Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Whiskey is turning 3 – Border Collie / Dog Fear Aggression Blog

16 Nov

Our sweet border collie will be 3 in a few more weeks, wow, how time flies.  It is late so I will keep this update short – but here are our most recent stories:

Whiskey Meets a Lab Face to Face

We have this neighbor who has an invisible fence.  It freaks Whiskey out since all he sees is dogs that are loose.  When she has friends over with dogs, they are often let loose with her dogs.  They may get a collar too but haven’t been trained with it so they still run right through the fence, zap and all.  So, I am walking Whiskey and a Lab comes charging over from their yard (not the first time).  I panic a little (got to stop doing this as I am sure it doesn’t help Whiskey).  I yell that my dog will EAT their dog… okay, I don’t say but I say they better get their dog fast because Whiskey is “not good with dogs.”  She is too slow to get over and Whiskey is face to face with the lab – I wasn’t prepared.  Whiskey didn’t know what to do!  He did nip at the dog but baby nips, no outright attack, nothing the dog even felt at all – it was very minor.  The lab did not even know what was going on.  I was trying to keep Whiskey away from the lab – I should have tried just walking away, I don’t know if that would be better or not but I was trying to just put myself in the way… maybe not smart either but I didn’t think the lab meant any harm and Whiskey wasn’t going to intentionally bite me… so finally, the lady comes and gets her lab and apologizes to Whiskey – asking if she can pet him, HA?!  No…  The good news was that it was not a terrible experience, Whiskey was face to face with a dog, he did not get bit and he did not REALLY bite the other dog.

Whiskey Walks by Dogs Closely

We have also been in more and more situations where Whiskey has had to walk by dogs or have dogs within just a foot of him.  He has handled it very well.  He had concern but was not overly anxious and was able to ignore and move on quickly when I asked him to.

Talking to Whiskey

More people have been talking to him lately, he doesn’t growl anymore when people do that!!!

Bonding with my Oldest

When we got Whiskey, my oldest son was away at college so Whiskey did not know him and he was not trust worthy.  He did come and stay with us so Whiskey learned to accept him in the house but they had an agreement to just ignore each other.  Now if we are on a walk and away from the house but see my oldest away from the house and tell Whiskey that it is “ge ge” (what we call him, Chinese word for oldest brother), he wags his tail and runs up to him!

Called off from the Cat

Since Whiskey moved in, the cats had to move their domicile to the second floor.  Whiskey would chase the cats and I don’t trust him with his high prey drive.  The cats learned they stay upstairs and the dogs always stay downstairs.  Sometimes, the cat comes down on the stairs and sticks her head through the rails to meow at me about something and Whiskey sees her and starts to chase her, running at the stairs – however, I have been able to call him off mid-chase!  This is good so that maybe, if ever needed, I could call him mid-chase from chasing a dog or something.

Final Update

He continues to improve!  We are going to be talking to a new trainer and either way, we will continue our work to make him a non-reactive dog someday!


How to kill a nest of yellow jackets in the ground

25 Oct

I am sure there is more than one way to do this.  I spent time on the internet reading many different approaches including gasoline, boiling water, soapy water, bee spray, etc.  Many people didn’t even have any luck with their approach.  I will share my story as I believe, knock on wood, my nest is dead but we are still giving it more time so we don’t take any chances.

When putting fresh mulch on our landscape area we realized we had a nest and disturbed it.  It took them a few days to dig a new hole into the mulch that was put on top of the hole that must have been there already.  With mulch it is really hard to see a hole and you don’t want to get too close to watch.  Here is what we did.

  1. At evening time when they are less active, we put a large “muck” bucket (we use them as laundry baskets but they don’t have holes in them) over the area we thought they might be coming out of.  We had to use something very large since we couldn’t really see a hole since the nest was in mulch.  We waited a few days.
  2. We then wanted to see if our bucket was doing anything so we (again at night) lifted the bucket and found that it did have many bees (living but sleepy) in it.  We sprayed the whole area with bee and wasp spray and put the bucket back.  We continued to wait but saw more bees again the next day.
  3. I could see a new hole that they seemed to have made so I sprinkled borax on the area so they could bring it into the nest.  I could see them walking in the borax and going in the new hole.  The muck bucket was still on the other hole.
  4. After a few days of them walking through the borax, I went and put a plastic cereal bowl over the new hole I saw.
  5. After that day I did not see bees for a long time.  I think I saw one more bee about a week later and he looked like he was going into a new spot right near the cereal bowl, so I put a plastic cup near the cereal bowl.  Again, so no more bees for another few days.
  6. Now it has been about 1.5 weeks with only the one bee that I saw near the nest, don’t even know if he got into the nest or not.  So, tonight, we pulled off all the buckets, bowls, and cups.  There were many many bees under the cereal bowl,  I did not want to shine a light on them or investigate their signs of life (I hope they were dead).   So, we now put down layers of plastic that are being held down with stake holders including an extra set that secures the plastic all around the area where the cereal bowl was to trap the bees for a longer period.  This way our neighbors don’t have to see our entire pantry as they drive down the road.  Hopefully, this will secure the area and any bees that might still be alive in the nest will remain trapped and perish.

Bottom line, if you can find the nest, putting something for the bees to walk in first (Borax or another insecticide) and track into the nest and then covering the hole(s) and waiting seems like the easiest solution.



Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School – What it is like? Review

17 Aug

A parents Review of Southeast Raleigh Magnet high school


Are you thinking about sending your child to Southeast Raleigh High School?  Maybe you are worried about the school – the safety,  the academics, or the overall experience?

I am the type of person who gives a lot of thought to my child’s school experience, more than the average person!  If you are one of those people and are looking for a resource about Southeast, I hope this helps.  This will be a journal of my son’s four years at the school, starting with some background as it relates to high school course experiences.

Pre-High School

Before high school, R went to a regular public elementary school, we then sent him to Exploris Middle School.  Wake County did away with his track going into middle school so he was going to lose his intact friend group and we were not thrilled with Lufkin Road Middle where he was assigned.  Exploris had a good reputation so we took advantage of that as we had positive experiences with charter schools in the past.  His first year there under the direction of Kevin (the director at the time) was wonderful, we loved the school. Kevin retired and we were not happy with the changes post Kevin – without a lot of detail by 2nd quarter of 8th grade, he chose to homeschool the rest of 8th grade.

During 7th grade at Exploris they were the first group of Common Core Math 1 – but it was a transitional year and he learned the material (passed fine) but without the level of practice I would have liked on some of the procedural mechanics.  In the beginning of 8th grade, Exploris tried this discovery learning approach to Common Core Math 2 and he was not learning ANYTHING, another reason we pulled him out – thankfully, it gave us 3/4 of a year to give him the foundation of Common Core 2 to prepare him for high school Math 3.

R was very interested in Engineering and Computer Science, we looked at the STEM Early College and SE Raleigh High School as the two best fits for him.  We were impressed with both during the Magnet fairs.  The advantage of SE Raleigh, however, is that it allowed him to explore other interests as well outside of just STEM interests and he could take Math 3 right away while STEM would make him take a fluff class first since they didn’t let first semester freshman start in Math 3 (why?  you are a STEM school???).

Freshman Year

R went to the orientation and made friends that day!  On the second day of school, he went to the Theater interest meeting and made more friends.  By the end of the week, he was auditioning and by the second week, he had one of the leads in the play, Much Ado About Nothing!  His fall classes were:

Healthful Living:  He had a lively teacher who was very organized and nice.  The class was not difficult.  It was taught using New Tech and everything was online to see.  Grades were posted daily, so you always knew how well your child was doing.  The only test he every studied for was his final exam.  They played a variety of sports and had health class.  He got an A without much trouble.

Foundations of IT:  R started off in the IT Academy in addition to the Engineering Academy and this course was required.  He knew everything in the class but used it to challenge himself with his friend who also already knew how to do everything.  This year, R, decided to drop the IT Academy since he knows too much of the class content already and doesn’t have space in his schedule.  He enjoyed the teacher and easily got an A.

Honors IED:  Intro to Engineering:  This is part of the Engineering Academy that he joined.  It was also New Tech, everything was online and he could retake quizzes until they 100 and would lose points based on how many times he had to take them to get a 100 (much nicer way to do it).  He did projects at the computer every day and class seemed fun and interesting. All the engineering teachers seem great.  He got an A without much trouble.

English 1/World History:  This class was a combination class that met together for the entire year rather than just one semester.  R did not like the class.  This was his worst set of teachers.  They were okay from a parent perspective, they communicated with me and worked with him on issues but they did not engage him and he was bored.  They read some books, studied literary terms, did grammar, and learned about World History.  He got an A in English and a B in World History.

His second semester continued with English 1/World History and:

Honors Biology:  This was another New Tech class, so they did a lot of tests and projects.   After doing New Tech, I think R prefers not doing New Tech but he is stuck with a certain number of them since he is in the Engineering Academy and they have to do New Tech classes.  Biology was easy for R and he easily got an A in the class.  The teacher was okay in his opinion, not wonderful but better than his English / World History teachers.

Honors Math 3:  After homeschooling Math 2, I was able to make sure he had a good foundation (something he would not have gotten at Exploris) in math and was prepared for Math 3.  I see this same type of good foundation in kids coming from Math 2 at Apex Middle School (who I tutored) who do well.  I can’t speak for other schools right now, some schools give good foundations, others do not!  It was amazing to see the difference in ability in the kids.  R was the star student and if it wasn’t for the New Tech situation, he would have had a high A average but he had to deal with other students who did not pull their weight, brought his project grade down (on one project) enough to give him just enough that he got a 92 and a 93 (still on a 7 point scale) was needed for an A, so he got a B in the class, despite getting 100 on the midterm and final exams.  The teacher had a lot of strengths but was frustrating when she couldn’t look past this one project and grade R with the correct grade that matched his ability.    However, he continues to be the top student in his math class so far sophomore year too.

Digital Arts:  R had to find a class to fill a spot, there were other things he wanted to take but nothing fit his schedule but digital arts.  He worked on Adobe Flash Studio Suite and usually finished his work so early the teacher gave him her own projects to work on for her.  He did great, helped other classmates, and easily scored an A.

Socially:  R did 2 plays and participated in the FIRST Robotics Team for the 2015 year.  He also went to 2 football games and took drivers ed.  He was awarded:  Most valuable Freshman Performer


Sophomore Year

This year started well, R has decided not to do FIRST Robotics Team due to the inflexibility of the moderator  and his ability to work with his medical needs.  Therefore, he has joined Vex robotics instead.  He has also auditioned for 2 shows, he has a part in Macbeth and in A Christmas Carol.

Fall semester he took:

Honors Precalc:  If your student had a good background in Math 2 and 3, almost everything in Honors Precalc will be a review.  R has gotten a 100 on every test so far.

Honors Chemistry  Due to schedule conflicts, he was placed in regular Chemistry rather than New Tech.  He actually was happy about this.  Although the New Tech program has good intentions, it has to be run by a teacher who really understand how to implement it and unfortunately, I don’t feel that most of the teachers really understand the goals behind New Tech and therefore it has been more of a negative than a positive.  He has been much happier without New Tech!

Honors US History 1 – This class he has had to be in New Tech.  I don’t know that his teacher follows the ideals of New Tech, he does a lot of worksheets.  It is supposed to be project based and clearly it isn’t.  I dream about the day I find a US History teacher that actually makes kids excited about learning History.

Mandarin 1 – see my review on this course on a different page.  This is an online course through NCVPS so it has nothing to do with Southeast, except that they are flexible enough to let kids take online classes.

AP Computer Science – also online through NCVPS, I believe Southeast Raleigh will eventually offer this course but it was not offered this year so R took it online.  Again, a review of it through NCVPS can be found elsewhere on my site.

Second Semester will be:

AP Chemistry – his first AP class!!!

Honors English 2

Honors POE – Principal of Engineering

AP Computer Science – online AP courses are full year courses so he has to take this for a full year.

Socially:  R received parts in two plays, joined the Vex Robotics Team, is driving with his permit.



Estate Planning – Costs / Packages / What you should Know when you are getting started

17 Aug

#Wills  #What does a will cost? #What is an estate plan #What is an eldercare attorney?  #What is a trust?  #When should I have a will?  #What do I need to plan for my death?  #When do I need to make a will?  #Is it expensive to make a will?  #What is probate?

Estate Planning – When Do I need one and How much does it Cost?

Estate planning is something we like to put off – we do it for many reasons.  The first is we don’t think we are going to die for a long time and therefore don’t need to do an estate plan.  We also think it costs too much money or we don’t have enough in our “estate” to bother “will-ing” our stuff to anyone.

So WHEN do you need to have an estate plan?  Everyone really should have one, but if you have children, you need to name a guardian, if you are a senior, you should be making plans because of your age, and if you a decent amount of life insurance and/or assets, some people forget to include their life insurance amounts when they think about how much their estate is valued at.

If you are just worried about naming a guardian and/or don’t have many assets (this includes your life insurance amounts) – for example, let’s say you have under $100,000 total value of everything including life insurance, retirement funds, equity in your house, savings account values, cars, etc.  then it is probably fine to just do one of those legal zoom type documents.

If you have more than that, you may fall into one of two situations:

1)  you live paycheck to paycheck with very little extra funds to cover things like paying an attorney

2)  you don’t live that way and can afford to do an estate plan

In case #1, for a basic will, living will, health care POA, and durable POA (for finances) – one that is very “cookie cutter” but contains MANY more protections than one in legal zoom, can be done with an attorney for under $1000, most likely closer to $500.  I suggest doing the legal zoom version asap so that you have SOMETHING for now and start a fund where you put $20 (or whatever you can afford) in each month until you can afford to meet with an attorney to review the legal zoom copies and make changes, add protections, and update to a much better version.  It IS worth it.

The above is what we did and yes, our will was VERY basic and lacks many protections that we will get from meeting with a lawyer now.


In case #2, this requires more work, start interviewing (and going to a few of their free workshops) estate planning attorneys.  Do not get sucked into their high pressure sales tactics though.  I found a wonderful firm online that talked about how they were NOT cookie cutter and all these benefits that you were going to get (for extra cost) but it was worth it because it was personalized, etc.  Only to meet them in person and get the sales pitch instead of a personalized approach from them.  I promised I would tell you the cost, well her cost for the will and trust package was $6000, which she admits is a tad on the high side but worth it because it is not cookie cutter and you are getting all this extra.  However, upon further education, we began to realize that any of those protections she talked about are usually put in all wills and are pre-made by the firm.  If you want anything “personalized,” the lawyers have to write that from scratch and add that into the documents they already have ready to go for ALL clients.  This is time consuming and costly, so most don’t do it.   If I want Junior only to get his inheritance on Mondays (never any other day of the week because I have this thing for Mondays, I don’t, just giving a crazy example) then my non-cookie cutter lady at $6000 is not going to be able to do it.  So, you really need to know WHAT you are getting for your money.

I suggest you meet with a few attorneys with a list of questions after you have given thought to what you really want in your will.  Do you want a cookie cutter will or do you want to make specific provisions?  Personally, I want specific provisions since just giving my kids money on a “time table” (typical provisions) is not sufficient for me.  For you, that may be fine.

Attorney #2 that I met with was a single lady attorney who worked by herself with one office assistant and she charges $1500-$2000 for the standard provision will but without separate trusts.  However, she said that in our state, trusts for real estate were not needed and we only needed testamentary trusts (trusts within the will itself).  It will cost extra for the special provisions, however, I figure I can get the extra provisions and probably still not reach the $6000 level of first lady.

Another attorney charged $4500 for will/trust package for a friend in a different state, so you can get an idea of the cost for a typical will/trust package.  In most states, having trusts for real estate will be very helpful to avoid probate and are recommended.





How to lose weight without exercise and still eating your favorite foods

09 Aug

Do you want to lose weight but hate exercise?  Do love sugar or carbs and have low will power?  Maybe you have tried all sorts of diets before and failed.  Well, I am going to share with you what I think works best.  There are some reasons why I feel this works – first, it doesn’t require cold turkey dieting and your progress reinforces good behavior.

Things you need:

1.  A digital scale

2.  A note pad / pen

3.  A water infusion bottle or pitcher (not required but helpful)

4.  People around you who are supportive


First, step on the scale.  Your starting weight may indicate that you are overweight by a little or a lot, although most people that struggle with sugar and carb issues are overweight by more than a little.  Write down the time and your weight.  I suggest you weigh yourself without clothes, first thing in the morning every day so your weight is consistent.  If that is not possible, try to find a time of day that is consistent and it at least be in your undergarments.  You may weigh yourself more than once a day if you like but you need only write down the time that matches the time you choose for consistency.

Second, spend you first few days eating normally, continue to weigh yourself and write it down each day but be mindful of what you eat, every time you eat.  If you are really dedicated, write it down but that might be too hard for busy people so at least be mindful.  For me, I had realized I was having desserts like 4 times a day in the beginning because of my sweet tooth on top of my regular food, some days even more if it was a really bad day!

After you have made note of some of your bad habits, think about ONE habit you can reduce and change for the better, just one thing.  Can you eat a smaller portion at a meal, can you cut down to just 4 desserts a day and NEVER go over that mark if you find you do 4 but sometimes go over that?  Can you cut down to 3 desserts a day on weekends and have your 4 desserts on weekdays – replace the extra dessert with a yummy healthy snack you like instead – like fruit or if the dessert has a lot of calories find a dessert to replace it with that has much less calories like a sugar free chocolate pudding.  But, make ONE change.  Do this for a week.  Keep writing down your weight, it may or may not change.  You may have been eating so that you were in a weight gaining pattern, so we may first be having to stop that before we can move to weight loss.

So, now you have survived a week with your ONE change, make another change – again, do what you can handle, some people can make bigger changes, others can only handle small changes at a time.  However, if you do too much too soon, you will get too hungry, cravings will get too strong and you will give up, so go as slow as you need to so that you don’t break your new rules.

Here are some changes you make:

  • Instead regular soda, have diet
  • Eat less bread
  • Gradually decrease meal size, your stomach will adjust and you will feel full
  • Suck on lollipops or chew gum when you need sugar – Double “sweet tart” type Lollipops are great for those who really like a sugar fix, they last a long time, are very sweet and you can buy 200 for $12 on Amazon
  • Have dinner on the early side
  • Drink lots of water, use the infusion bottle to make water more appealing and tasty, you will drink more of it
  • Drink water before a meal, it will help fill you up
  • Find replacement treats with less calories and eat those in place of the treats with more calories
  • Always worry about calories, not fat grams

You should continue to gradually adjust your eating habits until you reach a point with the following goals:

Breakfast:  You can eat whatever you like – it can tasty and good but it has to be only 200 calories!  You can have a bowl of kiddie cereal for that, a tasty chocolate chip cookie dough protein bar, a couple waffles (no syrup), etc.  There are lots of great foods that you can eat but keep it 200 calories for women, men get to have a little more, maybe 280.

Between breakfast and lunch – if you need to snack, have something like berries, they are great for you, you can even put some whip cream on top.  You can have some peanuts or if you really need a dessert, have a sugar free pudding, that is only 60 more calories.  You can also eat some cheese or a couple slices of bacon.

Lunch – Your lunch should be about 400 calories for women, again men can have a little more, maybe 500.  You should think about things you like that are protein based and add calories around the protein, a deli sandwhich where most of the calories come from the bread, a salad of course always works, a philly cheesesteak is even fine, just don’t eat too much and no chips or sugar drinks with it.

Afternoon snack – rather than eat anything sweet after lunch, if you are a sweet tooth, save it for your mid afternoon snack.  Have your sweet  snack here but only 160 calories.  Something like an ice cream sandwich, another pudding is fine, a bag of chips is fine (individual size), one small brownie, even a donut is okay.  A giant slice of cake is not.

Dinner – Now look back on what you ate today, was your intake on the lighter side or heavier side today?  If it was lighter, you get to have more for dinner, if heavier, you might want to plan your dinner with less calories.  Dinner should be focused on lots of protein and vegetables in general.  Eating pasta and bread should only be on the menu if you planned for it by being good earlier in the day.  Avoid the starches, it is meat and potatoes, it is meat and vegetables!  If bread and potatoes are served and you want some, you have two choices, take a small taste if you think you can do that without going in for more or if tasting them will just fuel your cravings, then leave it all alone!

After dinner- This is the most difficult time for many, this is where I dive into my lollipops!!!  They are 30 calories and keep my sweet tooth satisfied and my mouth busy!!  I might even have 2!!!  However, they keep me from eating so many other things.  Your goal as a woman if you are losing weight is to eat close to 1200 calories if you are getting close to your goal weight, if you are still very far from your goal weight, you should use one of those calculators to see how many calories you can still eat and lose weight.  For men, I believe the number is 1500.  Remember, we were eating 600 calories by lunch and leaving 600 calories for the second half of the day but most our dinner was supposed to be meat and veggies which doesn’t have too many calories.  You also don’t need to “count” all your calories but look at the packages of the food you eat so you are aware of how many calories are in the food you are eating, you might be surprised.  I was shocked to see a side of mac and cheese at outback had 835 calories!   I chose not to eat my left overs!  Also remember to include drinks too.

If you continue to write down your weight every day (don’t listen to these people who say only check once a week!), you will see the numbers go up and down.  Don’t let an up day discourage you.  The reason people tell you to only check once a week is because they think people cannot handle the fluctuations – and there is probably some validity to that, however, that is something you have to be aware of.  Even on a GOOD eating day, you may see your weight go UP, that does not mean you get discouraged, it just means that you may need to poop! 🙂  Or your weight is redistributing and it went down too much the day before and is readjusting to an average.  It will move up and down but the overall pattern with this plan is that you will see an overall down pattern.  Here is an example:

Day 1:  176.6

Day 2:  176.4

Day 3:  175.8

Day 4:  176.0

Day 5:  175.6

Day 6:  175.2

Day 7:  175.6

Day 8:   174.8

Day 9: 175.4

Day 10: 175.0

You can see here, I started at 176. 6 as my high, my low hit 174.8, I have not yet gone back into the 174’s, I expect that tomorrow (I hope) but the overall trend shows that I have lost about 1.5 pounds in 10 days.  Generally, they say that you should lose about 1 pound per week if you are relatively close to your normal weight and more if you are very over weight.  I am only 15-20 pounds overweight.  I was 55 pounds overweight before but I lost 40 pounds and then put a little bit back on so I want to get back down 10 pounds so 1 pound per week is a good pace for me but when I was much more overweight, my weight loss was much faster and I used a similar approach to this although I was pretty dedicated so I set high expectations to my rule changes as I went but I didn’t deprive myself at any point.  Tomorrow, will be a bad eating day since it is a special occasion, and that will happen and you see yourself lose a lot of ground on any days you make bad choices or decide that the special day overrides the diet, however, new weight put on comes back off very quickly, so just get back on track.  I lost my 40 pounds before in just 6 months and then my weight adjusted to the new me.  Granted I made some changes to my eating but it was easy and I still indulged and managed to retain 30 pounds of weight loss for the last 3 years.

One more thing that women should know that I was not aware of – if you have a poochy stomach, especially if you have had children, it is possible that a lot of your “fat” look isn’t even from fat but from muscles that are disconnected from carrying a baby / giving birth.  It is called diastasis recti.  All this time I thought my fat abdomen was all fat but it turns out a part of it are from loose muscles.  You can do exercises to help but the best way to fix it is with surgery.  Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t consider the surgery medically necessary so it is cosmetic and is usually done with a tummy tuck.  For me, it worth considering since the lack of muscles has lead to back pain issues as well.

I hope this approach is helpful, good luck!!


Microsoft vs. Google vs. Apple – the three big players and what they offer, which products are best

24 Jul

So we have the three big tech companies – MICROSOFT, GOOGLE, and  APPLE.  They all offer similar and different products and services.  I am the average techie consumer, I would say.  By that I mean, someone who is moderately into technology but not a huge tech geek, just your every day person.  Your average tech person uses a computer, smart phone, and tablet.  So what benefits do each of the three big players offer with respect to these everyday products.   There are two ways to break this done – one is by product – i.e. smartphone and compare each company, another way is by Company and what that company’s strengths are.  I would like to do it both ways because there are some hidden treasures out there when you look at strengths within a company rather just device.

First – let’s look at devices:

Operating Systems and Search Engines.  Now I know these are two different things but remember I am the average consumer, not a big techie geek so bear with my while I group these together for us “normal” people.  Just an FYI, the operating system are things like Windows, Chrome (but the operating system chrome, I think there is one…not the browser, Google is not focused too much on OS, I don’t think… Sorry if you are Google, you don’t come off that way to the average user…), and Apple’s IOS.  Basically, if you run a PC, most people use Windows (Microsoft) or if you have an Apple Computer, they use Apple’s IOS.  Some people might run Linux (a whole different operating system) and the Chromebook I think runs the Chrome OS.  Windows can be a pain, I hear Linux is great to work with but most things don’t run on Linux so if you want to live in the average word rather than the geek world, Linux is usually not an option.  I hear good things about Apple’s OS but I have always been a PC user.  None of the above stand out as an amazing experience above the others in my opinion.

As for the Search Engines – Microsoft makes Bing, it is a Google wanna be, it is still behind the time and I don’t think anyone will ever do search like Google!  I don’t like Safari at all!  So, Google without a doubt stands out in Search!

Smartphones – Microsoft makes its Windows phone and a few folks like it and it, like Apple, try to make so you get integrated with all Microsoft stuff well but then don’t work so well with outside players.   This is what makes Android so popular, Android doesn’t play favorites, it happily works with all players.  It has always been ahead of the game on all the things it can do, etc.  I was always jealous when I had an iphone and my husband had his Android phone and he could do things I could not.  Now, if you are very average or especially less than average in the tech world, you won’t use all the features Android has to offer and in fact, having so many things will just make it too complicated to learn!  This is where Apple comes in and saves the day!  Apple is a GREAT product, it does close to all the things Android can do and it does them in a much sleeker and more user friendly way.  They also have the “I am special, I use Apple,” motto, sorry folks, but that is how it is…. they cost more and hit the high end of the market and choose to stay there.  They choose to stay proprietary with what they make and not integrate what they do with more common technologies (i.e. they don’t use standard chargers like other phones and tablets).  These are just facts, I still love the Apple iphone, it fills a great market.  Google rushes through their product development and pushes things out quickly while Apple goes slow and makes sure things are very friendly and attractive.  In fact, I think the winner of the phone market is a tie between Apple and Android since both markets need to filled and unless the makers of Android phones can find a way to make phones that are more user friendly, this divide will always be there.

Tablets – I started with an Ipad, then I went to an Android tablet, then back to a Ipad, and just bought a Microsoft Surface Pro 3.  Why do you want a tablet becomes the question?  How will you use the tablet?  I think the answer to this greatly dictates what tablet you get.  Prices vary a lot.  You can some Android tablets very cheap, Ipads cost more and the Microsoft surface pro costs the most if you get a good one.  If you are a mom and want good educational apps for your child to play on in doctors offices, draw on, check mail, and internet with something that is easy to use – the Ipad is a great choice.  If you already have an iphone, sticking with Apple is a great choice.  If you have an Android phone and know how to work with its interface, an android tablet is a good choice or if price is a problem.  If, however, you are a college student or a professional who will be taking a lot of notes / doing a lot of organizing, etc. at his or her job, HANDS DOWN, get the Microsoft Surface Pro!  Even if you are in high school, having one of these is amazing, it is too bad that we have to worry about our kids and theft at school since this would be a great device rather than notebooks at school for them!  Someday, this is all we will have! I did not even know what I was missing until I got the Surface Pro 3, most people probably don’t know the amazing capabilities it has with One Note.  I read somewhere that the one thing Microsoft has done right is the Surface Pro!!  It is so true.

So – as I mentioned I would do, if we look at a comparison of the companies’ qualities by company we have:



  • Amazing Search
  • Amazing Maps
  • Great Phones
  • Inexpensive good tablets
  • All check out Google Drive – like Office but free and everything is stored for you securely online
  • Gmail



  • Great simplicity and user interface design
  • Great phones
  • Great tablets


  • Surface Pro (not regular Surface)
  • One Note – amazing integration
  • Great product for students!!!


I hope this is helpful, at a later date as I continue to learn all about the features of One Note I will write more about it.  I wish Microsoft put together better tutorials for learning, they have been difficult to follow and I feel like I am on my own!

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Updates on Working with a Fear Aggressive Dog

27 May

It is hard to believe that Whiskey, our Border Collie, is 2.5 years old now.  Putting the time, money, and energy to help a dog with fear aggression is a lot for a family to take on.  Now I wish I had some video of how bad he was when he was younger to see how far we have come because our hard work is paying off.  One thing, however, is that different things may work for different dogs and having a large number of different things to try and consistency in using your arsenal of techniques is vital.  The first thing you must have is a strong relationship of TRUST with your dog.  He has to know that he can trust you 100% of the time and that you will protect him, everything else builds from this.  This means that you have to be careful about choices you make in his treatment because certain choices can take away that trust and then the other things you do will not be as effective.

Building trust means that you understand dog psychology, dog signs of stress, and in particular you can read YOUR dog for stress and step in when you see your dog in stress and stop the situation.  Examples of signs of stress include tail between the legs, ears back, certain “looks” in their eyes, yawning, shaking (both literally and shaking off like they are wet), whining, growling, movement away from stressful situation, sniffing of ground or looking away in avoidance, and more.  One of my kids hugs the dog all the time, he tolerates hugs from this child because he is part of our pack but he often shows signs of discontent during the hug and I have to tell my child to keep the hug short.  There used to be so many situations that would trigger all of the above signs of stress but now we are happy when he is able to do a shake (like he is shaking off water but he isn’t wet, I will refer to this as a wet shake from now on but this does not mean he is wet) to calm himself rather than growl and lunge, it is a much better way for him to deal with the stress.  We reward him and tell him “good dog” when he makes choices to use these calming signs rather than let his stress build to aggression.  He has been able to get this point, however, because he knows that I will not put him in a bad situation.  For example if we see another dog or a small child, he knows that I will take him in a direction that walks us a far distance from the stressor rather than keep us right next to them.  Before, he would lunge, growl, bark, or try to bite at the dog or child because he did not trust that he would be safe and felt the need to act on it.  Now, he trusts that he will be safe so he can relax.

Medication is another item that helped a lot.  We had him on just Prozac and it helped a little.  We added Trazadone and it helped quite a bit and then we doubled the Trazadone and got even better response.  For him, he just has so much anxiety, he needs the medication.  We tried not giving it to him to see what would happen and he just started shaking terribly and hiding, he was a mess.  On the medication, he is calmer, wants to play, is loving, and acts like a normal dog with the exception that we still have some fear issues but they are much less severe and we continue to work on them.

Positive training Vs. E-Collar Methods – At first we tried Sit Means Sit as they promote a lot of videos of curing any dog with problems.  We signed up but Whiskey was more than they bargained for.  If it had been the person who created the company instead of a Franchise Owner, we may have had more luck.  I have seen people successfully use the E-Collar with what seems like fearful aggressive dogs BUT with that said you must remember that you are dealing with a dog who has FEARS.  Using a negative tool on a fearful dog might be a bad idea unless you are one of the few experts with tons of training who do this for a living and would take the dog in until he was fixed.  If you just get a package with 3 lessons and some group classes (what is typically sold by Sit Means Sit) this is not a fix for a dog with severe Fear Aggression for even the most dedicated owner!  Whiskey learned a lot of obedience but he is a border collie and knew a lot of obedience before we started and obedience was not our goal.  We want him to be able to play with other dogs and not eat small children and bunnies.  Sit means Sit is not designed to do this, at least not the one locally.  We did learn a lot in general and I do think there is a place for the E-Collar for working with Fear Aggressive dogs, I will get to that in a minute.  After spending almost a year without much progress, we moved on to positive only methods (the ANTI-ECollar people).  I wrote about a lot of things I learned in other blog posts so I won’t repeat that here but that was money well spent overall.  It continued to build trust between Whiskey and I.  It also helped condition him to relax during stressful situations and in combination with the trazadone that was started during that time, we really started to see progress.  Overall, I would recommend this approach if done with someone who really knows their stuff and helps you do it with your dog as a first approach rather than the E-Collar.  I did, however, say I felt E-Collars could help and what we found is that in certain situations where positive training was just NOT working no matter what we did, a negative reinforcement was the only option.  This is not a good first line of defense though since it does not build trust.  Right now, Whiskey still has a problem charging our fence outside when the kids in the next yard over play ball, run by quickly, or if dogs walk by on the street.  We tried over and over with positive reinforcement to stop this but could not get anywhere.  It was also hard to time and be consistent with positive reinforcement in those situations which did not help.  He really needed to have the positive reinforcement EVERY time and it was not feasible with life to catch him EVERY time (you might be in pj’s, cooking dinner, not have cookies on you, just can’t stand out there and do it, etc. etc.)  so we put on the E-Collar and as soon as he charges the fence, the button gets pushed and he is now choosing to ignore the kids in the yard (that was easier for him than the dogs walking by).  He will also sometimes ignore the dogs, he may still whine, or will get a toy for you to throw to distract him but he is coming up with alternatives for you and if you call him when he does charge (when we forget to put the collar on him), he comes in the house right away.  Gradually, these situations will no longer be an immediate trigger for him as we continue to condition him to relax and not get into a state of flowing adrenaline when he views these situations.

Our walks have changed dramatically.  We used to be able to even see people or dogs, now he ignores people, ignores children, and even ignores dogs if we walk around them (he watches them for about 15 seconds while we walk around them but then looks forward again).  He does still react negatively if someone comes up on him abruptly like a jogger and doesn’t give us space because he thinks he is going to be hurt – not sure what to do about that yet but we will have to work on some conditioning of that.  He also does not attack the door when UPS drops of packages and is quicker to accept people in the house.  He even went to one of our regular guests on his own and asked to be pet by her when usually he doesn’t want anyone but family to touch him.  We will continue to work with having people in the house because that is one of our biggest problems that limits his life and our life.  We don’t like locking him up and he doesn’t like it either.  Once he is tired from a walk, he does VERY well strangers walking around as long as they aren’t small children being unpredictable.

I also really want to work on getting him together with other dogs but I need to find a trainer who will do that with me.  We may use the E-Collar for that and consider Sit Means Sit for that again since it worked for that in the past.  However, I need to make sure I keep his trust so that is why I hesitate a little.  He is also listening better with our cat.  If she shows herself, he knows he is not allowed to go near her and will listen to me to get away – if I am not there, that is a different story – which is why he stays crated when I am not home.

That is our update for now, sorry for any typos or crazy sentences – too lazy to proof read 🙂  I will keep you all updated.


Things every young person should know as they start living on their own / Financial Guidance for 20-somethings

07 Apr

Welcome to your life!!  Here are a few things you should be aware of about how to be financially successful.


1.  Protect your Credit Score!!

Consequences:  Bad Credit = No place to live, no roof over your head!!  Landlords will not rent to people with bad credit and you can’t buy a house with bad credit this means, you will have no place to live with bad credit.  Many other things happen with bad credit but this is the biggest!!


2. Check how much money you have in your accounts every day or every other day.   Don’t overspend!

Consequences:  Overdraft, writing bad checks, JAIL time for consistently writing bad checks, extra costs for INS (insufficient funds, checks bounce), credit cards don’t get paid, bills don’t get bad, BAD CREDIT, see #1


3.  If you have a credit card, that doesn’t mean you can just spend and spend.  Don’t spend more than you have to pay off.  Look at your credit card statement daily / every other day and compare to how much money you have.

Consequences:  You spend more than you have, you can pay bill, late fees, overlimit fees, no money to pay, interest and late fees compile on top of each other VERY QUICKLY, until eventually they shut off your card and you owe a ton of money and have BAD CREDIT, see #1.


4.  If you have checks in your check book, that doesn’t mean you still have money!  Know how much you have in your account.  You can’t just go buy things because you want to, make sure you have money to pay for it.  When Mom and Dad aren’t paying the bills anymore, you may have to learn how to cut out habits you were used to.


5.  Save money for bills that occur sporadically or when they show up you won’t have money to pay for them.  Car insurance, car taxes, regular taxes, property taxes, car breaks down, etc.    Do you know all the categories you pay on a yearly basis, save monthly so you will have money for this when the bill comes due, rather than having the bill come due and realize you can’t pay your insurance and know can’t drive legally.

Consequences:  Your bills come due and you can’t pay so you:  choose to do something illegal – drive without insurance, not pay taxes, etc.  This risks LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS including JAIL and getting SUED, car taken away, etc.  Don’t risk it.


6.  Pay attention to due dates, you can’t be late on important things or wait to the last minute (because you never know if something comes up and say you are violently ill and then can’t do it the night before).  Use a calendar, pay attention to deadlines, do things early, use a To-Do app on your phone.

Consequences:  If you forget to pay taxes, you could lose your car, get fined, get audited, go to jail.  If  you don’t pay your insurance on time, you could lose insurance with the company and then maybe not be able to get a new policy or your new policy will be more expensive (plus time consuming to find and open) and if you will be driving without insurance.  If you don’t register your car, you will get a ticket and be required to go to court, do you really want to give you your day to go to court?  And have another thing you have to remember?


7.  Save some money, pay yourself first.  All smart people, save money and do not live paycheck to paycheck.  You can never get ahead if you spend every cent.  You need to save money and then find a smart investment vehicle for that saved money and let your money make money for you.

Consequences:  Won’t have money when you have an emergency to pull from, can never get ahead, can never be wealthy.


8.  Start an IRA / 401K before you are 25.  We will all get old some day and we only have our own savings to rely on to pay our bills when we are too old to work.  It is not something ANYONE wants to start thinking about in their 20’s (I didn’t) but with the power of compounded principal and interest, it is the best and easiest way to make sure you live a comfortable life when you are older.  Don’t count on money from any other source, only money from yourself, you don’t know if social security will still be around or what it will be like or if your parents will have any money left over to leave you, so start saving and thinking about it by 25!

Consequences:  You live in very uncomfortable situation with little support when you most need medical help and comfort from old age ailments.


9.  Live wealthy, not Rich.  People who are wealthy are smart people who learn how to manage wealth, save money, spend responsibly, and let their money work for them.  Rich people are who have a lot of money for a short time, are irresponsible with it, spend it all trying to live a Rich Lifestyle without long term thought, and end up poor.

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The Missing Piece in Education: The “New Teacher” has lost all their freedoms for effective teaching

21 Nov

Being a good teacher is probably one of the things I am most passionate about in life.  I have had experience with education at every level possible.  I have been a mother, I have worked with preschool age children, I have been a substitute teacher of all grade levels, I student taught in middle and high school level and was certified for high school math.  I taught mathematics and statistics to undergraduates and graduate students and I ran my own learning center where I worked with K-12 students in all subjects – reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, special education, and study skills.  I have written curriculum materials and have worked with many students who struggle with learning for a variety of reasons.  During all of this, I have witnessed what teachers do in the classroom and remember my own education as a student and when learning how to be an educator.  Most of what I learned about what makes a good educator came from a mixture of own experiences (especially watching what doesn’t work) and working with many different types of students of all ages over the years.

Let’s look at the traditional teacher – the traditional teacher is often overworked and underpaid.  This is unfortunate but this doesn’t give educators an excuse to do their jobs poorly.  However, were they ever given the education they needed on how to do their job well? My teacher education program was not where I learned to be a great teacher, I learned the status quo.  Teachers are also expected to follow recipes more and more so they are not allowed any artistic freedoms – let’s say that their classroom is totally lost on a math topic, a good teacher would be able to read their students and make adjustments, slow things down, and adjust the curriculum – teachers are not allowed to do that anymore.  They are told what they need to be teaching day to day, they are given the tests that they should use (even if they aren’t good tests), they can’t adjust and make sure learning happens.  When this is forced upon them, they become the NEW TEACHER – the NEW TEACHER, is not a teacher at all, just someone following a plan prescribed by some higher up and if the kids don’t get it, tough!  Fail them or give them a D and move them on anyway.

Here are the things that made me a great teacher, how many of these freedoms do teachers still have?  How many of them are taught to do these things (why teach them when they can’t use them?)

  • Make my own plan for the semester where I go quickly over easy material and give more time to harder material
  • Read my students and make adjustments for EACH individual class as needed, speeding things up or slowing down, sometimes even leaving out the less important things in order to get mastery of the more important things
  • Decide on what homework my own class should do each night
  • Choosing appropriate homework, so that students don’t do too little or too much and it starts easy and gets more challenging and different types of problems are asked
  • Making sure the homework assigned matches what I will ask students to know on a test
  • Providing students with a list of expectations, giving out a review sheet before a test, and a list of topics that students need to make sure they need to know for a test
  • Making learning more about what students learn than about jumping through hoops
  • Teach dynamically, I teach a concept, I do an example, I give an example for my students to try, I check to see if my students (all) can do it, we move on to next example or topic
  • Write notes for students in organized way that can easily be used for studying, create step by step directions for procedural mathematics rather than just doing an example
  • Not caring too much about penalizing students for late “small” assignments (either natural consequences can be given, instead of a zero, no grade or a reasonable amount taken off, not just, ‘here is a zero!’)
  • Allowing or requiring students to correct their mistakes, if they don’t learn what they did wrong – how is learning taking place?
  • Start from scratch each semester, I get better and better this way, I don’t use the same materials over and over – may use some but each test is new, review sheets are new
  • Making my own tests up and making sure the tests match what I taught in class, are filled with questions at different levels of Blooms Taxonomy, are both procedural and conceptual
  • Allowing students to “get it later,”  if a student is doing terrible but later shows they finally got it and has a full grasp of the concepts by the end of the semester / term / year, do they still deserve for all those poor grades to count against them, they got there, isn’t that our goal!
  • Don’t lose sight of the goal – student learning!!!
  • Realize that student grades are a reflection of how good a job I am doing
  • Make adjustments to an assignment or test if the majority of a class got a problem wrong or misunderstood a problem
  • Never be on a power trip.
  • Reach out to students and parents if they are struggling, have a plan of extra work that students who want to get there but aren’t there can do – never turn away a student who is struggling but wants to get it figured out, help them.

Most teachers these days do the following:

  • Follow a day to day prescribed outline given to them by someone else
  • Move onto the next day regardless of whether the students are confused or lost
  • Read from power points, assign book work, or do examples FOR the student as a method of teaching
  • Teach statically, not dynamically
  • For those that use the “flipped curriculum,” don’t even know how to teach dynamically when using this type of approach which is designed for dynamic teaching
  • Never make up their own problems
  • Rarely create review sheets for students
  • Don’t even know how to “read the class” to see if students are understanding or not
  • Aren’t allowed to use their own tests
  • Are told what homework to assign
  • Don’t know how to create homework that is developmental, starts easy and gets more challenging
  • Don’t know how to break information down into organized steps for students who have trouble doing this
  • Feel overworked
  • Some have lost their passion for teaching all together
  • Don’t understand that grading is a barometer for both student learning and teacher effectiveness

I think our education system just keeps getting worse and worse.  My dream is to some day get financial backing to open a school where I can hire and train a bunch of bright teachers to teach effectively, this is what makes the difference in education.


Paying for college – having multiple children, upper middle class – FAFSA, Timing is everything and It’s Not Fair!

19 Aug

Paying for college is getting more and more difficult, especially for the upper middle class with many children!  I am all about fairness and I never understand when people and agencies fail to see the big picture and provide fairness and equity across the board – this is whether it provides me with benefit or not.

So, one issue I have is with qualifying for financial aid for the middle class / upper middle class and especially for families who have lots of children nicely spaced.  Let’s look at the timeline of how things might unfold for a typical middle/upper middle class family.

  • You fall in love and get married.
  • You attend college (and so does your spouse) – if you are lucky, although I guess this is needed as part of the story but is common to this scenario.
  • You get your entry level job and start making a starter salary, not a GREAT salary but a decent one hopefully or enough to start building the American dream of starting a family and buying a home.
  • So, you have your first child and you buy your first home.
  • You start putting money in your 401K for retirement.
  • You have your second child and you get salary increases, maybe you change jobs a few times which does nice things to your pay.
  • You may have more children – in our case, we had four kids.  You space them out, especially if you have four, who can handle four kids that are all two years apart?  So, some are 3 or 4 year apart.
  • By the time your first one is ready for college, you have built up some nice equity in your home, you have that 6 months of safety cushion the experts say you should have.  You have been thinking about your retirement also, so you may a good strong 401K or other investments.  You may even own a rental property or two, but that is your retirement plan since you are trying to be responsible, after all they don’t give out pensions anymore and health care in retirement is a huge concern.  Your income has grown nicely and you fall in the middle or upper middle income category.
  • Your first child chooses to go to school AND…. you know you have perhaps 3 more children that will follow to put through college as well and you have retirement to think about.  Many families also have someone in the family that is elderly or disabled that they are paying for as well.

You fill out the FAFSA form and look to tell FAFSA about the fact that you have 3 more kids that you have to put through college, all the funds you have now are NOT for just the ONE child… You look to tell FAFSA that you have a disabled child that you will have to support for life, you look to tell FAFSA that your rental properties are your retirement plan and that you chose to plan retirement a little different than just putting all your money into a 401K.  You want to scream at FAFSA that you did it all right, you were responsible and it isn’t your fault that your three kids aren’t triplets and all in school at the same time – you still have to put all three of them through college!  You want to scream that just because you have the savings you are supposed doesn’t mean you are supposed to “get rid of it” and put it into your kids college tuition and now not have the safety net that experts recommend.    FAFSA doesn’t care about any of that, you get nothing, nada, not now and not for the rest of your 3 kids, you get to pay 100% of your kids college costs.  Unless they go to a school that costs $80,000 per year, then they might LOAN you $10,000 and expect you to pay $70,000 per year which you know you could never do.

As an upper middle income family with only ONE child, I am completely FINE with FAFSA saying that I should pay 100% of my child’s tuition.  Yes, I can afford it!  I did, my son graduates in a year and we paid 100% (sent him to a state school that only costs $15,000-$16,000 per year so we could and still afford to send our other kids to college), however, we could could never have sent him to a more expensive school because he has 3 siblings that I have to think about.   FAFSA needs to consider how many kids a family WILL need to send to college.  I understand that not all those kids might go to college so I guess that becomes a problem, so maybe the discount can come as you apply and have already had a kid graduate so you get credit after the fact.  Once I apply for kid #3 or #4, FAFSA can ask, how many kids have you already put through college and calculate that into their EFC.  If I already paid 100% to put 3 kids through school, give me a break on number 4, please, I am not a millionaire, I just want to educate my kids.