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Monday, February 28, 2011

Late Winter Blahs

Miz Liz (3) has a cold. This makes her Drop her Spoon at regular intervals. Which makes Mommy want to have nightly hourly dates with Calgon. Does it make me a bad mom to be relieved at the prospect of going to work, just so I can be away from the Coldy Toddler of Doom?

And the fact that apparently American parents cannot be trusted to use over-the-counter medication on children under six just irritates me. Because they don't even post the correct dosage for my 35-pound preschooler on the bottle anymore. Because they're afraid I'll overdose her, I guess. So I can give her children's Acetimenophen or Ibuprofen, and warm herbal tea with honey. But I can't give her anything to relieve her most annoying symptoms (she flips out every time her nose runs). Gahhh.

On the up side, Abby can have more nut products than we thought. She's not a fan of nuts in any case, but when we were told she had a severe allergy to certain tree nuts and a mild allergy to others, we didn't really think much beyond "LIFE THREATENING ALLERGY, Alert Alert!!11!!!" Until I asked her allergist if we could use shea butter on her skin. Why yes, yes we can. In fact, aside from the danger of cross-contamination she can have ANY of the tree nuts from palm-type trees (yay! coconut! and therefore Samoas!) Palm nut oil, Cocoa butter, those are all fine. Whew!

So, hubby's getting over a cold, Lizzy has one, Abby just got over one, Leanna had one last month, and I have (feel free to cross fingers, knock wood, etc. here) so far escaped.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Random Post of Randomness

Lizzy may or may not be coming down with a cold. The last time she was stuffed up like this nothing came of it. But she has sneezalies again, so...

Abby's doing homework. This is not required by her teacher; it's extra credit she gets for doing a packet over her midwinter break (which ends today). If she does the whole packet she gets an extra star. Five stars gets you a lunch buddy to sit with you (normally they sit in their own seats for lunch), and 20 gets you a pick under $10 from the Scholastic book order packet. Nice reward system. I love her teacher.

I'm loving my new haircut, although the color keeps taking me by surprise; it's brighter than I expected. But if I dry this cut upside down I get this Meg-Ryan-esque thing going on,, which I think is cute without being ridiculously young for me.

I think the chicken wings we had last night for dinner must have been from Really Big Chickens. I don't think I'll mention that to Lizzy.

Tonight for supper we're having sandwiches because hubby bought more turkey than I expected. Abby is thrilled. Lizzy will have peanut butter.

Calgon and I are gonna have a date tonight. You see, Lizzy chose to pay me back for leaving her with her very best friend in the world while I had Mommy's Morning Out, by being as infuriatingly three years old as she can manage. And she can manage a lot. She's not doing anything truly wrong, just being even better than usual at selective hearing, doing minor little things (like jumping in the house) she knows she's not supposed to, etc. So... does she have plugged-up ears because she may be coming down with a cold? Or is she just ignoring? Hard to tell. But it's like having a very short teenager in the house. One who cannot be trusted to do anything by herself.

Abby's dad got a used air hockey table from a coworker. Abby's already become a champ. One can actually get exercise from air hockey. Who knew?

I want a nap. And an ice cream bar. I can't have the first unless Lizzy joins me. I can't have the second unless it's Tofutti. But the cake I made last night is pretty good - my neighbor (mother of Lizzy's very best friend in the world) gave me the recipe - one box cake mix, one pint melted ice cream, three eggs. I used sorbet in place of ice cream and it is nummy. And 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving (16 servings per cake, in a bundt pan).

And that reminds me; I'm going to add some non-dairy munchies to our upcoming Friday Night Game smorgasbord... see you later.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

GamerMom's Morning Out

I'm trying to lose weight (I'm more than 100 lbs over what I should be for optimum health) and I'm trying to get fit. These two things are pretty tightly linked, and I'm working on them.  But sometimes, even in the midst of weight loss - maybe especially in the midst of weight loss, another motivator helps. Looking good is a motivator, and weight loss / fitness are sloooooooowwwww procedures, at least if you're doing them in a healthy manner. I'm still on Weight Watchers, and I'm still doing a lot of walking (with help from a fitness fiend friend) and trying to get to a place where I can exercise more without hurting myself / triggering asthma. But I wanted a quick fix to make me feel like I'm getting somewhere even when I'm stuck on a weight loss plateau.

So I went short and red. (Well, "slightly-inverted ear-length layered bob" and "medium copper-red #6"). It's that same slightly-streaky shade all over; what looks like my natural brown is just a shadow, since this pic was taken with a cell phone in the parking lot of the salon where I had it done.)

Then I went and got myself a massage, because that's always nice and I do so whenever I can get the extra cash. For that I went to InSpa; there's one about three blocks from this salon.

And bang goes sixpence. Or at least the rest of my tax return play money. But I feel like I look good, and that helps me motivate into other other ways of looking good. Next up, back on that Wii Fit Plus.

Friday, February 25, 2011

He's Mister Snow

He's Mister White Christmas, He's Mister Snow....

We don't have a lot of snow, although - as with most snow in Seattle - it's too much for comfort. I am the first to admit that Seattleites as a group suck at driving in the snow. People who learned to snow-drive in other locations - especially those with colder, drier snow - do okay; it's the rest of us who have trouble. Either we treat it like rain (which we can drive in, as opposed to those imported drivers) and go way too fast for conditions, or we treat it like the apocalypse and inch along, unable to climb hills and annoying faster drivers. I fall into that second category.

The problem is many-fold.
  • We don't get snow often enough to have learned how to drive in it
  • The snow here is wet. Very wet. Wet enough that most of the time it freezes over and becomes a sheet of ice at the slightest dip in temperature. Like, say, sundown. 
  • Dang rain shadow. Dang convergence zones.
  • It's hilly here... and ice on hills is Not Friendly.
Anyway, my neighborhood streets are sheets of ice for about ten blocks (hubby says the epicenter of this ice sheet is apparently our living room couch). My Friday Night Gamers live/work within ten miles in just about every direction. Some of them have bare streets, some have not-so-bare (or bare and wet which will freeze over at - all together now - sundown).

So we called our game. And we're gonna have pizza-and-movies night at home instead. But we're keeping up with the spirit of the thing... we're watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Feel the Need.... the Need for Feed

I feed people. It's something I do. It's a way I show love, affection, hospitality, and friendship (I was going to say the way I show it, but I have been corrected by a friend on that score). Part of the reason I enjoy hosting Friday Night Games here is because most people's houses are not geared for our up-to-three kids. But part of it is definitely so I can feed the Friday Night Gamers.

And their kids.

And anyone else who wants to show up. Just let me know ahead of time, so I can arrange for the number of people and any food sensitivities. At FNG, we have several overweight people, two with diabetes, a few with food allergies (one of which is life-threatening), and one person on a South Beach variant. One doesn't care for soups, some won't eat fish for the most part, and a couple of the kids won't eat anything that's "mixed or too chunky or has sauce".

It's a challenge. And that's part of the fun. How to make a food that has no dairy (for me), no onions or mushrooms (for a FNGer with those sensitivities), is fairly low-carb (for the diabetics and the slow-carber), and the kids will eat? I fall back on pot roast (with root veggies other than potatoes and onions and carrots) about once a month. There's a pork roast I got from a diabetes-centric website and another I make (I call it tropical pork) that's a little sweet for the diabetics but as long as they take it easy on the fruit they're good to go. Sometimes I roast a chicken or two (or buy pre-roasted, as I plan to do this Friday), and sometimes I do good old-fashioned gamer food (aka "spaghetti") but I use whole grain noodles and make an effort to have one veggie (with onion and mushroom) sauce and one meaty sauce. No pine nuts.

I enjoy feeding people. And the fact that I've learned to cook doesn't hurt either, because I enjoy that as well. Some of my FNGers tease me about this feeding-people propensity, but they accept it as a quirk in my personality. Because they love me too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My New Favorite Company

One of the things we bought with our tax return is a new bunk bed for the girls. Top bunk for 8yo Abby (10yo Leanna does not like being so high), bottom for 3yo Lizzy, trundle (since she's only here a few days a month) for Leanna. We also need to find a way for Leanna to display her treasures when she's not here. A shelf at the head of the bed for her trinkets, one of the drawers for her art supplies, maybe one of those display nets (out of Lizzy's reach) for her stuffed toys.

It has been my experience that furniture assembly can cause... hmmm.... let us say "marital strife". If he does it I tend to hover, yell at the kids to stay out of his way, and sometimes give advice in the most impatient - even contemptuous - tone possible. If I do it he stays out of my way (and tries to keep the kids out) and then I get resentful because I have no help and I mutter under my breath until someone comes in and then I screech, "WHAT?!?!" I'm capable of assembling furniture, and so is hubby. But we're both more the fiddly electronic sort of tinkerers, not so much the hammers and electric screwdrivers sort.

So we decided it was worth it to hire a professional (handy-man, not hit-man). And at the end of our street is a company called Service Companies. They. Do. Everything.  The back of this business card says they provide twenty-one different services, from housecleaning to pest control, and remodeling to HVAC. And the owner is just a nice guy too. He clearly has our kids' safety and our peace of mind at heart.

And I really appreciate that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More (online) Retail Therapy

After yesterday's post here, I realized I sounded like a bit of a selfish jerk. I mean, taking care of oneself is important, Mom needs Me Time too, blah blah blah, but I felt like I had been selfish. I did after all buy myself half a wardrobe and eight books and a spa day. And I get a charge (heh heh) out of the shopping itself, the finding of the perfect gift, etc. So I bought for other people.

I got Hubby this (read his blog; you'll understand why) and this (he's wanted those for years).

I got Leanna, our 10yo Wild Animal SME, this, and this to do with her dad the Origami King.

I got Abby, our 8yo Girl Power Girl this, and this (she's a Brownie Scout, and we're delivering cookies tomorrow)

I got Lizzy, our 3yo perpetual motion machine this, and this (she's graduated to 48 pieces, sniff)

I got our 8yo friend Greg - who has only two modes, on and off - this.

I got some of these for my mom and my sister. My neighbor's mom makes them and they are fabulous, rich scents and pretty colors. I love them.

I got some little trinkets that I'm not publishing for my friends Tonja and Tiffany.

And for me, I got some bath fizzies and some shea butter cream for me and Abby, Dry Skin Queens.

Because I got my taxes, and I can.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Online (and Homegrown) Therapy

Tax returns at Chez Gamers' Babes mean the following:
  1. Pay off a bill or two
  2. Buy needed things for the house (this year it's a new bunk bed for the girls, since ours literally fell apart over the holiday break)
  3. Put a chunk in savings
  4. Split the rest and play with it
So with my play money, I. Went. Shopping. I bought stuff off my wish list (mostly books, plus one thing for each kid and for hubby - total of $100). I also shopped at The Body Shop and at the Clearance pages of Catherines/FashionBug and Avenue. I got six tops, three pairs of pants, some undergarments both top and bottom, two pairs of shoes I can wear with my orthotics, and assorted makeup items; because I was careful about the clearance shopping, I did it all for under $150, including shipping and tax. I plan to spend the rest on Other Things for Me - haircut and color, maybe a massage.

Speaking of massage, this is the homegrown part of the equation. Abby enjoys rubbing my shoulders and my feet. Lizzy likes to scratch my back. I am not as a rule going to say no to any of this. The three-year-old brushing my hair I could live without (I'm not fond of having my nose or ears brushed). But she so enjoys doing it that I usually let her.

They're a such a strange mix of child and adult, these two. As I type this, Abby is inserting butterfly clips in assorted colors into my hair - and she's still at a more-is-better stage of self-decoration. Or Mom-decoration. Today while at Gramma's house, she told Gramma she was "evil" for making her lie down (three sleepovers in a row made her very tired). But she was asleep in minutes. Now she's stroking the back of my head and yelling at Lizzy for putting butterfly clips in "the wrong places". And Lizzy says, "fine!" in that incredibly teenage tone and stomps off, muttering to herself, only to come back thirty seconds later, grinning from ear to ear, showing me a "picshah I dwawed of me and Abby".

How old are they again?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Everything She Knows She Learned from Comic Books...

...or at least from the cartoons based thereon, and other books and shows of that type.

So Abby (8) asked me today, "What does "my enemy's enemy is my friend" mean?" Under many circumstances this would take a certain amount of thought, but because of her favorite types of fiction - superheroes, epic battles between Good vs. Evil, feisty self-rescuing princesses - it was as simple as "You know how Robin and Slade are enemies? Well, they can work together to get rid of Trigon. That's what it means." And the story I've already told, where she asked me what "lusting" meant. I told her that when Jafar wanted to marry Jasmine, it was because he was lusting after the throne of Agrabah. And she was satisfied with that answer; it was accurate but age-appropriate.

Sometimes this means she has a very black-and-white outlook, but she is after all an 8yo kid. That's normal for eight-year-olds; they can be very literal. But some of the stuff she reads/watches/listens to lends itself to more shades of gray. And that's a Good Thing. Even if it does lead to more negotiation than I'd prefer... there's a lot of "but what if..." and "I think we should..." coming out of her mouth. But overall, I like it.

A Little Lighter

No, not me. Or if so, only very little. But after last night's post, I wanted to have a topic that is just a little less upsetting to me (and possibly to my readers, and thank you all for being polite in your responses).

This is the Weekend of Sleepovers at Chez Gamers' Babes. We had intended to spread them out through the week, since it's mid-winter break in our school district, but it just didn't work out that way. So Friday night we had Greg, Saturday night we had Kay, and tonight we have a little girl in Abby's class, whom I will call Lily for the purposes of this blog. Tomorrow and Tuesday we have normal-ish days and nights, and Wednesday Abby is going with me to work to deliver her Girl Scout Cookies, and being dropped off at another friend's house for a playdate. Busy week.

Fun too, although I've watched more Fairly Oddparents than I'd like. Lizzy is particularly tired this weekend so there has been a fair bit of whining. On the flip side, there has been actual napping on her part, which cannot be discounted as a Good Thing. Ever. The big kids of last night's sleepover (Abby and Kay) earned three treasure chest picks each* for the amount of cleaning up they did. It was freaking amazing; the girls' room is cleaned almost to adult standards, their bathroom is properly tidy for the first time in weeks, and all their clean laundry has been put away. They're always required to help, but they seldom go this far on their own. And all for the privilege of Staying Up Late (they finally finished cleaning up the room around 11:30 - but when an 8yo and a 9yo beg to stay up late so they can clean (on a non-school-night), a sensible parent does not argue).

I like to think of myself as a sensible parent.

*The Treasure Chest is our reward system. There are some things you do just because you're part of a family... take your dishes to the sink after meals, help your little sister, be responsible for packing your snack for school... and some things that are essentially extra credit; for those things, you get a Treasure Chest Pick. The Treasure Chest is full of stuff from the dollar store, Target's Dollar Spot, and this little Asian trinket store at our local mall.  So there's a good mix of light-up pens, origami paper, hair ties, little jigsaw puzzles, sticker sheets, etc.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

No Title is Sufficient

Let me tell you a story. A story about a little boy - we'll call him M - skinny, blond, a couple days younger than my 8yo Abby (although he was an under-2lb preemie and they weren't sure he would make it), and Abby's best-friend-who-is-a-boy from their 3rd through 6th years of life. We've been to their place for play-dates, and they've been to ours. We rarely make it to each others' birthday parties, because in all cases but one they have been scheduled for the same day. We don't see them as often as we'd like, although the two kids attend the same school. This little boy has a sweet, equally blond little sister, and great parents who seem to really be invested in their kids, have good jobs, and have lived in their house for years.

And today this little boy was summarily rejected by a little girl in their neighborhood because her mother "hates him and his family". Because both of these parents happen to be men. It's not the little girl's fault; she doesn't know any better, and shame on her mother for letting - or even encouraging - a child do her dirty work. But really, you can't let your child play with another child because his parents are both men? Do you think it's catching? Or is your squick factor/religious belief about homosexuality so strong that you are willing to disappoint and hurt innocent children?

I don't often get political; I have strong opinions but I'm also cynical enough to be aware that yelling my opinion isn't going to change anyone's mind. And I'm also fully aware that not everyone in my audience will agree with me, and I may even lose some facebook friends over it if they're reading. But this is important. This one did not only affect grown adults who can take care of themselves. This one affected an 8yo child and probably will affect his little sister. And all because some people believe that sexuality defines people all by itself. Never mind that these men are productive citizens, good parents, and decent people with hopes and dreams and loves and fears. The attitude seems to be "they sleep with other men. My religion/belief system/personal squick factor says that therefore they are evil and their children are too".

 But y'know what? That attitude SUCKS, and I call bullshit.

Does This Make Me the Block Mom?

Today we are watching Greg while his mom recovers and the other adults in his household work on moving house; a frenetic 8yo who is very wedded to routine being not a useful addition to the moving-house process.

Remember a couple weeks ago, when Calgon and I were going to have a hot (bubbly, steamy) date as soon as hubby got home? That was the last weekend I had all three kids. And this weekend I have an extra in Greg, and a neighbor girl, Kay, whom - while I am not explicitly watching her - I am also not making her go home and get her own snacks and so forth. But that was last time. This time, we have nice weather in Seattle! While it doesn't actually rain nine months out of the year in Seattle (shh! Don't tell the Southern Californians!), it is usually at least overcast. And this is after all February, but today is clear and cold, and the four older kids (10, 9, 8, 8) are all playing at the playground next to our building. I make them check in every hour and a half, and other than that (and half an hour for lunch) they've been out there for four hours and they are loving every minute.

This is not to say that I won't need my break after hubby gets home; I'm sure I will. But it won't be the imperative give-it-to-me-NOW-or-see-my-Chaotic-Evil-Side issue it was a couple weeks ago, either. Because the Big Four are outside, and the 3yo is napping, and I'm happily blogging and folding laundry and Being Domestic. Lizzy naps on the couch, because usually there are any number of children playing in her shared bedroom at nap-time, and so at last check-in, with Leanna's & Greg's lack of volume switches, and Abby's & Kay's stage whispers, I was pretty sure she was going to wake up. The amount of (verbal, and either stage-whispered or at-top-volume) negotiation involved in "you may each have one piece of fruit and half a single-serving of chips" required is incredible. All that for two bananas, two apples, and two 100-calorie packs of Pringles?

Friday, February 18, 2011

What is your Quest? What is your Favorite Color?

Tonight most of our gamers are out - either sick, or recovering from surgery, or studying, or helping those who are doing these things. So with only three adults and four kids, we decided to invite our downstairs neighbors up and hey, then we were six kids and five adults. Since one of the neighbors' kids is a newborn, we were not so badly outnumbered this way. The neighbor lady and I hung out and talked girl talk and admired the baby, the male adults and the oldest child (Leanna, who has reached the advanced age of ten) played a board game, and the younger kids (8 ,8, 4, 3) mostly played in the bedroom, with the two younger ones occasionally making forays into the living room with the adults.

So there were a few amusing conversations between the two younger ones:
3yo: What's 1 plus 1?
4yo: 2! What's 2 plus 2?
3yo: (counting on fingers) 4! What's 4 plus 4?
4yo: Hmm... that's a hard one.
3yo: Ten!
Mom: Eight, Lizzy
3yo: oh... right

And as they get tired, these two are getting whiny and the elder three are nagging to "watch their bedtime movie" (tonight's feature is Spirited Away) but only after they have chocolate soy milk, and why can't they watch it now; just because the little kids are too little to watch it doesn't mean they should be inconvenienced in any way. And they are sniping at each other too.

And because Leanna was out with us, and the little ones were in and out, our language was a little more circumspect than usual for a game night. None of us are usually swearing like sailors, but we were more careful about our language. And in discussing movies that are okay for some of the kids to watch but not others (see above) we ended up having a certain amount of Monty Python quote battle (none of them are old enough for most of Monty Python; either it's too suggestive, too profane/obscene, or it will go so completely over their heads that they won't get why we think it's funny. Give 'em a couple years).

While we were doing this, I was also shopping online, taking advantage of my tax return to stock up the pantry. I had four dollars left to hit the minimum order for free delivery, and there was a suggestion of cheese (someone had suggested cookies, but um, yeah, I have five boxes of GS cookies right here in my kitchen). As stated before in this blog, I am allergic to milk. However, I am not allergic to goats' or sheep's' milk. So I typed "goat cheese" into the search box and the first hit made us all howl with laughter - it was "Celebrity Goat Log". Looking back from the vantage point of an hour later, I can see that it was the adult version of the little ones' whining or the big kids' sniping at each other. And on that note, I'm going to bed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax

Now I grok why Abby likes Greg so much. They think in the same randomized, convoluted way. I went to pick up Greg at his school, and he hopped into the car. I asked him how his day was, and he said, "Great! As always. Except when I'm sick. Or before I moved to Seattle. Did you know that Seattle - I mean Washington - is always like this? It doesn't rain all the time, but it's cloudy most of the time because the clouds get stuck on the mountains?" <insert adult's explanation of rain shadow; the clouds get stuck between the mountains, not on them like wool on a spindle>.

Then Lizzy asked if cheese made him sick and he said he didn't think so; he's eaten lots of cheese and he doesn't get sick very often and his aunt has asthma that sounds different from my asthma (I coughed in the car). Then we wandered from mountains here to mountains on Mars, through whether one still calls it an earthquake if it's on Mars, and how this one guy refused to leave when Mt St Helens blew, to how we haven't proved the existence of alien life (his grasp of the difference between evidence and proof is a little shaky).

At this point Lizzy fell asleep in the backseat and I lost track of the different topics - it was very Walrus and the Carpenter - and launched into how he likes "the science of musical instruments". I asked if he meant the mathematics of music, and he said, "no, the way that musical instruments work, like sound waves coming out of them" and I told him that was called "acoustics", the science of sound, and he went off on a tangent for a while about when he's in 4th grade should he choose a string, woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument. And then we were back on Seattle area weather and his dad's T-shirt with the weather joke and I told him the old one about "don't like the weather here? wait five minutes" and he laughed and laughed.

And I thought now I get why Abby likes him so much. And sat back to see if he would talk about whether pigs have wings.

Her Funny Valentine

Here it is, 6:30 AM, and Abby's Valentine, Greg, is here. His mom is having an outpatient procedure this morning, his dad is with her, and his aunt and uncle have to work today. So Future Mother-in-Law Jenn is his emergency contact today. He's here for breakfast and then I'll take him and Abby to their respective schools (thank goodness their school schedules are staggered!).

He's a total hoot. He's been here for fifteen minutes and they've already gone through all of Abby's Valentines she received at school - with commentary like, "don't they mix you up with the other Abby?" and "At my school they called it Friendship Day because they think it's more polite" and "Oh, I do love you, Abby!". They settled down - as much as possible given the circumstances - to watch Phineas and Ferb, which they all love. Thank God for the DVR.

So I have two 8yos and a 3yo cuddled up under blankets on the couch, watching Phineas and Ferb, totally overexcited. Every so often one of them jumps up - remember overexcited? - and drags the blanket off the other two, causing squawks of indignation. Normally we don't watch TV before school, but normally we aren't up this long before school either.

In about ten minutes I'll give them breakfast - Greg's parents were kind enough to provide me with breakfast food he will eat - and then the girls will get dressed and I'll take them to their respective schools and daycares so I can concentrate on my own work.
 I'll let you know how it goes :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Was that Groundhog THINKING?

I'm annoyed with the groundhog. I don't even know what his verdict was this year, but let me tell you, Seattle has its wet, moldy, pollen-laden spring going full force here. And as noted here, I can only handle so many allergens at once.

Last time I was tested - granted, it was years ago - I was allergic to whey, alder pollen, dog dander, mold, dust mites, and spider venom. At the time I was actually living in a neighborhood called - and for good reason - Alderwood Manor, so no, not a Good Thing. I haven't been tested recently, but these allergies still seem to hold, and this week they are out in force.

Actually, our whole household seems to be allergic. Hubby is "allergic to Texas" in his words (mesquite, dust, mountain cedar, etc), I have the ones listed above, I don't know if Leanna has any specific allergies but her asthma sure kicks up in the spring, and Abby is anaphylactic to cashews and pistachios and gets hives from most other tree nuts. (Gramma asked earlier this week about Palm Kernel Oil; I checked with Abby's allergist and apparently coconut and other palm-tree nuts and seeds are actually okay for Abby, except for the danger of cross-contamination). Lizzy we're not sure about, but from the sneezalies here lately, I'd say one pollen or another is getting her. Even the cat is allergic; poor Tiger, her eyes water and her nose runs and it's just sad.

So here I am, trying to get fit, and I can't breathe deeply. Which sucks (but not hard enough, apparently). In the past, I've started a fitness routine, gone too hard, and hurt myself, then stopped exercising. I was determined not to do that this time, and as I have a good friend in the business, I have someone to let me know if I'm overdoing. We'd been going on these walks during lunch breaks at work, but I can't yet reliably go at anything like their pace, and even when I can, there's that whole not-breathing thing caused by allergies. So I'm walking downstairs in the building gym, on the treadmill, so I can quit if I need to, without risking being stuck half a mile from work having an asthma attack. Which pisses me off, but I will. Not. Quit.

I guess I'll have to view the gym as a stepping stone to better things.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Brownies and other Edibles

Abby (8) is a Brownie Scout, and this is her first year. She (and I and her dad and a number of other people on her behalf) sold a lot of pre-ordered Girl Scout Cookies, and tonight at her meeting, we received the cookies to deliver. One hundred and fifty-four boxes of cookies. At twelve boxes to a case, you can do the math as to how many cases are crammed into my little sedan.

Usually her meetings - only monthly as they are - are not a big problem; she and I get a little alone time before and after the meeting, she gets her scouting in, etc. Tonight was a slightly different story. We did get our alone time in, but at the (usual) cost of hubby dealing with Lizzy (3) for dinner. Normally not an issue, but she had been a complete terror for him all day, constantly Dropping her Spoon, having potty incidents immediately after saying she didn't have to go, refusing to nap until just before they had to pick Abby up at school, and just generally being a pain in the neck. Abby forgot to do her homework after school and while yes, hubby should remind her on those days he has her after school, it is her responsibility ultimately. I didn't find out she hadn't done her homework until we were on our way to the Brownie meeting from dinner, of course, just to make it more interesting.

Dinner was fun; Abby has recently learned to like "kid sushi" (kappa maki and inari) and since she makes her mother look shy and retiring by comparison, she more-or-less charmed the sushi bar owners into teaching her bits of Japanese (she can now count to five and say "thank you"). Fun. And since we had just picked her new new epi-pens up at the pharmacy (oh damn! we left one at the Scout Leader's house!) I felt a little more comfortable than usual feeding her unaccustomed foods (yes, I know this is irrational; I don't want to have to use her epi-pens. But their mere presence makes me feel better).

So now Lizzy and I are on the couch, my left elbow clutched tightly in her hand (most kids suck their thumbs or carry around disreputable ancient blankies; mine uses adult elbows as her comfort objects) while I type. Abby is curled up doing the neglected homework, and hubby is trying to unwind at his computer after Lizzy was a pill all day. As soon as the kids are in bed (another twenty minutes or so) I plan to pop a chicken in the crock pot so hubby has something new-but-still-on-his-diet to eat tomorrow while he's on child-watch duty again. At least tomorrow I'll be home around 4:30 or so to rescue him. Maybe (since today was payday) I can take us out to dinner and then keep the kids out for an hour or so so he can have a few minutes to himself. I know he'd do the same for me; he has done in the past. Love you honey.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Sheilas and the Bloke go out to Dinner

So my mom offered to take us out to dinner tonight, as it's Valentine's Day and she didn't get around to getting us a gift card. We ah... converged on the Outback Steakhouse nearest us and settled into a booth one person too small (and none of the three adults is a small person). There was a bit of a wait - busy day of course - and Lizzy (3) was very excited. Abby (8) was full of chatter about their Valentine party at school, and her volume control was apparently busted tonight; perhaps it was the ambiance. All in all, it was your usual family meal out, assuming one of the participants is a very excited toddler. And it went like this:

Abby: Your turn in the dot game on the menu Mom.
Lizzy: I dwopped my Valentine pen! (ducks under the table)
Grandma: Get back up here and sit in this booster! (drags Lizzy up by both arms)
Mom: *facepalm*
Dad: (shuffles chair, reads menu)
L: I dwopped a cwayon! (dives under table again, is caught by Grandma before she gets far)
A: MO-om! It's your TURN
M: Let's find out what we want to eat first.
A: Read it
M: YOU read it; I'll help you with the special words
A: Grilled Cheese-a-roo, Something what-is-that Chicken Fingers... ewww - chickens don't have fingers! Oh right, they're like nuggets only longer, Mac-a-roo and CHeese... I want that - Mac-a-roo and Cheese.
L: (dives under table, is caught by G)
M: You always want the mac-a-roo and cheese, every time we come.
A: I have to use the bathroom (waits for D to move his chair so M can slide out, takes off for the bathroom (which is in sight of the table))
M: *more facepalm*
L: (drops her cup of orange juice on the floor. Top pops off and there is OJ everywhere. G grabs her an instant before she dives after it)
A: (reappearing at table, dancing the have-to-go-NOW dance) I can't read the signs on the bathrooms - I think they're too fancy
M: Oh, you want the one that says "Sheilas".
D: (gets up to help her read the signs)
G: (still holding L by one arm so she won't - I don't know - lap up the OJ off the floor or something) What does the men's room say?
D: "Blokes"
All Adults: (nodding) Oh right, Blokes, of course
Lizzy: I dwopped my juuuiiiiiice!
Waitress: Can I help? Oh, I see. I'll call a busser
Busser: (appears with a pile of rags, dives under table)
M: (head in hands at this point)
A: (squirming back into her seat) Here, look at this cool light-up pen I got for Valentine's Day (bounces it on underside of table so it lights up) Is that better light for you?
Busser: (muffled voice, slightly surprised sounding) Yeah, actually it is (crawls out from under table)
D: (scoots his chair back in, sighs)
W: (Brings cup of water for L, smiles, plunks bread down on table) Anything else I can do while your food is cooking?
Adults: No thanks
A: NOW can it be your turn?
M: I don't want to play, okay?
G: Abby, it's too chaotic for you mom to play with you right now
W: (brings food) Here you go!
A: Yay!
L: Oh, it's my food! My food my food my food!
Everyone: Nom nom nom
Dr: Hi! Can I take your order?
(It's the kids' backup pediatrician; our regular doc is at branch of Pacific Medical Centers a few miles away, but this guy works at the one nearer us and we go to him for urgent care)
M: Hi, Doctor C! Honey, this is the pediatrician we use when Doctor R is not available.
Dr: You kids eating all your veggies?
M: (thinking, oh great the ONE time the kids have no veggies with their meal we run into their doctor, smiles weakly)
Dr: My table's ready. Have a good rest of the night!
W: Anyone want Dee Ee Ess Ess Arr Tee?
Adults: Thanks but no
G: (hands credit card to W) Let's try to expedite our checkout a little

I didn't mention the other twelve or so times Lizzy tried to dive under the table, or Abby's hair getting into her mac-a-roo and cheese, or the other time she had to rearrange everyone to go to the bathroom AGAIN. And yet, we had fun. It was a little more chaotic than I'd like, but hey, I have great steak/onion/mushroom leftovers for lunch tomorrow.. All is well.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentines Among the Small Fry: (Whatcha dooo-in'?)

So Greg and his dad came over, and Abby was surprised and delighted that he came over. She gave him his cards and he gave her a card and a Plush Phineas because she likes the show as much as he does. Awww. Then they ate lunch (I had been clued in that they were coming and timed lunch accordingly) and she shared the M&Ms she had gotten from her dad for Valentine's Day with him. These came in a heart shaped box labeled "Cupid Mix", which led to a discussion by the two of them that went like this:

Abby: Since we're already in love, I don't think Cupid's arrows would work
Greg: Yeah, he'd shoot us and then a big "Uneffective"(sic) would show up over our heads.

Mind you, they are both eight years old, so their concept of  "in love" consists of plans to get married when they are grown up. For Abby this is "about 18",and for Greg it's slightly older. Greg's mom says "not until he's out of college. And hopefully grad school," to which Abby replies that he's "very smart, so he could just start college when he's 14".

Then they made some more cards (it's card-making season). And now they're playing Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. They started a new game for Greg, so I hope they didn't save over Abby's game. It's hilarious watching them because they're acting out the parts; each time their little characters are ill or poisoned or injured they're dropping to their knees and moaning or saying things like, "Go. Save yourself!" Lizzy is having "sticker fun" in the corner. I was a little concerned about this, but it turns out she's sticking the stickers on herself, not on, say, the cat. Which would not be fun. For anyone, especially the cat.

Lizzy slept very well last night, but is still Dropping Her Spoon today. She ripped a sticker and there is much moping and pouting and wandering around looking like a caricature of Dejected Child. And then the next minute she's fine. She needs a nap, in spite of how well she slept last night. I could use one too.

Valentines Among the Small Fry

The school rule is that if you bring a valentine for anyone in your class you have to bring one for everyone in your class. Abby's dad scoffs at this because he thinks it teaches our kids not to be able to handle disappointment. While I see his point, I think that if his daughter Abby was the unpopular kid who wouldn't otherwise get one, he might feel differently. And he did say he'd assist her with the valentines this weekend while she was at his place, so clearly he's not going to go all atheist-about-Under-God-in-the-pledge on the topic.

(Edited to add:  His take on it is that this is not "the real world"; in the real world we have to get used to disappointment. Well, true, as far as it goes, but I don't think they need to know that in this context at eight. In my opinion, it's enough to know that life isn't fair in the context that sometimes you have to clean up after your baby sister and "you git what you git and you don't throw a fit".)

We don't really do much for Valentine's Day because it's my sister's birthday and that's more important to us. I mean, we might get each other cards (or more likely send e-cards, wired as we are) or have a box of candy for dessert for a week, but it's not a big deal holiday here at Chez Gamers' Babes. Except for the kids, of course, for whom the color pink and the romance of it all is in full swing.

Abby's little boyfriend (G, an Older Man at nearly 9) and his dad are coming over today at noon as a surprise so they can exchange cards. She got (and her dad did not protest against this one, because it was for a specific person and not The Class At Large) bigger valentines for her teacher and her "boyfriend" than for the rest of the people she knows. I'll let you know how the exchange goes later today.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Domestic Bliss

I'm not sure what it is about these quiet Saturdays that I find so blissful. I suck as a stay-at-home parent. I know; I've tried it. I need more adult interaction than I have habitually gotten as a SAHP, and it's one of those cases of If Momma Ain't Happy Ain't Nobody Happy. And trying to work from home on a more than occasional basis? Fugghedabahtit. Now and then - as with our Thursday afternoons working from home while Gramma takes Abby to swimming lessons - it works. If it's just Abby at home with me, or I'm home alone due to illness, it works. I get lots done and I am in my comfort zone of home while doing it. But even then I need to go back to work or I get bugnutty without the adult face-to-face interaction.

But the Saturdays when it's just me and Lizzy are so peaceful. It's not like I sit around eating chocolates either. I usually do a little cleaning up from the previous night's game, and some laundry, and cook a bit (lentils and chicken with artichoke hearts today), order groceries to be delivered later in the week, job hunt online, pay bills, and just generally hang out around the house. She plays with blocks and draws and "weads" books and watches "babywiffic" TV shows. Weather permitting, we go for a walk and play on the playground. I generally don't even get a shower until evening on these days, because I'm using all our hot water for the dishwasher and the washing machine.

And I love it. Of course, it is only one day, and only one kid (the alternate Saturdays, when Abby and Leanna are with us, are not typically as calm for sure). Maybe it's that I have the time to read a bit or that I can usually get hubby to take over for an hour when he gets off work so I can have alone time (ahhhhh - my sweet Orc Calgon...). Note the differences when I'm outnumbered by the kids - that link refers to last Saturday. Today I'm all calm and relaxed. I've done the dishes, started dinner, planned next week's game dinner, done the online grocery shopping, done some online job hunting, done a little basic tidying up, worked with Lizzy on her potty training skills, drawn endless iterations of "you and me togethah, mama" on Lizzy's Magnadoodle, watched a couple baby shows with her, read her at least a dozen books, assisted her with building a "tall house towah", and played around on blogspot and facebook. And it's only 12:30 PM.

I am perfectly content.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Game Night!

Tonight's game brings you Jenn's Crock Pot Roast, Jenn & Laston's Gypsy Iced Tea (with simple syrup on the side for those who want/can have it), and sourdough bread and fudge brought by Tonja and James.

This is our first game in this system/world, and I'm really enjoying it so far.
  • "Will Stealers" does not refer to thieves named William, nor to those who perpetrate the theft of legal documents.
  • Whoops - failed a spot check. We the players all know it's a trap, but the characters notsomuch
  • "Your face is Admiral Akbar"
  • Player 1: "You know how I can fart stires? I mean "start fires". Other players: "Out of your ass?"
  • "You're standing next to the Michaelite, because that's what you do." "That's not what I want to do." "Don't stand. Don't stand so. Don't stand so close to me".
  • "Then I hurt you with my sledgehammer. His name is "Lefty"."
  • Player 1: "I'm a tiger". Other players, in stereo: "rawr."
  • "It's 'gonna get ugly'? What, like Orson Welles in a speedo?"
  • Player 1: "Nobody expects a tiger." Player 2: "Are you a Spanish tiger?"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Malaprops and Mondegreens

Note - all links on this post ARE safe for work and kids, in spite of how the text appears.

Kids are full of malapropisms and mondegreens and sometimes they save their parents from embarrassment thereby. Tonight, for instance, I said under my breath (but not under enough, apparently), "Lizzy, you're being a pain in the ass". She heard me but thanks to Lady Mondegreen, she responded with a giggle and a "Mama, I'm a El, not a Ess!"

We get a lot of these at Chez Gamers' Babes, often in the classic misheard lyrics sense. In some cases this works well and in others not so much. ("Mom, what does 'lusting' mean?" "Um... remember when Jafar wanted to marry Jasmine so he could get the throne of Agrabah? He was lusting after the throne.") And then there are the basic mispronunciations. Not sure why Abby says "Oh my goodnyess", but she does.

The unintentionally funny remarks are great too: Abby thinks this character has "big balls", Lizzy wants to "play with Daddy's heavy balls" (note: do NOT search for that on your own. It's Not Pretty), and Abby's characters on her video game are "stoned" (she means "turned to stone"; in the game it's listed as "petrified".)

These things are endemic around here, and the fact that our kids have very rich spoken vocabularies for their respective ages just adds to the hilarity.
Here's the one I was looking for; finally found it (the scene is our living room, after dinner):

Stepdad: How was your day, Abby?
Abby: Good! We learned how to measure salamanders!
Stepdad and Mom: Um....
Abby: No, wait! We learned how to measure WITH salamanders

Stepdad (in slightly strangled tone): How do you get them to hold still?
Abby: Like this! (whips out a ruler)
Stepdad: That doesn't look anything like a salamander...
Abby: No, the beTWEEN parts.
Stepdad and Mom: Ohhhhhhh - centimeters!
Abby: Yeah! Salamanders!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"No... to the Pain"

I hurt. It's a good hurt, because it means I'm making a change from the unfit slob I've been for twenty years into a - if not skinny and svelte - fit person in my forties. But it hurts. I understand the differences between "burn" and "pain" and I'm on the edge between the two - or was at 2:30 this afternoon. Now I'm just to "sore".

I know my friend and exercise-mentor will not allow me to injure myself, even if it does feel as though I'm about to lose my feet below the ankles. In fact, she's kicked me out of tomorrow's session so I don't overdo and actually do some damage. Which is, according to my doctor at my followup visit today, a sign of a good trainer - one who pays attention to her client and her client's strengths and weaknesses.

Anyway, the reason I hurt so much more today than I did yesterday is because I was doing my best to have good posture while on our brisk walk. This is hard, partly because I'm very overweight and partly because I carry that weight in places that make my back want to sway in order to compensate. So when I walk with my hips tilted forward to where they should be, I use muscles I've not used properly in oh, about nine years. In my adolescence, this was known as "the second day of ski season", when you woke up the morning after the first day of ski season and realize that noneof those muscles had been  used in nine months to a year. Ow.

On the up side, this is as I said, good pain, and I did not have to use my asthma inhaler either day, which is huge. My doc says to keep up the good work on the weight loss and fitness fronts, and that all my levels of everything are fine except iron (as usual) and Vitamin D (I'm a Seattleite). And Abby's checkup went if anything even better - she's no longer "overweight" for her height/age/build/gender - and the only recurring issues are the nut allergy and a fear of dogs. I've seen worse.

And at least we haven't been mostly dead all day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"What's for dinner?" quoth Pooh...

I don't want to cook tonight at all. But until that tax refund comes in, we don't have the extra coin for dinner out Just Because I Don't Wanna Cook. And besides, Abby's going in for her eight-year well-child check tomorrow and I just can't see taking her out for McNuggets the night before, you know? I can just hear the conversation...

Doc: What do you eat most days?
Abby: Oh, pizza, chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese...

She does eat all these things; I'm no fanatic. But with all the weight issues we already have in this family, I'm trying to get the kids to eat more healthily. Where Abby is concerned, this means letting her buy a school lunch one day a week instead of all-the-days-mom-does-not-want-to-bother a week, and trying to make sure her meats aren't always breaded and fried. A typical packed lunch for her is half a turkey sandwich on whole grain, a snack bag of carrots, a piece of fruit, a hundred-calorie pack of Pringles, and 2% milk. And dinner is usually meat, starch, veg (last night it was pork chop, brown rice, and mixed peas and carrots). Not too bad.

But tonight I seriously did not want to cook. But I am - sort of. I have potatoes baking in the oven, and chicken breast roasting ditto. Haven't decided on produce yet; I may just use fresh fruit (we have some nice pears which, being pears, will be overripe in half an hour anyway). I'm a decent cook but I have no energy tonight for cooking. Normally I am the crock-pot queen but I hadn't set anything out last night to slow-cook today. Meh. We'll all live.

On a completely different note, watching Abby play Mystic Quest is an education in itself. All these tricks that I, as a long-time gamer, take for granted are all new and grand ideas for her. "Mom! I know how to live! I'm going to use one of those Seeds to make my Magic go up and then I can use the Cure Spell!" Obvious to me, but watching her learn it is amazing. Sort of like watching younger children learn to walk and talk, you know?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Do You Read What I Read?

I'm just curious about what people read for fun. My husband over at Nerdy But Good At It does not read fiction much. His most common tagline over there is "And people wonder why I stopped reading fiction". He does read some fiction, but it's usually a comic book here, a childhood favorite there, a Seuss or a Silverstein to the kids, a character background from his players or in a game manual, like that.

I on the other hand, read everything. I have preferences, of course, like anyone, but I'll read anything that will hold still for it. As a favorite character in a favorite book says, "I read in the tub, I read on the john, I read in bed, I read when I eat alone, and I would read in my sleep if I could keep my eyes open." As to what I read, well, as I said, anything. But favorites are another matter. Some favorites include:
  • Old-school sci-fi, primarily:
    • Asimov (I like his short stories and the Robots novels, not really a fan of Foundation)
    • Bradbury (sci-fi? horror? mystery? D - all of the above?)
    • Burroughs (specifically John Carter of Mars)
    • Clarke (Rama and Odyssey more than his others)
    • Heinlein (source of the quote above, and in spite of his habitual hawkishness, which comes through clearly in his fiction)
  • Classic "Quest" Fantasy (I far prefer the quest stories to the battle stories). Hence:
    • I love The Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring, but am somewhat meh on The Two Towers and The Return of the King
    • Pretty much anything by Eddings is the comfort food of literature to me, especially The Mallorean
    • Likewise, I heart most Lackey (urban fantasy or otherwise); the Pern and Crystal series by Anne McCaffrey, all of Rowling; all the Narnia books except the last half of Prince Caspian and the final book, The Last Battle, and all the Oz books I've read. Whether one cares for the writing style or not, these are good stories full of Questing and Conflict Between Good and Evil (or, per one of the  beloved sorcerers in the Mallorean, between "Them and Us")
  •  Other speculative fiction:
    • Diane Duane (both her Star Trek stuff and the Young Wizards)
    • Shari S Tepper (specifically The Gate to Women's Country and Beauty)
    • Most things by Robin McKinley, especially her treatment of fairy tales
  • Romantic Thriller/Supernatural Romance/Mystery
    • I like most things that Nora Roberts has written that are not her category romances; she's excellent at characterization and scrupulous about her research. Although I've never read any of her slightly-futuristic J.D. Robb books
    • I really enjoy Charlaine Harris, but surprisingly, I far prefer almost any of her recent works to the True Blood series. True Blood is fine, just not my favorite of her stuff
    • Diane Mott Davidson has some fun "cozy mysteries". With decent recipes. I've made some chocolate drop cookies from one of those, as well as bacon-wrapped artichokes. Yum.
  •  That elusive genre I like to call "modern literature". The bookstores just call it "fiction"
    • Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella)
    • Marian Keyes
    • Maeve Binchy
  • Classics (aside from the classics of sci-fi and fantasy listed above)
    • Most things by Louisa May Alcott
    • Most things by L.M. Montgomery
    • The three best-known books by Frances Hodgson Burnett (I especially like doing the different accents when reading aloud to the kids)
    • Jane Eyre
    • Roots
    • Gone With the Wind
There are a huge number of things I read as a kid that I will take out once every ten or twelve years - those I still have, of course, that have not made it to Half Price Books yet, because I am saving them for the kids to read or whatever - and read myself sick (figuratively speaking). For instance, when pregnant with Lizzy (so almost four years ago now), I had a week of old Nancy Drew books - about twenty of the fifty or so we have in storage. There are also a number of Piers Anthony's Xanth books waiting for the kids to be old enough to read (from a maturity perspective, not a reading-level one) and a lot of Dragonlance ditto. Just before hubby and I met (so call it six years ago) I scared my thirty-something self all over again with John Christopher's Tripod series.

Good times.

    Home Sick Stuff

    So, as noted here, Abby is home from school with a cold. Her temp is down, so unless it goes back up, she'll be in school tomorrow, stuffy nose and all. Her appetite is weird - all she wants is rice and fruit - but it won't kill her for a couple days. So I'm working on some things I need to write for work - thank your favorite Deit(ies) for VPN and for Understanding Supervisors - and she's lying on the other arm of our L-shaped couch, watching movies that I think are too grown up for her little sister - either because they are too scary/weird/creepy, or because she just wouldn't be interested and would make us all batty if we tried to watch them with her in the room.

    So first she watched a 1970s version of Alice in Wonderland, which was fine, I guess; I wasn't really watching with her. Then she watched a movie called Fishtales, which was both stupid and boring from my adult POV. But, you know, mermaids, which make everything better to 8yo girls with princess fetishes. And now she's watching this version of The Secret Garden, which she has seen before and loves.

    I suspect she'd really enjoy the books of the first and last of these movies if she could read well enough. But as she can't yet, we'll just put them on our list of things for me to read to her. When we're done with the nine Oz books we own (we're on number 7).

    Tomorrow if she doesn't go to school - though I suspect she will - her stepfather will stay home with her; it's his day off. But for today, it's just me, Abby, old Netflixed movies, and the VPN to work. Nice.

    And after all that...

    ...Abby's temp is high enough this morning that the school district will not allow in school. Again, Just a Cold. But her fever is over 100F (barely) and therefore she is home for the day.

    I don't think I've mentioned here how lucky I am to have a job that allows working from home when the kids (or I) have minor illnesses or doctor appointments or what-have-you. It's amazing and it makes being a mom with an outside job much much simpler. I also have not mentioned how lucky I am to have a kid who likes school; I can be sure she's not pulling an Elliott-from-E.T. with a light bulb and a heating pad. At least not yet; she's only eight. Give her time.

    I'm still taking Lizzy (3) to my mom's (she's my babysitter) for the day. Working from home with her awake and active and not sick is a lot harder than working from home with the coldy 8yo in residence. The 8yo will read, watch TV, and play Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, and require a refill on soup every so often. Working from home with the toddler is a whole 'nother prospect because a) she's three and needs a lot more personal attention, b) she does not grok the TV controls and cannot change her own channels/inputs (although she has mastered the power button, which makes me want to scream), c) does not yet read to herself, and d) cannot pour her own juice/make her own toast.

    In the past few weeks, however, I can work from home effectively with the 3yo (although more breaks for the above-mentioned food-and-TV-and-books are required) because she is now able to play in her own room for up to an hour without adult intervention. I most often do this on Thursday afternoons; 8yo has swimming lessons and usual backup babysitter is on maternity leave. Bringing the 3yo to 8yo's swimming lessons is an exercise regimen in itself, so Grandma takes the 8yo to swimming and I watch the 3yo and work from home. This constitutes the what-have-you above.

    Have I mentioned that I love this job perk? My contract is up after March, so either we will have to put 3yo in swimming lessons with the same school, hope that backup sitter is off maternity leave, or hope that I have Thursdays off with whatever new job I get. Or that hubby's work moves his days off back to where they were. That would be nice, but they're pretty unpredictable as to scheduling; it's a long and involved process and is very political, what with his union and tenure and so forth. Ugh. So glad my job and my boss allow me the freedom to telecommute when a child is sick.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Irrational but Understandable

    Abby is sick. It's just a cold, I'm sure; her temp is hovering at just below her school district's cutoff, and she has severe congestion and mild wet cough. She says she feels okay "except for the sneezing and the stuffy nose and the coughing". No big deal, right? Just keep her hydrated, make sure you have your phone (and you drive yourself so as not to discombobulate your carpool partners) in case the school calls tomorrow and says her temp has hit the magic number of 100° F and she needs to come home.

    She says she feels okay (with the above caveats) and she acts mostly normal (in that exasperating way that eight-year-olds have). But she sounds like her favorite super-heroine on her most Dark Magic Chick day. And she's not even trying. And she's dragging a little and her Spoon has been Dropped a half-dozen times, and she didn't even ask to go out to play today. For those of you who have never met her... this is not normal for Abby. Right now she's clearly feeling fine after having her idea of Comfort Food (mac-n-cheese and fruit salad) for supper, but it's been like this all day - up for a half an hour and then draaaaaggggginnnnnngggggg for a couple hours.

    Anyway, a cold. No problem. But since her E.R. trip of last summer, wherein we discovered a potentially-fatal nut allergy, I worry when she's sick. Even when it's Just a Cold. So I'll do what I detailed above, because in spite of my irrational fears, I am a rational human being. I just need to keep reminding myself of that.

    Can Open. Angst Everywhere.

    This is a Totally Gamer Post, so, Mom, you don't have to read it if you don't want to.

    I've posted here and here and here about this new character I'm making for my husband's Friday Night game (GURPS at the moment). It's been years since I played a character this young, not to mention one with this many self-deprecating neuroses and behaviors. In some ways my vampire character (Lyric) was in her mid-teens, but you know, vampire - with all the bloodsucking and very adult behavior that can entail. She was as shallow as a trashy fifteen-year-old can be, vain, selfish, etc., and quite young for a vamp - only about 30 years on the planet all told. She was a caricature of a Shallow Teen with Vast Cosmic Power, with personality based loosely on the characters in Abby's Nickelodeon and Disney Channel shows. She was a brat.

    The character for this game (Rica) is not a brat, and is in fact what we in these more enlightened times would consider to be the victim of constant emotional abuse from her mother, and neglect from her father. You see, she's horribly nearsighted, and although she has magic goggles to mitigate this, her mother will generally not allow to her wear them because they're "ugly". And then gets on her case for being clumsy. You've all seen it - in life or in fiction - an adult who constantly cuts her children down verbally. And since Rica is an only child in a medieval city where this is not the norm, she gets a lot of crap from her mother. So she has the Low Self-Image and Severely Shy Disadvantages, and just for flavor I gave her Skinny (can't eat if you're constantly afraid you'll make a fool of yourself by knocking over your wineglass when you can't see it), and Nightmares (something she can't see chasing her); coincidentally, these are usually occurring the nights she spends in her parents' house, not the barracks where she lives during the week (being on duty as a Gryphon Rider).

    So then I had a small dilemma; how is Rica going to join this adventuring party - even if ordered to do so she would not have the courage, and even the Curious Advantage and the Broad-Minded Quirk might not do the trick. So I had to put the question in her mind - was she really as bad/stupid/ugly/clumsy/useless/poor-husband-and-social-climbing-bait as she'd been told she was all her life?. Best way to create that seed of doubt in a shy fifteen-year-old girl? With a kind seventeen-year-old boy, of course.

    So I did. And the conversations between these two characters wrote themselves. They are over-dramatic, impassioned, as angsty as Final Fantasy 90210 VIII, and so much fun to write.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Mom needs a break... badly

    See? I can turn anything into a gaming reference.

    I have good kids. But I also have little patience for mindless noise for noise's sake. I don't mind the giggles and the sotto voce whispers; they're cute. I even like the clapping games and things of that sort, and I'm okay with endless rounds of Dora the Explorer singing ¡Lo Hicimos! at the top of her lungs or the constant stream of  iCarly shenanigans. But arguing over things that only 10- and 8-year-olds find important (who gets to be the wizard in charge of animals and who controls plants?) or even better, the tattling about such things (look, if it's not a health or safety issue, work it out. Quietly) - these things make me want to scream. The whining and the fake-crying from the three-year-old (especially when she is undernapped) are not my favorite sounds either ("wahhh wahhh. I want to plaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy". Arg.)

    And since Leanna is still getting over the Ear Infection of Doom, she can't hear how loud her voice is (and volume control is not her best skill anyway). Abby's got a cold and apparently she can't hear it either; she's Miss Shrill today. Lizzy, as noted above, has not napped and is thereby Dropping her Spoon* at every opportunity. Calgon, take me away.

    Heh, that sounds a little gamer-reference-y too. I envision a large, Orc-like creature picking up a Damsel (or more likely an Overstressed Mom) and dragging her off to take a hot bubble bath and get a massage and a mani-pedi, while the kids whine to nobody but themselves. Bliss.

    As I said, they're good kids. They have done nothing wrong; this is on me - just Normal Kid Things on my last nerve this afternoon. But soon, Hubby will be home and they can be on him for an hour, while Calgon the Caring and I share at least the bubble bath portion of that strange little fantasy. After supper. And after the dishes are done. And after they (hopefully) actually eat the fish I'm making. Wish me luck.

    *Note: for those not familiar with the phrase "dropping her spoon", it refers to that overtired state babies and toddlers and preschoolers (well, everyone, but it's more obvious with these age groups) get where they seem to be fine but every. Little. Thing. Is The End of the World. As in "la la la la la... Oh! I dropped my sppooooooooooooooooooon!"

    Literally Out of the Mouths of Babes

    Today we have a couple strange little things the kids are saying and/or doing.

    Abby will be attending a birthday party this afternoon, and she made the most fabulous card. Which is in fact how she described it. As "fabulous". Which it is. A sheet of 8.5x11 paper, white, with her name and the birthday girl's name with as many curlicues as she could fit on the page, and the legend "Haqqy Birthday". As you can see, her spelling is improving, although she still has trouble minding her p's and q's. The creation is hanging from a red eyelet trim strip so it can be hung on the birthday girl's bedroom door.

    Then, at lunchtime, I heard the following exchange:

    Lizzy: I ate my pickle all gone. That's okay; I'll grow it in my garden.
    Leanna: You don't have a garden.
    Lizzy: Of course I do. It's at the circus.
    Leanna: Um, Jenn? Is she on any kind of medication that makes her confused?

    Which made me LOL. And come to write it down. I'm sure there will be more this weekend, so stay tuned.

    Edited to add:

    Leanna: It's good I brought a coat because I have short sleeves
    Abby's Dad: I'm only wearing a short-sleeved shirt
    Leanna: Yeah, but you're an adult. With hairy arms.
    Abby's Dad: <pained look> It's not exactly a fur coat...

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Friday Night Fights

    I do. I love them. We're having our Friday game night tonight. A couple of our players are making up their characters now, those of us who have made the characters are chatting, and the kids are in their room playing some esoteric and noisy game. There's chicken stew simmering on the stove-top, chicken legs roasting in the oven (for the kids, who dislike the stew), and brown rice staying warm. There are good friends, good food, and good fun. It's homey, gamer-geek style.

    This game should be fun. We have a Gryphon-Riding Skirmisher, a Knight of the Church, a Cranky Mage-Soldier, the Otherwordly and Mysterious Fighter, a Shapeshifting Assassin, a Pinocchio Stone Golem, and an Orcish Warrior. We're playing in a fantasy universe, set on a worldlet - a continent floating in space (air and gravity provided by magic).

    So we ate dinner. Mental Note: Kids need to eat before the adults if at all possible. And at the table (or at the outside table on the porch once it's warm enough). They get entirely too excited having a picnic on the floor, and their respective parents - hell, all the adults - get short on patience with them. Also, the chaos increases the feelings get hurt more easily, and even people calling on the phone get confused by the noise. Misunderstandings happen. Nothing serious, but it's a learning process - all the things to remember - the crock pot for some Fridays, feeding the kids first, trying to stay on the game topic instead of random musings about, say,. the price of tea in China. Or the relative merits of assorted Saturday Night Live skits. ("I'll take The Penis Mightier, Trebek.") The Land Sharks were in a different game, with the same group. Or were they Mystic Landbugs with their own Twitter accounts?

    See how easy it is to get off track?

    Anyway, we're a bunch of Gamer Geeks with budding Gamer Geek Kids (who prefer the electronic RPG to the pen-and-paper). And since G did not bring his Kung Zhu Pet and they do not currently have any DS games in common that they can play together, they were forced to use only their imaginations! And of course, the pens, paper, crayons, princess crowns, foam swords, and a zillion other props. Heaven forbid!

    The 8yos are allegedly cleaning up the kids' room now. I say "allegedly" because, well, you know. They're eight. And Abby is extremely Cinderella Syndrome right now, and G just can't stay on task at night time. And they'd rather play than clean of course, like anyone would. But trying to keep them moving in the same directions is, as they say, "like herding cats".

    Or Mystic Landbugs.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Pop (sub)Culture

    So I've been, as stated in previous posts, a gamer for about 25 years. Of the Tabletop RPG genres, I've played 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons once. I've played various GURPS settings, Shadowrun, Earthdawn, assorted Old World of Darkness games, Rolemaster, and Torg. I've played a bit of Champions, a couple games of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and one memorable game of Macho Women with Guns. So I've certainly played my share.

    But note above: I have played D&D once. And it was 2nd edition. I have also played a number of D&D video games - Temple of Elemental Evil, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate - in a very desultory fashion, usually in trying to reproduce a bug so I could know what I was talking about when writing FAQs. And I read several Dragonlance novels as a teenager and young adult.

    So when I came into possession of the first six books about Drizzt Do'Urden, one of the very few Good Drow (not always nice. Good does not equal Nice. But he's Good), I decided to read them. I was very surprised by how much about the Forgotten Realms (the setting in which the Drizzt books take place) I actually knew already. I knew who Drizzt was, in basic terms. I knew what Drow were, and the basics of their racial makeup and social mores and magical systems. I knew about their city of Menzoberranzan and the basics of its political structure.

    How did I pick all this up? Osmosis from hanging out with D&D gamers? (I do work with a bunch of them, and I've often played other games with them) References in other works? (I did spend a while perusing Order of the Stick and buying things like this infant bodysuit). Just general knowledge of High Fantasy and its ilk? Who knows? But for me, facts like that are pop culture. Just a smaller culture than Mainstream American

    Favorite Places on the 'Net

    So in yesterday's post, I mentioned one of my favorite web sites, TV Tropes, in passing. It's a wiki site, detailing the tropes - that is to say, the storytellers' devices and archetypes and so forth, commonly used in any number of media, from literature to video games, sometimes even in real life. I love it. I use tropes from this page to describe TV shows, favorite books, my kids, you name it. I use them in my own writing of character backgrounds (the character I'm making now may fit several tropes - for instance she may appear to be the Distressed Damsel, but will probably Gain a Level in Badass for a Crowning Moment of Awesome, and bring out her own brand of Waif Fu.) They're all in there, all those plot devices, MacGuffins, archetypes and character alignments, just waiting to be written in yet another form. I can't wait!

    A few other Favorite Places on the 'Net? Well, aside from the usual ones everyone and their brother knows, and the list of blogs on the right, I like:

    BabyCenter Momformation
    (where professional Mommy Bloggers do their thing)

    Big Fish Games
    (where some of my favorite sharing-with-kids games come from)

    Google Wave
    (where yeah, I get that it's (sort of) going away, but in the meantime, it's the best gaming tool ever)

    Do you have any favorites aside from the usual? Note them in the Comments.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Frustration on All Sides - but it's a Good Thing

    As I've said earlier, I'm replaying Final Fantasy X. And it's been great, but I'm very frustrated with the final boss; I've tried beating him several times using assorted strategies and it's not happening. I may need to level but I'm ready to be done. I've played this game through before so I do know the ending (I've even explained it to Abby in 8yo terms). I'm going to start FFX-2 so Abby and I can play together some more, and I'll just keep my FFX save games so I can go back and watch the end of the game later.

    In the meantime I felt like blogging, and Abby was begging to play a game on her own. She doesn't read quickly enough to play any of the Active Time Battle games, but she's really enjoying Final Fantasy in general. So while I write this blog, she's playing Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, an old SNES game. And the reading in it is hard for her (words like "treasure" and "prophecy", not to mention "knight" are not in her usual reading repertoire although they are a part of her ridiculously huge spoken vocabulary), but it's fun and it's good practice in both reading and in following directions.

    In addition to knowing Final Fantasy X's story from having played it before (albeit eight years ago), I've also been reading up on it on one of my favorite sites, TV Tropes. Love it love it LOVE IT. I can (and have) get lost in there for HOURS. Love. It.

    So... please excuse me while I log off and start Final Fantasy X-2. Never played this one all the way through, although I have read up on it. Off to dress up Cute Anime Chicks in costumes that turn them into Kick Ass Cute Anime Chicks. Bye...

    Editor's Note: With such observational gems as "Wow, mom, Yuna's not really so shy anymore huh? Lookit that dress!", I think we have a hit.