Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Yeah, still haven't gotten the sludge off of me from that other post. Don't know what it is. Perhaps it's that Wife, Moose & I have been sharing a virus these past couple of weeks? Whatever it is, I guess I just have the wintery blues and haven't really felt like focusing. Someday I'll get my brain back, but for now I think it's on vacation in a warmer, sunnier climate.

Thing is, a while back I couldn't WAIT to be in this stage of the dissertation: the analysis. I've not had the energy to work on my 'second job' in a few weeks. Oh, it'll happen eventually. I mean, I really am excited to be DONE. You'd think that drive for completion would help me find some motivation, but that's not the case of late.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Is Chester Aging?

I hate to say it, but I suspect Chester is at the beginning of showing his more advanced, wiser years. During the last few weeks, he has retired to our bedroom after I finish the bedtime routine with Moose, around 8:15 or 8:30 PM. Around 9:30 or so, I'll wonder where he is, only to find him sleeping on our bed. He'll look up at me, almost as if he's asking, "Aren't you coming to bed soon?"

Don't let me misrepresent Chester's state. He's his normal exuberant self in the mornings after I finish breakfast ("Let's play fetch!"), after dinner ("Let's play fetch!"), and whenever friends come to visit ("Thanks for visiting! Let's play fetch!"). It's just these little things in the evenings that seem a bit different.


Such a loyal friend. I can't imagine him aging. Then again, he's going to be nine in just a couple of months. Both Wife and I had dogs in our childhood that lived to be nine, so perhaps I'm a bit oversensitive about seeing a behavior change, even as slight as it may be. I'll keep my eye on him a little more this winter to monitor how he's doing. Am sure he's fine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shuffling the deck

I drafted part of this post back on January 4, twenty days ago! Never got around to finishing it, and then I forgot about it. I found it today and felt like resurrecting it, so here goes:

I don't talk about my job in this blog very often, but this time there's a direct connection to my dissertation.

In early January I had my bi-weekly meeting (wait, does bi-weekly mean 'once every two weeks'? Or is it twice per week? I intend to say 'once every two weeks' here) (you know, I love writing phrases in parentheses because you can add stuff anywhere and easily communicate what's really going on in your head without messing with the grammatical structure of the sentence) (aren't I clever?) with my boss. It went well. I like her for many reasons related to our jobs. Also, not only is she supportive of me finishing my dissertation in a timely manner (and is gently pushing me to do so, which is good), but she happens to be very interested in the topic. She allows me to sort of ramble about it once in a while, and her objective, logical point of view, combined with just plain having more experience working at a college than I do, provides me with a good amount of feedback. And none of it is personal; just entirely objective. Two advantages to these conversations: first, I gain a great deal of good feedback from a trusted colleague. Second, she knows I am indeed making progress on the dissertation, which is a good thing for my supportive supervisor to know.

Through her feedback and that of a few trusted others here and there, I'm beginning to share bits and pieces of data and am finally starting to develop a theory out of all of this. I need to continue onward and keep plowing through the grainy details, but now I'm getting excited about what I'm finding and how I'm able to formulate it into something coherent, something I'll be willing to share with My Committee someday.

So, even though there is a hell of a lot of sludge in my dissertation life right now, as mentioned in my previous post, the more that I carefully share with colleauges, the more confident I'm becoming with what I'm finding in the data. Guess the sludge will melt away, perhaps with the melting away of the snow and cold weather this spring? Hope so.

Must run finish a project. Am drinking decaf tea in that I'm finding it difficult to stay warm today. Makes sense when it's only 6 degrees F!

Friday, January 18, 2008


Dissertation things are moving as slowly as the sludge in my head that I feel sloshing around tonight as a cold-ass arctic front is moving in (please make the front move in faster so my head will stop hurting). Wife was sick most of this week, which means I've had primary care responsibilities for her and Moose, especially the last few days. That's life! She's certainly done that for me when needed, and it's what families do.

Of course the time away has gotten me behind on a couple of things at work, which at this point trumps any dissertation progress. I like my job. But I really don't give a shit about the dissertation today. Maybe I'll find some focus and energy to get something done this weekend. And maybe not.

Maybe I just need to go to bed. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

100 Years

I almost let the entire day slip by before I remembered that today would have been my grandmother's 100th birthday. She died less than two years ago, and I still think about her and her place in the woods quite a bit. Funny: while age 98 certainly seemed "old," especially to HER, it still seemed a long way off from age 100. Not sure why. 100? I mean...wow. Can't imagine that. Age 50 literally meant 'middle age' for her. Guess I'm just a spring chicken at age 36.

I just felt a need to mark the occasion here. In some ways I can hardly believe she's gone; in other ways it feels like it's been forever....

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Moose Droppings

Happy New Year!

If you are uncomfortable discussing human fecal matter, then you won't want to read this post. Another point of view: You probably take a dump excrete solid waste at least once per day, so just get over yourself and read onward!

Many of you know that Wife and I have had Moose on a couple of experimental dietary interventions designed to help persons with Autism Disorder. First was a gluten-free/casein-free diet (GFCF) that eliminated all wheat and dairy products. Next was a more restrictive diet called SCD, or specific carbohydrate diet; this one eliminated EVERYTHING (I'm not kidding) except meats, some nuts, fruits and vegetables. Wife has written much more about these things in her blog. Also, she did a FANTASTIC job making much of Moose's food from scratch for the past year. God bless her.

Many children with autism also suffer from physical issues affecting the gut, so these kids tend to be irritable, gassy, just a mess. Moose never had those symptoms prior to starting the diets. Instead, he was just sort of spacey. But in December of 2006, we were finally making progress with potty training, and physically he was really doing quite well.

And then we started these diets on January 1, 2007.

Where most of the success stories heard discuss how kids with lots of diarrhea and gas see vast improvements very quickly, our Moose ended up getting diarrhea for the first time. It got to the point where we actually went BACKWARD from having him in training pants to being back in Pull-ups. He couldn't control the defecation, and we couldn't keep up with keeping those pants clean (our water bill literally doubled one month with all the extra laundry we were doing to wash those training pants...again, I am not kidding). It was not fun, especially for Moose. However, we didn't want to leave the dietary stones unturned. We felt it was necessary to stay the course for several months and see if the diet would eventually have an impact on his autism symptoms. Well, ten months later, he still had diarrhea and was still in Pull-ups at age six. He made vast improvements in his speech and general awareness of the world. However, those can be attributed to increases in the Verbal Behavior method of training kids to speak along with periodic injections of Methyl B-12 (yes, we inject our child every three days. No, he no longer cries. In fact, he actually helps us to administer the shot now). According to pre- and post-tests of the yeast and bacteria levels in his blood, the diet has done absolutely NOTHING to help him. In fact, the yeast & bacteria levels were slightly elevated after 9 months on the diet.

Over the past month-and-a-half, we've slowly pulled the plug on the diets and had him eat 'normal people food.' Last week we re-introduced wheat for the first time in about a year. Moose didn't excrete any 'solid' waste (not that diarrhea is solid, but you get my point) all day Thursday AND Friday. Hmm...

Late this morning I was practicing the piano. Wife hardly ever interrupts me when I'm playing piano. But out of the corner of my eye I saw her standing there, holding a full diaper (folded up). And over the rather loud passage I was playing, I heard her yell, "It was NORMAL." I stopped playing, and my jaw hit the keyboard, right on the C# (now I'm kidding). The first time he craps in 48 hours after a week back on wheat products, the kid takes a regular dump.

So, once and for all: the diet is not a silver bullet for all kids. It works for MANY, and I don't deny the good improvements that thousands of autistic persons have gained on this plan. It just doesn't work for our kid.

But saying "the diet doesn't work for Moose" is like saying "hiking a mountain doesn't work for a fish." The fish still swims really well! Well, in the past month, Moose has been interacting with us in ways he's never done before. He cried when his relatives left our house after Christmas. Cried. That means he felt a real emotion! Also, he hugs me now instead of just going limp when I pick him up. I grew accustomed to my child not really giving me much affection in return; I didn't take it all that personally. But now he hugs back. Amazing. That's not something I could teach him. That's something he just does now. And it all started when he started eating food again. People food. We can attribute recent improvements in his behavior to being OFF the diet. Not the reverse. Amazing.

Fine by me! We'll take it.