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Monday, January 31, 2011

Favorites for the Whole Family

So, I'm a gamer. And I game many many different games. But here I've listed a few favorites, old and new, from all electronic categories. Some of them my kids love to either watch me play, or "help" me play. Fun.
  • Final Fantasy series
    • Mystic Quest (when I bought myself an old SNES last year, this came with it. Abby stopped me from heading to GameFAQs when I forgot one could jump gaps of one square wide)
    • IV (I sold my PSX version when I got the DS version, which I love. This is one I can't wait for Abby to be a quick enough reader to do on her own. This must be how my dad felt when I first read A Princess of Mars at nine or so.)
    • VI (it's a favorite. I totally want it on the DS if it ever comes out)
    • IX (ah, old skool on the PSX. I heart it)
    • X (I'm replaying this now, and Abby's assistance is invaluable ("um, maybe you should hit the thing that isn't inside the clamshell") and her comments unintentionally hilarious ("wow, that Wakka guy has really big balls, huh?")
    • X-2 (replaying that next. Abby can't wait; a game where you can fight bad guys, find the lost good guy from the first game, and dress up the girls in different costumes? What could be better?)
  • Wii games
    • Mario Party 8 (at last, a game they can play themselves, and even the little one can manage some of it)
    • Epic Mickey (I got this for Christmas and Leanna especially was so pumped that I only play it when she's here, so she can see)
    • Zelda: Twilight Princess (I wanted this game when we got the Wii. I tried so hard to like it, but it's just not doing it for me.)
    • Wii Fit Plus (Fun, fun fun! For me, it's especially the boxing and the hula hoop, Laston's great at the tightrope, Abby likes the marching band drum major one, and Leanna is tops at the meditative/yoga stuff. Lizzy tries but can't hold still long enough to do more than weigh in (35-ish pounds, for the record))
  • Online/download games
    • Wedding Street, What to Wear, MyShops, and Frontierville on Facebook (I play them for a quick casual games, but I've been known to use them for reading and budget practice for Abby and color & shape matching for Lizzy)
    • Assorted games - usually hidden object puzzle adventures - from Big Fish Games (Abby and I sometimes use these in addition to reading together before bed; it's good cuddle time for us)
Anyway, there are a lot of electronic games I like, but these are favorites. And favorites I can share with my girls, which is more important to me. And this does not even begin to cover the board, card, pencil-and-zillions-of-dice, etc. games. But that's another post...

Well, Pass Me the Stupid Hat

You ever do one of those face-palms because you were just stupid? Doing something you know you shouldn't, but it does not occur to you until well after the fact that oh yeah, that might be it, huh? Gather round, children, and let me tell you a little story...

I have a mild allergy to cows' milk. I'm not talking about lactose intolerance - although that holds too - I'm talking about a nose-sniffly and eye-itchy allergy to whey and casein, the two biggest proteins in milk. I know this. I've known it for years. Many times over these years it's been okay to the point where I can manage a serving a day, so I can get my calcium, filling in with supplements and/or dairy substitutes. But often this serving-a-day is not okay, especially when other allergies - like dust, or dog dander, or alder pollen - are in force. In other words, I can manage one, maybe two minor allergens, but not more than that.

I've had a dry, tickly cough for more than a month - since just before Christmas, in fact. (I know you can see this coming, Gentle Reader). And it did not occur to me until this weekend (that's right, I've been coughing for more than 45 days, been to the doctor for it (and was treated at the time for sinus infection, and during this treatment the cough went away), tried getting more sleep, drinking more water, etc.) that it might, in fact, be all the dairy I've been eating. You see, tickly cough is caused by post-nasal drip, which is in turn caused by sinusitis, head cold, or allergies.

It likely started with Christmas stuff - French Toast, fudge, assorted fancy cheeses, green bean casserole - and it went away during sinusitis treatment because I wasn't eating yogurt or cheese while I had a sinus infection. So when the light bulb came on this last Saturday around lunchtime, I decided not to eat any dairy (with dairy proteins - butter is okay) for a week and see whether that fixed things. And that's right, 24 hours later I was able to stop taking cough syrup, stop sucking on cough drops, and not cough. Amazing.

I think I'll just say that the dairy was stopping up my brain as well as my sinuses. And reserve my dairy experiments for summer and fall, when the dust of winter and the pollen of spring are not exacerbating matters.

Update: Weight Watchers leader says that while eating an allergen will neither make me gain weight, nor stop me from losing, that the resultant feeling-icky from eating said allergen could have the indirect effect of making me want to eat more comfort food. Thereby sabotaging my weight loss efforts. Makes sense, in a roundabout, issues-with-food sort of way.

And given that I lost 1.2 pounds this week, where I've been holding steady since the holidays, I think she's got a point.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kids' Shows and Adults' Sanity

Our kids watch too much TV. I'm not really going to apologize for that; it is what it is. We have several categories of shows the various kids enjoy, some of which the parents like too. Trouble is of course that the kids - being kids - thrive on repetition and the adults - being adults - just don't want to watch the same things over and over. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the kids have a TV (DVD and VHS only, no reception) in their room, but complicated by the age and interest spread.

Baby Shows - these are the shows Lizzy likes, and considers to be hers. There are others, but these are at the top of her little list (in no particular order):
  • Busytown Mysteries (on Netflix Instant Play)
  • Blue's Clues (she has no opinion of the Steve vs. Joe issue)
  • Dora the Explorer (but never Diego; she thinks it's for bigger kids)
  • Ni Hau Kai Lan (yeah, Dora in Chinese, with whinier Companions to the Heroine. I know)
  • Super Why (but not Word World)
  • Sid the Science Kid (animated Muppets in a science-based Montessori school? Rock on!)
  • Wow Wow Wubbzy ("it's so funny, mama!")
Big Kid Shows - these are shows that Abby likes. Again, there are more, but these are the big ones (in no special order):
  • iCarly (and due to iCarly, we let her watch Fred the Movie. It was awful and we're not watching that again. Totoally not appropriate; thankfully most of it went over her head)
  • Wizards of Waverly Place (and pretty much anything with Selena Gomez)
  • Teen Titans (especially Raven)
  • Powerpuff Girls (especially Blossom)
  • Jackie Chan Adventures (especially Jade)
  • Assorted other shows - Danny Phantom, Ben 10, Fairly Oddparents, Spongebob Squarepants, Samurai Jack, Ninja Warrior, et al - that spend a month or so on the Hit Parade and then drop off. Does anyone else sense a Girl Power theme in the five shows she really likes?
Everyone Shows: most of these are shows that all of us like, but those on Animal Planet and a movie or two, are those that Leanna introduces to the younger two on the weekends she's here:
  • Phineas and Ferb (because Laston practically is Phineas grown up!)
  •  Dragon Hunters (French anime-style cartoon)
  • Assorted Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks movies
  • Animal Planet shows, Born Free, etc (Leanna is our wild animal SME)
Grownup Shows: these are mostly shows we like that the kids will sometimes watch:
  • Sesame Street (yes, I do like it better than the kids do. So what?)
  • Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (yay Marvel!)
  • Young Justice (yay DC!)
  • Wheel of Fortune (Abby: "it's like hangman, mom!")
  • Food Network Challenge (Abby: "that's the one with the cool cakes!")
This list makes it sound like the TV is on all the time. It's not. It's on a lot on weekends, but only an hour or so on weekdays as a rule. If someone is home sick all bets are off of course, but generally speaking it's 60-90 minutes on weekdays, and more on weekends. We are finally getting to the stage where the youngest can play with minimal adult supervision though, so the adults can reclaim the living room TV. I'm ready.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Poor kid - earaches are the pits

My stepdaughter, Leanna, is prone to ear infections. Even at ten she's still getting them more frequently than usual. They're not life-threatening, or even hearing-threatening, but they are seriously painful in a child that old, like most things (remember how chicken pox or tonsillectomies are always worse the older you are? Like that).

And this time? The oral antibiotics weren't working, so they got some topical drops to go with. Those didn't make a dent either; her ear is still all swollen and pus-y and not draining. And it hurts. So much so that they ended up in the ER tonight. And her mom called to give me an update and Leanna's crying because it hurts so much... but they've just given her some serious pain medication (Vicodin, I think) and numbed her skin up so they can inject antibiotics, because the orals and topicals (and Tylenol for pain) are not doing the trick. And on top of feeling awful and hurting, the poor kid is afraid of needles.

So, anyone out there reading? Please send best wishes to ten-year-old Leanna. She could use the support, even if she's unaware it's happening. And I know her mom and her dad (and her stepmom!) could use a good virtual hug too. Thanks.

Character creation and music

I love writing character sketches for our assorted games. At the moment we're playing GURPS, and my character is a skinny, blonde, shy young gryphon-rider with no self-esteem to speak of because her mother is emotionally abusive and her father is emotionally and physically absent. This is a challenge for me to write - much less play - because while I have my moments, shy is not an adjective I'd use to describe myself under most circumstances. The rest of it does not apply either; about the only thing this character and I have in common is bookishness. So it's a stretch, and that's fun.

But to do the stretch, I need music to get me in the appropriate mood. In other games this has been simple; I've played a Life Mage (Rhiannon and a number of other "witchy" tunes), a vampire (Died in Your Arms Tonight, People Are Strange, etc.) and a Spirit Mage (Riders in the Sky was a particular favorite). But these were all characters in a modern setting, so contemporary music was appropriate to get me there. Or old folk tunes that were appropriate on a topical level. But this game is set in what amounts to a medieval European city. And while my character is complex and has a number of neuroses (Disadvantages like Shyness and Low Self-Image and Nightmares), she's not crazy enough to use, say, Bedlam Boys as inspiration. A puzzlement.

So I had musical themes on the brain while driving Abby to her dad's this weekend. And I realized afresh how eclectic her musical tastes are. We listened to, sang along with, and danced as well as possible on the freeway at 60MPH to such varied genres as ballet, punk, rock, pop, disco, filk, folk, children's, Broadway, hip-hop, and J-pop. Abby can segue straight from Swan Lake to Dead Man's Party without missing a beat. Chubby Checker to ABBA to Puffy Ami-Yumi? No problem. Her latest craze is Yuna's dance to The Hymn of the Fayth from Final Fantasy X. Sometime this weekend I'll have to write down the lyrics (they can be found on the web in Romanji) in "words I can read" (aka "phonetically") so she can "pretend to be a Summoner".

What else are gamer moms for, if it's not transliteration of Japanese lyrics (written in Romanji) to a video game theme into American English phonetics?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Night Game: Lessons Learned

  1. On those Fridays when Abby goes to her dad's house, either:
    1. Someone else cooks, or
    2. It's a crock pot meal... because tonight we're not going to eat until 7:30 because I didn't get home until 5:45, and... you get the idea
  2. Making sure Lizzy gets her nap may ensure good behavior, but it is not a guarantee
  3. Puzzle: how to get into shy, retiring, quiet character with no self-esteem to speak of and still manage to run the household, corral the children, and feed the masses while gaming? That's going to require some quick virtual costume changes
  4. Even while gaming, reciting children's books rather than reading them is not acceptable. Even if you turn pages in the right places in the story, the 3yo knows when you are not actually reading

Men are from Mars (and I believe it)

A few things about the differences between the Man (see his blog at Nerdy... but Good at It) and the Woman at Chez Gamers' Babes:
  1.  The Woman multitasks. If she's in the kitchen putting something in the microwave, she is doing the dishes while she waits for it to cook. The Man views the minutes until the microwave dings as More Computer Time.
  2. The Man has a much higher tolerance for child-noise and bouncy behavior than the Woman does. He can tune it out until there is an actual problem, where the Woman just wants them to be quiet.
  3. The Woman spots things that need tidying or organization. The Man spots things that need repair or scrubbing. 
  4. The Man can assist children with messy art projects or explosive science experiments. The Woman can deal with a broken heart caused by not being invited to a friend's party.
  5. The Man and the Woman both read a blog post written by a mutual friend. The Woman got "aha! This is why Behavior X caused attitude Y!". The Man got "Aha! This is why Person A is not comfortable with Activity B!".
  6. The Man is intolerant of disrespect. The Woman is intolerant of unkindness.
It's generally a matter of finding a balance between things he's good at and things I am. Or things one is willing to do. He hates laundry. I hate scrubbing the tub. We divvy those. We both get really tired of the endless rounds of dishes-vacuum-tidying, so those we split. It works out, as long as everyone keeps the tasks in mind.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gamers' Babes by the letter, part 2

  • N is for Neverland and Nectarines (mom's favorite fruit) and Nuts (which Abby cannot have, because in Lizzy's words, "they make him choke")
  • O is for Oscar the Grouch and Oreos and Ozma of Oz
  • P is for Powerpuff Girls and Princesses and Pink and Purple
  • Q is for Queens (when they're not being Princesses)
  • R is for Robin and Raven and Rikku and Robots
  • S is for Starfire and Scarecrow (of Oz, not from Gotham City) and Strawberry Shortcake and Sorry! and Seuss and Spiderman and the Shaggy Man
  • T is for (you may have guessed) Teen Titans and Titans Tower and Terra and the Tin Man and Tik-Tok (both of Oz) and Tinkerbell (and Abby's last name too
  • U is for Us. Umbreallas are for non-Seattleites. Except as fashion statements
  • V is for Voice (the use of which is often the bane of our elementary school teachers... for three generations running now)
  • W is for Washington and Wow Wow Wubbzy and Watermelon (aka "the Tickle Word", but we have enough under T) and the Wonderful Wizard
  • X is (see the earlier post here) apparently for "piano-thing" and X-Men
  • Y is for Yuna and Yertle
  • Z is for Zebra, as it is for everyone else
So that's it. This week anyway; who knows what will change? Also, interesting that Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion didn't make the cut, but so many others from the Oz series did.

It's all win-win

My 8yo, Abby, is a Brownie Scout. This post is not about her. It's about her friend - we'll call her Kay - who is a Junior Girl Scout... the next age group up from Brownies.

Kay wants to earn a Caring for Children patch.  I have a younger child (3yo Lizzy) and a work-from-home Thursday afternoon. Abby will be at swimming lessons and therefore not a distraction to either the older child or the younger. So I get to provide a snack, a child to care for, and an adult presence in case of emergency. Kay earns a patch, Lizzy gets to play with a Big Kid all by herself, and I get uninterrupted work time. Sounds like a win-win to me!

My favorite online comic

Because yes, I am that much of a word nerd. 


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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gamers' Babes by the letters

In going through an alphabet  book with Lizzy, I've discovered that we have more than a few things that are not your standard "A is for Apple, B is for Bear". Because that's how we roll. Some of them are typical, of course; A is still for Animal. But many many of them are not. And some I thought Lizzy knew - like X is for Xylophone - she didn't (she thought it was a "piano-thing") . Keep in mind that Lizzy is three, and while Abby is eight, she still spells everything phonetically
  • A is for Abigail and Abby and Animals and Abacus
  • B is for Baby and Blue ("my best favewite color!") and Bad Guys and Beast Boy
  • C is for Cat in the Hat and Cookies and Cake and Carrie (our neighbor and friend) and Cyborg (although she is not convinced, because it sounds like S)
  • D is for Danny Phantom and Dragons and Dice and Daddy and Dora
  • E is for Elephant and Elizabeth (although she insists it starts with L) and Eggs and Elmo
  • F is for Friday Night Gamers - you know who you are - and Fish ("like the one and the two and the wed and the blue fwom the book, mom") and Fudge
  • G is for Games (duh) and Grapes and Grover and Girls and Gramma and Grampa
  • H is for Houses and Horsies and Hair
  • I is for Ice Cream, as it is for any red-blooded kid
  • J is for Jenn ("because that's your name, mom") and Juice
  • K is for Karry (Leanna's mom, and it totally confuses Lizzy that we know two women with the same name, spelled differently) and Kangaroos and since she does not yet grok the concept of "last name" (although she can recite her "whole name") she has not figured out that our last name starts with a K too.
  • L is for Leanna and Lamb and Laston ("that's Daddy's name, you know")
  • M is for Mommy and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet tomorrow night... and expect plenty more characters from her big sister Abby's Big Kid Shows... and a couple from Mommy's Video Games.

Sneezalies and Hickieups

Apparently Lizzy has both. I haven't heard any sneezalies, but the hickieups are pretty obvious. Where do they get this stuff?

Why yes, I DO spend a lot of time online. Why do you ask?

Is it the frequent use of "teh"? The sprinkling of assorted Web-speak in an otherwise-literate post? The blogspot, facebook, twitter, google and yahoo accounts?

For me it was two-fold.
  1.  When filling out a survey, I was asked if I was online "three times or more a week"? Um... I'm often offline three times a week. Is that the same thing?
  2. Three-year-old Lizzy has started adding the phrase "dot com" to everything. "Can you go to" or "Good night, mommy. I love you dot com." It's a little unsettling.

He's nerdy... but good at it

In fact, that's what attracted me at first, back on Yahoo Personals. Oh good, I thought, a nerd with a sense of humor that I grok. And after almost four years married (late this March), several moves of both household and job sites, and another daughter later, I see no reason to change my mind about that.

So visit my husband's blog too, over at Nerdy... but Good at It.

Strange title, wot?

I love to write. And I miss writing for a living (sorry; writing test cases and bug reports aren't quite the same thing). And so (dum-dum-da-dahh!) I've decided to write a blog. Hmm... what to write about? Well, what do I know about? I know about gaming of all sorts, crock-pot-cooking, nutrition, parenting two little daughters and a stepdaughter, Funny or Thoughtful Things Kids Say, computers, reading, writing, language, classical music, old Broadway musicals, divorce, remarriage, blended families, asthma, food allergies and sensitivities, etcetera, ad nauseum. Jack (Jill?) of all trades, master (mistress) of none.

I'm also fond of bulleted lists, daughter of an engineer and a librarian as I am. So let's take these by category:
  •  Parenting and Family: I am Jenn, 42, married to Laston, 45. We're each on our second marriage. We have three girls: His (Leanna, 10), Mine (Abby, 8) and Ours (Lizzy, 3). We get along passably well with the girls' other parents, our exes, through hard work on all four adults' parts. My mom is our primary babysitter; she's a lot cheaper than daycare.
  • Wellness and Nutrition: Laston and I are both very overweight - a hundred pounds or more each. We're working on it, but it's slow going. Leanna and I both have asthma, Abby's deadly allergic to tree nuts, and Lizzy is healthy as the proverbial horse... except that she does not sleep. Which probably contributes to Mama's overweight; no sleep = more food to keep oneself awake. But she'll get there. I know lots about nutrition, courtesy of my stepmother and lots of online research. But I don't always practice what I preach and my besetting sin is salt (mmmm... salt). I have become the crock-pot queen of late.
  • Hobbies: Both Laston and I game (board, card, pencil & many-dice, video/computer/console), although as far as video games go, he's far more of a graphics snob than I. He's a science nerd and I'm a word nerd. I am not actually fluent in any other spoken languages but American English, but I have a good accent in (Central American) Spanish, and I can usually make myself understood. I played the cello as a child and a teen, and I pick it up once a year or so and play until my fingers blister. I like to sing along to 80s rock and old Broadway tunes and dance.
  • The Kids (now in their favorite colors!):
    • Leanna: Leanna is ten ("and a HALF, Jenn!"), has started the cello in school this year, and has recently had a math breakthrough in school (5th grade). She lives with her mom and spends every-other-weekend and some holidays with us. She recently got her ears pierced and she's adorable in earrings. Out of the mouths of babes from Leanna recently: "Mom, Jenn's not a Wicked Stepmother. She does sometimes get snarky when she's stressed out though." (It's true)
    • Abby: Abby turned eight in December. She's great at math, struggling a bit with reading (very auditory; sight words are the bane of her existence), and very popular with her peers (which is both worrisome and a great thing to her parents and stepdad). She's very excited to be a Brownie Scout for the first time and she takes swimming lessons once a week. Latest OMG-cool quote from Abby, regarding the Hanukkah story: "Mom, a miracle is magic when God does it for you".
    • Lizzy: Lizzy was three in September. She's not currently in school but once our finances have settled a bit (I'm a contract employee) we'll send her to preschool. Because her birthday is three days after the cutoff, she may not get to kindergarten until she is six. She's a sweet child, quite bright I think, a poor sleeper, and she never walks when she could bounce. From her we get about a one-liner a day - most recently: "I don't want any chicken! I'm a vetwinawian!"
So... that's the summary of me and my life, upon which I shall expand in future posts. Enjoy.