a plausible Cold War tale that kept me guessing.

Our last Christmas together, Dad gave me "Gold Coast", and that one endeared me to DeMille more. He's a Long Islander, so the locale in many of his books are familiar to me (as are Clancy's, with his settings in Maryland). Each time I read a DeMille book, it's like a postcard from home-and from Dad.

The last two, Night Fall and Wild Fire, feature familiar locales and tales of government coverups. The books are fiction-but entirely plausible tales inspired by real life events. Last night, I was 100 pages from the end when I finished soaking My Stupid Leg, so I had to finish. I'm glad I did-it was gripping.

Now I'm antsy to get back to the library and find the two DeMille's I haven't read: Talbot Odyssey and Lion's Game. Oh, and to find those Clancy's I've missed.

(DeMille is the champion of recurring characters-searching found there's a sequel in the works for Gold Coast. Cool!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Stupid Leg Hates Me.

Without bandwidth at home, I decided to unpack some boxes the other day. I'd like to get them emptied out for several reasons:

*I think our dining table is too big for the breakfast nook, switching it with our computer desks is a better use of space

*Bob and Maureen go to closing on their house up north on Monday and need our stuff out of their garage like NOW.

*I don't like looking at them.

In the process of moving some of them, I smashed my second toe on the 13" TV that the boys use to play Gamecube. It got slammed HARD. Thankfully, I didn't break it. However, now it has Vern Troyer's small nephew sticking some sort of sharp pointy knife into it.

Friggin RSD. I'm sure if I'd done this to the right foot, there would be the occasional twinge. Noooo, this is the foot with the fried nerves. What are fried nerves like? Um, try scratching the inside of your metatarsal arch and feeling the pressure on your upper calf! Yep, that's what happens. I am contemplating a vicodin right now. I've been pain med free since April and I did something stupid to make this flare up. Lovely.

Oh, do me a favor. Visit the lovely Grandy's blog, since it's her 150th post. She has a goal of 100 hits a day and I'd love to see her hit that goal. Meanwhile, I'm trying to keep my 50 hanging around. 100 daily readers would probably send me into orbit.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What's For Dinner Wednesday (a day late)

This WAS Wednesday's dinner, alas, I had no way to post it last night. Instead, you get this today. If you get hungry after viewing these pictures, you can always skip these posts.

Dinner was inspired by Outback Steakhouse's Alice Springs Chicken. It is my favorite non steak menu selection. I always substitute the sauteed onions for the shrooms, though. It was made kid friendly by putting the onions in the bottom of the baking dish (easier clean up, too) and they were kept happy by the lack of onions in their portions.

The chicken was marinated in some honey mustard for about a half hour, then laid atop the onions. Then they were roasted for a half hour at 400 degrees. (forgot the picture before the next step, sorry)
Next, crumbled bacon was sprinkled on top, and a liberal coating of cheddar cheese topped that. Then, they were baked for another 15 minutes.
This is prior to serving. I am fortunate to have an former butcher in the house, these breasts were butterflied and cooked up nicely. It made for a quicker meal, if they'd been thick chicken breasts, they probably would have taken 45 minutes, then another 20 or so.
Meanwhile, this was the accoutrement to tonight's dinner. It didn't go as well with the pasta as it would have with the Alice Springs, but it was tasty nonetheless. Not sure if we like this or Shock Top more.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Live from the Library

In the quest for internet access, I found the library today. It's downtown. Near a lake. Not a surprise, considering just how many lakes there really are in LAKEland.

I called for directions and was told "We're next to Lake Morton". That's nice-which one is Lake Morton? The one by Florida Southern College, the one by Lakeland Electric, the one by the huge Power Plant, the one off of Harden Boulevard, or the one that has a Yacht Club on its banks?

Yes, you read that right-on one of these lakes, there is a Yacht and Country Club. It is plenty prestigious to be a member of a country club, but no, it's also a Yacht club. Honestly, I think the deepest this lake probably gets is eight feet, so that yacht would have to be an inflatable raft!

I forgot my USB cable, or else I could show you the view out the library window. There's a nice park bench, beautiful shade trees and a view of downtown across this lake. The library itself is quite nice, with the Polk Art Museum across the parking lot.

Sometimes, something cruddy happens and frustrates you to no end. Then it forces you to seek other avenues to get the job done and sends you on a journey where you find something pretty cool in the effort.

This beats yesterday's effort for bandwidth. Moe's router appeared to be down, so I went over to Panera, got soaked in the deluge and once inside, found fifteen other people had the same idea and I was out of luck for accessing their network. Then I got further soaked going back into work-it took two hours to dry.

(Maybe, the cheerleader is trying to restore her place in my psyche. She's come back quicker if that Prize patrol brought us fifty grand. Even twenty grand. Heck, we'll take ten-I did say I'm not greedy! ;) )

**the google search was left over from the sitemeter hit that I was checking. Someone in Las Vegas is thinking of divorce and foreclosure-and I was in the first page of Google. Weird.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Why Oh WiFi

No internet. Strangely, I paid that bill three weeks ago, but I came home at lunch to no cable or internet. Great.

To fulfill my blogging quest (220 odd days consecutively thus far), I'm out using bandwidth. This time, purchased.

Yep, many local McDonald's now have WiFi in their restaurants. It'll cost you: 2.95 for two hours. If you're like me, with a crappy laptop battery that only lasts five to ten minutes, you probably would look along the walls beneath the tables in the hopes of finding a plug for your computer.

Right idea, wrong place. McD's has plugs above the tables. Picture a balance compromised shorty like me climbing up to plug a cord in and not quite reaching. Eight dwarf, Clumsy, somehow managed this without injury. Woohoo.

You're wondering why I paid for what I can find for free elsewhere. I was too late for Barnes and Noble, Panera or Moe's. $tarbuck$ uses TMo's hotspots, and I believe those are 6.95 for a day. Border's is on the other side of town. I'm still figuring out where else there is WiFi in these parts. I haven't found the library yet, not that it would have been open at 10pm.

Internet woes got me to thinking. Perhaps I should make a list of all the WiFi locations I've found in my new town and update it as I find more. Even list whatever fee I find the business charging. (I miss my Indigo right now-good coffee AND free WiFi!).

Then I thought of businesses that if they don't exist, they should. Laundromats with WiFi. I'm sure you'll find those in metropolitan locales, but Lakeland is a small town that thinks it's a big one. Don't get me wrong, I like that quality, it just doesn't help my predicament! If there is a laundromat around here that does provide internet access, they sure aren't advertising it-and they should!

Once I get out of the financial state we're in, I do want that iPhone to prevent these issues. However, AT&T instituted a credit check for customers purchasing one-so that kills that dream. My credit will look like shit for a long time to come. A crackberry is cheaper, but doesn't give me web capabilities. Oh well.

I may just end up writing a bunch of entries and predating them to post each day. That feels like cheating, though.

I keep telling myself this is temporary, it'll get better. However, in the past four years, it only gets worse when I try to be my positive, Mary Poppins like self. Moving to Florida seems more and more like the dumbest thing I have ever done.