Buying an Xbox Kinect

Written by dad - One Comment

This is just a quick note to say that I’ve ordered an Xbox Kinect as a Christmas gift for the kids… Or maybe it was for me? I guess time will tell. :-) After reading some reviews, I’ve been thinking that a Kinect would make a cool gift, but I’m not crazy about getting up at the crack of dawn and waiting in line to buy one.

Last night, however, I struck gold. While doing a bit of Christmas shopping at Amazon, I decided to check Kinect availability on a whim. Well, guess what? They had it in stock, and with free shipping to boot!

I’ve actually had pretty good luck snagging hot Christmas gifts at Amazon in the past. You just have to be persistent and check in a few times per day. Nonetheless, I was surprised to see it there. After a quick bit of hand wringing, I added it to my cart and headed to checkout.

While the Kinect ships with a game called Kinect Adventures, I also picked up Kinect Sports. On top of that, I subsequently ordered a copy of Kinectimals for our younger kids.

Anyway… If you’ve been wondering where to buy an Xbox Kinect, now you know where to look… Amazon. Last I checked, they were out of stock again, though you can still get one through one of their third-party sellers for a $25 premium.

Published on December 18th, 2010 - One Comment
Filed under: Fun,Gift Ideas
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Kids Not Learning Cursive in Schools

Written by dad - 7 Comments

Guess what? Sometime between Son #2 and Son #3 hitting third grade, our local school district decided to stop teaching cursive. While they’ll still learn to sign their names, they won’t learn to read or write in cursive.

I’m not sure why, but this really bothers. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I chose to write in cursive, but it still seems like a skill worth having. Thus, we’ll most likely wind up teaching our kids cursive ourselves.

As for why they’ve dropped cursive, we haven’t really gotten a straight answer. My best guess is that they simply want more time to prepare for standardized tests. If that turns out to be the case, I’ll be very unhappy. After all, as pointless as cursive might end up being in the long run, standardized test prep is far more pointless.

Published on November 19th, 2010 - 7 Comments
Filed under: Education
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How to Treat a MRSA Skin Infection

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Earlier this week, we took our eight year old son in to see the doctor. He had what can only be described as a boil on his left forearm, and it was clearly infected. We’ve dealt with our fair share of things like impetigo in the past, and this was clearly different.

As soon as the doctor saw it, she uttered the phrase that we had been fearing… MRSA. That’s the shorthand for a nasty, drug-resistant bug known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. She couldn’t say for certain without culturing it, but she was quite sure we were dealing with MRSA.

How to get rid of MRSA

The recommended treatment regimen was:

  • A ten day course of oral antibiotics (Bactrim; sulfamethoxazole-tmp)
  • Regular treatment with a topical antibiotic (Bactroban; mupirocin)
  • Adding a half cup of bleach to his nightly bath
  • To the extent possible, we’re supposed to “express” (squeeze out) the pus – lovely, huh?

To prevent spread, we’ve been keeping it covered with with a large band-aid, which we’ve been changing regularly, washing our hands religiously, and keeping him dressed in long-sleeved shirts.

As far as school attendance goes, our doctor advised that we just keep it covered and send him back. MRSA is (apparently) pretty much everywhere nowadays, and his presence doesn’t present any unique risks to his schoolmates.

Officially diagnosed: MRSA

As far as the official diagnosis goes, we got a call from the doctor just before 5PM this afternoon. The test results were in, and… Yes, it’s MRSA. The good news is that this particular strain does respond to Bactrim, and he’s on the mend.

As for how he got it, we have no idea. More than likely, he had a bug bite that came into contact with it and the infection developed from there.

Published on September 3rd, 2010 - One Comment
Filed under: Health
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Where to Buy Silly Bandz?

Written by dad - One Comment

On the off chance that you haven’t heard, Silly Bandz are all the rage with kids these days. We were actually first introduced to the Silly Bandz craze by our preschool and 2nd grade sons this past school year, and they’ve since swept the nation.

While our kids’ obsession has cooled off a bit this summer, I fully it expect things to ramp up again when they head back to school. In fact, many schools have banned Silly Bandz because kids were getting too distracted collecting, comparing, and trading them.

Anyway, I’ve been asked by several people in real life where to buy Silly Bandz, so I figured it might be worth writing something up to post here, as well. But first…

What are Silly Bandz?

In case you haven’t had the pleasure of collecting, trading, playing with, or buying Silly Bandz, here’s the deal:

Silly Bandz are little more than rubber band bracelets that come in numerous colors and shapes. They’re typically sold in themed packs, including the following “official” Silly Bandz packs:

  • Alphabet
  • Art Fest
  • Baseball
  • Basic
  • Beach
  • Fantasy
  • Pets
  • Princess
  • Rainforest
  • Rockbandz
  • Sea Creatures
  • Spring (retired)
  • Western
  • Zoo

As has been the case with most successful collecting crazes, it appears that these Silly Bandz packs will gradually be retired, thereby further stoking demand.

Not surprisingly, as the phenomenon has grown, a number of impostors have come to market. These are sold under a variety of names, including: Silly Bands, Fun Bands, Animal Rubber Bands, Rubber Band Bracelets, etc. These off-brands have brought with them a number of “innovations,” including tie-dye and sparkly bands.

How much do Silly Bandz cost?

The standard price for a 24-pack of official Silly Bandz is around $5.00. Yep, that’s right. That’s a little over $0.20 for a rubber band. Amazing, huh? Of course, with all the knockoffs that are now available, you can easily find unofficial Silly Bandz for somewhere in the $3-$4/pack range.

Just be sure to double-check the size of the pack you’re buying, as it’s not uncommon to see 12-packs that look like a good deal until you realize you’re getting half as many as you thought.

Where can you buy Silly Bandz?

So… Where can you buy Silly Bandz? That’s almost certainly one of the first questions that will pop into your head when your kids start clamoring for them. As it turns out, you can find Silly Bandz, or a reasonable facsimile, just about anywhere nowadays.

I’ve seen them at Target, Walmart, Toys’R'Us, Learning Express, and in numerous drugstores, grocery stores, and gas stations. Someone even set up a dedicated Silly Bandz kiosk in our local mall. And, of course, you can buy them online, with Amazon.com being a prime source.

If you’re out and about hunting for Silly Bandz, your best best is to look near the checkout — exactly where you’d expect to find an impulse buy!

Published on July 12th, 2010 - One Comment
Filed under: Fun,Toys & Gifts
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School Start Times: Later is Better for Teens

Written by dad - 5 Comments

I just ran across an interesting article about school start times. This isn’t particularly surprising but, according to a recent study, delaying the start of school by as little as half an hour would significantly benefit teens.

During a two month trial in Newport, Rhode Island, researchers found that delaying the start of school from 8:00 AM to 8:30 AM resulted in significantly more sleep for teens. In fact, the number of students getting by on less than seven hours dropped by nearly 80%, and the number of students sleeping at least 8 hours increased from 16.4% to 54.7%.

Other benefits of the later start included increased alertness and fewer students reporting that they were too tired for schoolwork or sports. In addition, fewer students reported feeling unhappy, depressed, irritated, or annoyed, and fewer students skipped class or showed up late.

When I was a kid, high school students started earliest, with middle school students starting a bit later, and elementary school students starting last. In our current community, however, the reverse is true: elementary kids start at 8:00 AM, middle school at 8:30AM, and high school at 9:00 AM. All in all, this seems to work well.

Source: Time.com

Published on July 7th, 2010 - 5 Comments
Filed under: Education,Health
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Intuniv Update and a Switch to Lexapro

Written by dad - 6 Comments

I’ve been meaning to write this for awhile, but just haven’t been able to find the time. As I’ve previously noted, our twelve year old started taking Intuniv (guanfacine) to treat his nervous tics, as well as to improve his impulse control and reduce his aggression.

The good news is that his tics became much less apparent, and his behavior also improved dramatically. Unfortunately, we couldn’t tell if the behavioral improvement was because the medicine was working, or because he was feeling so crummy from the side effects — primarily sleep problems, headaches, and nausea.

We switched his dosing schedule so he’s be taking his Intuniv in the evenings, but that didn’t really solve the problem. His sleep patterns did improve, but he was still having bad headaches and some nausea.

Switching to Lexapro

Ultimately, we ended taking him off the Intuniv and switched him over to Lexapro (escitalopram), which is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is often prescribed as an anti-depressant. The doctor thought that the Lexapro might help reduce his anxiety, and thus solve both the tics and the behavioral issues.

At first, this seemed to work well, but the behavioral issues returned within a few weeks, and his tics have come back with a vengeance. Perhaps the initial benefit was a placebo effect, or perhaps his body adjusted to the Lexapro, or is otherwise having an adverse reaction.

We’re currently thinking of taking him off the Lexapro, letting it clear out of his system, and then trying again. The tics we can live with, but the behavioral problems are taking a toll on the family.

Published on March 26th, 2010 - 6 Comments
Filed under: Health
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Treating Impetigo That Won’t Go Away

Written by dad - 10 Comments

Our five year old son has been battling impetigo for the past couple of months. We’ve had it on the run several times, and actually thought it was completely gone at one point, but it’s kept coming back. Admittedly, a part of the problem was inconsistency on our part when treating the problem early on.

Treating impetigo, in the beginning

We first started treating his impetigo with Bactroban (mupirocin) ointment accompanied by regular pHisoderm baths. When that didn’t knock out the infection, he went on two rounds of Zithromax Z-Paks (azithromycin). The Z-Paks seemed to do the trick, and the impetigo seemingly disappeared.

Convinced that we had won, we stopped with the Bactroban. Unfortunately, the impetigo came back shortly thereafter. It’s unclear whether he got re-infected or if the original case never completely cleared up. Regardless, we started treating him again.

Treating impetigo, one more time

At this point, we were applying the Bactroban more or less daily. When the impetigo didn’t improve, he went back on a Z-Pak. This time around, there was no improvement, so we got referred out to a dermatologist.

The dermatologist suggested stepping up to twice daily Bactroban treatments accompanied by daily baths with a hypo-allergenic soap. He also recommended putting some Bactroban in his nostrils and on his anus once per day (nostrils first!).

When the dermatologist’s suggestions didn’t help, we went back to our family doctor who recommended that we try a new oral antibiotic. This time around, we went home with a prescription for Omnicef (cefdinir). We’re about halfway through that prescription and have seen a huge improvement.

As of today, his sores are on the mend, but we’re still hitting them Bactroban twice per day, and will continue to do so until we can’t find any spots to treat. We’re hopeful that we’ve finally got the upper hand, but we aren’t holding our breath. While we’ve dealt with impetigo in the past, it has never been this stubborn.

As an aside, we haven’t seen any red urine (a known side effect of Omnicef) this time around.

Published on February 13th, 2010 - 10 Comments
Filed under: Health
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The Best Time of Day to Take Intuniv

Written by dad - 444 Comments

A couple of week ago, I noted that our son had started taking Intuniv to treat his nervous tics. He started out with a 1mg dose, increased to 2mg after a week, and then to 3mg a week later. Easing patients onto Intuniv in this fashion is the standard approach.

Unfortunately, shortly after he started taking Intuniv, he started having problems with insomnia. He’d fall asleep just fine but would wake up at 2AM or 3AM and then be unable to get back to sleep. After consulting with the doctor (who also checked with the pharmaceutical rep) we ended up switching from morning to evening doses.

The good news is that the nighttime sleep problems are gone. The bad news is that he now comes home from school absolutely exhausted. And by that I mean completely and totally wiped out. We’re hoping that he adjusts to the Intuniv in the coming weeks such that he’s no longer so tired in the afternoons, or so we can switch him back to morning doses without disrupting his sleep.

I’ll update when we know more…

Published on February 9th, 2010 - 444 Comments
Filed under: Health
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Intuniv for Treating Tics and Twitches

Written by dad - 176 Comments

As I’ve noted in the past, our oldest son has a history of tics and twitches. In the past, these have come and gone, often associated with stressful periods in our lives, and never lasting more than a few months.

This past fall, our son (eleven years old at the time) started middle school, and shortly thereafter the tics returned. They’ve presented as eye blinking, nose wrinkling, and a funny little mouth stretch (for lack of a better term). While we kept hoping they’d go away, they haven’t.

We’re now pushing six months, our eleven year old has turned twelve, and there have been no signs of improvement. Since this is by far the longest he’s had them, we decided to have him checked out.

After evaluating him, the doctor recommended two possible pharmaceutical solutions. I should note here that, in addition to the tics, he’s rather high strung, and we’ve also been having some issues with his aggression toward his brothers.

Lexapro vs. Intuniv

The two options that we were given were Lexapro (escitalopram) and Intuniv (guanfacine; the time release version of Tenex). Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is often prescribed as an anti-depressant. This would help with his anxiety, and could also reduce the incidence of his tics.

Intuniv, on the other hand, is an alpha-2-adrenergic agent that is often prescribed for ADHD, and is also thought to be effective in treating tics. After a good bit of research, as well as consultation with our family practitioner, we decided to go with the Intuniv.

He started on a 1mg/day dose for the first week, going up to 2mg/day this week, and 3mg/day next week. We’ll then take him back in to get checked out by the doctor. While we still haven’t seen an effect, we’re still ramping up to therapeutic levels. I’ll update when we know more.

Real-world side effects of Intuniv

While our son hasn’t been on Intuniv for very long, we have noticed some minor side effects. For example, he’s had a bit of an upset stomach and reduced appetite, especially since we increased the dosage to 2mg/day. He’s also been more tired than normal, and has been waking up at night and having trouble falling back asleep.

Published on January 28th, 2010 - 176 Comments
Filed under: Health
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 Digital Camera Review

Written by dad - One Comment

We just picked up a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 digital camera for my lovely and talented wife. This new camera is a replacement of her old Casio Exilim EX-S600, which has been acting up over the past few months and appears to have ultimately died after less than three years of service.

Panasonic Lumix ZS3 review

In short, the Lumix ZS3 is a fantastic camera. It has a large (3 inch) LCD display, 10.1 megapixel resolution, 12x optical zoom, image stabilization, and it also records HD video. Very impressive, especially for the price.

Image quality is great, and the camera is very intuitive. It even has a fully-automatic mode that automatically recognizes your shooting conditions and switches between macro, landscape, portrait, sports, etc. so you don’t have to (unless you want to).

Also, if you’re trying to take shots of active subjects (like little kids), it has a nice focus lock that latches onto the subject and keeps them in focus no matter where they move within the frame. Very cool.

The ZS3 also has a little brother, known as the Lumix ZS1, which likewise shoots 10.1 megapixel pictures, but sports a slightly smaller display (2.7 inches, and records standard definition (640 x 480) video. For the price difference (about $60 on Amazon), the ZS3 is a no-brainer in my book.

Accessories for your Lumix ZS3 (or ZS1)

If you’re look for a great case to go along with either the ZS1 or ZS3, check out the Tamrac 5691 camera case. The main pocket is just right for the camera itself, and the outer pocket fits the battery charger perfectly.

As far as memory cards go, both the ZS1 and ZS3 use either regular or high capacity SD memory cards. We went with an 8GB card, which is likely way more space then we’ll need.

Published on November 1st, 2009 - One Comment
Filed under: Reviews
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