I have spent three days now trying to fix a computer. (I know my friend Cindy is going to appreciate this post-- er, maybe not appreciate so much as cringe in sympathy.)

On Sunday I tried to deliver a workshop for my writers group. The workshop was about how to set up a website for authors and writers, so I figured actually showing the process step-by-step was the best approach. I knew I would have about 7 attendees, and rather than have us all crowd around a computer screen, I arranged to use a TV/monitor. Normally I work on a MacBook, but I don't have the right cable to make it work with the TV. So I borrowed my kids' laptop, which does have the right output and cable. (After all the workshop drama, you'll not be surprised to know I returned home and ordered the right cable.)

We got to the library and started setting up, only to discover the library's free Wifi doesn't reach the meeting room in the basement. So we packed up and relocated upstairs in the children's department. The Wifi worked, but kept cutting out. (I think the library might receive a Wifi booster for Christmas.) Then the drama started. Websites wouldn't work. I kept getting booted offline. Links were hijacked. Long story short: the computer was loaded with viruses.

This was totally embarrassing. I'm supposed to be the tech person, and I can't make the tech work. Fortunately, we muddled through enough for everyone to set up a Wordpress.com site and play around. Next time we meet, we can go over questions and address more specific issues.

I returned home and began to diagnose the computer problems. As best as I can tell, my kids disabled the firewall and downloaded a few programs, which then let open the floodgates to malicious software of all kinds. No word of a lie, I removed nearly 20 toolbars. Every web browser was corrupted. Microsoft Security Essentials was disabled and I couldn't bring it back.

Over the course of two days I used a second computer to download repair programs to a thumb-drive to run on the broken laptop: Spybot Search & Destroy, Malwarebytes, Microsoft Fixit, TDSS Killer, and finally Hitman Pro. Each one took out hundreds of files of malicious software. (You'd think there would be One Virus Killer To Rule Them All, but no such luck.)

But I still didn't have Microsoft Security Essentials back. The viruses had made it so I couldn't install a virus checker. We don't have a Windows CD because they don't give you one when you buy a PC anymore, so I couldn't just wipe the whole machine and start fresh, which would have been the easiest solution. I had to continue to clean and repair the system.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) Windows knows all about these problems, and all I had to do was Google the issue and then follow their instructions. I have to say Windows help pages have gotten much better in recent years.

Next came Microsoft Safety Scanner, which finally removed a crapload of trojan viruses. I finally got Microsoft Security Essentials back and got the firewall up. Yay! I also had to run another program to remove files from the start-up, since many programs were removed by the anti-virus programs, but left bits and pieces behind. Gah.

I'm still left with two problems: the Windows updates keep failing and the computer has no sound. Of course, since the kids use this computer the latter isn't much of a problem. I know the sound works when Skype is used, it just won't work for anything else. This may be a Skype compatibility issue.

As for the Windows updates. I've exhausted all the help tutorials. I may just have to accept defeat.

I thought computers were supposed to make our lives easier...

First Day of School Cookies

Today I sent my boys off to school. This isn't new. I've had at least one child in school for the last fourteen years. But today was different for three reasons: this year each of my three boys are attending a different school; my middle son entered high school; and my youngest will be attending school without his big brother/best friend this year and forever more. The morning was not without nerves and tears. Of course I told them they would have a great day. I gave them hugs and magnificent speeches about how lots of kids at school will be feeling the same way and that it's okay to be nervous. But sometimes words are not enough.

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Since I couldn't let them stay at home and hide away from the first day of school, I made cookies. Oatmeal cookies with seeds and raisins and coconut-- because the more nutrients I can pack in there the better I'll feel knowing that if I can't take away their fears, by golly I can stuff them full of vitamins and fibre.

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But who's to say if the cookies were to nourish hungry tummies after school . . .

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Or if they were to comfort me?

Oatmeal Cookies with Goodness

3 cups quick-cooking oats 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (Don't skimp. You might be tempted to, but don't.) 1 cup butter, softened 2 eggs 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon maple flavouring (All right. If you don't have maple, I guess you can use vanilla.) 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed 1 cup raisins 1/2 cup shredded coconut 1/2 cup sunflower seeds 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

Heat oven to 375 F. In large mixing bowl combine all ingredients except flour, fruit and seeds. Beat at low speed, scraping down bowl as needed, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes. Watch out for lumps of brown sugar.) Add flour and flax seed, and continue beating until well mixed (another 1 to 2 minutes). Stir in fruit and remaining seeds. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets (Silicone mats or parchment paper will save you on clean up.), placing dough 1 to 2" apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Serve warm, fresh out of the oven after school with yogurt and stories about everyone's day (which as it turns out wasn't so bad after all.)