a favorite picture

This picture was taken three years ago.


Ben had a tendency when he was young to close his eyes when the flash went off, and we’d capture his eyes half-closed on a lot of his pictures. Click on the picture above to go to the full gallery page, where I came up with a clever (imho) caption.


why don’t we fry them up now and serve them with chips

Today is Ben’s first day of kindergarten. This will be the first time he’s been in close proximity with so many kids at the same time. It is also the first time he will be spending any significant amount of time away from everyone in his immediate family.

I’m sure that every parent has trepidations about this day, but this is a kid with a little more going on than the average five year old. Thankfully there are three people in the school office that also have type 1 diabetic kids, so there will always be someone around who knows how to deal with any problems.

We actually worry a lot more about his Asperger syndrome than the diabetes. He’s as likely to shut down and withdraw from everything as he is to lash out and hit the other kids. During the in-person evaluation last week, the teacher got to see him withdraw, but she hasn’t yet seen him being belligerent. If his blood sugar happens to get low, he can get even more feisty.

The silver lining is that Kathy will have a little bit of time every day to herself, something she’s not had much of in the last 13 years.

you can lead a horse to water

Who would ever expect to meet resistance when trying to get a five year old to eat a little bit of candy?

This particular five year old is a type I diabetic. Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus is the full medical name we were given for his condition when he was 13 months old. What most people think of when they hear diabetes is actually type 2, the adult onset variety. About 90-95 percent of all patients have type 2 diabetes, which often responds to drugs or changes in lifestyle. There are no drugs, diets, or homeopathic remedies that can restore insulin production when the cells that produce it are all dead, as they are with type 1.

Pizza is evil stuff for a diabetic. A combination of high fat, protein, and the complexity of its carbohydrates result in it taking six to eight hours to fully reach the bloodstream as glucose. Most carbohydrates do this in a very short time – between five minutes and an hour. The insulin we give him takes about four hours to fully process. His insulin pump with its ability to deliver a large bolus as small doses over time is the only reason we can let him eat pizza. It would be a nightmare with injections.

His blood sugar was at 99 at 1:00 AM. This would normally be a great number, around what you would expect for a normal person. For a diabetic, it is a little bit lower than you want to see, but not anything to panic about if they haven’t had insulin in the last four hours.

He still had about half an hour left of the six hour extended bolus we gave him for the pizza, plus the remaining effects of the insulin he had already received over the previous four hours. For his tiny body, that’s plenty of insulin to drop him into coma range from 99. I estimated that I would have to get 15 carbs into him in order for his blood sugar to reach normal.

By far the fastest and most accurate way available to get 15 carbs is 10 pieces of Mike and Ike candy. I was only able to get him to eat one piece. Even though I woke him up, he just didn’t want to eat anything. I had to resort to making juice from concentrate and giving it to him in a sippy cup. He resisted even that, and so I have to stay awake and test his blood sugar again to see how he’s doing.


rest in pieces

Audrey, one of Kathy’s kids, is enrolled in a charter school that caters to kids with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autistics. The school is brand new, just opened this year, a few weeks after the regular public school calender got started.

Audrey is 12 years old, and started 7th grade this year. Due to the peculiarities associated with Asperger syndrome, she had tons of trouble adjusting to junior high school. She’s exceptionally bright. As part of getting her diagnosed, the intelligence and psychological tests indicated that she is operating at the mental level of a 21 year old. Unfortunately, she’s several years behind from a social point of view.

When we heard about this school, we signed her up right away. A couple of weeks later, we also signed up Jacob, her younger brother. Audrey has been very happy at the new school. They do things a little differently to accomodate their students’ needs.

The lights are not as bright as you would find in a regular school. Because the kids cannot deal with a lot of change, they stay in one classroom for the whole day. They don’t even have to leave the room for lunch.

Because the school also caters to kids that are actually autistic, they can’t have standard academics for everyone, so some simplicity is to be expected in the work they assign. Audrey’s class in particular has some of the most profoundly autistic kids.

On Monday, Kathy asked Audrey if she got a spelling list for this week. Audrey got quiet and seemed reluctant to discuss it. Kathy pressed on, and she finally handed over the list. I have linked to a photo of the paper below.


That’s right, the spelling words our seventh grade daughter received are the standard set of personal pronouns: I, he, she, we, you, they, it. Jacob, in the fifth grade, received the days of the week and the names of all twelve months as a spelling list. That’s an exceptionally easy list for him, but Audrey’s list is truly the prizewinner.

You can see a stunning example of Audrey’s intelligence and vocabulary by reading the cartoon she drew at the bottom of the page. You may need to view the full-size picture to read what it says.

Kathy wrote about this in her LiveJournal.

Thankfully we’ve already been told that the school plans on addressing the academic situation by the middle of October, so it will be a couple of weeks before we get overly concerned. If it doesn’t improve drastically, we’ll discuss it with the school administrators and decide how to proceed.

After careful study and some reflection, I believe that I myself have this particular disorder. My memories of childhood and certain aspects of my adult life support this conclusion. As an adult, I have adapted fairly well, but it still causes problems. If my own experience is any guide, Audrey is in for a rough road on the social front.

miners, not minors!

We had our maiden trailer voyage last weekend. We went with our good friends Nick and Niki, a husband and wife team. Both Kathy and Niki have written LiveJournal articles about the trip.

We left town at about 5:00 PM, and stopped off in Eagle Mountain to drop off two of our kids at their grandmother’s house. One of them had a telescope class to take from my brother in-law that weekend, and the other had a badly sprained ankle. About 5:45, we finally got on the road for real.

Finding the campground was a major adventure. We had reservations at Lake Hill campground, which is 5 miles up Ephraim Canyon. When we first made it to Ephraim, we could not find the road to get to the canyon. We went back to the single stoplight in town and went east, hoping that might do it. Turns out that it didn’t, but right at the point where that road turned to dirt, there were a bunch of people out on the street, so we stopped and asked for directions.

The directions sounded good, detailed enough for us to find the road easily. The problem was that the restaurant the man mentioned, China Gate, does not exist in Ephraim. On our way, we did see one named Snow Dragon, but we pressed on, looking for China Gate.

We were halfway to Manti before we discovered it didn’t exist. We then found that there wasn’t anywhere to turn a trailer around until we got to Manti, so we called Nick and discussed options with him. Kathy knew about a campground near Manti called Palisades, and had heard that it was posh enough that it was almost not camping at all. So we kept going, hoping to find it. We saw a National Forest sign that said “campground 6 miles”, and followed it.

It was one of the worst dirt roads ever. Six bumpy and slow miles later, we found ourselves at the Manti Community campground. This might have worked out OK, except that it was completely full. Our estimation of the place was colored by this fact, combined with our horrible experience getting there, topped off with the fact that it was now 9:15 PM and completely dark.

With few options at this point, we conferred and decided to head back to Ephraim. We were worried that our reserved spot was going to be taken by someone else since we couldn’t make it on time. When we got there, we decided to try the road where the Snow Dragon lives, since it appeared to be the only chinese restaurant in the town.

This road, 400 south, turned out to be the right road. It even had a nice dark brown Forest Service sign visible from the south. A sign mostly covered up with colorful neon paper signs to the point where you could just barely make out that the sign said “Ephraim Canyon” with a big arrow pointing east. If we hadn’t been slowing down to make the right turn, we would not have seen the sign.

This road was like glass compared to the earlier one. It’s still a steep dirt/gravel road (goes up almost 3000 feet in the span of five miles), but they have been doing road construction on the section that goes to Joe’s Valley Reservoir, a large lake much further up the canyon. It was freshly graded, with reflective marker poles every 50 feet or so. It was so well done that if they don’t actually pave that road this summer, it’ll be a total waste of effort. The posted speed limit was 20, but we were doing 25-30 except on the numerous switchback turns.

At 10:00 PM, we managed to finally reach the campground. After another minor struggle trying to get someone to move their truck so we could exit the wrong loop without resorting to driving backwards with a trailer, we got to our campsite. In the meantime, Nick and Niki got turned around and found their way to the campsite. By the time we got there, they had a roaring fire going. Kathy got the trailer backed into the site and we finally got it set up. Because it was so late, Nick and Niki took our offer of using the queen bed in the trailer, which they repeated the following night.

The trailer is SO nice. Raindrops are very loud on the roof, but it keeps out water beautifully. Having a king-size bed to sleep on is wonderful, even if it’s a few inches shy of being a REAL king.

One of the things we picked up on the way out of town was a fishing license for me. I hadn’t been fishing in over 5 years. I have a small collection of simple gear, which I went through before we left. There were several jars of powerbait and a couple of jars of marshmallows. The marshmallows were hard as a rock, but all the 5 year old powerbait was as good as new.
Lake Hill Reservoir is very small. I’d guess it’s about an acre in total area. It’s heavily stocked with trout … you can see them jumping every few minutes.

Ben was very excited about fishing, and went with me down to the lake. I got him going with his little pole, and on the second cast he had hooked himself a fish – the biggest one we caught that day. We had it landed, unhooked, and on a stringer before I ever got my tackle set up. A little later, the other two kids (my daughter and one of Kathy’s daughters) we brought with us came down with Kathy to watch, and the girls decided they wanted to fish too.

On that first day, we kept four fish – the one that Ben caught, one that Kathy’s daughter caught, and two that I caught. One of them was probably too small to keep, but it was hooked very deeply and wasn’t going to live if we had released it. I did not have a fishing procalamation, so I wasn’t sure how the bag limits worked for unlicensed kids. As it turns out, each kid gets to keep a full bag limit even without a license, but we didn’t know that until we returned home to the Internet.

When we landed the fourth fish we were keeping, we called it a day and came back. The girls were so excited about it that we let them go back to the lake with all the tackle on their lines except hooks, to practice casting. Later that day I cleaned the fish and cooked them on the grill, basically steaming them in margarine inside a tin-foil oven. My daughter and I ate most of it, but we finally convinced Kathy and her daughter to try it, and they loved it. Kathy had tried trout before, but that came from the store, and doesn’t compare in any way to freshly caught fish.

The next day, I took the barbs off the hooks so we wouldn’t be as likely to deeply hook a fish, and we went out again. We got lots of bites, but the missing barbs meant a lot more fish got away. The kids caught quite a few small ones that I released. The two girls ended up catching fish at the same time, and they were both good size, so we kept them. I wasn’t having anything beyond bites, until I remembered the night crawlers I had bought at the same time as my fishing license. I put those on my unbarbed hook and started actually reeling in fish. A number of them got away before they could be landed, but in the end I kept two that were pretty good sized – one was about a foot long. That once again brought us up to my four trout bag limit, so we called it a day and went back to strike camp.

Bringing down camp is easier with the trailer than with tents and cots. I think we only spent about an hour and a half foliding everything up and getting it stowed. That might seem like a lot of time, but it took us a lot longer at Island Park last month. I suspect that when we finally manage to get everything down to a good system, we’ll spend even less time.

The campground was pretty decent. Although we never used it, we did have the possibility of hooking up the trailer to a water faucet. It was actually a shared faucet between campgrounds, but the other people would have still been able to get water when we were hooked up. There was a nice firepit, and a big picnic table that we covered with our 10×10 canopy.

It was not hot enough to fire up the generator and use the A/C, so we ran the fridge on propane and the everything else on the batteries. The heater worked beautifully, but only turned on a few times each night.

We hope to go out for a 3-day trip on Labor Day weekend with Nat and his family. Still working on details to see whether it’ll happen.

out of the mouths of toddlers

Kathy and I are almost finished with Northern Exposure. Early in season 3, after one particular episode, Ben announced “the dog is not Rick.” It’s amazing what kids can pick up on.

could you describe the ruckus, sir?

My oldest daughter is now officially a teenager. Not because she turned 13 four months ago, but because yesterday she went missing for a few hours, giving us all a major scare.

About 1:30 PM I was in a meeting at work and got a phone call from my ex-wife, frantic because Melanie should have been home two hours earlier. She wanted to know whether Melanie had called me, I told her that she hadn’t. She called Kathy to ask the same question, and a few minutes later Kathy called. She was out in Eagle Mountain with her parents and would not be able to get there quickly, so I explained the problem to my boss and got in my car to drive over to my ex’s house.

On the way, I ran into a major traffic snarl. There was an accident in the final clearing stages just past the point where southbound Foothill Boulevard and the I-80 exit ramp join to form I-215. Because of that, it took considerably longer than planned to arrive.

When I got there, I found out more about what had happened. Melanie had gotten up early (about 5:30), done her hair up nice, and had been very excited about going to yearbook day. They had discussed going to lunch after school. At about 11:30, her mom went to her school to get her and couldn’t find her, so she came back home to wait for her to arrive. At around noon, she went back to the school and found that it there was nobody there. She found someone and had Melanie paged, but she never came.

The Sheriff deputy had come by the house and left to talk to the school’s staff by the time I arrived, which was about 2:15 PM. A little while after that, I called home, expecting to get the voicemail so I could check for messages, and one of my step-daughters answered. She and her twin sister were almost hysterical and crying. Kathy had taken them home and left them with her parents. About 2:30, Kathy arrived.

About 2:45, the deputy called. She had found Melanie at the rec center next to the school, swimming. Melanie had planned the whole thing, taking her swimsuit with her to school and going to the pool after school was over with a bunch of other kids. The problem was that she had not told anybody where she was going, and had known that her mom would be home waiting for her so they could go to lunch.

A few minutes later, the deputy arrived with Melanie. If she didn’t know she was in trouble by having a police officer bring her home, she definitely knew it when she arrived home to five adults – me, Kathy, her mom, her grandmother, and her great-greandmother. The deputy was very nice, and everyone thanked her before she left.

We were actually very calm with her, concentrating on the fact that everyone was scared that we would never see her again. I never reached the panic level myself, but I’m pretty sure that if evening had come before we found her, I would have reached that point. Even so, it was a very stressful time.

Melanie did not get grounded, but was told that if anything similar ever happened again, the consequences would be severe. Her mom has been calling her the little mermaid because she sort of ran away from home and went swimming. She’ll be coming over on Sunday to spend the week with my family. I’m sure she’ll be sick of hearing about this incident by then, but I will be having a talk with her about it when she comes.