Tuesday, November 18, 2014

From Light to Hectic

Wow, life has been busy. 

On the calendar yesterday was older son registering for spring semester classes at community college. That was set about six weeks ago. We have not been in the same room together lately so son did not pick the classes out. So class searching, schedule pondering, and professor investigation via Rate My Professor was done on the same day. Their website was in slow motion due to all the activity on day one of registering for classes. 

Last week I added in the recheck for that son's contact lenses. Seemed doable. He is not able to handle putting them in or taking them out so that failed and he needs more visits for eyeglasses. He found a brand online that our optometrist does not carry and wants to hunt those down. Great.

Meanwhile younger son was sick (day three) with what  may be flu. Bad headache, stiff neck, stuffy nose, body aches and pains, fever on and off, really tired, laying in bed all day, no appetite, sleeping a lot. Yesterday I waffled back and forth about whether to take him to the doctor for a flu test and Tamiflu. He seemed to be getting better so I nixxed it. At one one point I was deciding whether to postpone the registering for classes appointment to get my other kid urgent flu medical care. 

It was a busy day. We ate leftovers for dinner. I didn't get to run to the grocery store for fresh fruit which I need.

Just a little example of how a day can go from seeming light to suddenly hectic. 

...and right before bed younger son started coughing which is the danger sign that flu can become dangerous or life threatening....great....let the worrying begin.

Monday, November 17, 2014


My older son, a senior and seventeen, wound up withdrawing from his dual credit community college class this fall. It was a family decision that was not made lightly.

As I've shared he has some new medical problems and one is hypothyroid. Hid medications are still being adjusted. He is tired and has low energy. He has brain fog and was having trouble even getting out of bed in the morning. The class at 10:50am was apparently still too early. He has been needing a good ten hours of sleep a night.

He goofed up, the in-person class had an online quiz. He had never used that system, a system normally only used for the students in hybrid or online-only courses. Students do the quiz online from home. I know he did the quiz. He must have not hit the final submit button and he got a zero.

He did not do well at all on his midterm, being so tired and having trouble memorizing and reading.  When we saw the midterm grade and I told him to inquire as to why his quiz said zero points, if that that was also a delayed score entry, he was told it was a true zero. On his own he began doing extra credit work and I am proud that he did that.

I would rather have my son learn these lessons now about college classes and how you do have to adjust to every professor's policies and figure out their systems. So this semester was a combination of disorganization, imperfect study skills, and struggling due to being unwell causing energy level issues for one thing.

The stress of the pressure to perform perfectly had built up and my husband did a quick calculation while looking at the grading policy. The only way he could get a C was if he got 100s on every future quiz and the final.

If he got a D or F in the course he would be kicked out of the dual credit program entirely, we confirmed with the college. I don't blame them but it forces you to take a W, the risk is pretty high.

So, my son withdrew for medical reasons. He is on medical break, doing only one online class this fall semester plus 15 hours of FIRST Robotics "off season" activities and he is working part-time at my husband's office. We are letting him use this as a resting and low-stress period, he has about 12 weeks of this low activity level while medication doses are adjusted and more blood work is being run to check levels. Good physical health and wellness is our top priority for our kids.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Volunteered at a FIRST Robotics Competition

I spent about thirteen hours on my feet volunteering for a FIRST Robotics off-season tournament: Houston Robot Remix, last weekend. I worked directly with the students getting them in queue and directed them on field at their match's time. This event was organized by my son's Team 1477
and Team 624 CRyptonite. I worked closely with adult mentors from 624 and had a lot of fun working with them.

A take-away from this experience was that these teens are incredible. This is a highly stressful environment, a tense competition, even though it was off-season, there is a lot happening at once. I saw the teams just before they began. Some were making last second fixes on the robot to get it fully functioning before the match began in mere minutes or seconds. They were all calm-headed. If all that any of these kids take away from competing in FIRST Robotics is the ability to be in a stressful situation and to not only hold it together but to perform well it will all have been worth it.

The students were ALL gracious and good kids. I have not a single complaint about any of the thirty plus team's behavior. Many adults would have cracked under such pressure. I was in a role to direct them here and there or to boss them around if you will. They were all friendly yet professional.

FIRST is such a great program and it is definately only about building a robot, because much of what the team does is not about the building, there is so much more that happens on the team.

My son was the DJ who selected the music, screened it for compliance with FIRST, organized the playlist and worked the sound system at the competition. He chose a mix of 80s music, alternative rock, classic rock, a bit of today's pop, dubstep and funny remix songs, and typical FIRST competition dance songs.

My heart was full on this day.

P.S. After uploading the photos I forgot to mention my son's team was the winner in the alliance with: 118 & 624. Teams were allowed to create a second team with their extra robots so my son's team was a finalist as well as a winner.

 Rainbow over Anadarko buildings in The Woodlands on the way to the competition.

The Pit:

Pre-Competition Field Meeting 

The Matches & Field

 Final Match Score For The Win

The End

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Teenage Brain: Chapter 12 Chapbook Entry

Title: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
Authors: Frances E. Jensen M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-296874-5

Chapbook Notes: Chapter 12 Mental Illness

How to tell the difference between typical teenage behavior and mental illness?

1. "behavioral changes that seem to cluster or are associated with other symptoms should raise your level of suspicion that you might be dealing with something more than just a difficult teenager going through a phase." pg. 183
2. Any concern should be taken to an expert for an evaluation.

Difficult to determine normal teen behavior and mental illness. pg 184

"With digital devices their constant companions, normal teens sem withdrawn compared with teens 20 years ago, making it that much harder to distinguish..." pg. 184

predominance of one mood over another

lasts longer than 2 weeks

act out more than usual

taking more risks

spending less time with friends and family

failed friendships

absence from extra-curricular activities (pg. 184)

sensitivity to criticism pg. 185

1 in 5 teens will suffer a mental illness, more common than asthma or diabetes pg. 185

3/4 of young adults with a diagnosis are diagnosed between ages 11-13 pg. 186

another study said 76% diagnosed before age 18 pg. 186

Schizophrenia most commonly emerges in mid to late teens and 20s. pg. 186

psychosis can occur before schizophrenia, depressoin, or bipolar disorder can be a first symptom of schizophrenia pg. 186

Young kid with adolescent conduct disorder (CD) or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) can precede adult psychiatric diagnosis pg. 186

Psychiatry has ignored signs in adolescence. pg. 188

CD & ODD has increase in risky behavior pg. 188

(Not enough discussion of CD & ODD here.)

2-9% of teens have an anxiety disorder pg. 189

anorexia pg. 190

anorexic teens: 10% attempt suicide and 50% considered suicide pg. 190

Adolescent depression is likely to be chronic and has a 30x increase of risk of suicide pg. 191

Teens with depression who take medication appear to improve more rapidly than adults who are diagnosed and treated as adults pg. 191

Teen brains act differently to psychiatric drugs. Prozac, Zoloft & Wellbutrin are linked with suicidal thoughts. pg. 191

Zoloft has been a drug that teens who die of suicide have been taking. pg. 192

FDA warns of suicide risk for SSRIs: Prozac and Lexapro pg. 192

Manic depressive state in teens can be very different than adults: more risky behavior, irritability, aggressive behavior. Teens can have more psychotic episodes and cycle more rapidly. pg. 193

Bipolar appears most commonly in mid-teen years. pg. 193

Internet has info for teens on how to commit suicide so the risk of acting on a thought is easier today. pg. 193

Schizophrenia pg. 198

Mental illness in teens triggered by stress. pg. 200

"Clinical depression seems to emerge from a gradual dysregulation of the HPA axis from childhood into adolescence caused by a  greater than normal release of cortisol in the brain." pg. 200

Take salivary cortisol test to check cortisol level pg. 200

Anxiety: can easily go into anxiety disorder in teens. pg. 200

Anxiety and impulse control disorders, between 50-75% show first signs during adolescence. pg. 201

Teen anxiety caused by school and friends, social acceptance, academic performance, etc. pg. 201

Teens with anxiety try to self-medicate. drinking alcohol. pg. 203

Advice: parents have a low threshold to ask expert advice. pg. 204

Beware isolation feelings from too much time online. pg. 204

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on their website. I was not paid to read or review it nor was I under obligation to blog about it. If you link through to Amazon from the above link and buy anything you add to your cart within 24 hours I will earn a small commission. Thank you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Younger Son Got Tested

Honestly I never thought my younger son had learning disabilities. He was precocious and could learn in a flash. He can memorize easily.

He is struggling in school and I knew some would be just an adjustment and things he would have to figure out on his own while in school and working under his own authority. I realized by grade nine the other students who have been in school for years already went through the pains to learn routines and organization skills. I figured it would be a rough first semester only.

Some things are not being learned quickly enough in our opinion so my husband asked that our son get tested. It's $900 which is cheap compared to the $3500-5500 it costs in Connecticut. We can afford this. The testing includes an IQ test which my husband feels our son needs to know as he now thinks he's stupid and inept.

So the other day son and I spend half a day schlepping down to the test location and he took the test. The traffic on the way home thanks to an accident made the day drag on longer.

We have to wait three weeks for the results.

The goal is to determine if this is true laziness and apathy or if there is a real reason for some of the dots not connecting.

And we will know if this son is officially gifted or if he's above average or average. And if he is 2e: twice exceptional which is gifted with learning disabilities. And if our son needs official accommodations at his private school.

To be honest I think he is above average intelligence or gifted with laziness and with disinterest in some academic subjects. Let's see if I am proven wrong.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Chocolate Pignoli Cookie (Pine Nut Cookie) Recipe

A 2008 blog post I did about comparing pignoli cookie recipes is one of my most popular ones.

This recipe does not contain a flour product of any kind, so it is by default gluten-free.

For this recipe I used the Odense brand almond paste in chocolate flavor.

Christine’s Pine Nut Cookie Recipe

1 pound chocolate flavored almond paste
1 cup granulated sugar (white or unbleached, organic preferred)
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 egg whites
1 1/3 cup pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of the electric mixer, put almond paste, sugar, confectioner’s sugar, and egg whites. Mix on low speed until blended. Mix for a couple of minutes on medium.

The dough is super-sticky! Wet your hands a bit and roll the dough into a one inch ball. Dip the dough into a bowl of pine nuts. Place dough ball onto the parchment paper and flatten out a little.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just turning golden brown, or until they are turning golden brown on the edges. Don’t overcook! You don’t want toasted brown cookie on the top and dark brown edges, burnt edges, or burnt bottoms.

Remove parchment from the pan and let cool on the parchment and remove when cooled down.

Store in an airtight container.

Yields about three dozen cookies.


This is the cookbook that I got the recipe from and also the same recipe was given to me by multiple Italian relatives. I recommend this book highly for true traditional Italian cookie recipes.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

Sometimes the most simple recipe is the best. Here is my favorite recipe for plain oatmeal cookies made with Quaker Oats which is the one on the box and website. I made a giant batch to share with volunteers and host teams at the FIRST Robotics Houston Robot Remix. I omit the raisins. Sometimes I substitute with chocolate chips.

These are not gluten-free as they were made for "regular" eaters.