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Don’t tempt fate.

We’ve all heard the saying – don’t tempt fate. It ranks up there in popularity with Murphy’s Law. Well, I tempted fate earlier this month when, during a conversation with another customer at Target (while we were perusing allergy medications), that we got extremely lucky in that we made it through a cold, wet winter with no illnesses. Then, BOOM: Alyssa gets sick with a stomach bug last Thursday night, Ryan gets sick Saturday afternoon, and I get sick very early Sunday morning.

But while Alyssa was over the sickness in a relatively quick twelve hours, it’s hanging on to Ryan and I. It’d be fantastic to get this crap out of our systems. Besides being sick of bathrooms, I’m also quite sick of cleaning, disinfecting, and deodorizing #ALLTHETHINGS.

(On the bright side, my pants are looser!)

Filed under General

How to Choose the Best Venue for Your Conference

If you are planning a conference, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is to choose the venue. Where the conference takes place is very important and can really affect its success, so you don’t want to take this decision lightly. If you don’t get the venue right, people will only put up with the sub-standard facilities and poor location for so long, regardless of how great the event is.

Here are some important tips that you should keep in mind when it comes to choosing the best venue for your conference:

Is it In a Convenient Location?

Think about where people who are attending your conference will be coming from and choose a location that will be convenient for them to reach. If they need to travel long distances at great expense and inconvenience, they will be unlikely to attend. For example, if many of the attendees for your conference will be residents of Chester, there are many country hotels near Chester that offer conference facilities.

Choose a venue that will be in a convenient location for most of your conference guests to reach. It should be accessible to train, bus and airport links and should be easy to find too – you can even create a map to hand out to your attendees to make their trip a little bit easier.

Are There Suitable Lodging Accommodations for the Attendees?

Is the venue located within a hotel or are there suitable accommodations for conference attendees nearby? If the other options for accommodation are far away, check to see whether or not the hotel is able to provide a shuttle service. If they are not, you will need to consider the extra cost of taxi or car services for your participants. If your venue is very awkward to get to and there is nowhere for participants to stay nearby, getting to and from the venue will eat up a lot of their time and will be quite annoying.

Is It the Right Size?

Does the venue offer enough seating capacity for the amount of guests you expect at your conference? Will the meeting rooms be large enough to comfortably accommodate everyone? Will the meeting rooms be well laid out and offer good views of the presentations? Also make sure you think about the periods between presentations, lectures and workshops when people are moving throughout the venue – is there enough space to avoid delays and bottlenecks?

For a small meeting or event you might be able to just book one or two of the meeting rooms within a hotel. For a large event, it might be necessary to book the entire conference centre or hotel. This will depend on the number of presentations at your event and how many people will be attending.

Does it Fit Your Budget?

Of course, one of the most important aspects you will need to consider when choosing a conference venue is the price. You can find the perfect venue, but if you can’t afford to book it for your conference then it doesn’t work.

Call the venue and find out what types of rates they offer for booking. Is it a rate per delegate, or are there rates for individual room hire? Also it never hurts to ask whether or not they are able to offer a discount – sometimes you will be able to negotiate a lower rate! Compare the rates of a few different conference venues in the area so that you can find the best possible deal.

Doing Your Research

When you are looking at different options for your conference venue, visit the website of the location and ask them to give you a quote for what you are looking for. If you have never visited the venue before, it’s a good idea to ask the opinion of other companies who have held conferences and meetings there so that you can get an idea of what the service was like.

You might even want to visit the venue first hand, so that you can get an idea of the layout as well as getting a feel for the attitude of the staff and the management.

When you are looking at conference venues in Cheshire, make sure that you are asking yourself these questions and you are considering each option closely. Don’t select a venue too quickly, because this is a decision that you should think through thoroughly. The right venue can really make or break your conference, so take your time and make your choice wisely!

Filed under Articles

We have Common Core, but what about Common Sense?

Did you know that most public schools receive some sort of attendance-based funding? This is relevant, and I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, let me tell you, in GROSS DETAIL, about the last couple of days here: we’ve been up to our eyeballs in vomit, diarrhea, fevers, muscle aches, and body tremors. The bathrooms are being cleaned and disinfected multiple times per day. The washer hasn’t stopped running. We’ve gone through several rolls of paper towels, two boxes of baby wipes, two packages of “personal cleansing cloths” (aka butt wipes), three odor-neutralizing candles, an entire oversized-bottle of Lysol Disinfectant Spray, and a lot of hand soap and hand sanitizer.

Alyssa was the first to get sick, and the first to get better – she also bounced back the quickest. She was miserable and sick as a dog by 10:00pm last Thursday night, and exhausted but done being tethered to a bucket or a toilet by Friday afternoon.

Ryan started vomiting at precisely 4:13pm Saturday afternoon. I remember the time because I had texted Jason at 4:11pm with a warning about the kids being sick, and then two minutes later my next text was “OMG VOMIT EVERYWHERE”.
Ryan continued with vomiting and diarrhea into late yesterday morning. By the afternoon his stomach and digestive tract settled down, but then out of nowhere he spiked a high fever – 101.1. It took six hours and three doses of fever reducers (we alternated Tylenol and Ibuprofen) and lots of cold water to bring it down to a more manageable/not-quite-so-misery-inducing 99.8. Even then he was so sick and listless he did nothing but lay on the couch, or in my lap, or next to me when I crawled over to the couch. That fever didn’t break until almost 10:00pm last night.

When I went to bed around 1:30am Saturday night/Sunday morning, my stomach felt iffy…so I wasn’t surprised when the “fun” started for me at 5:09am. From then until 9:00pm last night I was either in bed, on the couch, or in the bathroom. It was horrific – especially since I have to work hard to control heaving and vomiting because of a kinking intestine problem I have. My back and legs were throbbing all evening, and I started running a fever as well. It broke around midnight – and my body temperature dropped so suddenly and drastically that I was freezing and racked with violent shivers that were painful and almost impossible to talk through. It took a heated blanket, three blankets on top of that, and Dan cuddled up next to me to warm me up.

So… with all that outlined for you, surely you’d imagine I would be keeping Ryan home from school today. After all, the school district has a policy that if a child has a fever or has vomited or experienced diarrhea within 24 hours of school, they are to stay home. Ryan’s last “episode” was late yesterday morning – within 20 hours of school. And that awful fever raged all day long.
And, part of being a decent human being is keeping your contagious, possibly still sick child away from other children and adults…right?
And as a mother, you wouldn’t want to send your recently ill child back to school so soon…right?

Well, because so many school districts receive attendance-based funding, and because both Alyssa and Ryan were sick several times last fall and must have used up whatever their “allotted” absences are, the school has essentially told Dan to send them if they’re sick. What’s worse, they told Ryan, who is AUTISTIC and prone to ANXIETY, that any additional absences would be UNLAWFUL. Poor kid – he didn’t even know how to properly pronounce the word, let alone define it. It was only when he kept telling me, “[Principal] said if I’m absent again it will be marked un…un….un…” that I figured it out: unlawful.


Granted, Ryan wasn’t running a fever this morning. Granted, he has kept down water, medicine, and food (chicken noodle soup – three bowls worth) for 24 hours. But hello vomiting? Diarrhea? Fever of Death? Forget possibly passing on these nasty germs to other students and teachers – what about him? Chances are his immune system hasn’t fully recovered, so he could quite possibly relapse, and wind up missing several days of school (and PSSA days, at that), rather than just today (a non-PSSA day).

Can you tell I’m pissed? I understand funding is important…but what about common sense? One sick child could possibly mean a third of a classroom taken out of commission for a day or two. We were “lucky” in that the worst of this crap hit us over the weekend. But now we’re at the beginning of the school week. Have fun with that, teachers! (And my apologies to Ryan’s classmates and their parents – but I’m not keen on having a truancy officer knocking on my door simply because I wanted to keep my recently-ill, possibly-contagious child AT HOME.)

Filed under General

House of Plague, Spring 2015 Edition

The downside to having children is that once they reach school age, they turn into walking petri dishes. Last Thursday night, after several hours of complaining about her stomach feeling “weird”, Alyssa began throwing up. She spent the next 16 hours in the bathroom or on the couch. She was better by Friday afternoon, and was able to eat a bit of dinner on Friday evening.

Yesterday afternoon Ryan told me his stomach hurt and he felt sick, but he was pretty sure it would just “go away” like the same feelings he had last month did. Given that he told me this in between bathroom runs, I yeah-yeah’ed him, handed him a bucket, and told him to let me know if he felt like he needed to throw up. That was at 4:11pm – the same time when I texted Jason, who was coming over for dinner and movies, a warning and “get out of barf house” free card. Exactly two minutes later Ryan threw up all over the bathroom, and even though I texted Jason, “OMG VOMIT EVERYWHERE”, he came over anyway.

I went to bed around 1:30am feeling kind of iffy, so I wasn’t surprised when I woke up at 5:00am with an urgent need to throw up, even though my stomach was empty (I eat small amounts anyway; and as a Just-In-Case measure I ate even less at dinner yesterday). I’ve been in and out of the bathroom ever since, and I didn’t manage to drag myself out of bed until 4 this afternoon.

Currently the four of us — Alyssa, who is perfectly fine; Dan, who isn’t sick but admitted he isn’t feeling well; Ryan, who is no longer throwing up but is running a fever of 100.8 (it’s taken three hours to bring it down from 101.1); and myself. I’m feverish, my back is killing me and my legs hurt, but I’m no longer throwing up and both water and Saltine crackers are staying down, so there’s that.

And of course today is a GORGEOUS spring day that would be perfectly spent outdoors. Instead we’re cooped up indoors with buckets, trash cans, bottles of water, anti-nausea and anti-diarrheal medications, and lots of cleaning and disinfecting products.

Filed under General

So, it’s Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month, and I’m the crappy mom of an autistic child (excuse me – that’s child with autism, if you’re being politically-correct) who hasn’t bothered to raise awareness. I know, I know…how will autism become more accepted, tolerated, and receive more compassion and support if we all don’t pitch in and do our part? Sorry, guys.
My excuse this year is the same as it is every other year: for the most part, I’m too busy living autism to promote autism. Let’s not forget that in addition to Ryan, I also have two autistic brothers who also have some mental health diagnoses that, combined together, result in two teenage boys who have raised more than their share of ruckus, drama, and stress for themselves, my mother, and Dan and I.
(Sidenote: do you know what it’s like to have three autistic boys under one roof? One word: CHAOS. And then there was the weekend Ryan’s friend with ADHD slept over. I should have just piped Ativan in mist form into the air.)

Anyway, in doing something for Autism Awareness Month (besides painting my nails blue), let me introduce/re-introduce you to my son, Ryan. He is eight-going-on nine, was officially diagnosed as autistic in June of 2008 (this diagnosis was “upgraded” to Asperger’s in 2014), has been receiving autistic support services since January of 2008, and I suspected something was “wrong” by late summer of 2007 – when he had just turned a year of age.

Ryan is incredibly intelligent, with strengths in and passions for math and science (he especially loves multiplication, the Math 24 Game, astronomy, the Periodic Table of Elements, and collecting various rocks). He can and does read, but it’s been a battle every school year to get him on track with the required reading during and after school. This spring we’ve had a breakthrough with his sudden enjoyment of some fictional stories, so it’s nice to see him devouring fiction in addition to scientific books about earth and space. At school he aces all of his third grade work, and also whizzes through fourth and fifth grade math and science as well – and still sometimes finishes all of it and is left to draw or read while his classmates are still working on their grade level work.

Like most autistic individuals, Ryan is somewhat of a hermit – his solace is his bedroom, though there are days when he prefers our bedroom (and our bed) to his. He enjoys playing science and spatial games on his iPad and computer, and has been heavily immersed in Minecraft since the summer of 2012. On that note, he blew through several Youth Digital courses and aced them all with high scores last fall, and has even created some of his own characters and textures that he is considering releasing for others to download and use. He is doing the same with some of his maze/level iPad games. Also? An Apple iPad is the best “autism management” item we’ve ever purchased. Unfortunately, Ryan’s is going on four years of age, and due to heavy and constant use its slowly dying. I want to replace it with another iPad 2 ASAP, but finances aren’t allowing for that (honest question: would I be awful for putting together a GoFundMe for this? I’m the only one working and we’re a family of four, so iPad Money just isn’t in our budget like it once was!). Fingers crossed that it holds out for a little while longer, because when it dies Ryan is going to lose his mind.

Ryan is quieter than Alyssa in some ways, his speech is still a little delayed and we’re continually working with him on proper nouns and tenses, but he can talk your ear off if it’s about a subject he’s excited about – such as Minecraft, his favorite scientific element, or the apple seeds we planted last fall that have now blossomed into hearty little sap-a-lings (mis-pronunciations are common with autistic kids; Ryan’s list of them is no exception, and damn if some of them aren’t utterly adorable).

Like most autistic individuals, and autistic children especially, Ryan has a lot of sensory issues. These were much more pronounced and impactful on our everyday lives when he was younger; but he still has quirks and preferences and limits that we are mindful of.
As the pictures below (taken this afternoon, in Ryan’s “thinking spot” in a small wooded area beyond our backyard) show, Ryan’s hair is very long (he has an aversion to hair cuts/clips – it was last cut by force and with both of us holding him down and ignoring his screams while we took turns with the clippers in 2012), he only conceded to wearing a collared shirt because I insisted he look nice for a Saturday morning Boy Scouts event he attended, he only wears elastic-banded “pull-up” style pants (no buttons or zippers), and he’s also quite finicky about shoes. He can tie his laces, but they’re a source of anxiety for him, so we try to find Velcro-securing sneakers, or do what we did with his current shoes – swap out the laces for U-Lace (short elastic bands that keep shoes “together” and fitting snugly).

This is what autism and Asperger's look like.

This is what autism and Asperger's look like.

This is what autism and Asperger's look like.

Is autism challenging? Hell yes. If there were a proven cure that didn’t have any side effects, would I administer it to Ryan? Possibly, because autism is labeled a disability because it is – it is very disabling in many significant as well as minor ways. But I love my Bean, and I wouldn’t change a thing about him.

Filed under General