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Thursday, December 27, 2012

All I wanted for Christmas...

...I got.

And then some.

I was really pleased with what we and others got the kids; a lot can be done with gift cards when you're creative. Leanna's nature-themed books and geodes and kits, Abby's Who-themed or "dark" books and novelties and toys, and Lizzy's princess doll ("because gwownups don't call me pwinciss") and a gazillion puzzles and duplo blocks.

We got my mom her yearly gag gift (we don't formally exchange gifts among the adults, but the can of Original Nalley's Chili is traditional for Christmas, Mothers' Day, and her birthday; it's all she wanted to eat while pregnant with me lo these many years ago).

I got the Hubs a book on paper mechanicals and the electronics to move them, and Santa brought him fun snacks and jambalaya mix.  The kids got him gift cards for his online game. He and the kids together got a crystal-growing kit so they can "do science". Fun things from his brother and sister-in-law too - a puzzle that makes me cross-eyed just to look at. And my mother and I gave him a break from the crowds of people that are my family for several hours on Christmas Day.

He got me some pretty steamclock-punk jewelry and the Christmas Special for Doctor Who and a used copy of an old favorite video game I sold long ago. I got the other one with a gift card given me by his brother and sister-in-law. My lovely friend Amie from France sent me a pretty card with a wooden ornament and a  Who photo signed by David Tennant (she just returned from this convention across the Channel).

As I said above, we don't exchange gifts among the adults on my side of the family. But we do get handed-down tech from my sister and brother-in-law when the holidays bring them newer versions. So I now have a lovely Kindle Keyboard which I am so enjoying. And I got to write a guest post for my friend's blog, which was both flattering and fun. I'll link it when he releases it.

But probably the most useful thing I got for Christmas was a job. Collections, which I may or may not enjoy - I'm not terribly thick-skinned, but I have centuries decades of customer service experience - and the pay is very low for the first month because the turnover is so high in jobs like that. But after that it becomes base plus commission, so if I can keep firmly in mind that any upset people are not upset with me specifically... I should be fine. I might even like it. And it's less than a ten-minute commute, the perfection of which cannot be overstated.

So I expect to spend the rest of the day recovering from too much dairy over the holiday, doing laundry, and packing Abby's bag for her dad's house this weekend. Allons-y!

Monday, December 24, 2012

And to All a Good Night...

...we can hope.

Dinner was - as is usual at these things - super yummy. Chicken breast and whipped sweet potatoes and a broccoli casserole and salad and fruit salad and my mom's homemade rolls. It was a rough week for some family members - one just had ankle surgery and another has a kitchen remodel - so they purchased rather than made their shares. We brought +Laston Kirkland's Diet Coke, and eggnog and soy nog and southern comfort (because it goes well with nog) and all those little things that our lovely hostess +Cheryl Morton ran low on, like butter and whipped cream and so forth.

We've left milk and cookies for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer ("Make sure there are nine, Mommy, we can't forget  Rudolph!"), and I've resolved the contention about whether Santa should be allowed more than two cookies ("Jenn, he's magic, or he couldn't fit through a chimney, much less a keyhole"). I explained that if you figure oh, a billion households on Earth celebrate Christmas in one way or another, and each household gives him two cookies, that's two billion-with-a-b cookies. Not good for anyone. I could just see Abby-the-Whovian thinking about a Slitheen in a Santa skin, so I left it at that.

And now the children are nearly snuggled in their beds (although not asleep; they're watching A Barbie Christmas Carol), and the Hubs is trying to unwind (at his computer, natch), and I've vacuumed (which is more or less fruitless at Chez Gamers' Babes, with the cheap apartment carpet and all. But I tried). The new-fallen snow is grey and damp fog, and Santa uses a keyhole here as we have no chimney.

But to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pageants and Hobbits and Presents oh My

Lizzy the Red Nosed Reindeer
Lizzy's preschool program for the holidays today. A large group of three-to-six-year-old kids, singing songs for Christmas and Hanukkah in English and Spanish, dancing, etc. And then Santa came and distributed candy canes and the kids had a feast. We didn't stay for the feast this time; Grandma took Lizzy and Abby out to lunch (at Wed Wobin, natch) and the Hubs and I went to the movies. It hadn't occurred to use that the movie theater in the mall parking lot was perhaps not the best move this time of year, but really we had no trouble, not even in the food court where we went for lunch. I suspect the school district in which the mall lies is not out for holidays yet.

HERE THERE MAY BE SPOILERS.

Radagast
And the movie? Oh. Wow. The Hobbit was one amazing movie. A tiny bit confusing at first because the framing device includes bits from The Fellowship of the Ring book. I've read a few reviews that view this expansion of the story - tying in back-story from other books set in Middle-Earth - as a detriment, but I didn't think so at all. I find it helpful in understanding what's going on, and it also means that characters with only bit parts or mentions in the original story (like Radagast the Brown) are played to the hilt here. And then (aaaaaannnnd THEN) Sylvester McCoy gets to shine. Let me tell you, Radagast (the Crazy Friend to All Animals Hermit Wizard of Middle-Earth) and the Doctor (McCoy played the Seventh Doctor) are not all that different.

Martin Freeman is perfect for Bilbo Baggins. That confused expression that's just this side of panic? I'm sure he perfected it on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Sherlock, but man, he's got every eyebrow twitch and look of mute protest down to an art form. The Dwarves were terrific; I was especially impressed with Balin and Bombur and the twins Fili and Kili. Smeagol-Gollum is just as pathetic as he was in The Two Towers, and Peter Jackson's treatment of that story was the first time I really grokked the character's split duality. Poor Smeagol.

The stories are troperiffic, of course; a fair chunk of fantasy (in the western world in any case) tropes came originally from Tolkien. This version of the story took a few of them further than I remember in the books though. Gandalf is an aversion of the Squishy Wizard trope - the guy kicks major orcish butt (well, goblin and troll butt anyway).

And the music - OMG, the music. We weren't even out of the theater parking lot before I downloaded Misty Mountains Cold on my Zune/Windows Phone. It makes my teeth ache but it is oh so good. And as one might expect from anything by Peter Jackson, the movie (the landscapes and the sets and the special effects) is freaking GORGEOUS. Or is that New Zealand? I'm going with both. Um, except for Gollum, of course. Poor Smeagol. And Azog and the Great Goblin. Ew. Nasty looking guys, both of them.


And then we got the kids from my mom and came home to three packages, two of which were from Aunt Laura for Abby (one for her birthday and one for Christmas). Yeah, my ears are still ringing from the squee uttered by Abby when she saw her birthday gift. A sonic screwdriver, with an integrated invisible ink pen (the UV light from the end of the screwdriver shows the ink). My little Whovian didn't even read the package before she identified it as the Tenth Doctor's. By color, you understand; the Eleventh's has a green light.

So all in all, it was a big day. Epic, even.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Giftwrap

It always takes rather longer than anticipated. I mean, it's not like we have tons of gifts lying around to wrap, and I figured that an hour or two before people come home from work or school would be sufficient.

I was wrong.

I managed to put everything out on the table depending on to whom it belonged, and to make sure that things were approximately even (these are children still, and they do not quite grok the concept of more-is-not-necessarily-better).

I er... arranged for Santa Claus to put the appropriate things in each stocking, and hid the stockings. You see, Santa only does stocking gifts at Chez Gamers' Babes; gifts under the tree are from adults or children to each other, not supernatural guys who somehow manage to get in without a chimney. Keyhole, perhaps?

I succeeded in wrapping the adults' gifts to each other, those which were not already open (like the Hubs' stick blender and my toaster oven), and Lizzy and Abby's gift to the Hubs before he came home from work.

I've spent the rest of the day accomplishing the usual - job hunting (those are getting thin on the ground, and UI ends for everyone on the 29th), school work, laundry. I wrote a guest post for a friend's blog at his request; that was fun. Watched some Classic Who.

Life continues, even with random things like gifts to wrap.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Children and Tragedy

I'm sure that everyone has heard about the school shooting in Connecticut by now. I - like most of the people I know - am a little shell-shocked and a lot sad and more than a bit angry. In some ways it's worse than Columbine or other school shootings because it involves small children - the under-twelve set.

Like mine.

And so when Lizzy (5) asked me why I was sad, I told her that a bad guy had hurt some children and it made me sad, and in response to her questions, dug out a Google Map of the USA to show her how far away Connecticut is from our home near Seattle. This is to reassure her - or is it to reassure me?

We got a phone message and email from our school district explaining that the children's safety is their first priority, and that if our children have heard about this they may feel some anxiety.

All I want to do right now is lock mine up safe with me, even though I know that's both an overreaction and terribly unhealthy besides.

And honestly? I'm feeling pretty damn brave for letting Abby play outside with the other kids this afternoon.

But I'm really glad that we've already planned a quiet weekend of DVDs and tree-decorating.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Old Mother Hubbard no More

Oh, I'm still old. But my cupboard is no longer bare, courtesy of safeway.com.

And that's only the door!
We started using them when I was pregnant with Lizzy; I could no longer fit behind the steering wheel in the last couple weeks. Not and still reach the pedals. And while the delivery fee is fairly steep ($12.95 for a one-hour window), I can usually save that much in not-impulse-buying and not-taking-kids-who-whine-for-fruit-snacks. Certain delivery windows are also three or six dollars off the usual delivery charge, and this time I ordered enough to qualify for the free delivery deal. And, if nothing else, I get someone else to haul the Hubs' Diet Coke addiction up the stairs to our apartment.

And that's only one shelf!
You see, my cupboard was down to a can of tomato paste, a bag of rice, two boxes of cereal, a can of tuna, and a box of mac and cheese. Now it's full. Similar shortages were occurring in the fridge and the freezer, and with the Hubs' new stick blender (and fear of scurvy) we needed new fresh and frozen food as well. Being merely human, we cannot live on fish fingers and custard for long.

And safeway.com's specials were even better than usual this week.

So we now have meat and veggies and fruit and tea and bread and canned goods and dry goods and you name it - everything from soup to nuts (except the nuts).

And a sigh of relief from Jenn.

Oh... cheeseburgers for dinner tonight. And then tomorrow I'll have a choice of what to cook!

Monday, December 10, 2012

To. Be. Continued.

As they say instead of "next time on Doctor Who."

Part Two of Abby's birthday 2012. It's customary in our family to have a family meal - girls only - in addition to any birthday parties, preferably on the actual birthday. Also, gifts from Grandma come on these days.

Abby collects these little dolls and has for some time; until just recently they were not available online, so Grandma would get them for her in Florida. Today's offering was the Sugar Plum Fairy, which plays what you might expect and is not available on amazon.com. Also the first two books in a series called The Nine Circles of Heck; if she likes them we'll get her the others (I think the author is up to book six so far).

But the definite winner was the Dalek alarm clock. It rotates through three phrases to exterminate your sleep
  • "Exterminate" 
  • "You would make a good Dalek" 
  • "You are the enemy of the Daleks. You shall be destroyed."
We may wear out the batteries just playing the sounds over and over.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Baby Whovian Turns Ten

Doctor Who?
Abby won't be ten until tomorrow, but we had her Who-themed party today. Nine children ranging from age four to age 12, most of them dressed in fezzes and bow ties.

The Dance part of our program did not last as long as planned; at ten apparently only the girls want to dance, and about half the kids were boys. So we used Leanna's the Fourth Doctor's scarf as a limbo stick and did that for awhile, and then settled in to watch an episode of Doctor Who. Ten points to the first reader who guesses the episode correctly.

Goodie Bags
Lizzy creates a TARDIS card
Leanna and I spent last night filling goodie bags (we drew the TARDIS bits ourselves with a sharpie) with proper British sweets the good Doctor has been known to enjoy. Jelly Babies, Jammie Dodgers, and Fruit Gums, in separate little bags so as not to get shortbread crumbs in our candies. I'm thrilled with how they turned out. And nearly as thrilled with the adorable card Lizzy made Abby, little light on top of the TARDIS and all. Leanna's gift to Abby was incredibly sweet; she got a pretty handcrafted bag from a friend who had visited Peru and put together a little emergency kit, with bandaids and a notebook and pen and a little sewing kit and such. Adorable.

The children seemed to have quite a lot of fun, although during the Dancing parts of the day a couple kids got a bit squirrelly about even being in the room with all that going on. After dancing, limboing, an abortive game of Weeping Angel Tag, episode-watching, and gifts, we settled in for Fish Fingers and Custard, the Eleventh Doctor's (he of the bow tie and fez) favourite tea. As I don't expect a bunch of children to actually eat such a thing, my dear friend Carrie made us a shortbread cookie stick rolled in graham cracker crumbs for our "fish fingers" and homemade custard, along with a time vortex swirl cookie.

"Fish Fingers" and Custard
and Time Vortex Swirls
It was a good day, a good party, if rather trying in spots, as most days with a herd of over-sugared, over-excited kids is wont to be.

And then, just now, Lizzy destroyed me. We've all been speaking in Who quotes and paraphrases all day, and she asked for a small bedtime snack. I said, "I've got apples now, Apples are cool." She didn't even blink, and just shot back, "No, apples are rubbish." In perfect RP at that.

I haven't laughed so hard all day.

Baby Whovian and Friends

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Eulogy for Boxy

We got a sorta-Christmas gift today - a new toaster oven I purchased with a gift card to replace the old one. It's nice - shiny chrome and lots of dials and settings. It's over in the kitchen running its test run - the one meant to make sure all the production oils and such are gone.

And Lizzy completely melted down over me dumping the old toaster oven into the packing box to take to the recycle center/Dumpster in our neighborhood..

Because she named it.

This is unusual for her; generally it's Abby who falls violently in love with random objects like boxes from Home Depot. But Lizzy went nuclear, cried real tears and everything. Real tears are very unusual for Lizzy; I wonder if she's coming down with something, or having another growth spurt. And she begged me to take a picture of Boxy so she can remember him when he's dead.

She is somewhat mollified by me a) making this blog post and b) explaining that we can recycle Boxy so he can be made into smaller boxes.

Good lord, I've introduced the concept of reincarnation about a cardboard box.

Anyway, she's plastered up against me, sighing about the unfairness of life and poor Boxy's fate.

Please join us in mourning the passing of Boxy the Cardboard Box.


Monday, December 3, 2012

As Time Goes By...

...the junk under the couch gets more manageable.

Lizzy 'reading' at three
It used to be a ton of little crap, and it still is to some extent. But it's somehow less; there are still books and hair ties and legos (and socks; no wonder we can never find any pairs), but the incidence of Happy Meal toys and broken bits of just junk... it's far less.

Maybe it's that their shoes are finally too big to fit under there, or maybe it's just that they care more about their belongings these days. ("But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small" - and yes, that was one of the books we found under there). And we found Daddy's spare back scratcher and the extra Roku remote. But in general, it's a much smaller pile of stuff in the middle of my floor than there was the last time we did this.

Lizzy 'reading' at four
So tonight we finish the washing of couch cushion covers (and I repaired a rip) and tidy this pile away, and tomorrow while Lizzy is at school I vacuum the whole living area and get out the spot bot again, and when she gets home from school she and I plan to go through all the puzzle pieces we found under various bits of furniture (to figure out what gets saved and what gets tossed) and do (still yet more never-freaking-ending) laundry.

Add in job-hunting (I applied for seventeen jobs today, and took three company quizzes of the would-you-fit-with-our-culture variety) and school work (Yeah, still getting As!) and I am a busy busy bee.

And based on three of the five books we found under the couch, we're also Seuss fans. But you knew that.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I Rock Again

On the school front, that is.

Because I'm making A to A+ grades in both my classes, now that F&^king Algebra is done. That's right, 99.41% at the end of week 3 in the one class, and 98% in the other.

See, that's what I tried to tell everyone about the F.A. - it's not simple math anxiety here, folks; it's a bona fide learning disability.

Well, that and math anxiety.

Because now I'm back in the humanities, the only things I've done wrong so far in my classes are little niggly formatting issues in papers, apparently.

So I rock again.

Now if there was only a direct correlation between school and employment, we'd be golden; as it is, we're playing musical late fees again.

And on another rocking note, I am slowly getting the house into shape for the holidays. It's a bit more challenging thins week because my mom (read: Child Care Provider Extraordinaire) is out of town, and Lizzy's help is, um... not. But it must be done by the end of the week so the place is clean for Abby's birthday party, and then next week we'll start decorating for the holidays.

Unless I'm employed by then.