April 26, 2004
Weekend of 4/25

We received some sad news Friday morning. Brie's paternal Grandfather, Howard Reischman past away, two days before he would have celebrated his 91st Birthday. I only had the pleasure of spending time with him on a handful of occasions, but he was great to be around, full of life, even when his health started to fail. I can only hope to live a life as long and full as he did.

Sunday we went to Paramount's Kings Dominion. Brie received VIP Passes as part of their annual "Taste Test" for companies who are interested in using their facilities for company events. It's a lovely park, green and lush, the main part of our day was spent in the "Nickelodeon Kid Zone" area. While Brie hung out with the kids letting them ride everything there I snuck off to ride "The Volcano - the Blaster Coaster" a ride a little too intense for everyone else. The park was very slow, but it still took me an hour to ride because they kept shutting it down to test it. That made a lot of people too nervous so they started walking back out through the entrance. I'm glad I waited, it was by far the best rollercoaster I'd ever been on. "The Volcano" is one of those coasters you sit down on with your legs hanging in the air, ala "Top Gun" at Paramount's Great America. This one however is far more intense. You get rocketed out where you immediately go inside the massive Volcano structure after a few turns you get launched out of the volcano's top upside down after performing a loop, several corkscrews and severe turns later it comes to an end. For a thrill coaster it's actually a fairly long ride.

Another favourite was the "Hypersonic XLC". A very very short ride ala the Tidalwave the main thrill of this ride is the Zero-to-Eighty in 1.8 second start hitting a 45 angle ramp and then coming back down at another 45 angle.. as close to lift-off as I'll probably experience. Unfortunately after that the ride is over.

I think the main thrill for me though was the whole family riding the "Avalanche". A variation on the luge you sit two people to a car then the train of cars is taken up then let go, instead of being on tracks the entire ride is in a half tube like a waterpark ride. On the parks thrill meter of 1 to 5 it was a 3 so I was unsure how Madeline would like it, she had her mouth opened in awe and smiling at the same time as we went down, the minute it stopped she was saying "let's do it again, let's do it again" classic!

I also discovered something. I absolutely do not like rides that spin around up high. Keegan and I rode one of those giant spinning swings and I was so horrified, I was certain that he was going to fall out. He, of course, was kicking his legs around and having a ball. Later we went on the "Nickelodeon Space Surfer" and even though he was sitting with Sebastian, and clearly above the height requirement I still had a minor panic attack that something was going to happen. At least this trip I remembered to stay off the Drop Zone. When Cait and I went a few years back as we got to the top of the Drop Zone I asked her, "what the hell am I doing here?!?". I have a fear of heights, that's the same thing those spinning rides brought out. It's not the motion, it's being so high off the ground without my feet planted.

Posted by John at 11:31 AM
April 22, 2004
So what did happen to Sebastian

Where it all began (we think)....

Sebastian and his best friend Carson like to borrow each other's video games. We had made it clear several times that when he was borrowing the games they were his responsibility, this includes protecting them from Madeline and Keegan who both love to play and mistreat things. Sebastian borrowed "Pokemon Advance: Sapphire" for teh GBA a few weeks ago and since it's case was a bright sapphire color and it had Pokemon this meant that Maddy loved the game and I would often find her playing it. He had also borrowed a James Bond game. This was all fine until Carson wanted his games back. All of a sudden Sebastian was at a complete lost to where Pokemon and the case to the Bond were. Now, for those of you who may not be up on your platforms, Gameboy Advance games (GBA) are all cartridges about 1x2 inches. VERY small and easy to misplace. This meant that it could have been anywhere and the search was on.

Sebastian looked in all the usual places, his room, the living room, and my bedroom. I checked the Durango, Maddy's room, and double checked where Sebastian looked. It was nowhere. As the hunt became more fruitless I became more and more agitated and the more agitated I get the louder my voice gets until eventually I was in full on yell mode. I became so frustrated that eventually I had to ask Brie to come home from work because I realized I wasn't calming down. Now, my kids are use to me yelling. That's the kind of Dad I am. I am passionate and I yell al lot, but very rarely to I get to the point where I don't calm right back down. In the heat of it all I took away every single video game and grounded Sebastian from ever playing another video game until Carson's were found. Soon Brie was home, she took a hold of the hunt and I took a time out. The missing items were not found.

The next morning Sebastian seemed fine. Everyone had calmed back down, but he was complaining of itching and I noticed a few red spots. I figured his dry skin had acted up and reminded him that he needs to be putting on lotion everyday, even when he doesn't itch. When he got home from school he said he was really, really itchy and when I went to check it out I realized he was now covered from the shoulders down in massive hives. But, to be honest, I really didn't think much about it. I asked what he had to eat and not remembering when the last time I had changed his sheets I had him remove them just in case. By the time Brie got home the hives had gotten worse and now they seemed to be forming on his neck and his face had a few red patches. Brie immediately recognized what was going on. Brie herself has a predispostion to getting hives and sensitive skin. Something Sebastian has inherited. She informed me that we had to do something because if they get bad enough they could cause him to suffocate. This was all news to me.

So we gave hime some Benadryl and immediately he got better, for the next 24 hours we gave him Benandryl every 4-6 hours and by the next afternoon he was back to normal. This got me worrying though. What triggered them, it wasn't a food allergy the best I could tell because he hadn't had anything outside of his normal diet. Could it have been the sheets? I'm sure I had changed them not to long ago. So I got on the internet and started doing some research. I searched for "hives" and "hives and autism" and read some information I did not know. I never found anything relating hives themselves to suffocation. What can happen in sever allergic reactions is that you can suffocate and get hives, but they are both the result of the allergy not of each other. I then discovered that a big cause of hives is stress. It clicked. There is a good chance that my anger at the loss of Carson's game, my constant yelling, and his fear of having lost it combined with Asperger's Syndrome had him stressing out so much that his body reacted by breaking out in hives. We will never really know for sure because I'll never let that happen again.

Eventually the game was found. He had left it in his pant pocket and it went through the wash. Luckily, it came out completely undamaged.

Posted by John at 12:26 AM
April 18, 2004
Weekend Update

I can't actually go into everything that has happened in the last few days, but here are some highlights. I'll leave it to Brie to write about Sebastian because she understands a little more about what happened.

Friday night in what we figured would be another vain attempt to find true Mexican food in Southern Virginia we headed out to the closest Mexican food restaraunt to us, Los Amigos. Situated in the Wal-Mart strip mall, from the moment we stepped in I had high hopes. It was a simple place with murals painted on the walls, the waitress was hard to understand through hear authentic accent. The biggest test is, of course, the salsa and chips served before the meal. The last place we went actually served us a sweet almost catsup like concoction. Los Amigos served a much spicier and somewhat fresher tasting salsa. Not easy when all the tomatoes in the area are flown in from out of state. Brie was quick to ask our waitress what was in their guacamole, another true test. At the same restaraunt that served the bad salsa, guacamole was nothing more than mashed avacodos. Not cilantro, onions, or tomatoes.. ick. The best part though had to be the menu. A small caption at the bottom said "If you don't know anything about Mexican food please read the menu carefully a full description of each item is provided for your convience". Ok now you can stop laughing. That's right, I live in a part of the country where they honestly think Mexican food is Taco Bell. If it's not a taco or burrito they aren't sure what it is. I was finally able to relax when after getting to know our server a little better she revealed that she had recently moved here from Lynnwood, California.. We explained we were from California as well and we immediately bonded. I had the fried Chimichanga (I know soooo off the South Beach Diet) though not what I expected, it was two small deep fried beef burritos served covered in a cheese sauce, it was delicious none the less. For a moment it seemed like we were back in San Diego again.

For the first part of Saturday read "The Vet From Hell"

The second part of Saturday was spent out at the Cheaspeake City Dog Park. About 45 minutes away it's a lovely park and being that it was a beautiful spring day there were lots of dogs their to socialize with. In particular we met a lovely St. Bernard, a 2 year old black Great Dane, a cute little Chinese Shar-Pei, and a couple English Bulldogs (one was the same age as our god-puppy Sir Spike) plus a gorgeous Burmese Mountain Dog. Of course, everyone marveled at George (he always gets all the attention no matter where we go. We hung out for a couple of hours then spent the rest of the day in the area having lunch and Cold Stone! It was a great day.

Sunday we always try to lay-low and we succeeded. Except for our weekly shopping trip we managed to stay out of the 87 heat and just catch up with TiVo.

Posted by John at 11:16 PM
The Vet From Hell

Saturday started out with a trip to the vet. It was time for George's annual and the puppies needed their firsts check-ups as well and to get on heartworm preventitive. We went to the same vet we had taken Emma to and the minute I walked in I suddenly remembered how much I disliked this Vet. She is the most uncaring, self-reverential vet you can imagine. We ran into a big issue with her this time. At the heart of it, her complete lack of knowledge when it comes to large breed nutrition and her inability to accept that perhaps Brie and I were a little more current and well read on Great Dane nutrition. She said she was a little concerend about the joints in Jack's legs and claimed it was probably due to us feeding him the wrong food (remember Jack had a joint issue known as knuckling when we got him). Her recommendation, put him on Science Diet Large Breed Puppy, I explained that we were feeding him Chicken Soup For The Dog Lover's Soul Adult. I talked about the research we done into Great Dane nutrition and how highly recommended it came from other owners as well as being well within the protein/fat percentages recommended by the noted pet nutrionist the Great Dane Lady. She just got kind of snitty with me and then tried to recommended we get a fecal test based only on the breeder we purchased them from (they were de-wormed before we got them). I wasn't amused so I let Brie escort Zoe in for her exam. The doctor noted that Zoe's joints looked good and Brie mentioned what we were feeding them. She said it's not about the percentages (SDLBP is 26/8.5 way out of line with recommend percentage guidelines) it's about the quality of the ingredients, when Brie informed her that our food contains human grade meat her response was, "well you can feed them what you want, but I know best." Excuse me, but having a veternarian degree doesn't mean that you automatically know what's best. We also mentioned Eaglepack... considered my many to be the absolute best dog food out there for Great Danes. She claimed that was "all hype". The thing is the only food she would recommend was the one food she sold in her office! Maybe she just not use to dealing with realtively intelligent, well informed, pet owners. We will absolutely never take any of our dogs back to her again.

BTW - checked out what was in Science Diet just to make sure, compare these ingredient lists and even a layman would see whay CSFtDLS is a better food.

SDLBP (26/8.5): Corn meal, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, dried beet pulp, chicken liver flavor, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), vegetable oil, L-lysine, L-tryptophan, L-carnitine, preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid, minerals (salt, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), rosemary extract, beta-carotene, vitamins (choline chloride, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (a source of vitamin C), niacin, thiamine mononitrate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement).

CSFtDLS (24/14): Chicken, turkey, chicken meal, turkey meal, whole grain brown rice, whole grain white rice, oatmeal, potatoes, cracked pearled barley, millet, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), duck, salmon, egg product, flaxseed, natural chicken flavor, kelp, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, chicory root extract, carrots, peas, apples, dried skim milk, cranberry powder, rosemary extract, parsley flake, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, chicory root extract, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, menadione dimethylpyrimidinol bisulfite (source of vitamin K activity), riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid

For more information on this subject try:

Great Goldens.com

The Great Dane Lady

Posted by John at 11:02 PM
April 12, 2004
Easter Weekend

Hope everyone had a great Easter Weekend. Here's how our's went.

Friday: Keegan said he had been throwing up in the morning, but since it was the last day before Easter Break and his class was having a big party I took him anyway. He seemed to be fine.... By 10:30 I got a call from the school to come pick him up, he ruined the classes rug .. oops.. It turns out there was something going through the class though, by 1:30 there were apparently only a few children left. Sebastian and I attended Carson's birthday party at the Franklin bowling alley. It was a small affair, just Carson's family, Sebastian, and another friend. Sebastian got to bowl a game using lane bumpers and he loved it. He couldn't get the hang of putting his fingers in the holes so I showed him how to just roll it down the lane. He ended up scoring an 85, which was only 2 points behind Carson's high school aged sister! It was relatively short we were only there for about 1 hours.

Saturday: I had gone to Wal-Mart on Friday and did our usual weekly grocery trip. But it took two carts this time and I was by myself so I didn't have the room to get all the Easter stuff we needed. So Saturday Brie went out to get everything and learned the joys of the local Dollar General stores. There are about three different type of Dollar stores out here and they have amazing bargains. Never thought I'd be reduced to saying that LOL... Saturday night we got the kids to bed and we were getting ready to have some "private time" when I hear Maddy start to throw up.. This is not the first time this particular bug has gone threw the kids. It's very frightening. It's so involuntary that the kids actually start vomiting while still asleep. Thoughts of dead rock stars come rushing to my head and I find it impossible to sleep more than a few minutes at a time because I'm afraid it will start again and they won't wake up.

Sunday: We try to make Sunday our lazy day. We catch-up with TiVo and try to only do a little laundry and some light cleaning. Of course, being Easter Sunday I made a spiral sliced smoked ham from our local meat plant Smithfield Farms, I also made my famous "Holiday Mashed Potatoes" and as usual it was wayyyy to much food for just the five of us. Luckily Sebastian and Maddy love the ham so they make sandwiches out of it. The Easter bunny brought the boys some of their latest craz, Mighty Beanz (or something like that!) and Maddy got a few "My Little Ponie" dolls. The house is filled with candy now and, of course, all this "bad carb" stuff is making it impossible for us to focus on our South Beach. I've put on almost 10 lbs from my lowest weight (211.5), though thankfully I'm still like 15 lbs lighter than I was in January. We will have to refocus our efforts if I'm going to reach 180 by the time of Sean and Amy's Wedding.

Posted by John at 05:25 PM
April 09, 2004

the friday five

1. What do you do for a living? I'm a homemaker. Cook, clean, laundry, 4 dogs, 3 kids, one spouse. Plus I volunteer with PACC and I donate my webmaster skills for the soon to be launched Tidewater MAGDRL site

2. What do you like most about your job? I love that I am so involved in my kids life and I love cooking. For me there is nothing I would rather do. With the volunteer work I like that my professional skills are being put to good use and that I'm helping with animal welfare.

3. What do you like least about your job? I hate housework for the most part. I'm nowhere near doing the amount of housework I should considering I stay home all day. SO far there is nothing I dislike about volunteering.

4. When you have a bad day at work it's usually because _____... I haven't cleaned the house as well as my wife thinks I should. She makes me feel like I have to work to her standards.

5. What other career(s) are you interested in? As soon as my kids are all in school I plan on becoming a licensed pet groomer working towards owning my own shop which eventually will include self-washing stations, a dog park area, and a cafe that makes dog and human treats. I want it to be a part of our community where people and there pets will come to socialize. I'd still like to get something going with my music as well. Though I have no interest in being a touring musician or "rock star". I'd like to be able to make enough money selling my own CDs to make it at least a break even venture.

Posted by John at 02:21 PM
April 08, 2004
Volunteerism, TV, and Stock

Today I finally went to print with the PACC newsletter. It was suppose to go last Friday, but some last minute content changes forced us to delay. There has been a steep learning curve doing the newsletter, I had never really used MS Word for anything more complicated than our annual family newsletter. The biggest mistake I made was designing the newsletter for print on 8.5x11 paper, not the 11x17 paper we had decided to print on. This meant when I went to create the PDF version in Acrobat 4 the pages were out of order. I now know it's 4,1 and 2,3 so that when folded in half like a book it will all be correctly ordered. whew! Well, at least that kind of thing only has to be learned once.

Yesterday I began work on the Tidewater MAGDRL (Great Dane Rescue)website. I'm building the design from the ground up and filling it with the content on their existing site. As is my preference I'm building it in strictly HTML, no java or shockwave. It should take a few weeks before I have it up. The main task is creating all the graphics.

My mom went back home yesterday. She finally committed to moving in with us this summer. We hope to take a 4 day weekend this summer and drive down to Savannah, GA for a mini-vacation. While there we will pack her things and bring her back with us.

We finally bought a new TV this weekend. The boys' TV broke a couple months ago so we decided we would get a new TV for our bedroom and give them ours. We ended up with a 27" JVC from BJ's. It has Component in for our DVD player and S-Video in for DirecTV. Of course, once we got it hooked up I realized just how bad the picture on the 10 year old Sony TV we gave the boys actually is so I'd like to get them a new one in a couple of months.

We've been patiently watching our stock rise. We have set our sale price for our first chunk at $45. Hopefully it will get there in the next couple of months. The other 3 chunks we are saving to use as a down payment on this house when we our lease ends and we go to buy it in 2007. It's odd to have a three year plan!

Posted by John at 03:13 PM
April 03, 2004
of PACC and Nickel Creek

So let's see, what has happened since my last post....

I was voted in as the new Secretary of PACC. That makes me happy. I like being involved in something I believe in and I feel my talents really are an asset to PACC. We had a last minute rush to get the newsletter ready for print do to some last minute changes in content and even though we didn't meet our print deadline for the fundraiser we were still able to get photocopies made. We will go to print on monday and that version will be the one we mail out. I was very dissapointed in the fundraiser. We set-up right inside the doors of the pet store and even though we had a nice set-up including a great gift basket we are raffeling off we only sold 1 raffle ticket and had three people make donations.. completely underwhelming. We did however place two of our rescues into their new homes. One couple drove 14 hours from Maine to rescue a dog from us. In the end that is what it is all about.

The Nickel Creek show was amazing. Hard to describe because I've never seen anything quite like it. First off, The Norva, the venue they played at is fantastic. It's a 1,500 capacity two story theater in downtown Norfolk that has been designed to be an amazing sounding space. They also have a restaraunt inside called the Backstage Cafe' and if you eat there (we did) before a show you get in 15 minutes before the rest of the ticket holders through a back hallway. Because of that we got a great space along the upstairs rail. Nickel Creek are an acoustic Neo-Bluegrass Band and they are young, the oldest member is 26 and the other two members are only 22 (even though they have been playing together for over a decade). The musicianship is unlike anything I've ever witnessed. Like at a Jazz or Blues show they are one of those bands where everyone stands quietly and listens roaring to life only at a songs end or during a impressive display of "chops". Mixed in amongst their originals and covers of traditional bluegrass material they managed to squeeze in their interpretations of Nirvana's "Lithium" and Beck's "Where It's At". For an idea of what they are like you can watch their performance at the Kennedy Center from June 29, 2003 here it's in Real Player format and is about 1:15 minutes long. This is a band I will go to see over and over again. In a weird coincidence it turns out that band members Sean and Sara Watkins (brother and sister) are actually from Vista, California where, of course, Brie and I bought our first house.

That's it for now .. I'm tired

Posted by John at 09:19 PM