Friday, January 26, 2007

Chemistry Experiment

We took Moose to a specialist yesterday because we have him on a gluten-free casein-free diet (GFCF). For those of us not in the know, that's basically wheat-free and dairy-free food. Apparently, many autistic kids have a high sensitivity to these foods. There's gluten in a whole bunch of things, more than you'd suspect. We're thankful for a good organic food section at Chain Grocery Store Near Our House (CGSNOH), along with a natural food store elsewhere in town. Autistic kids' food sensitivities manifest themselves on two ends of a spectrum (this is my own lay-person's representation of the problems [I need visuals], so it may be incorrect):
physical gut problems <----------------> aloofness or spaciness
Moose falls, of course, on the "aloofness or spaciness" side of things. The specialist would argue that he's essentially getting high on drugs from consuming gluten and casein products.

For a long while, Wife and I balked at this entire notion because Moose didn't have any of the gut issues, which is the more-common problem. He eats a variety of foods, and his digestive system was always just fine. He sleeps through the night consistently. We were skeptical of anyone trying to say that a diet will "cure" autism.

But we decided to try the diet anyhow because we just didn't want to leave a stone unturned in this journey. This specialist agrees there is no cure for autism. However, her Asperger's-syndrome daughter has had a great deal of success on this diet, and the doc has been working in this area for more than a decade. "Success on the diet" is defined as a reduction of autistic-like repetitive behaviors and an increase in communication skills (in addition to getting rid of any physical problems, that Moose doesn't have, fortunately).

The visit to the doc yesterday was very interesting. After reading Moose's history (Wife has had to write out the details of her pregnancy and Thomas's entire life at least 15 different times, by hand, no exaggeration), the doc told us WE'VE BEEN DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT. I think this is one of the first people we've met who believe in the "the environment is out to get us" sort of stuff who has said that to us. Wife needed to hear that. Along the way others have questioned us about vaccinations, rho gam shots, flu shots during pregnancy, and other stuff...all of which were things our doctors told us to do. This is one of the first people "in the know" who told us we hadn't done anything wrong. Very refreshing.

Next, she immediately saw a few things in Moose and pinpointed the likely cause. "He grinds his teeth a lot," she observed. "Yes, he's done that ever since he grew teeth," I replied. "Well, it's probably due to an overdose of yeast in his system, I've seen that a lot." Who knew? So now he'll be on some drugs to help clear the yeast out of his system. OK, we'll see how that goes.

There was an iodine test. That's the yellow liquid stuff that stains your skin for up to 12 hours. The test was that if it absorbed into his skin in less than 12 hours, then his body is craving the stuff that's in iodine. (side note: his skin was back to his normal color in less than four hours, so I guess he's deficient in that area, ya think?)

And then they drew blood. Six vials, for all sorts of chemical tests. Apparently he's a walking chemistry set. After I had to gently, yet firmly, say to the nurse, "He won't understand you when you tell him to hold his arm still," we worked out a system where Wife held Moose down underneath her, I held his free arm, and two nurses helped to draw the blood. We had him in a sing-a-long/scream-a-long, and I think it helped to calm him down, a little. They had to stick him in TWO separate places in the same arm, but they eventually got almost as much blood as they needed (god I hope it's enough). A few hundred dollars later (I suppose he's worth it, haha), we were driving back to SCT peacefully, Moose was sucking down juice and GFCF pretzels, back to his normal self. Wife and I, while shaking, were at least relieved that we feel we've found a specialist who really understands all this stuff. Moose is really a trooper, truly. A very brave kid.

I feel like we're at the bottom of a very steep hill and are learning how to get the car into first gear without rolling backward. But I think it's the right hill, and we've been searching for the this hill for a while. We shall see. We'll try anything that has no potential of hurting him. I just hope he doesn't have to have another blood test anytime soon.

Dissertation? What dissertation?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Good stuff

The last post was a bit gloomy. There are a few good things that have happened in the last day or so that bode well for successful dissertation profection:
  1. The weather is finally behaving by being cold! I shoveled the driveway yesterday along with a few of my neighbors. It felt very homey and neighborly. I actually enjoy shoveling snow.
  2. A good friend from my master's program is expecting a baby after driving a particularly difficult road to get there. I'm VERY happy for you!!!
  3. I want both Super Bowl teams to win the game (though deep down I'll probably cheer for my Bears at my home turf).

Focused, motion toward completion, getting the darn thing done...

Saturday, January 20, 2007


It's been a while since I've done a real post here. Let me start this off by saying that I'm just about done with my dissertation proposal. I have about another 4-5 pages to write in chapter 3, and I just received a good amount of feedback from DC on chapters 1 and 2. I'm working on a big revision of things right now, and I'm on track to defend the fucker in the next few weeks (that is, if I can get my committee finalized by then. I'll save that for another post).

But there's been a fairly significant re-shifting of my dissertation this past week. I am a big-picture thinker. In many situations I consider this one of my greatest strengths. However, when writing a dissertation, it goes only so far. One must focus a dissertation topic and go with it. At the same time, one must gain the approval of others in order for the topic to gain the support and "Miracle Grow" it needs to come to fruition. Finding a topic is not entirely an independent process.

I've mentioned here that I've had multiple dissertation topics throughout my time at LMU. If I weren't a big-picture thinker, I probably would have focused long ago. I may have been further (farther? I have no idea) along in the march toward completion than I am now, though I really can't say that for certain. Still, I hold true to the fact that I like my present topic a great deal, and I'm glad I felt free to switch topics along the way. I've identified a significant gap in the literature, and there is a group of researchers 'out there' that is now starting to work toward filling in the gap. This is a good time for me to be working on this particular topic.

I thought I had a solid plan for collecting data. I was going to administer a survey to a group of students, and out of the respondents I would choose a handful of them for in-person interviews to help provide data for a theory I'm developing.

After a long meeting with DC this past week (almost 3 hours...I have a good DC!), I decided to drop the survey portion and find participants in another way. Instead of running a mixed-method study, it will now have a straight qualitative methodology.

Compared to my initial idea, the overall design is more streamlined. The survey portion of the study was getting too large, and DC said it could have stood on its own as a quantitative study. My intent with even administering a survey in the first place was to find students to participate in a qualitative interview process. Clearly, my big-picture thinking was running away from me again. Streamlining and sticking with one methodology is the better way to proceed.

So why, then, do I feel like a failure for quitting the mixed-method study? Perhaps the better question is: Why did I feel a need, in the first place, to do one of the the toughest dissertation methods on the planet when this could be relatively simple? Don't get me wrong, there's nothing simple about any dissertation method, but mixed-method studies are essentially two different dissertations merged together. All the advice I received going into this doctoral program was similar: "pick a topic you like and is simple so you can finish the dissertation quickly." I didn't listen. Why isn't something relatively simple good enough? I dunno.

At least I'm not starting over, and I'm grateful that I didn't get too far into this thing before realizing I had created a monster and that I'd spend the rest of my thirties as a graduate student. I should be happy about a simpler methodology, but it's not yet sitting well with me. I'll get there eventually.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Most of these words describe me, except for Summer. I don't like that much heat.
I Am More Yang


Monday, January 08, 2007

Update on The Tree

I have an update on the recent post where I discussed our Christmas tree. I feel a little embarrassed I'm even spending more time on this topic, but I'm beaming with pride for my wife right about now. You'll see why if you keep reading.

We were heartbroken and felt guilty when we disposed of said tree. I mean, we killed A TREE so we could hang a few ornaments and lights on it for about 7 days. I still can't believe it. We paid money to have someone chop it down for us, exposing its innards and taking an oxygen source away from the world, specifically for this purpose. Wow. So when we were disposing of said tree at the recycling center (the proper, environmental thing to do, of course) (oh my God), we pretty much decided then and there that we'll never do that again.

Wife said she often has heard of major after-Christmas sales on the nice fake trees that come with lights already strung on them. They tend to cost in the $100 range, but she wanted to wait for a sale. Sales are good.

Last week Wife was at Chain Grocery Store Near Our House (CGSNOH), and she saw those trees on sale for $25. Not too bad. They weren't quite the fullest-looking trees, and it was pretty easy to see the trunk. Still, it's JUST a plastic Christmas tree, and with ornaments and other crap covering it, it should look OK. At least it was pre-lit, and at least it was only $25. But neither of us thought about it again, and we forgot about it till today.

Today, the trees were on sale, marked down again. They were only $10. We now own said tree. Loving the wife's financial savvy and patience. I feel like we beat the Christmas machine at its own game. Too bad we had to commit a cardinal sin against the Earth before we learned our lesson, but that's OK. Someday I'll stop feeling guilty about it. Maybe.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


I hardly EVER read my horoscope, and I don't know what prompted me to do so today. However, I found it helpful and frighteningly close to being relevant for me right now, so figured I'd put it here.

Taurus (April 20-May 20) - Conditions looks exceptionally good concerning a project that has suffered a loss of progress lately. If you get back to it now and are tenacious, you can make up for lost time.

Last week was not my best week in terms of dissertation progress, so this was relevant. So, I took its advice and buckled down today in my campus office.

I finalized two sets of questions. First, I decided upon the ones I'll use for my questionnaire. I've reduced a rather long extant questionnaire to something more manageable. What took me a while was developing my "theoretically-sound rationale" for choosing these particular questions. Second, I wrote the 14-or-so questions I'll use in my semi-structured interview protocol (Patton, 2002), when I interview a handful of the higher-scoring respondents to my questionnaire.

Now I just have to write chapter 3. I got page 1 done today...that's hopefully the hardest part. Yeah, uh keep dreaming Rob.

Sometimes I feel like this is actually going really well. And then for some reason, that gets so overwhelming that I literately need to leave the room for a couple of minutes. I used to think that was a really silly way to react until I realized I'm not the only one who feels this way. I have a colleague who understands these feelings, only her reaction is that she thinks she thinks she's going to throw up. Last week, I said to her, "I think this is finally coming together." Her response: "That's great. Do you feel like you're going to throw up?" "No," I said, "but I had to leave the room and put this latest draft in the freezer." "Oh, OK," she replied, as if this was all just normal behavior. Well, if more than one person understands these feelings, then in my book it IS normal behavior!

Friday, January 05, 2007

My Window is Open

It's January 5, I'm in the Midwest, and I just opened my office's window because it's 63 degrees. What the f#$%???

Monday, January 01, 2007

Zoo in December

I completely forgot to post our pictures from a mid-December trip to the zoo. Click the pic below to see the rest of the online album. A few really good pictures of Moose and Wife in there (a few of yours truly as well). That day we traveled up to Large City to the North to hang out with a friend who was in from out of town. Then we got Moose's hair cut and went to the zoo. Good trip!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

We had a fun time with some friends over here at Chesterley last night. Laughed and ate and laughed and ate till we kicked everyone out at 12:15 AM since Moose has been waking us up extra early lately. A good time was had by all.

Check out Wife's latest post for a good description of our trip out for lunch with the same group of friends. I no longer really care all that much about others' reactions to Moose when we're out and about. I'm proud of him and I'm not afraid to show him off, odd noises and funny hand motions and all. I'm also thankful for the good friends who understand all this stuff and a few accepting people we happen to meet when we're out & about.