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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homegrown Therapy

Continuing yesterday's theme of Curing the Wintertime Blues, I've gotten some stuff accomplished today, and it does actually make me feel better. Yesterday I wrote a note explaining what was going on to my instructors. This doesn't actually affect my grades if I screw up (as it shouldn't), but the mere act of acknowledging the problem to them mitigates the problem somewhat too. I ordered a full-spectrum desk lamp, which helps as well... again, I don't have it yet, but just doing something about it helps. Also, last night Abby made me a snack and a card while I was putting Lizzy to bed. That sort of thing helps a lot. The Hubs cleaned our bathroom. And there's no discounting how helpful that is.

So, back to today. I took the garbage out, and I took it to the furthest Dumpster we have so I could get a little extra time and exercise out in the fresh air and Vitamin D. I caught up on homework so it's all ready to go for the next due date. I wrote a bittersweet short story and the catharsis thereby helped. I folded some laundry. I did the dishes. I did some grocery shopping (full pantry again... always useful). I'm running out of energy again here, but I may get to the vacuuming today... it's hard to say. More likely tomorrow. If nothing else I'll pack a lunch for Abby for school tomorrow, and lay out everyone's clothes tonight.

It's slow going, and nothing but spring will actually cure the Wintertime Blues. But at least - with the help of my family - I can mitigate the symptoms.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Typos

I've always found the weird little unusual things to be more interesting than the big things that are supposed to happen, with illness or medication or whatever. And today, in the depths of Winter Blues as I have been for a bit, I realized... I'm not your (stereo)typical (seasonally) depressed person. I don't get all that weepy. I'm certainly not suicidal or wanting to hurt myself in any way (unless one counts Too Much Chocolate as self-harm). I'm just kind of unremittingly tired and finding it difficult to concentrate. Which is why I've been writing this blog post all day, between other tasks like schoolwork and job hunting and folding laundry, because I can't seem to just sit and do all of one task at a time.

And then I noticed something else. The spell checker on my school's website is catching a lot more errors this week and last than it did before. I'm finding a lot more becasues and tehs than usual. When talking to a British friend last week I had to go back and change the word mom to mum six times before I got it right (and I just now wrote write instead of right and had to go back and change it).

Strange little quirk. I imagine it has to do with the concentration issue because I'm on autopilot. But it's interesting, no?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A New Favorite Book From An Old Favorite Author

In the year and more I've been writing this blog, I've written one book review. And even that one was only half a post. I've written about books, several times, because books are very important to me, but only the one actual review.

I've been a fan of Diane Duane for years. I started reading her Star Trek novels 25 years ago, when I was a teenager, and her Young Wizards (and companion) series a little later. These in my opinion are possibly among the best examples of books that can be read by children (and are usually housed in the Young Adult or Teen sections of the bookstore along with a lot of other good fantasy, but I digress), but hold the interest of adult readers as well. Diane Duane is the best author at writing non-human intelligences (except maybe Neil Gaiman) I've read. Her non-human characters don't think like us, but are still intelligible enough for the reader to follow. This is a rare skill in an author, and one I try to emulate in my own creative attempts.

I received A Wizard of Mars, the ninth book in the series, as a Christmas gift and re-read the whole series. And loved them again. These books are always on my re-read shelf, but not so repetitive as to be on my comfort-food-of-literature shelf. So there I was, having completed all nine books of the Young Wizards again, and wanting something new to read by the same author, and I looked her up on amazon.com. Glory be, there's a new series, the first of which is already out in mass market paperback. Sign me up!

I got it in four days. I read it in two. I love it. No spoilers aside from the book cover info, but suffice it to say that it contains a number of things I love. There are sympathetic (and not-so-sympathetic) well-written characters. There's a HUGE online game (the titular Omnitopia). There are in-universe acronyms and abbreviations (such as 'cosm) that make sense through context (which just proves what a good writer she is - that's not easy without it sounding clunky). There are interpersonal relationships and corporate intrigue. And a surprise toward the end (I'm pretty genre-savvy, so I saw it coming. But it didn't spoil the story for me at all, because it was handled with Duane's usual sensitivity).

Now how in the 'cosm am I going to be able to wait for Book Two?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Taxing Sort of Day

No, not really. I just couldn't resist the pun, because we got our taxes done. We get them done rather than doing them ourselves because of the complexities involved in the his-mine-ours nature of our family and the resulting who-claims-which-kid-when bits.

It's always a little taxing, though, unless we don't take any children with us. Today the older girls are at their respective other parents' houses, though, so that leaves with with just the Lizster. She's four, and bouncy, so she tends toward loud. Given that were were at Liberty Tax Service for nearly two hours though, she did really really well. Couple of very funny moments, though, like when she asked to use their potty and the Hubs offered (reluctantly) to take her, but she wanted me "because Mama's more wesponsible". While probably possibly true, this assertion is one of those things that Mama and Daddy find a trifle embarrassing, while passersby such as other customers and tax preparers think is hilarious. By the end of the first hour I was reduced to letting her play with my phone, because the amazing array of origami creations her dad made of sticky notes was getting old. That was when she took an actual decent picture of me. I think it'll be my new profile pic on Google Plus.

And then we went to lunch, discovering along the way that Five Guys Burgers and Fries is in fact safe for Abby to eat at, because her allergy is to tree nuts rather than peanuts, and they fry their potatoes in 100% peanut oil. Nice.

Much cleaning to do in the house today and tomorrow; I have got to get this place cleaned up. It would be nice if we could find the remote control for the TV too. I am so dreading getting under the couch though.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Unusual

Generally speaking, if Abby has no school, neither does Lizzy, because Lizzy's preschool works on the same schedule as the public school district.

But not today.

Today Abby's teachers have an in-service day for grading and assessment review and training and so forth, so we got to hang around together while Lizzy was at school for three hours.

Normally we have our "us time" for an hour or so every evening (except weekend nights) reading or playing games or watching shows that Lizzy is too young for but Abby and I love. And every couple of weeks we have a Girl Scout meeting or event and we get some us time then too. Most of the time we function as a three-or-more-person unit though.

But this morning we got to do normal household things together. We did some grocery shopping. We tidied up the dining room. We folded some laundry and packed her bag for her dad's house this weekend.

It was really nice.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Growth Spurt

Five Months Ago
Miz Liz seems to be having one. She's been tired and Dropping her Spoon for a couple days. She's been eating everything in sight and asking for more. And I swear she looks taller than she did yesterday (though that may just be the low-slung yoga pants she has on).

An example: for breakfast - about 8 AM - she had a bowl of cereal, a slice of buttered toast, some fruit, and an oatmeal cookie. And a glass of milk. I'm sure Grandma gave her a snack at mid-morning. For lunch at noon (per Grandma) she had two eggs, two and a half pieces of bacon, a piece of toast, a small mandarin orange, grapes and most of an apple.

This is a hungry child.
Yesterday

In my experience this means that next week she'll be four feet tall and her shoes will be too small for her.

I'm sort of dreading it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Anniversary to Me!

No, not this anniversary. Those of you who know me in person, calm down now. You didn't forget.

Today is the first anniversary of this blog! Approximately one post a day I've written for the past year (my Blogger stats says 386 posts, so even though I've missed a few, I've posted multiples some days).

It's been wonderful. I think my writing has improved. I know my typing speed has almost doubled. And most of all... it's catharsis when it's needed. That's what made last week so hard - the inability to write anything useful.

And even though today is just a normal day... dishes, laundry, garbage (at long last! We've been disallowed for a week due to weather conditions!), school, job hunting... I feel like I've accomplished something.

I'm not done. I have more to say - and I'm sure the Gamers' Babes do too - but I wanted to mark this as a milestone.


Monday, January 23, 2012

I Love Mondays

I love my children. More than anything in the world. And now I'm going to sound like a Very Bad Parent... because today I wanted nothing more than for them to go away for a few hours.

And they did. Thank God for school.

You see, due to the Snowpocalypse (a.k.a. Snowmageddon 2012), there was much cabin fever here at Chez Gamers' Babes. On everyone's parts. Especially mine and Lizzy's. While it didn't escalate to last March's debacle-level frustration, it was No Fun For Anyone. Nothing particularly bad occurred; no blood was spilled (except when Kiki overwiggled her loose tooth) and we're all safe and sound. But boy, am I glad that's over!
Cabin Fever: Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, paranoia, irrational frustration with everyday objects, forgetfulness, laughter, excessive sleeping, distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow or dark.
 I couldn't even write.

Now today on the other hand, I was able to Get Things Done. I did my schoolwork. I looked for a job (and got some responses, unlike last week, when everyone with sense stayed home). I worked on the laundry and the dishes.

I reviewed Lizzy's report card. OMG - sooooo cute! And the only thing that surprised me is that they think she's left-handed. I'm not sure on that; she uses both hands, but I think I've only seen her use her right for drawing and for her spoon or fork. But she is only four after all. We shall see.

I renewed Abby's MedicAlert subscription. She is now covered for another year, which means that if you see my lovely daughter unconscious and you look at the flip side of the bracelet with the caduceus, call that toll-free number... they have all her medical information. And they're a non-profit besides; consider them for your charitable giving. They do good work.

I read for fun.

I took a nap.

This has been a Good Day. And any minute now the kids will come home, and now that we've all had a break, it will get even better.



Friday, January 20, 2012

Restoratives

What? Two blog posts in one day? This doesn't happen very often.

It's been a rough week. There's been snow and ice, and school snow days and cabin fever, and sleepwalking, and a lack of Abby's and my favorite Netflix DVDs (until today, yay!). There's been the usual joblessness coupled with a lack of people in offices from whom to inquire about jobs (you'd think they'd be more telecommutey here in Seattleish, but not always so). There's been the fact that I ran out of my anti-depressants (winter in Seattle, you know) on Monday, and it didn't cross my mind until today that my lovely spouse could refill them for me).

And today was the worst of the days thus far. It was full of things like, "but she said she won't like me anymore if I don't help her clean up!" and, "Tell her she can throw her own gum away, Mom said so!" One of those days, when one wants to drop the children, no matter how much we love them, down a well.

School's been good, but I could not concentrate today. I had grammar exercises to do (and yes, I did end up getting 99%, thank you very much, and the remaining point is arguable, having to do with punctuation as it does). I could not deal with the kid-nattering noise and do my grammar at the same time. So I took advantage of the Hubs being home and played with my new Windows Phone's Zune functions a bit. I bought my favorite symphony (because it's instrumental and therefore I can concentrate on words), plugged in my earbuds, and shut out the kids for twenty minutes.

It was glorious.

The chocolate Laston brought me from the pharmacy when he picked up my prescription didn't hurt any either.

Snow Day Take FIVE

This is ridiculous. I am not a fan. When the kids have a whole week off school due to snow (albeit Monday was a holiday) this is not normal. Global cooling over here in Seattleish. It's finally warming up a bit, but it's not precipitating, so the melt is very very slooooow. Lizzy and I are completely stiry-crazy (Laston's made it to work every day except Wednesday, and Abby gets outside a bit every day, but I don't want Lizzy out in that icy-wet if I can help it). We aren't allowed to take our garbage out until Monday, because the garbage truck people can't make it out here.
Yesterday Afternoon

I fully expected Lizzy to have a night terror last night; she's been getting overtired and not sleeping well, and that usually causes night terrors for her. She didn't, but she did have a sleepwalking episode last night (which is related). She wandered out to the living room, yelled, "I'm not tired!" at the top of her lungs, and went back to bed. It left me a bit nonplussed.

So we're hoping to get Leanna today; again, this depends on accessibility. Major roads are bare and wet with patches of snow and ice. Minor roads are mostly the patches of snow and ice. Leanna's half-mile driveway is apparently impassable by car, but her mom says they can walk out to the road. Job hunting has of course been slow, because nobody's been in the office if they can help it. I scraped up my three required applications for the week, though; usually it's more like three a day!

Today Noon
School has been great though. Nothing like an unseasonable snow storm to give you lots of fodder for an Environmental Science class! And I might even finish the laundry today (insofar as laundry is ever finished, that is...). I've been writing just for fun a lot too, so I have been getting stuff done; it's just that the insulated sensation is wearing thin on me here.

But as you can see, it is melting. Very very slowly.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Day Take Three

Today is snowy enough that the Hubs didn't even try to get to work. My mom lacked power for an hour or so this morning. The kids are willing to stay indoors. Abby is playing Illusion of Gaia (yes, I know that link is dead the day I'm posting this. That's the sort of thing that will happen if SOPA passes) for the first time (and reading most of the text herself, yay!). Lizzy's running around our nice cozy apartment wearing panties and ponytails, bouncing to the window (and occasionally kissing it before we can stop her) every couple of minutes to see if the snow is deeper.

I'm not a fan of snow - as you may have guessed - but this storm does have the upside of giving me lots to talk about in my Environmental Science class; this is highly unseasonable weather for us. Our typical annual snow accumulation (for Seattle proper) is just over five inches. We have more than that already... and it's still snowing. When the Pizza Hut is closed for inclement weather, you know it's bad. We're utter wimps in the snow around here... it's hilly, and the snow here is wet and slippery, and there are entirely too many people who think a) they drive better than they really do, and b) that four-wheel-drive automatically equals safety.

Credit: Lori Christopher via
woodinville.patch.com
News flash for you. It doesn't. Certainly not on the ice crust that usually occurs with Seattle snow - it warms up and melts the top layer (or God forbid, starts to rain on top of the snow), and then freezes over at night.

I can drive in the snow, but not well. I almost always choose not to. The Hubs is more willing, but as stated above, even he didn't make it in today. As I write this, the kids are getting a little stir-crazy so we're going to break for lunch. But the Pizza Hut is closed. Dang.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow Day!

It's Seattleish. It's snowing. More importantly, it's still snowing. And it's sticking.

Abby & Lizzy in the tub, 2008
I had the girls take a hot bath this morning. Abby got all the indigo boot dye off her feet. Then, after drying her hair, she bundled up and went out to make a snow fort with her friends.

Purple boot dyed feet
When she came in, the blue on her feet was from the dye, but her lips were faintly azure too.

So I served them a hot lunch (french-bread pizza and steamed veggies) and nixed her going outside again until her boots and coat are dry. She was feeling chilled enough that this did not even cause tween angst.

So far.

And Kiki came over to play (indoors!) until it's time for her lunch. They're all using Abby's Paper Jamz Microphone and it sounds rather like Indian Love Call in there, while our lovely maintenance guy is repairing... wait for it... my freezer. In this weather, yes, the freezer of all things went kablooey. He says the defrost thermostat blew, causing ice buildup in the cooling fan casing. I think. I'm no mechanic; I'm better with software. But he is, and I'll take his word for it. And he said the stuff would not be out of the freezer long enough to thaw, so I'm content. And he says he changes the defrost thermostat on freezers about once a month (the complex and most of the appliances are ten years old, after all).

Ahhhh... the lovely quiet purr of a properly-functioning freezer....

And warm children.

And the smell of wet mittens...

Thus is a snow day.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Timelessness

Although it's been established that I am a Doctor Who fangirl, that's not the kind of timelessness about which I speak. It the timelessness that comes from a snow day in a place where it doesn't happen all that often.

Seattlish is one of those places.

We generally get one or two a year, and today doesn't even count because it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the schools are closed anyway (that link may black out a couple days from now, for 24 hours, to protest SOPA. Just so you know). But there's about three inches of snow up here in the Convergence Zone, and it's started snowing again, and the kids are bundled up, and there's slush that they've tracked up the stairs by the front door, and damp mittens all over the place, and the lining of Abby's boots has turned her toes a lovely shade of indigo, and Lizzy's thrilled about being allowed to play "outside with the big kids" (I only have to open the door to hear them; they are required to stay close when they have Lil' Liz with them), and the cat is not sitting under the dining table as usual; she's curled up by the heater vent.

And this, plus our lack of "Regular TV", and my joblessness, and the fact that I'm getting all my news from Google Plus and Yahoo News and SchoolReport.org lends a feeling of being separated from the normal march of time. I'm doing my usual daily routine - job hunting (slow on a holiday), laundry (rather more socks and gloves than usual), dishes, school - but it just seems different somehow. As though the snow was blanketing time as well as the trees and the streets, insulating me from it.

It's kind of nice, really. In a timey-wimey sort of way.

ETA: And our school district has notified us that school is closed tomorrow. They notified before the day in question, and on a Federal holiday. This is gonna be a big one, I think.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Slushy Saturday

Fun day so far. It's the Hubs' day off his diet (he has one day off a week) and we had to go to the aforementioned Grocery Outlet, so we went driving down the main drag in Kenmore to see where we could eat that was new for us. This brought us to a place called Jay's Cafe. Little tiny place, standard diner/cafe fare (lots of eggs and chicken-fried this and pancakes and steak-fried that), but it's really really good food, excellent service, and both patrons and staff who are tolerant of hungry-loud preschoolers. It cannot be stressed enough how important that last bit is.

Jay's Cafe on Urbanspoon
As we left there it began to "slush" (that is to say mixed-rain-and-snow), so we hightailed it to Grocery Outlet, where we spent a lot more than I buy when I'm there by myself (Laston's a lot more... hmm... carnivorous than the rest of the family, and meat's a little spendy even at Grocery Outlet).

So now the Amazing Nate is fixing my computer (hopefully for the last time), Abby and Greg are playing in the girls' room with Lizzy, who is explaining earnestly that Care Bears are "these bears, you know, bears, and they care". Laston and Nate are discussing mechanics and electronics and a number of other ics, and I'm blogging and doing homework.

Thus is a slushy Saturday at Chez Gamers' Babes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

All About Food


Broot at Lost in a Sea of Blogs challenged me to answer some questions on food and cooking.

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
My beloved spouse at Nerdy and Good at It and I started at the same time, about a year ago. I don't really remember why.

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
I don't have a specific chef or website or anything like that, but I enjoy cooking for a group of people with assorted dietary restrictions - it's a challenge!

ETA: It has been pointed out to me that my fangirl crush on Alton Brown may count as a "foodie inspiration" but I maintain that he doesn't inspire me to cook, precisely; I just find him admirable (and nerdy-hot) in general.

3. Your greasiest, batter – splattered food/drink book is?
Betty Crocker Cookbook and The Milk-Free Kitchen. But mostly I wing it

4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
They make this spicy chunky guacamole in this hotel in Puerto Vallarta...

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

Honestly, I don't need any big kitchen gadgets. Wouldn't mind an immersion blender or an egg slicer though. Could use a new muffin tin.

7. Who taught you how to cook?
My mom, and my ex-husband (him mostly through laughing at my sad, pathetic efforts early on). Lots of trial and error, a little Food TV

8. I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?
Mushroom pot roast

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?
Really good chocolate

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I can cook, but I can't bake (except for this one self-adjusted banana bread recipe).

Finally…tag other bloggers with these questions…like a hot baked potato…pass it on!

Sara @ This Mom Has Tattoos
Tiffy @ Fat Girl in Motion
Yillup @ Yillup's Place for Everything

Well, I have three who've updated recently. Go to it, ladies!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Do Love This Place

I've mentioned the recently opened Panera Bread store down the road from me before. Because I've been sick, I've been eating nothing but chicken soup and the like for a few days, so I decided to indulge myself with the free pastry I won for signing up for their punch card program.

Oh. My. Word

This is the best cherry Danish ever.

And I also went into the store for the first time today - usually I do the drive-through window - so I could see all this nummy stuff I've been hearing about. I'm pleased to report that the people inside the store are just as great as those in the drive-through area. They know their stuff, and they are friendly and efficient. In addition to my pastry, I bought a baguette (only about sixty cents more than a similar loaf at the grocery store, and far better bread).

I knew that Panera Bread gives back to local communities, but I didn't realize until today that they give to one of my favorite charities here in the Seattle area. And at that it's one that makes sense for their product! And although they don't specifically screen for allergens, they are definitely allergy-aware and do their best to accommodate, which, as you know, is my pet advocacy.

I swear they aren't paying me to say this; I just love this store!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cookie Time!

Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of her life.

Girl Scout Cookie sales are mostly in March. But tonight Abby's troop and a few other local troops met in a local Junior High School for a Cookie Rally. I was expecting this to be a right royal pain for the adults in the equation, but it was actually kind of fun. Aside from the usual making sure that Abby eats nothing untoward, I mostly got to chat with my fellow Brownie Moms and listen to the kids learning cookie-selling songs.

All around the neighborhood streets,
The Girl Scouts sell their cookies,
Ringing doorbells, asking please,
Please buy some cookies.

To the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel, as you might expect. Now maybe I can get it out of my head.

They made signs (for the record, the cookies are still $4 a box, at least here in the Girl Scouts of Western Washington area) for their sales. Abby identified which cookies she can eat - because she likes to be able to tell other allergic people what's safe (she can have four of this year's eight available flavors (well, six, but she doesn't care for the peanut butter (peanuts do not equal tree nuts) ones)).

So, Dear Readers, spend the next few weeks girding your loins for Cookie Season. And support your local Girl Scout - they help people (and have some fun!) with the cookie sales.

ETA: And... and (this is very important). Lizzy went to bed for her dad while Abby and I were gone. You people have no idea how freakin' huge this is!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Parents of Preschoolers...

... are the adults you see around town muttering letter sounds to themselves. Today's Letter Sound of the Week  at Lizzy's preschool is M - as in Mmm Mmm Monkey and Mmm Mmm Mint.

Our toy mmm mmm monkey is missing his tail. We don't have any fresh mmm mmm mint. Everyone else was likely to bring mmm mmm Mickey mmm mmm Mouse for Show and Tell on Mmm Mmm Monday. So Lizzy brought me the little Santa Claus ornament she got for Cwiss-a-muss. "I want to bwing this Santa for Mmm Mmm Monday."

"But Santa Claus does not begin with the Mmm Mmm sound, Lizzy."

"This one does, Mama. It's a Mmm Mmm Musical Santa."

So she took it to school, and I found myself in the Grocery Outlet, muttering things like Mmm Mmm Macaroni and Sss Sss Spaghetti Sss Sss Sauce. Not to mention C is for Cookie.

This is also related to yesterday's conversation wherein it was established that Lizzy is terribly indignant that swans and "gooses" look "a lot the same" in ABC books. How can the authors of such books expect small children to know the difference between Swans and "Gooses" just from the first sound? The nerve!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What am I, Four Years Old?

I ask, because I have an ear infection. Not a sinus infection; those are still in abeyance since the Tooth Extraction of Doom, thank goodness. Not bronchitis or pneumonia. Not strep throat. All of those are diseases either commonly associated with adults or with people of all ages. But bacterial otitis media is mostly known in babies and small children, or at least so it seems. It has something to do I believe with longer Eustachian tubes in older children and adults, so they don't get crammed full of gunk and infected as easily as in people with short tubes.

But then I look at my actual four-year-old and I think naahhhh... because children that age are strange. She can lick her own nose. She thinks the Indians took the Pilgrims out to lunch. She refuses to believe her name begins with E (even her full name) because it "stahts with the L Sound". She corrects me when I say "pain the the neck" because "gwownups is sposta say 'pain in the ass', mama".

So here I am, brain the size of a planet, 43 years old, with a fever, an earache, and dizzy spells. I'm not all that sick; I just feel yucky from the fever, really. So ladies, if Mama Jenn is a little cranky tonight, cut her some slack. Kthxbai.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Scary Name, Minor Problem

Lizzy has had a rash around her mouth for a couple of weeks now. At first I wasn't too concerned, because the child can (and does) use her tongue to "wash her face" - and it's scarily flexible. She can get it all the way up to her nose and down to her chin. Impressive, but disgusting, like Abby's party trick of literally putting her foot in her mouth.

But it's getting worse, so I was worried about it developing into impetigo or thrush (which she had as a nursing baby) or God forbid allergic eczema (which was the first symptom of Abby's severe nut allergy). That last was my biggest fear - with a half sister on the one side with severe allergies, and a half sister on the other side with asthma, she's pretty high risk for such things. So I took her to the pediatrician across the street, who diagnosed it as something that gave me just a momentary heart attack, until I realized what the words meant.

Lizzy has salivary dermatitis.

Sounds awful, doesn't it? But like some other medical terms Abby and Lizzy have encountered in their young lives, it's a very fancy name for a very minor problem (as I write this, Lizzy is jumping up and down, shrieking, "salivawy duhmatitis!" over and over). It's the same thing that teething babies get on their chins and chests from all the drool; the reason we put them in bibs even when they aren't eating. The core issue is that she licks her lips too much.

Solution: get her to stop doing it. Then we have another problem; most treatments that taste foul enough to stop her are also not okay to ingest. So we go the middle route - instead of making it taste terrible, make it have no taste at all. Hydrocortizone cream twice a day (after tooth-brushing) and this baby brand of lip balm, which is completely unscented and boring. And constant reminders to not lick her lips.

We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Good TV for Powerful Girls

We're working on Healthier Choices at Chez Gamers' Babes in the New Year. One of these is all-veggies-must-be-eaten-before-second-helpings-of-anything-else, one is homework-and-active-stuff-first-and-TV-later, and one is no-TV-while-eating. In the past five days, even before they went back to school yesterday, this cut down on our screen time a lot. And I had a little fairly-quiet time to think on what Abby (9) has been watching. I've come to a conclusion, and it's this:

While there is good American TV for "tween" children, Australian, UK, or Canadian TV is consistently better as a class.


At least with those choices available on Netflix. I'm not talking about what we call "baby shows" here; the preschool TV we watch is usually pretty good. I'm talking about shows that are clever while not being nasty, are actually appropriate for the age group at which they are marketed, and while funny are also decently respectful - without too many off-color jokes or suggestive gestures or graphic violence.

We started this tween TV thing with the Nickelodeon show iCarly, which is aimed at girls ages 7-14, although the characters are between 14 and 17 as the show progresses. iCarly is fine (at least in the seasons we've watched - the first three); the suggestive jokes go right over the kids' heads, there's never anything more sexual than kissing, and the violence is very slapstick (and even my little one gets that). However, the Adults Are Useless trope is in full effect, except in very few episodes. And iCarly led us to Fred: The Movie, which is not acceptable in our household. At all.

It also led us to assorted shows from Disney. Disney is interesting. As a rule, the animated choices (at least those available on Netflix) from the House of Mouse are acceptable; our favorite is Phineas and Ferb. It's clever and cute, and the violence is both cartoonish and slapstick. And it's Disney, so at least one catchy tune per episode. But every single Disney live action TV show we've seen (not so much in the TV movies we've seen), there is no respect shown by anyone to anyone (although because it's Disney there is usually an "Awww" lesson at the end of an arc). The adults in our house do not like this.

Now, on to the good stuff. I'm mostly talking about Abby's age/interest group here; Leanna is the next group up and interested in different things, and Lizzy is still in the preschool demographic.
  • Avatar the Last Airbender, Jackie Chan Adventures, Ruby Gloom, Teen Titans, Powerpuff Girls
    • They all have very strong - and varied - female characters - Katara and Toph, Jade, Ruby, Raven and Starfire, and the titular Powerpuff Girls.
    • They are either shaped like regular human beings (as opposed to Barbie dolls) or are so cartoonish that it's obvious even to the 4yo that they are not "real people shapes".
    • They have either real-life lessons that do not (generally) seem too forced, or the stories are told in such a way that a child of the intended demographic can extrapolate the lesson or theme (teamwork, equality, friendship, love, etc)
  • Anything from Australian producer Jonathan M Schiff - we've seen H20 Just Add Water, The Elephant Princess, Wicked Science, and Ocean Girl
    • These are more teenage shows, as in some of those shown above, with a whiff of the arcane/magical. They have the usual high-school kinds of plots, with the mermaid/teen genius/magical princess twists that make them more interesting. 
    • Even though there are plenty of the Mean Girl or Pop Star plots (and a lot of bared midriffs), they are somehow more wholesome than most of the offerings from Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel. It may be simply an intrinsic difference between Australian and American TV.
    • Strong female characters, good and bad, with believable motivations
    • Australian shows of this type don't seem to be as obsessed with body shape as American shows do. Some of these teenage girls actually have hips, for instance.
  • Classic Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror Comedy
    • Star Trek (original and animated). Sure, they're sexist as hell, but they made for good discussion fodder. And they were pretty obvious as far as other prejudices go. Most of the newer stuff is too mature for Abby
    • The Addams Family - suits my Perky Goth down to the ground. They are a loving and supportive family in spite of their weirdness.
    • The Sarah Jane Adventures - this one is newer, but it's a family-friendlier take on the Whoniverse, which is older than Star Trek. Strong female characters. Older-but-still-lovely-and-competent female characters even. And we may be able to watch some OldWho, but she's too young for NewWho's darkness.
So there you have it, folks, a review of What's Good on TV. Have fun with the links

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Wait?

Really, why wait until Saturday when I'm feeling so much better today? I mean, yesterday was tough; there was rent to be paid, jobs to be rejected for, not enough sleep having been had, winter in Seattle to experience, etcetera, ad nauseum. It's enough to make the most cheerful person (that's me, and don't you forget it) morose.

So we still have the weather issue, but the rent is paid, the rejection is a day further in the past, and I turned out the lights before midnight last night. And - most importantly although I hadn't realized it was bugging me until it wasn't an issue any more - my pantry (and my freezer, fridge, and fruit bowl) is now full.

This is huge. It's not that it's comfort food, precisely; it's that the food is all here, handy and ready to go at need. It's that I have a choice between oranges and pears, and that I don't have to cajole the kids into eating things they hate because it's what we have on hand. It's because I went to Grocery Outlet and got canned and fresh and frozen produce, and dairy and meat and cheese and bread and cereal and snacks and all the extras like paper towels and everything else, that I filled up the trunk of my car, for under $75. I got sopping wet hauling it all into my apartment, but I'm pretty sure the savings is worth it to me when I'm unemployed.

All I need now is the few things they didn't have (or I forgot to grab), like my favorite spreadable butter, and powdered dishwasher detergent, and table sugar. And the stuff my mom got at Costco yesterday (I dont think I'll have to buy my own juice for a month). The rest is done.

That always makes me feel better.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Up, Down, Up, Down

I'd say I have not gotten over my holiday fatigue. I'm absurdly emotional, with equal likelihood of tears given to the good (my mom got me a bluetooth earpiece to go with my new Windows Phone and a jar of my favorite vegetable just because she loves me! A friend said I'm a good person! My husband told me I'm intelligent! People are trying to help me get a job! I get to use a cause near and dear to my heart in my Research Writing class!), and the bad (still not employed, and rent is due, and I'm feeling worthlessly non-contributory, and I'm feeling personally rejected (yes, yes, also absurd) after job-hunting for nine months).

I imagine that this is in (large) part because I stay up Too Damn Late ever since oh... Thanksgiving, watching TV and folding laundry and doing online job searches and playing games and reading and munching (and no, I'm not pregnant - even leaving aside the permanent form of birth control we initiated during after Lizzy's (surgical) birth, the timing is wrong). My very diurnal system is quasi-nocturnal at the moment and that can't be good for me. I'm not really an early bird or a night owl; I'm more of a midday kind of person. 9AM to 3PM is generally my best time of day.

So what I need is to:

  1. Jump back on the healthy food choices and portion sizes bandwagon, which is already initiated; I can't go low-carb like my spouse because I have food allergies and sensitivities that won't permit it, but I can go lower-carb, as in tonight's meal; we all get pork chops and salad, but I'll make a bigger salad for me and eat a lot less of the rice I make for the kids than I would otherwise.
  2. Get to bed earlier; this should be easier because school starts for the kids tomorrow, so they will go to bed earlier and therefore I will too. Also, if I have to pop a Benadryl (or two) for a night or two to get myself back on track I can do that.
I'll let you know how I feel by Saturday's post.

Monday, January 2, 2012

T-Shirts and Small Children

Today I am wearing this T-Shirt, which I purchased originally from CafePress (and yes, I did take the picture myself, while wearing the shirt, hence the slightly wrinkled look). For those who are neither gamers nor gun enthusiasts, the point is that RPG can stand for Rocket Propelled Grenade or Role Playing Game, and I (as a gamer) approve the gaming context.

But Lizzy does not know that, nor does she read yet. She only knows our role-playing adventures as Game Night. So when I put this shirt on this morning, I found her interpretation of it - "Say No to Guns and Say Yes to Dice" - fairly impressively abstract for four years old.

At the moment we have a couple of neighbor boys over, assisting Abby with her Harry Potter Quidditch Pitch Lego set (she got it for her birthday from her Aunt Laura). Their interpretation of the T-shirt was amusing, because they wanted to know why it's not cool to have both - after all, some of the RPGames have RPGrenades in them, don['t they, Abby's Mom?

Well, yes, they do. We as a rule do not play those games, however, because at my house, I have decreed my kids too young to do so (these boys bracket Abby in age, but that's up their parents; they're not my kids and so it's not my say... except when they are here playing with my girls).

Interesting dichotomy. I wonder how much of it is the gender of the kids in question.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Quiet Geeky Parties

Our annual NYD potluck and game day was scaled way down this year; we invited a lot fewer people than usual (through lack of space and funds). So we had a couple of neighbor kids early in the day and one couple and their kids later on. We don't see these people nearly often enough (they used to live downstairs but have moved a couple towns away) and so we had a blast, playing board games and eating spaghetti, mostly. The kids played a simple game called "Spin Until You Drop" which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Last person standing wins.

So here it is, 8:30 not that long after Lizzy's usual bedtime, no work tomorrow; although I do have school, and to help my mom with storing her Christmas decorations and possibly bringing leftover spaghetti sauce to a friend whose husband is in the hospital (because as always we cooked for an army but a small platoon showed up). Tasty sauces, too... one meatballs in red sauce, one veggie (mushrooms, onions, and artichoke) marinara, and one chicken-and-celery-in-cream-sauce.

Right now the dishwasher is running, we're watching a "baby show" and then I'll put the kids to bed about an hour late, each. A nice quiet evening.

And the house is still mostly clean.