All posts by paul

One of those nights (grossout warning)

So I had some issues that kept me later at work than I would have liked. I get home, and we have dinner. Billy hasn't been feeling well today, mostly coughing fits. No school for him tomorrow. Mommy needed to run an errand, but left her car lights on so her battery was dead. Went out to give her a jump, and she was on her way. I came back in, and Billy wanted a bit more food. He saw the guacamole from the chips and guac he slept through before dinner, so I made him a little plate, and retired to the restroom to attend to some personal needs.

I'm just about done in the restroom, and I hear coughing, some gagging, and a plate hit the floor. I jump up to see what's going on, to find that there's no toilet paper. I disregard that, and I see an upset billy sitting there in a chair, covered in his own vomit. He coughed, gagged, and puked in his plate. Upon seeing his own vomit, he freaked out, tossed his plate off his tray. He looked over the edge, saw his own vomit covered plate, and puked again over the edge of his chair all over the chair, the plate, and the floor. And then he laid back in his chair and closed his eyes to get some rest. (hey, puking a few times is hard work!)

So after procuring myself some toilet paper, I had to clean off a groggy, not feeling well boy, and his chair, the floor, and the table.

I could kiss the creator of Clorox wipes on the mouth. Even if they were a big ugly dude. Encouraging the people who make things like this is THAT important.

Autism screening paperwork

Now we've got the 16 page medical history form, and the 40 question social communication questionnaire out of the way, we only have the 12 page questionnaire, and the 100+ question child behavior checklist (actually visible at http://www.aseba.org/forms/preschoolcbcl.pdf ) to fill out before we can schedule the autism screening at Henry Ford's Autism center.

I don't know who they're testing at this point – him or us. I swear some of them are just to make us feel forgetful or senile. "At what age did your child first walk?". The questions are always thought provoking and remind us the ways he's different from other kids, as many of them besides the speech delay are subtle. But they're interesting nonetheless.

"If you come into a room and start talking to him without calling his name, does he usually look up and pay attention to you?" "no"

"Does he ever use odd phrases or say the same thing over and over in almost exactly the same way (either phrases that he hears other people use, or ones that he makes up)?" "yes"

"Does he ever have complicated movements of his whole body, such as spinning or repeatedly bouncing up and down" "yes" (they don't have a "basically constantly" option)

The master plan to be debt free is coming into place…

Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
— Jim Rohn

Sometimes it's harder to be honest with yourself, than it is to be with others.

Ever since 18, when I began living independently, I learned a lot about putting myself in financial peril the hard way. Between numerous (likely actionable) missteps by employers when compensating me in my earlier years, misuse of credit, failure to plan ahead for my savings, failure to pay my bills timely, failure to stay organized, failure to file taxes timely and keep proper accountings of things, and unexpected expenses, I've put myself in quite a perilous place.

I make more myself than the average income of my neighborhood. But a few months ago, I was so far behind on my bills I was struggling to keep the lights on, and was only weeks from foreclosure. I didn't want to talk about it. I still don't. You write hardship letters to banks, and you don't know what to say. It's not like I lost an arm in a machine shop and lost my income, I made a ton of poor choices, poor organizational planning, and didn't keep track of what bills I was paying and when they were due. I was often a month behind on all my bills. I had only $500 in savings. When unexpected expenses came up, no way I was going further in debt, but I always thought "I can pay this, I have money in the bank!" and then a week later, I was all "oh crap, I forgot to pay DTE. That's why my power just went out.".. yeah.

2 years ago I locked all my revolving credit cards except a small $300 limit one for emergencies in a firesafe. I haven't touched them since. I cut my debts in half by focusing my efforts on paying those down as aggressively as possible. But I wasn't keeping track of things well, and more than a few times got more aggressive than I should have, and put money toward debt retirement I should have put toward normal bills. Obviously this was an untenable plan. I sat down and realized if I didn't put some serious math toward things and figure out a plan, I'd lose everything I worked for, and worst – continue to work my ass off and have nothing to show for it. I'd get massive bonuses, and dump them into paying bills.

I realized between jacked up penalty interest rates as high as 30% on balances as high as $5,000, and late fees, that my previously affordable plans had become a massive mess of unpayable penalties. I was getting kicked when I was down from every possible direction, and was liable every month for more than I made, despite the plans being affordable only months before. When you fail to pay one card, all the other cards take notice. They crank your limits down, they jack up your interest, and when you pay late on them, WHAM, 15% revolving interest just became 30%. Your budget to pay this card off in 3 years? No longer makes the monthly minimum payment anymore, which by the way  now has a $35 late fee.

After putting my head around every bill I was past due on, every revolving credit line I have, and the rare few collections I had, I realized I need a comprehensive plan. And then my car insurance doubled. WTF.

Today I got the fedwire transfer from a massive 401k loan (at 4something% interest). My first impulse when I saw the amount in my bank, combined with my biweekly paycheck, was to run to tijuana and say screw it all. But of course,  my debt will be 100% paid off in 5 years, and I'll save thousands in interest. The money I'm saving will be going directly into savings to cover rainy day funds, and my goal is to build up 3-6 months of pay in buffer money, as the financial folks always recommend.

I know 401k loans can be risky, but I read the risk carefully, and fully understand what I'm doing. By doing this, I've saved literally $500 a month in late fees, excessive interest, and other costs. That will obviously help when it comes to savings. I'm going to leverage the situation to try to refinance my horrid sub-prime 8.25% mortgage (shouldn't be hard, they said I could before if I were caught up in payments (as of tomorrow, I will be current to 4/1/2013 – I am current on mortgage payments on day 1 of the month for the first time in 3 years!) it's not like my debts disappeared, they just all went into one place). I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And esurance cut my insurance rates in half for the same coverage. So there's another $150 a month I can put toward savings. EXCELLENT.

And when I have a buffer, I can safely put all my bills on autopay, and never screw them up again.

Things are coming together nicely! For the first time in 3 years, I'm looking forward to opening quicken, my online banking, and I'm feeling better about answering numbers I don't recognize on my cell phone. My credit score dropped 200 points this year. It's at 550. I have a long ways to go, but I'll get there. I can do this.

Home for the holidays

It's 8:32am, and I'm sitting in my chair winding down from my day. I know you're thinking – you're up at 8am and functional? What gives?

Of course, I'm still up from yesterday. I'm about to go to take a nap in a few minutes to try to adjust back to the ways of the followers of the daystar today, and hopefully get in my Christmas shopping. Starting at 7am today, I'm off on vacation until 9:30am on the 31st, and then I'm only there for a few hours, then I get the 1st off, then I'm back to work for a full day on the 2nd.

Billy's vacation starts today, and is a bit longer than that.

I'm a bit apprehensive about the lack of structure. For both of us. There's going to be some winds whipping us around a bit, some holiday events here and there we have to attend to, but for the most part, we've no structure in our days. This has the potential of being awesome, or getting us into trouble. Billy got pretty weird on Thanksgiving with the lack of structure. He was getting very confused and upset about why there was no school and no "apple box day", which is how he refers to our weekly fruit and vegetable delivery service (in part because I use an apple in his visual schedule to indicate it's coming today, and it's been a tradition since he was born that he interacts with the box upon arrival, and he's been snacking on it immediately since he could have solid food (in fact, his first solid food ever was a result of him sneak attacking a blood orange I was eating from the box – he bit it right out of my hand when I wasn't paying attention).

We'll have to play this by ear. I'm hoping I can find some way to give him a bit of structure. I just need to figure out how.

The likelihood of my child's ability to read is 99.9999818366832%

99.9999818366832%

My child yesterday was watching me play Draw Something, and when it was time to draw for another person, he pointed at my iPad and said "Dada, pick 'Cry'" and pointed at the first entry – "Cry".

Now, I've suspected for some time that he recognizes some words, as he'll spend significant time sitting looking at books, and he's remarkably adept at figuring things out. He asked to play "Words" (iTouchiLearn Words) on my iPad, and I forced him into the game that makes you identify the word that matches the picture (he ordinarily prefers to match up the scrambled letters with the silhouettes of the words). He for 3 rounds of 5 questions each, selected the correct answer last, choosing the other two words first. Except for the last one, he chose it second. What's the odds of my child selecting the right answer last, 14 times in a row? 00.0000181633168% (That's .33^14). It randomizes the order of answers, and he always takes a different guessing strategy that chooses the right word last.

Why last? He likes to hear all the answers. He does it in his tablet's "Buddy Bear" app too, that's supposed to teach cause and effect. "Buddy bear wants to wash his hands? What should he use?" and he'll click the pictures of drumsticks and crackers first, before choosing soap as the last option, despite obviously knowing exactly what he needs to wash his hands.

So odds are, that Billy can actually read many basic words just fine, no idea what his comprehension is, but I definitely wouldn't put up a sign saying "turn this knob to escape this room" any time soon hoping he can't understand it.

Santa!

The Knights of Columbus arranged for a Santa to visit school and take pictures with the ECSEP kids in a safe and friendly environment, with snacks and presents. It was pretty okay. Billy generally enjoyed himself.

Here's one of the pictures where he wasn't freaking out and acting stiff as a board trying to slide off Santa's lap.

Uh wow. The second CD from the FBI arrived today…

Ok, the second CD from the FBI arrived today. I just popped it into the drive and haven't read it yet.

When I guessed there were things beyond the original case in my file, I didn't quite expect the stuff I found.

There's an entire CD they've refused to provide based on a second grand jury investigation I didn't even realize happened.

I'm starting to figure out why they've stalled releasing my stuff back to me. Not that I think it's justified, but their odd responses back in 2005-2006 make more sense in context now. Ugh.

 

More to follow. Sorry it's vague, I haven't even read everything yet.

90dB of freedom, kind of…

Mommy I'm here CL305
Mommy I'm here CL305

I've mentioned here a few times that Billy has a problem with wandering away from us and getting into trouble. We employ a number of solutions to help at home (hook and eye latches at 5 feet on the screen door on the front, multiple door locking mechanisms on the main door itself, and using our alarm's "Stay Instant" feature), and thus we feel relatively confident we won't have any incidents at home under normal conditions. But sometimes we have to leave the house for something other than school (who uses constant supervision and a door wedge at roughly 4-5 feet high to make the door difficult for children to open (adults have no trouble)) and as Billy gets older, carrying him everywhere isn't a useful strategy, or practical.

Now, I'll say this, and you're probably thinking that given 3 seconds with your back turned, the kid will be halfway to the nearest busy street crossing. No, that'd be easy, because it'd be predictable. Wandering isn't driven by just walking aimlessly – it's done with a purpose, and a goal. Normal kids would communicate that goal to parents, and you'd either at least be aware of what the plan is, and have a chance to join them, let them go, or stop them. Many times, Billy cannot (or does not see the need to) notify us of what he wants or what he is planning. Billy knows quite well what his plans are and what his goal is, he just doesn't share it with us before silently disappearing. You'll turn your back to do something and 9 times out of 10, he's still right where you left him, counting things, or playing in the rocks, or whatever it is he's doing at the time. It's that 10th time that he has found something more interesting, and has no reason to communicate it.

So in comes the Mommy I'm Here CL305. We have tested it this weekend, and it seems like it's useful enough to do what we want to do.

The basics are this:

Child wears a teddy bear with a radio transponder and a 90dB siren in it. It can receive signals from your parent remote from up to 150 feet.

You wear/carry/whatever a parent remote, which receives signals from the transponder, and warns you when the received signal level from the bear is weak – corresponding to roughly 20-40 feet of distance in open space. (this is affected by things like people in between you and the child, or metal furnishings (metal folding chairs, cars, grocery store racks, etc)

When this threshold is crossed (it seems like the bear pings at about once a second, and missing two pings seems to be the threshold) your parent remote will begin chirping loudly (the volume and sound is similar to an alarm clock).

At any time, the parent can press and hold a button on the remote to sound the child's alarm, which is roughly the sound of a smoke detector. It's very loud, and anyone seeing a child running making that sound is very likely to try to intervene, or at least won't forget which direction the child just ran in. When the parent releases the button, the sound stops immediately.

This product is much cheaper than many on the market (though many of the more expensive ones are GPS/cellular based, or are literally run by LoJack and based on the same RDF technology as the stolen car trackers. so there's a reason for the price discrepancy) and involves no subscription fee, and my personal favorite – does not require assistance from law enforcement to use. It does have the downside of having to have been set up and turned on when the kid wanders, but because you're notified when the kid gets about 20 feet away, if you do this step, you won't have to worry about GPS signals. You can't just have it on and then turn on your remote when you want to find the kid, as they pair when first turned on, so your remote has to be turned on with the child nearby in order to work.

It does what it says on the tin, and while there are circumstances where the parent alarm can sound at perfectly benign distances, they generally worked as advertised, and I'm glad to have another tool in our toolbox.

So here's some pictures of Billy's sensory tent, and just a goofy picture of him.

Billy's "Train"
His sensory tent contains a super soft Angry Birds pillow, a fleece Angry Birds blanket, an inexpensive rain stick, and the rug is a soft, fuzzy, large looped blanket from Target. Billy likes hiding out here and reading when things get to be too much for him.
Ppppppppppth
He insisted that I take his picture, so here it is.

The secret to surviving developmental delays

The secret to life that makes dealing with a child with developmental delays enjoyable is that you get those cute moments when they're growing up, but they're just spread out over more time. If you can set aside what kids their age are supposed to be doing for a moment, you can still enjoy those firsts as they come up.

The skills were harder to master, more anticipated, and sweeter when they finally arrive. And as they arrive, slowly and in spurts, you get time to celebrate every one of the skills. How many parents get to celebrate the first time their child cuts a 6 inch straight line in paper? Or the first time they mimic the drawing of a cross (as in crossing of horizontal and vertical lines, not a religious symbol). I'll remember each of these when they come up. Most people don't even know when those skills emerge, it's just something that their kid does, just like every other kid.

Like today, Billy first showed interest in cleaning himself in the tub. He rubbed himself with a bar of soap, and while he didn't do a great job, he at least was interested. And this time, he let me rinse his body too, which was a nice surprise, usually he insists on doing it himself (and no disrespect Billy, but i'd consider that skill "emerging" at best, and as you and I both know, that bath needed to come to an end at that point).

And lately, he's been able to start to articulate what he wants in very basic terms, and where he wants it, as long as it's also very basic. Like a few minutes ago, he came up to me and started saying something nonsensical about his tablet, but then stopped, had what seemed like a moment of clarity, and asked me for lotion, and pulled up his shirt and turned around in a circle and pointed at his belly, repeating "lotion". This means he wants me to cover his torso in lotion, front and back. When I was done, he made a sigh of relief, gave me a giant smile, and said "Thank you dada!" and ran off noisily to play in his sensory tent in his bedroom.

(Oh, that reminds me, I need to be making a post about that sensory tent soon)