• Blog
  • More Hot Showers in Our Future

    If you’re looking to install a new tankless system, you’ve come to the right place. We just had one installed and we can tell you how to proceed. Upon scheduling an appointment for a free estimate, a technician will survey the job site and recommend a tankless system based on your specific needs, as well as the layout of your home. Any questions or concerns will also be addressed at the time. You want to know you are in good hands before you enter into a contract.

    Is your current hot water system not producing hot water? Or is it only working intermittently and displaying an error code? Whatever your problem happens to be, a highly trained technician will perform a series of tests on the unit to determine the root of the problem and then direct you to the correct course of action. If it’s time for a new unit, he’ll tell you. And then you can start reading some water heater reviews to find the best one for your family’s needs. Of course, the upshot is that you will get an estimate. The cost of a tankless water heater including the installation will vary depending on a few factors:

    • The size of the unit in GPM (gallons per minute) or its BTU rating.
    • Is the tankless to be natural gas, liquid propane or electric?
    • Will the unit be installed inside the property or mounted outside on an exterior wall?

    Besides these factors, the layout of your home will also play a role in determining a complete materials list and ultimately the price of a tankless system. For average size homes, 1 to 3 bathrooms, the cost for a complete installation will usually range between $2000 and $2700, with all of the above information taken into consideration. Larger homes may be higher but there are usually installation options for every house. Also, there are currently buying incentives with certain utilities and federal tax credits.

    Last but not least, we want to mention the importance of being energy efficient. This is the reason we went tankless and high tech in the first place. When the old workhorse broke down, we were almost grateful. Its time had come and gone and it was time for us to enter the modern era in hot water systems. We could easily see the benefits of going tankless. By eliminating stand-by heat loss, energy consumption is significantly reduced. Because of its on demand functionality, you won’t be heating water when out of the house or sleeping. Also, a tankless water heater will last 2 to 3 times as long as a traditional water heater, meaning less waste in our landfills.

    Another benefit of a tankless water heater is that it heats water on demand using a heat exchanger and a high power burner system so that you will never run out of hot water. Multiple showers can be taken at the same time along with your laundry load and/or your dish washer without running out of hot water, and these applications can be in use for as long as you need them!

    There are other benefits. Because of the technological advances over your conventional water heater, a tankless will only heat water when you need it. It contains a flow sensor that will tell the unit to power on when water is running through it. This means that you are using minimal gas to heat your water, whereas a tank will use gas, 24 hours a day 365 days a year, to maintain a constant temperature. Next, a tankless system is a space saver. Look at your current water heater and imagine a small suitcase in its place. Going tankless will free up this area dramatically allowing for more storage and just a cleaner space. The unit is mounted on the wall and is approximately 24 x 14 x 10 inches, which will allow for as much as 50 cubic feet of free space!

  • Blog
  • Low Tech White Noise Machine

    We work primarily with children who have disabilities. Some say it is a noble calling and we appreciate this designation. We certainly put our hearts and souls into it. It is a labor of love for us, because our daughter, Mary, is autistic and only communicates through the use of technology. Communication devices are important in entirely new and different ways and we want to apply for grants to get them funded. The technological revolution has given us new ways of life and has helped people like Mary in innumerable unforeseen ways.

    Not all devices are high tech and super sophisticated. Some are, some are simple, depending upon their function. Take Mary’s white noise machine. Nothing could be more basic, but nothing could be more profound in effect to help her fall and stay sleep. A white noise machine emits sounds that create a background effect that blocks out other noises that might be intrusive. Many people enjoy them to help them fall asleep. Some machines have different settings so you can have the sound of crashing waves at the beach, the effects of wind whirling through the sky, or a waterfall. Water is very popular. It is kind of like counting sheep, something innocuous and boring that blanks out thoughts from entering the mind that would interfere with the ability to enter slumberland. Many people find it very hard to fall asleep and the same goes for kids. Children, like adults, are prone to alien thoughts at bedtime. It is the time when you are left to your own mental devices so to speak, and what you sometimes can’t turn off is the mind—all the thoughts of the day, the worries, preoccupations, and the like.

    Getting back to humble forms of technology, one night Mary’s white noise machine broke down. I am not sure if it was the connection or the plug or the machine was worn out. We tried all the settings to no avail. She was upset and we were pretty worried as you can imagine. Even one disturbance in her routine would be detrimental to her well-being. We dread when this happens. It breaks her sense of security in effect. She isn’t equipped to think of other resources. We pondered the dilemma and considered running out to buy a new white noise machine, but the stores weren’t open. We did, however, come up with an alternative. We knew that where there is a will, there is a way. We had to be creative. We found a cooling fan that sits idly on the floor in the attic. I am not sure what made us think of it. We hadn’t used it in years. We rushed it down to her room, plugged it in, and voila! It made a whirring, humming sound that one might loosely call white noise. The fan thus came to the rescue on what could have been a troublesome night. Frankly, a cooling fan is in effect a white noise machine of a kind that also does double duty to lower the room temperature. Thank goodness we had one.

  • Blog
  • It’s Always Something

    There is truly always something as the saying goes. This is not an idle expression. Someone who knows how things happen by chance, and happen often and when least expected, made it up no doubt. It seems to fit so many situations. Take work. The boss is on a rant about late reports. He is fit to be tied about the numbers not coming in as expected. Then five people are out sick just when month end wrap up is due. Yes, there is always something. At home, a window pane has been cracked by a flying pebble; the garage floor has an oil slick and the pressure washer isn’t working; the lawn needs mowing but your neighbor forgot to return the mower; Mary’s white noise machine broke and she can’t sleep without it on. Yes, there is always something.

    Okay, an image of that oil slick keeps popping into my mind. I see people stepping in it and traipsing through the house making a hideous set of indelible tracks that cannot be removed. The oil slick is nagging at me to do something about it. It can’t live forever on the garage floor, slowly creeping to the sides, extending its reach like an alien being. I have always prided myself on keeping up appearances, even in the place where only the car goes. That’s why I bought a pressure washer in the first place. But, alas, it isn’t working. I see my chore is cut out for me this weekend. I have to get at it. The house walls could also use a dousing as could the walkways in front of the house and round back. There is always something. I have been given a check list of items to address with the pressure washer. I would be shocked if it were otherwise.

    I have this crazy idea that I can fix the pressure washer, but what if I can’t. I think it is time to have a handyman or two on call. I am not Mr. Fixit by any means. I ask around and get a couple of names. I make the calls. This one is busy, that one is out of town. I am back to fixing the pressure washer myself. I ask around some more. I make the calls. I have to see the washer says one. I have my own to bring says another. Let me come over and take a look and then I can give you a price on the garage floor. Don’t trouble yourself with repairs. They aren’t easy to make. Instead, just invest in one of the best pressure washers and let the warranty on the new unit cover you.

    Most people have to send the pressure washer back to the manufacturer for service. If you try to fix it, you could make it worse. I listen intently and start to agree. I could spend a day on the fix it job to no avail. Then that oil slick will nag me some more. I invite the friendliest handyman to come that afternoon. And guess what, that slick was gone in about 10 seconds.

  • Blog
  • Stay at Home Date Night

    If you want to heat your home in the most natural, environmentally friendly way consider a top rated pellet stove. By burning pellet fuel, you are making an eco-friendly and cost effective decision that’s good for your wallet and the environment: we can’t think of better causes. A pellet stove is a new acquisition in our home, hence the mention of it in this blog. We had been over to a friend’s home and they had their pellet stove in operation and we loved the ambiance it created not to mention the warmth. It was a cold winter’s night and it sure beat messing around getting a wood fire going in the fireplace. It was fast and effective. To us, you can’t beat it as a source of a fire. It was very relaxing. So much so that we decided that for our “date night,” after Mary was asleep, we would turn it on. It was phenomenal.

    The pellet stove comes in many models. Some stand on feet, some have a pedestal base. They can run from one to three thousand dollars, but a modest one should do fine. As the company Harman states it, a pellet stove is built to a standard, not to a price. Needless to say, we didn’t spend the maximum. Here’s what we got:

    • Heats up to 2200 sq. feet
    • 200 CFM blower spreads heat evenly
    • Automatic igniter
    • LED display with thermostat
    • Adjustable air intake

    The pellet stove has an old-world appearance and if this is the type of décor you prefer, you can’t go wrong. They can be moved to any room of the house but you most likely would want it in the rec room or basement. Any place you want to make cozy is perfect. When relaxation is a must—who doesn’t have a stressful life—you have to make time for yourself and your spouse or partner. Date night doesn’t have to be a frenzy of dinner and a movie and rush home to put the kid to sleep. You can stay right in the bosom of your own home and enjoy the warmth of a fire. Visually, it is also hypnotic and very relaxing. It is a time for the two of you to talk, share your day, reminisce, and plan for the future. Most of us do not take a moment or two to engage one another. We are used to the same old situation. A fire puts you in an altered state of consciousness in a way that can’t be beat. You can precede your fireside chat with a walk and/or a meal at home. There is nothing that says home more than a cozy fire. Mary, of course, was fast asleep and we were worried that our oohs and aahs at the beauty of the fire would wake her. I think she would have enjoyed it herself in any case. We should consider including her at least once or twice in the future.

  • Education
  • Worthwhile Day

    The school where we work had a special annual charity fundraising event where they provided all the food. It was a big commitment for the volunteers. I had never done anything like it before, but it was a big success and very worthwhile day. We had a silent auction and sold raffle tickets and made a considerable amount of money. It was a good thing since we did not sell the food, but gave it away on a complementary basis. There was a lot of organization involved in this major event, the kind you aren’t used to if you are not a caterer. We didn’t anticipate the correct turn out and were lucky we had purchased enough food so there would be no waste. The food was partially donated, however, preventing us from having to deduct the expense from profits. We had a hundred people to feed with hot appetizers and entrees. We wanted to give people a choice. We had meat balls, a couple of different salads such as cole slaw, macaroni, and potato. We had to farm out the big cooking jobs, but we were in charge of set up and food distribution. We had a buffet style line up with hot trays. At one end we made custom sandwiches. We thought it would be for the kids, but the adults gravitated to the sandwich station immediately. We had to find a meat slicer so we could make deli style sandwiches to order, and it was a huge crowd pleaser. We had roast beef a popular favorite.

    Yes, it was a professional slicer that we used, the type a bona fide butcher would use. With a 10-inch commercial meat slicer, you can slice your meats exactly your way. Caterers use them since you’ll see fresher results in your sandwiches, salads, and appetizers. This is a must-have machine the brochure says if you’re into food dehydrating, where perfectly even thickness means perfect, consistent results. The strong 180-watt motor slices effortlessly, doing the work for you. My kind of machine magic. I was impressed with how easy it was over all. We didn’t need to hire a professional server as I had feared that would have aggravated our slight budget. The hand guard is clear so it keeps you safe without blocking your view. The stainless steel construction is pro quality and easy to clean, and non-skid feet hold everything in place. You can cut thick slices for meat trays or paper-thin shavings for deli-quality sandwiches, with the fine-tune dial. The meat tray removes easily for in-sink cleaning. All in all, you can enjoy pro results wherever you take it. And it is a formidable metal contraption I must say with a round center that turns. It sits on four little “feet.” The one we rented had 180 watts of cutting power, a precision stainless steel construction, removable, washable meat tray and hand guard, and adjustment settings. I wouldn’t hesitate to volunteer next year for the same slicing job. It was fun in its own culinary kind of way.

  • Uncategorized
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication

    A disability diagnosis for your child is not a tragic event. It may feel like that, absolutely.And yes, it may change the expectations that you will have for your child as they grow and develop into an adult.The important thing is that it is still your child that the doctor or specialist is talking about. Remember that having a diagnosis does not change the fact that he or she is still the same little person who had your heart from the moment you laid eyes on them.

    You have a job now that you have a diagnosis. Your job is to educate yourself on what it is, and how best you can assist your child.A diagnosis can actually be a helpful thing.It can alleviate parents of the burden of feeling responsible for issues actually out of their control when their child is lagging behind in school or in other developmental areas. It can point to an actual problem that needs to be addressed. It may offer new strategies or a different plan of attack that will be more likely to succeed. Finally, once you understand what has been going on with your child, you can be proactive and move forward.There are so many things that having a diagnosis can open up for you. Therapies, accommodations, and services may now accessible that may not have been optionsbefore, simply because there was not a known cause.

    I highly recommend searching for grants for any adaptive equipment necessary to help your child along. If your child will need a wheelchair or a walker, there might be funds available for you to make modifications to your home to make them safer for your child;there may be medical advances that can help; there may training available for teachers and other staff at your child’s school so that they will be better able to accommodate them in a classroom setting.Again, there are so many options out there.Use the internet, talk to your physicians or specialists, read articles.Find something that you can put your energy into instead of wallowing in something that you likely cannot change or make go away.The only thing that you can do is find out what treatments and accommodations can help your child move forward.

    Remember you cannot put your child on the same developmental timeline as other children anymore. You have to accept the progress that they make as real honest progress whether it be simply saying,“Mommy,” learning the alphabet, or being able to spell their name using technology.Whatever moving forward looks like for your child is something that you need to cherish. Even if, once you hear the diagnosis, you think there won’t be progress—and sometimes there will be plateaus, unfortunately—but there will be progress. Keep looking for resources, keep fighting for your child, and you will help them reach their full potential.

  • Technology
  • When the Diagnosis Comes

    A disability diagnosis for your child is not a tragic event. It may feel like that, absolutely.And yes, it may change the expectations that you will have for your child as they grow and develop into an adult.The important thing is that it is still your child that the doctor or specialist is talking about. Remember that having a diagnosis does not change the fact that he or she is still the same little person who had your heart from the moment you laid eyes on them.

    You have a job now that you have a diagnosis. Your job is to educate yourself on what it is, and how best you can assist your child.A diagnosis can actually be a helpful thing.It can alleviate parents of the burden of feeling responsible for issues actually out of their control when their child is lagging behind in school or in other developmental areas. It can point to an actual problem that needs to be addressed. It may offer new strategies or a different plan of attack that will be more likely to succeed. Finally, once you understand what has been going on with your child, you can be proactive and move forward.There are so many things that having a diagnosis can open up for you. Therapies, accommodations, and services may now accessible that may not have been optionsbefore, simply because there was not a known cause.

    I highly recommend searching for grants for any adaptive equipment necessary to help your child along. If your child will need a wheelchair or a walker, there might be funds available for you to make modifications to your home to make them safer for your child;there may be medical advances that can help; there may training available for teachers and other staff at your child’s school so that they will be better able to accommodate them in a classroom setting.Again, there are so many options out there.Use the internet, talk to your physicians or specialists, read articles.Find something that you can put your energy into instead of wallowing in something that you likely cannot change or make go away.The only thing that you can do is find out what treatments and accommodations can help your child move forward.

    Remember you cannot put your child on the same developmental timeline as other children anymore. You have to accept the progress that they make as real honest progress whether it be simply saying,“Mommy,” learning the alphabet, or being able to spell their name using technology.Whatever moving forward looks like for your child is something that you need to cherish. Even if, once you hear the diagnosis, you think there won’t be progress—and sometimes there will be plateaus, unfortunately—but there will be progress. Keep looking for resources, keep fighting for your child, and you will help them reach their full potential.

  • Technology
  • Tips on Applying for Grants

    There are many opportunities out there to help you on your journey to make things easier and safer for your child as well as helping them to become more independent. However, most of these things cost money, and the more severe the needs, the more costs you will incur. We are fortunate that our schedules as teachers allow us to be home on the days Mary has off from school, but it wasn’t always that way. There were times where one, or both of us, were unable to work because of challenging behaviors or illness that could not be handled any other way.

    It makes applying for grants critical. Grants can be an answer to your prayers. They may partially or fully fund all kinds of things. In our searching, we have found grants that cover everything from treatmentsand medical equipment for home or school use, adaptive equipment to aid in their independence, any safety remodels necessary for your house, or tracking devices if your child is an elopement risk. As you can imagine, these grants can save you a lot of money. Unfortunately, it also makes some of them highly competitive. There’s only so much funding. While ideally everyone who applies will receive what they are asking for, that is not always the case. Know before you apply what the ratio of applicants to funding is. Some are at 100%, some are close. Others have the ability to only pay out one or two at a time.

    One thing you really don’t want to be denied for is not following the directions of the grant. Sometimes the application process can be tricky or unclear. Here are some things to look at during the application process:

    • Read the description and be sure you are eligible to apply. Some grants have geographic restrictions, others have diagnosis eligibility issues, and others have age requirements. You don’t want to waste your time or that of the benefactors by applying for a grant where you don’t actually meet the qualifications. Make sure you fit the criteria or keep looking.
    • Read the directions. Every grant process is different. Trust us on this one. Some require letters from professionals stating that the requested item is necessary, others require an evaluation done by a specific organization or on a specific form. Take your time and read it over and over until you understand it. If you can’t figure it out, see if the benefactors have informational meetings or can answer questions over the phone. Sometimes they have FAQ on their website. Take the help if you need it.
    • Know how you will be receiving the grant. Some places will reimburse you for purchases already made, others will not. Some places pay the vendor directly while others will give you the money so that you can pay the vendor yourself. Some places donate the requested item directly to you. This kind of information is especially important if you have to lay out the money first and hope to be reimbursed later—make sure you know what going in.
    • Turn your application in on time. Some will only accept applications at certain times of the year, others have a cut off where they limit the amount of people who can apply. Make sure you can have it done by then. Some of these take a lot of time, and it’ll be wasted if you can’t get it in by the deadline. Some places will allow you to send your application online or via fax, others are mail in only. That plays a factor in how long you have to get it completed, so be sure you take that into consideration.

    Good luck and take your time. It will be worth it in the end when you are getting help for your child!

  • Technology
  • AAC Tips

    We definitely recommend getting an evaluation for your child by a professional who is experienced in augmentative communication. Preferably do trials of different options to see what is best for your child’s needs.  But once you have the right device and the right setup for your child, here are some tips that we have discovered along the way:

    • Charge the device (if it needs charging) and keep it in the same location at all times when your child isn’t actively using it. We leave Mary’s on an armchair we don’t use often. It gets charged there and she knows to go there first thing in the morning if she wants to use it. Also, when we take it out of her backpack after school, we put it right back on the armchair. Our device has a strap so she can wear it when she is going from place to place at school, but she doesn’t really want to do that at home. Having the device in a centralized location makes it much easier for everyone to keep track of where it is.
    • If you can, personalize it. Small children especially have an easier time with photographs than symbols. As they get older it is easier to generalize, but we have pictures of each family member with a label on them so other people will know who is who. Mary likes to see the photos of her loved ones, especially while she is at school. We have also added symbols for her favorite foods, tv shows, and music. Once we had these things in place, Mary was much more interested in using the device.
    • Don’t use the device only for requests. Requests are great, and that is how many people learn to communicate in the first place, but it is not a request machine, it is a communication device. If you are programming it from scratch, make sure there are interactive options and not just “I want…” type things. Mary has jokes on hers, as well as pages of social interaction where she can ask people their names, what pets they have, and to clue us in on what is bothering her if she isn’t feeling well. It may be harder to teach them to use these parts of the device, as they are not as reinforcing as demands and requests, but stick with it.
    • This brings us to the next point, and we cannot stress this one enough because it is critical to your child’s success with AAC: model using the device. We usually say everything as we press the buttons, although it is not necessary to do so, but we have many conversations with Mary while using her device. It was put to us by the speech pathologist this way: you can’t learn a language if you’re the only one who speaks it. The more you interact with the device and your child, the more exposure your child gets and the more familiar everyone will be with the capabilities of the device.
    • Learn the device. As much as you can. Watch videos online. Ask the professional who recommended it to you. Read the manual. Any information that’s out there—read it. Become an expert on it. This is your child’s voice. Get as familiar with it as possible.
    • Lastly, bring it with you. Sometimes we are guilty of this one but we always regret it. If it is the only way your child can communicate, and you really want them to use the device, it has to be a part of every outing, all the time. Just accept it as part of the family and keep going. If your child needed a wheelchair or a walker, or an inhaler or something like that, you wouldn’t leave it at home when you went out, would you? Your child’s AAC device should be considered to be just as necessary.

    Well, that’s it for now. Just keep trying. Trying to find a good AAC device for your child’s ability level, trying to model and get them to use it, and trying to support your child in their desire to communicate. You’ve got this, parents!

  • Technology
  • Great Educational Apps for Kids

    If your child is anything like ours, then they are a whiz at electronic devices. Sometimes their lack of verbal skills make testing their abilities difficult, and other times their motor skills can make using things like a traditional keyboard or even a pen and paper too difficult to attempt. Many children are comfortable with a touch screen, or even an adaptive device that operates based on eye gaze. Using educational apps with these types of devices can give you, and teachers, a better assessment of what your child knows and where to go from there.

    Here are a few educational apps that are considered winners at our house, and a little about them:

    • Aussie Kids Count Coins: basically what it sounds like. Math puzzles and counting currency. This app is great for teaching children how to make correct change, how to add up the costs for multiple items, and more. We like the graphics and the money skills it teaches.
    • Toca Lab. The Toca Boca games, in general, are a lot of fun (and they have no ads or in app purchases), but Toca Lab actually familiarizes kids with the periodic table of elements without being difficult or boring. Each element has its own personality, and kids can do “experiments” on them, turning them into gasses or freezing them, magnetizing them, and more.
    • Letter School teaches writing with lots of sound effects and music. It first teaches children the correct movements to make in order to trace the letters and gets progressively harder until they are freewriting each letter on their own. Mary loves this app, especially when she gets to lay the train tracks. It was recommended to us by her Occupational Therapist. 
    • Mad Libs. You may have had these books as a kid. Now there is an app. It teaches children the parts of a sentence and grammar while also showing them the power of words and sentence structure. All while being perfectly silly! 
    • Endless Numbers. The Endless series is fantastic and they do release a lot of updates, but we like the math best. It is a giant ferris wheel of monsters riding in numbered cars. Tap one and you interact with the number, do a math problem, and then see a short and silly movie. Hands down one of our number obsessed little girl’s favorite things. 
    • I See Ewe and I Hear Ewe these games match through sound and visuals. Mary uses this with her speech pathologist to identify items and she thinks this app is super fun. It has helped with her accuracy and is a more true representation of what she actually knows because it is fun and reinforcing. 
    • Life Cycle App. Want to teach your budding scientist about the water cycle? Or how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly? This app has you covered. 
    • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. Ok, what kid doesn’t like monkeys? This one is cute and does flips when your child gets the answer correct. It tests color, shape, size, matching, and letter knowledge. Kids get reward stickers every so often, too. The game also never ends, either, which can be good or bad. It will just keep asking you questions until you quit the app. 

    So there you have it. Some apps that are popular at our house. We use several of these with Mary’s therapists, and others are rewards after she completes non-preferred activities. Please write in the comments if you have heard of these and your experiences with them, or if you have others that we should try out!  Thanks for reading.