Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Want to see something cool?

That's my handwriting. I can use it on any application on my computer. I can create Word documents, Photoshop documents, Quark documents, any kind of document with this font.

Pretty cool, huh?

I created this awesome custom font at, a site that lets you upload samples of your handwriting and then creates an entire font of your handwriting in less than a minute.

It's totally simple. (And free!) You print out a template, fill it out, scan it, upload it, and click a button. Then follow their instructions to install it onto your hard drive. It will take you less than 10 minutes.

I made one font, "Stimey," with a regular pen, and then made "Stimey Bold" with a sharpie. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to use them for yet, but I'm pretty excited about it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Away From Her

Stimey is watching Away From Her, an incredible movie about Alzheimer's based on the short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro. This movie is absolutely devastating. Absolutely, heartbreakingly devastating.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Running the Sahara

Stimey is watching Running the Sahara, a documentary about three men who ran more than 4,300 miles from the west coast of Africa to the Red Sea. That's a lot of miles. It took them 111 days. They ran the equivalent of 170 marathons with no days off. If you're even marginally interested in running (or gorgeous scenery, or Africa, or being amazed), check this movie out.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Social Skills Builder: My Community

Many of you know that my son Jack has autism. One of the biggest ways in which his autism manifests itself is that he has big deficits in his social skills.

Among other things, Jack will either talk too softly, not answer questions, or wait for someone else to communicate for him. Sometimes he stands too close to other people—today, while waiting in line for something, he rested his chin on the kid in front of him. He doesn't seem to understand how to interact with his peers—and much of society around him.

We are working a lot with him to help teach him these skills. He has therapy and social skills groups, and a staff at his school that knows to teach him these things. But one thing we hadn't tried until now was social skills software.

That's where Social Skills Builder's My Community software comes in. The Parent Bloggers Network offered me an opportunity to review this, and I jumped at the chance. Jack loves video games, he loves gadgets, and he loves the computer. So what better way to teach him some basic social skills?

The software is aimed at children from ages 5-15, so at almost 6, Jack is on the young end of the scale. And some of the software was too hard for him. But the great thing is that it lets the child choose what level, from one to five, he or she wants to play. Each level presents the information and asks for answers in a different way. After our first session, we stuck to levels one, two, and three.

The basic premise is that kids can choose an area to learn about: the movie theater, a friend's house, the doctor's office, the grocery store, the car, and several others. Then level one uses short videos to teach what sorts of behaviors are correct and incorrect in these settings.

Once the child goes through those videos, level two replays the videos and offers a multiple choice question to answer. I took the photo at right on Jack's first attempt on the movie theatre section. He learned that the ticket seller doesn't need to know that this is your favorite movie. We have some work to do.

The software also features options to track your child's progress, which I think is a really nice addition. Not only so you can see how your kid is doing, but so he or she can also see improvements.

Jack really enjoyed this game. He caught on to it very quickly, although he did have difficulty answering the questions. Which just shows that he needs to learn more in these areas. Each time we've played it since we've gotten it, he's gotten better.

His 7-year-old typical brother badly wanted to play too, so Jack got to teach him how to do it. They both had fun, and honestly, I think learning these basic social rules will be good for both of them. For instance, Jack's brother learned all about the etiquette of how to behave at a friend's house, which can only be good for him.

I think if you have a child who responds well to computers, but not so much to real people, this might be a very effective way to teach him "the rules" of social interaction. This software won't do it all; parents, therapists, and educators will still need to teach the children how to implement these rules in the real world. But this can form a solid foundation in the child's memory banks for what to do.

Social Skills Builder offers several other software options, including options for preschoolers and for teaching about how to behave in school. Social Skills Builder: My Community sells for $89.99. It is both Mac and PC-compatible.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Weight Watchers Muffins, Ice Cream & Cheese

A while back I was asked to review some Weight Watchers chocolate candies. I thoroughly enjoyed them, but didn't fully appreciate them as I wasn't carefully watching what I was eating at the time.

Now I am. I'm not doing Weight Watchers, but I am counting my calories and trying to be very conscious of what I am eating. So when I was given another opportunity to try more of the foods that Weight Watchers offers, I was thrilled.

Now, I am of the mind that if you just eat diet food, then you will regain weight once you've lost what you want and start eating regular food again. So I mainly try to stick with ordinary, healthy food in reasonable portions. But let's be honest here, I need to have a treat now and again or I won't be successful at losing weight in the first place.

Which brings me to Weight Watchers' Frozen Treats. My favorite food is ice cream. Hands down. I could happily eat a pint of ice cream every night for rest of my life. But I don't think that's healthy.

The thing I love about Weight Watchers ice cream is that it tastes just as good as regular ice cream and is incredibly satisfying. I think my favorite is the Giant Fudge Bar. Because (1) it's giant and (2) it's fudge. If you're on Weight Watchers it's 1 point. If you're not, it's 110 calories. And it's worth it. Trust me.

I took this review opportunity to try something I hadn't eaten before—the Candy Bar Ice Cream Bar. It is like a Snickers bar made out of ice cream. Oh, dear lord, they're good. They're 3 points or 150 calories, and they made me really happy. I just bought myself a second box today.

Something else I tried was the Banana Nut Muffin. Given a choice, I would almost always choose a blueberry or chocolate muffin (Weight Watchers has these too), but I have to say I enjoyed the banana nut as well. These muffins are big enough to quell your hunger and are only 3 points, or 180 calories, which is a lot less than pretty much any other muffin you can buy.

The last thing I tried was the String Cheese. My kids really like string cheese, so we often have it in the house. Consequently I often will eat one for a snack. At 70-80 calories a stick it's not a bad choice, but the Weight Watchers string cheese is only 1 point, or 50 calories.

I was nervous about the cheese because...well...c'mon, diet cheese? But I was really surprised. The sticks are a little smaller, and the texture is a little bit harder, but I actually kind of preferred that texture. They have many different kinds of cheese, which is great for me, because after ice cream, cheese is my favorite food. They even have pepper jack cheese, which my store didn't carry, but which I was intrigued by.

I feel a little cheap being so complimentary about all these foods, but seriously, I haven't found one that disappointed me yet, and they've already been helpful to me on my diet. And they taste good enough that even when I'm off of my diet, I think I'll probably keep eating them.

Weight Watchers Ice Cream bars retail for about $5 a box. Some of the ice cream treats are in the $2.50-$3 range. Cheese products are about $4 a package, and the muffins retail for $3.49. Prices may vary at your local store.

Stork Snapshots Winner!

I chose my winner for the fabulous Stork Snapshots giveaway I posted last month. The winner is the Buki Family who commented, "We liked Savannah for a girl but ended up with a boy Liam Mugavu!"

I love both those names, and I'm so happy you won! Enjoy your Heartbeat Teddy Bear!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Battlestar Galactica (2003 TV Miniseries)

Stimey is watching Battlestar Galactica. Even though he'd never consistently watched the SciFi series, Alex watched the last few episodes. I was intrigued, fascinated, CONFUSED, and compelled to start watching from the beginning. I just finished watching the miniseries that started the show. It was amazing. You may not hear from me for a while, because I have some TV watching to do.