Friday, August 27, 2010

October 2009 Hiking notes

The following was an entry from my 2009 Journal. My wife and I took a small vacation in October. I was anxious to try hiking. It's almost that time of year again. I thought I'd share the experience of my first hike.:

I had researched the Hoist Lake National Forest for our first hike. It had both long and short trails. We didn’t know what to expect going in, so I wanted something with options.

The trail was very clearly marked, which I was relieved to see. There were a few other cars in the lot, but we didn’t see any other people until the hike was over.

Heidi insisted on taking the lead. We moved really fast at first. The forest seemed very quiet at times. It didn’t take long before a deer snorted at us. The official guide at the parking area stated that the forest was full of deer, coyote, fox, and black bear.

It took us about 45 minutes to travel what the map said was 0.75 miles, which seemed long to me. I had actually gotten the compass out to start trying to pinpoint where we were on the map. I was afriad their were no actual numbered markers like the map indicated. I thought we might be lost. We soon came upon the marker for point #2. Another unseen deer let us know where he was. There was a clearing there, and the trail forked. This was our first opportunity to get lost, and we had to decide how short we wanted to make the hike. We opted for the shorter, 3 mile route.

As we continued, we went over a small ridge hill. As we were going down hill, we both heard twigs start snapping from directly behind us on the other side of the ridge. We could no longer see anything on that side. We froze. There was another twig snap followed by a kind of grunt. My mind was racing. I’ve heard deer snorts many times, and this didn’t remind me of those. All I could think of was black bear. I started talking loud, shouting out, “Hey bear!” From the other side of the trail (still over the ridge and out of sight), I heard another grunt, which made me feel like there were two of whatever was over there. We decided to get moving quickly. I kept shouting “Hey bear!” as we left the area. We never saw or heard whatever it was after that.

After a short while, we paused along a swamp that was down in a valley. A chipmunk caught our attention. We talked loudly about it.

When we started moving again we both heard movement down by the swamp, not more than about 20 feet from us. At that point I saw a white flurry of movement from a deer’s white tail. I couldn’t see anything else due to the brush. It moved on quickly and more amazingly to us, quietly. We didn’t hear it as it moved through the dense brush. We had heard it stand up but we didn’t hear it as it left our area. Amazing that such a large animal could move so quietly around us. We were also surprised that it hadn’t decided to leave earlier as we stood noisily talking about the silly chipmunk.

We did see some things we were curious about. There were a lot of trees that had obviously been cleanly cut down - probably for anyone needing fire wood. Camping is allowed as long as it’s not done too close to the actual trail.

What was strange were the trees that appeared to have been broken off, many about 5-7 feet up. The strange part? They were all leaning in on one another in a tee pee like formation. We saw many of these, some in clusters, some as singles. The biggest was near the first clearing at marker #2, just before we had our animal encounter.

There were also trees, some very large and tall, that were arched. What causes that? Is it just snow fall, ice?

I’m not trying to suggest anything by my curiosity. It was just strange to see what could have been man-made constructs in areas that likely didn't see humans too often. More experienced outdoorsman might know exactly how these things happen. Whether they were made by people or just naturally fell that way, I just found them strange, and if man made, pointless.

We didn’t encounter much wild life after that. We thought we saw a deer at one point, but we weren’t sure. A black squirrel tried to jump on my head, effectively scaring the crap out of me. I thought a limb was going to hit me or something. We also heard what was likely a woodpecker pretty far off in the distance.

We were pretty tired by the time we reached the parking site. We were glad we hadn’t decided to go a longer route.

We ran into some hunters in the parking lot who had once lived in Flint. Hunting is also allowed in the forest, which makes hiking a bit more interesting doesn’t it?

Overall, it was great exercise. It was also relaxing. The wildlife encounters added some excitement. It was beautiful and peaceful.

I miss that wild, mossy, oaky smell already. Maybe I should have grabbed a limb or two.

Random Pointless Stuff About Me for No Reason

  • From now on, I'm planting pumpkins. I bought three small plants for 79¢, and I planted them at my father's house because I ran out of room in my garden. I didn't expect them to take over quite this much territory. I don't think we'll have to buy any pumpkins this year. There are around 20 already full-size pumpkins.
  • I hate that little bumpy patch they put on the sidewalk just outside of department and grocery stores. Is it there to slow us down? Remind us that we're about to walk into a parking lot? Annoy us? Shake up the carbonated beverages we just bought?
  • People often suspect that I eat way more than I actually do.
  • I've never tried any form of recreational drugs. I've never even smoked a cigarette. I find cigars intriguing, but I figure I'll likely come down with some form of cancer without smoking, so why increase the chances?
  • I don't automatically look down on any of the people that do use recreational drugs or smoke.
  • I hope that doesn't sound like an endorsement. It's really not.
  • Could I be more non-commital?
  • I feel like I have friends that don't invite me over as often because they feel I'd be judgmental about their lifestyle, and that's totally not me.
  • We don't have cable, but I like to watch The Daily Show online. I hate it when the show goes "on break" for a few weeks because crazy things usually happen in our country during those breaks.
  • When the grocery store over charges me for something, I rarely bring it to their attention because I feel it's too much trouble. When they accidentally under charge me, I immediately let them know because it feels like I'm stealing.
  • I tend to over-think things.
  • The possibility of having to use a public restroom often makes me feel like I have to use the bathroom.
  • I can't pee if there are too many other people in a restroom and there isn't adequate view obstruction, even if I have an urgent need.
  • I don't like talking on the phone, even to people I like.
  • Are the following salutations offensive to anyone:
  • "Take it easy."
  • "Have a good one."
  • Is it strange that I feel awkward saying these phrases to women in particular?
  • I mean, those phrases really could imply many different things, some inappropriate.
  • If I enjoyed them on any level, I have trouble donating my used books. I know it's highly unlikely that I'll re-read most of them. My kids probably won't even enjoy them down the road.
  • I often leave my Bible or other spiritual reading material in full view inside my parked, unlocked car. I figure, if someone should steal it, they likely needed it more than I do.
  • Is it weird that I often travel with a Bible? It's one of those books that, even if you've read it already, there are still new mysteries to uncover, new perspectives to consider.
  • I think I need a robot doctor. I was uncomfortable with a male doctor when I was a teenager. I tried a female doctor in my twenties, and found it hard to discuss everything with her. How long until we get robot doctors? I think I could handle that.
  • I've never had a taste for beer. There are a few brands I like, but I drink less than a six-pack in an entire year. I have to be in the right social setting. There has to be a sense of comradery involved.
  • I might get legally drunk once a year, but even that's doubtful.
  • I'm equally picky about coffee. I have to have the right brand, creamer, and sugar.
  • McDonald's frappes give me headaches, but I love them anyway.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Randomness: August 26th, Owen Funnies

  • Owen's eye is doing great! He's slowly gaining somewhat regular vision back. He may still need reading glasses, but that's nothing compared to what kids his age would go through thirty years ago.
  • Surgery for both boys is coming up this next week. Any extra prayers would be appreciated. Anyone that knows Gage, you know we're in for a doozy of a week.
  • We passed a funeral home in Mt. Morris last week. My mother-in-law stated that that would likely be the funeral home Owen's great grandparents would be using… when the time comes. Owen replied, "Are they going there today?"
  • Yes, we laughed, and then prayed that the day doesn't arrive for years to come.
  • Who knew loving your neighbor would involve butter?
  • Should I clarify?
  • The continued couponing often leaves us with a surplus of certain products. Prior to using coupons, we'd go through a tub of butter per week. Now, we're lucky to use one a month. I'm not sure why. I haven't figured that out yet. Butter is one of those things that you should never pay full price for. In fact, you should never pay more than about 29¢ for a tub. I've even gotten it for free. I'm trying to get in the habit of sharing our overstock with our neighbors. It keeps us… friendly.
  • Coupons have also helped us donate way more items to local shelters. That alone will keep me going on this stuff. Being unemployed, I thought my giving days were over. Now, I'm giving more than I used to. Mysterious ways indeed.
  • Owen came home from my dad's house last night. Apparently they had discussed beer (?). What is Sponge Bob teaching our kids again? Anyway, he randomly proclaims, as we sit down to dinner, that beer is illegal for kids to drink. We agreed, not really knowing where this was going. He kind of asked/stated that we were allowed to drink beer, and we explained that beer and alcohol were 'sometimes' things for us. Kind of like candy, alcohol is a sometimes thing. We really don't drink that often.
  • He then asked for a drink. I remembered that he'd requested root beer earlier in the day. I didn't really think anything of it as I poured him a cup. I set it down in front of him, and he jumped up from the table. "I can't have that. It's illegal!"
  • Did you ever notice how children prioritize their requests? They wait until they're in close proximity to you instead of when you are in close proximity to what they want you to do. For instance, waiting until you finally sit down to eat your dinner to ask you for a drink.
  • If you're ever in the Peavyhouse Florida Room and it smells like someone used it as a bathroom, that would be my son Gage's doing. The initial success of his toilet training has become more hit or miss lately. If you're ever inclined to use the Peavyhouse Florida Room as a bathroom, they're surprisingly gracious about it. I'm pretty sure we're not getting invited over anymore.
  • I've traveled up into the thumb (of Michigan) a couple of times this past week. I'm happy to see most of the area is still under developed. I can't wait to get back to hiking this Fall. I'm hoping to revisit Oscoda too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Random Griping on My Part: Don't Think I Don't See the Irony

  • The Flint area has been in the national spotlight the last few weeks because of serial killer activity. They've apparently caught the guy, and the public is acting in their usual ironically violent way. They're supposedly upset by the violence and death, but the first thing many people suggest is that we kill the killer… thus making killers out of ourselves.
  • Protestors outside of a party store where the suspect used to work threatening the store owner with violence, the store owner who had nothing to do with the violent acts of an ex-employee.
  • We love our violence don't we?
  • Society's biggest problem? The fact that society often can't see it's own obvious problems.
  • I had to turn the television off every time they used the term "Serial Stabber." Mid-Michigan news stations have an annoying habit of coming up with "down home" phrases because we apparently need to put our own spin on everything, including serial killing.
  • They released the video footage of a woman assaulting McDonald's workers because McNuggets weren't being served that early in the morning. I didn't laugh until the incident was over, and the next customer pulled up. I just kept thinking, what is going through that person's mind? Did they still get their breakfast? Did they still want it?
  • I've never had McNuggets that were so good that I'd attack someone that prevented me from having them.
  • I found this interesting post on Facebook: "Don't worry about the people in your past; There's a reason they didn't make it to your future." In most cases, you might want to look at the common denominator, namely yourself. I'm not saying we're always personally in the wrong when people leave our lives, but if there are that many people that you 'like' a Facbook page, how about a little self examination?
  • I really don't get the outrage over the proposed "Mosque at Ground Zero." For one thing, it's not actually at Ground Zero, and it's more of an Islamic Community Center. I think putting an actual Mosque directly on Ground Zero would be ironic justice. One of the terrorists' goals was to put a wedge between mainstream America and the Muslim world. If we're protesting Mosques [and denying one of our basic freedoms, the freedom of religion], I'd say score one more for the terrorists folks.
  • We have this opportunity to show the world that we really celebrate freedom and fight against fear. Instead, we choose to showcase our intolerance.
  • I cringed when I saw that the Today Show was highlighting an interview with Lindsey Lohan's mother. I don't often watch any of the morning shows anyway. They're way too out of touch with the normal things in my life, but I was flipping through the channels this morning. I caught maybe 30 seconds of the conversation. I was glad the interviewer wasn't making it a fluff piece. He said, "Surely you don't blame the tabloids for the actual legal trouble your daughter has gotten into?" Her mother responded, "Well no. She did get the one DUI, but the judge was extra harsh on her." I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember the actual words, but you get the idea. I had to laugh. I know a few people that have been through the DUI process. I don't think anyone was "extra harsh" because of her celebrity status. She got off easy in most people's estimation.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Surgery Day Journal: Parenthood

From a journal entry: Monday, August 9th, 2010

Owen had his first eye surgery today. A hard day for us. We had to be to the Genesys Surgery Center (“The 600 Building”) at 6 a.m. Sleep wasn’t easy last night even though I felt pretty calm about what was coming.

We shipped Gage out to my parents’ house yesterday knowing that he would only add complications to an already complicated day.

Owen was thrilled to be awake so early. “It’s so dark out still,” he kept saying. He then told us stories about nocturnal animals including dinosaurs. I liked the one about the black T-rex that we needed to watch out for because he “eats all kinds of things.” I believe he was implying that we were included on the possible menu. It was all very random.

He was afraid of two things going in: The tube (IV) and the lasers that he thought would be shot at him. He was in good spirits in the waiting area. We were the first to arrive for the day. He enjoyed the fish tank.

Things got tense pretty quick when we went back into the pre-op area. He fought us on the one eye drop he had to get simply because the nurse said it might sting a little. It didn’t, and I wish she hadn’t even mentioned that part. It did dilate his eye rapidly.

She attached his blood pressure monitor without incident, but he freaked when she tried to attach his electrodes. She postponed them until after he was unconcious. They even gave him a huge lion balloon that floated in the room with us to calm him a little.

A young girl came in to get her tonsils removed. As we listened, we found we lived in a similar area. On Friday, Owen was stung by his first insect, likely a wasp or hornet due to the lack of stinger and multiple attach sites. This girl had been stung her first time over the weekend too.

The anesthesiologist was a fun guy, but Owen gave into fear when the guy started talking about going to sleep. That was enough to convince him that Owen needed a sedative to make sure he’d cooperate better. It made him loopy, but he was still pretty defiant. He moved around a lot more than he should have until they finally wheeled the bed away from us.

I had to hold back tears at that point. I hated that he had to go through all this.

Pam and my mom were in the waiting room with us. They must have recently remodeled the waiting room because they have a coffee and fountain drink bar there now. That was handy. It took about an hour for Dr. Stack to reappear with the good news that everything went fine.

Fifteen minutes later, they told us that he was waking up. He didn’t wake up happy. They had already had to re-tape his eye patch. He wasn’t opening his eyes, but he was combative. He wanted the patch off. As he awoke even more, he started to defy anything anyone said. Our nurse was convinced that we’d be in trouble if he had to wear the patch for 24 hours. I was worried too.

He wanted the patch off. He wanted the IV left in. He didn’t want a band-aid over the IV wound when the IV was out. He didn’t want his toy, stuffed wolf to wear a fake bandage, surgical mask, or hair net - which I thought was a great touch on the surgical staff’s part.

We left quickly after that. As soon as we were outside, all the fight went out of Owen. He was fine with the patch and everything else. He was still tired, but he stayed awake all the way home. He was pretty shaky for a few hours, not able to walk or sit up straight for very long.

So far, we’ve had no major pain issues. He’s annoyed by the patch, but he’s tolerating it fine.

We presented him with a toy, plush snake from the Rainforest Cafe in Great Lakes Crossing. He had seen it a few weeks back when he and I spent the day together down there. I traveled down there Saturday to pick it up. He seems to really like it. He says the snake looks angry. I told him it was really just concerned over his surgery. I then had to explain concerned, and then explain the word worried.

Owen’s energy level popped back up to normal quickly. He’s had visitors most of the day. Pam kept him the most occupied, which I’m grateful for. [Great] Grandpa and Grandma McBride brought him flowers and another balloon. My dad popped in with a Transformer. My mom is supposed to stop in later.

I don’t know how we’re going to get through this with Gage. We have a month to prepare, but it’s going to be hard. I don’t think he’ll tolerate the patch at all.

Heidi and Owen are napping right now. I’m very tired, but we have more company coming tonight. I’m behind on some other things too. Hopefully there’ll be more sleep tonight. We have to see the doctor in the morning to remove the patch.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cataract Surgeries - Surgery 1: Owen

There's something about the hardest days in parenting that bring out this undeniable, uncontrollable love that I have for my kids. It was a hard day today, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I realize how much this love is out-of-my-hands. It's piercing.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Artists

The things we inherit from our parents, the things we pass down to our kids, heredity can be amazing. I see things in my kids that shouldn't be passed on in genes.

I grieved a few months back when I found out my boys had carried on the curse of bad Buckley eyes. In the past few weeks, I've seen them both do something I didn't expect. They've apparently inherited my hands too, and hopefully that'll be a blessing to them. You see, in the last few weeks we've went through about a ream and a half of paper because both boys are drawing like mad men.

Gage's scribbles have repeating shapes. He seems to tell stories as he doodles, stories no one else can understand using words that aren't formed well enough. Usually when he's finished he'll survey his work and find accidental letters in the overlapping scribbles. It's funny to see him point out accidental A's or X's.

Owen can draw a dog better than most adults I know. He even drew a picture of me "when I was a little boy." It even had my goatie. When I pointed out that I didn't have facial hair when I was younger, he decided I must have spilled some water on my face.

I know, all kids doodle at these ages. I'm just hoping that my kids inherited something positive from me, some mysterious artist gene.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gage: Aiming Stubborn in the Right Direction

Gage is almost three years old now, and we've worried about him for a long time. We were afraid he was either autistic or in some way impaired developmentally because he rarely communicated verbally and exhibited other minor compulsive behaviors. He always seemed to understand a lot of what was going on, he just often chose not to participate, especially verbally.

A big part of this scenario had to do with his older brother Owen being the complete opposite. Owen was an easy kid. He met all of his developmental markers early. As soon as he started talking, he seemed to pick up new words quickly. His vocabulary increased steadily. If we introduced flash cards or new books, he immediately took to them, learning even more new words. He was responsive. The doctors assured us he was no genius, but it made life with our first child seem rather breezy.

Gage has been a child of resistance. He's stubborn. Even now, he hates flash cards. He'll play the 'which body part am I pointing at' game, but don't you dare bring out those flash cards! In his defense, he did start speaking right about the usual time, but his vocabulary just didn't take off like Owen's had. Grunting and pointing were his usual forms of communicating. He kept things simple.

He didn't even bother to differentiate between Mama and Papa. There simply was no Papa. Mama meant parent apparently. However, I suspect he may have just been teasing me because he'd often smirk and giggle when I'd insist on being called Papa.

When he reached the age of two, the lack of new words really concerned us. He would also avoid interacting with most other children even though he was constantly doing normal kid things with his older brother. At the park, he tended to keep to himself. Even more disturbing, he'd act in obsessive compulsive ways about walking the sidewalks and perimeters of the play areas. He would often get frustrated when he weren't picking up on his boredom. Instead of using words, he'd often just start screaming at the top of his lungs, which is fun at church, the grocery store, or waiting in line the library.

We talked to our pediatrician about this multiple times. We were assured over and over again not to worry about it. "He'll talk when he's ready. Maybe he doesn't have anything to say. My brother didn't talk until he was seven years old and now he's a successful politician."

They did multiple hearing tests. They checked his tongue to make sure it wasn't tied. They even tried some simple tests to make sure he wasn't autistic. They kept coming back to the same conclusions: His older brother often talks for him, even when we don't realize it, and Gage is just extremely stubborn.

Like the thawing of Winter, in March Gage started to change. He wasn't drastically different. He just started using more words. We had a long standing appointment with a county funded speech evaluator in April, but our worries were waning. She confirmed that Gage was not really behind in cognition or ability, he had a few pronunciation problems, and he should surely have a larger vocabulary.In her opinion, he could use a little help on a few things, but if he showed signs of increased vocabulary in the next few months, she felt he'd be fine.

Of course, he has gone on to meet and beat those expectations. He started speech therapy in July. His therapist noticed a few stumbling blocks. Gage tends to drop the beginning sounds of words instead of the ending sounds - which is rare but not unheard of. This makes it harder for us to reinforce the idea that he's using words correctly, making it more likely that he'll just give up and grunt or point.

Overall, as July wrapped up, she was confident he was going to do just fine without further therapy. She said that he simply doesn't exhibit the usual signs that children with severe speech handicaps do. She said he simply seems to be very stubborn about whichever activity he's currently interested in. No surprises there.

We're not really worried anymore. He's still the same old Gage in a lot of ways. It's still scary taking him into grocery stores, but he interacts with us a lot more. That sly sense of humor is still there. He loves to joke, and he now tells us when he thinks we're being funny.

We're now getting three and four word sentences and a ton of singing. Last week, during the quiet prayer during our church service, he was singing the Blues Clues theme song and dancing in the pew. I had to grin. His vocabulary is growing steadily all of a sudden, and he mimics the way he should have been doing a year ago.

We're not sure what sparked the thaw. It started just before any form of therapy or evaluation. Considering every evaluation he went through suggested that he understands way more than he lets on, perhaps Gage just understood that we had taken a large step toward getting him the help we thought he needed. Perhaps he was just waiting for the right time to make us look somewhat foolish. I wouldn't put it past the kid that still only seems to call me Papa when he's afraid of something. Every other time, I'm still Mama as he smirks and giggles.

He's been a lot more difficult than Owen was. He's still stubborn as can be, but we love him intensely.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Great Coupon Deals and More

This is a great site. I've found tons of free things and great printable coupons here.

Check it out. You can even 'like' their facebook page for convenient info.