Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


I am woman, hear me whine

For the umpteenth time this week I've been called "Sir," by some freaking waitron. Damn it, I am not a man! Just because I don't dress to flaunt my boobies all over the place, or plaster myself with cosmetics, is it so impossible for people to see that I'm a chick??

Ok, so I do wear my hair in a short cut, and I do like to wear my MagiNation ball cap when I'm bumming around town. But couldn't I at least be mistaken for a lesbian? At least butch lesbian chicks are still chicks.

Bah. It's enough to drive me into a little black dress and go-go boots.



Forced Vacation

Chris left today for a week in New York City. It took some applied pressure, but we finally managed to convince him not to bring his laptop with him. The poor man needs the mental break, and the chances were slim of him actually getting any work done in between visiting friends, bachelor parties, weddings, receptions, and whatever else he decides to do while he's there. Better to not even take it along, than to take it along and then be concerned with checking his e-mail, trying to handle things he's not supposed to be worrying about, and generally feeling bad because he feels he "should be" working.

This leaves me with a few things on my plate that I didn't really expect to be handling, but it's nothing I can't take care of. I feel really empowered to tackle things regarding the business. Weird that simply being *alone* during the day has such a dramatic effect.

Today I must get to Renton to check the PO Box and several orders need to go out, as well as support materials for some upcoming conventions. I'm also trying to fit in a visit with a friend from junior high school (who is passing through town), a meeting with Osseum (picking up our check in time to get it to the bank), and praying that Kate's school isn't having an early-dismissal day today (so I can squeeze a couple extra hours out of the day). Tired just thinking about it (or is that because I was up at 5:30 to take Chris to the airport?).

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Punch in the mouth

I have a good friend who, like me, can be somewhat explosive when provoked. When I knew him only through his online persona, I commented to friend and foe alike that I was going to punch him in the mouth if I ever met him in person. He's such a sweet person in person though, that ol' punch in the mouth never happened.

That's not to say we haven't had our differences. We had a royal blow-out spat last summer, in fact. It resulted almost entirely from feeling passionately about our beliefs and holding our work so close to our hearts. It's like two pretty girls who both really want to be Prom Queen. I've always wished that I was demure and centered enough to just roll with my 'losses,' smile sweetly, and not take it personally when things don't work out as I plan but I've never been that way.

It's a terrible tightrope to walk, especially when people who love you also love (most of the time) that whole-hearted, passionate, no-holds-barred approach to life that you exhibit. (As moms around the world have said, "It's all fun until someone loses an eye, and then the crying starts.") All the more so when two or more of us get all passionate, "shooting from the hip," suffering no fools, emotionally invested and find ourselves at odds.

In those times when I'm being all calm and rational and someone else is in full-on freak out mode, the compassionate caring part of me wants to soothe it and make it better. Luckily, I know better than to play with that fire, I've learned that lesson from both sides of the argument. Let it go, let it go, let them vent and calm down and after the raging buzzsaw of raw emotion has subsided, maybe we can all work it out.

Makes me think of The Reverend Horton Heat. Fire in the hole!



Full Day

Began with breakfast at Etta's, then off to the Mariner's game. Beautiful weather! The game was only a bit over 2 hours (Mariners won) but our seats were in the sun for that whole time. The stadium temperature sign kept flashing 56 degrees, but it was much much wamer in the sun. We all left a little pink on our noses and forearms, except for Kate. I tried so hard to keep from getting a farmer's tan while in Arizona, but blew it today.

I wore my nifty WWDN t-shirt to the game, and have a lovely farmer's tan to show for it. boo hoo!

After the game we hit Wasabi for happy hour sake and sushi, and then happily toddled off to join Ray, Christine, and John at R&C's place. Because Kate was along, and being a bit hyper under all the attention, Ray suggested we have a couple cocktails and throw in the Josie and the Pussy Cats movie. Perfect! We'd been hoping that Jess and Kathryn would remember to bring along episodes of Land of the Lost from their place, but (memories impared by too many Lemon Drops?) they were forgotten and will have to wait for another day.

Got zero gardening done this afternoon, but managed to fit in plenty of food, fun, and friends. Here's hoping there'll be a few more precious hours of sunshine tomorrow so the gardening can be finished before the rest of the rainy week begins.

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Got together with friends Charles and Tammie for lunch today. So very nice to see them! We used to play Ars Magica together after they moved up here from Los Angeles when Charles took a job at Wizards of the Coast, but as Chris and I started ramping up Green Ronin, we just couldn't make time to play anymore. Since we stopped playing together, we see much less of them, which is a shame as we always enjoy spending time with them.

We took the opportunity to meet out at a suburban mall that had both a Fatburger and a Krispy Kreme franchise, next door to each other. I'd never been to Fatburger before, but enjoyed finishing off Kate's uneaten burger. Their onion rings and chocolate shake also get my highest recommendation.

C&T have been working on the remodel of their house for a while, doing a lot of the work themselves. They recently finished with all the contractor-related work and are back to doing things themselves, like painting and putting in tile. I eagerly offered my services as a home improvement assistant if they want/need the help because it would fulfill my urge to have more projects without having to take on an entire renovation myself.

After we parted ways, I took the opportunity to head over to the nearby Home Depot to buy lawn and garden stuff. I've been itching to get out in my back yard again this year, but every time I've planned to go back there I've either been made a better offer, or the weather has not cooperated. I thought from the look of things this morning that the weather was going to be rainy again today, but lo, the clouds did part this afternoon and allow me a chance to give the gardening itch a scratch.

We returned home with a station wagon full of potting soil, seedlings and so on. Kate helped me by randomly pulling up weeds and digging in the dirt for about an hour, but then ran off to pet the neighbor's cat and I didn't see her again. I worked from 5:30 or so until it got too dark to work, about 8:15. Cut the grass, pulled up the herbs from the garden and transplanted them into a flower box, planted ornamental greens and flowers along the sunny-fence line, put in a lilac bush, some rhubarb, and for the hell of it planted some tulip bulbs (who knows if those will bloom after being neglected on the back porch for months!), weeded and cultivated the vegetable garden patch, etc. I definitely got a workout! I was sweating and I can already feel the soreness in my arms and back from all the pulling and digging and mowing. Felt good, though. It's a good kind of sore. I look forward to more gardening this year.

Tomorrow is the Mariners with Jess and Kathryn, after breakfast at Etta's Seafood. Monday Stan! Is dropping by. Wednesday, Chris flies to NYC and one of my junior high school friends is coming to town and wants to meet up for lunch or whatnot. All of a sudden, I'm not only busy at work but having a social schedule as well. It's fun!



Oh Poop

Not only have I had the most incredible increase in spam since I started keeping this blog but I recently learned that the people who signed my guest book have also been spammed and that the spammers used my webpage as part of their little spam blurb! Oooh, that riles me up. I'm not tricky with the web-building, I don't know a lot of ways to fool spambots or individuals who want to come harvest e-mails from my site. I'm so bummed. It's like the hackers who break into little kids' Neopets accounts. For what? To prove they can? To ruin everyone elses fun?

Here's a hint: I don't have a penis, so I don't need it enlarged. Nor do I need online viagra. Nor am I looking for your help in refinancing my mortgage, nor will I come to you to repair my credit. I most especially don't care about F.R.E.A.K.Y W.H.O.R.E.S getting it on with their fathers, brothers, or farm animals. I will not be visiting your gang bang website, nor willI be looking at jpegs of your "barely legal teens". I hate you, Spammers! I hate you with a burning hatred usually reserved for former Brand Managers of Wizards of the Coast or misanthropic stalker/rapists.

I especially hate you for ruining my fun. All I was trying to do here, you intrusive bastards, was to build an innocuous little community where my friends and colleagues could come hang out and shoot the shit, and maybe find out what I've been up to (since I'm usually so chained to some work- or child-related responsibility, I don't get a chance to actually see my friends and share with them face to face).

Thanks for intruding on my friends, in addition to ruining my fun, you spammer fucks. I hope you rot!




We actually managed to do a little gaming tonight! Hooray! Rick showed up after several weeks of working two jobs. He's a fun guy to have in the group, but a real boy scout when it comes to things like turning around to go back to do additional work 5 minutes after he left because some other guy had to leave for a trip to the emergency room from eating funky tofu or something. Kathryn also joined us after skipping out for Tupperware parties and baby showers recently. It was so much fun to have everyone around we didn't manage to get anything accomplished in the adventure for several hours because we were so busy chatting and cutting up. I just love our game group, and not just for the gaming!

Tomorrow Chris, Evan and I are meeting with a certain company about a certain potential license. Could be very cool! Fingers crossed that it goes well.

Sunday Chris, Kate, Jess, Kathryn and I are going to a Mariners game. It's some sort of kids' day where they're handing out novelty t-shirts to the kids who come to the game, so Kate will be tickled. Am looking forward to attending the game. I can hardly believe Chris agreed to come along, but am very grateful he did. He leaves town for a week starting Wednesday morning, so it will be fun to hang out before he leaves.

Monday Stan! is coming by the house for a little while after lunch. Aside from game night we don't get too many people dropping by the house, so this should be a treat. Stan! was telling me about a very cool-sounding bookstore that he recently discovered with another friend of ours, and it made me very much want to visit it. However, I'm trying to be good and not bring any more books into the house for a while, as I've been on quite the book-buying kick lately. Lots of books for me to read (or start but never finish) and even more books for Kate in recent weeks. I always over-buy books for trips I'm taking, out of fear of being bookless while I travel. I'm reading Ginger Pye aloud to Kate at nights before bed, and it's a very sweet, entertaining, old-fashioned (in the best sense) story that we're both enjoying very much.



Political parties

Apparently I'm not alone in my disgust and disillusionment with the current political parties. Well, not that I really thought that I was alone, but I did fear that my reasons for feeling disenfranchised put me in a catagory all by myself and that I might never find a group of people who see the same things the same way I do.

Wil Wheaton has a fantastic blog entry today hitting on the very points that so bother me about the Democrats, right down to the DNC survey that I also recently received. "To earn my vote, the Democrats need to offer strong, clear, different alternatives to the neoconservative agenda which is currenly driving White House policy." Right on, brother!

Another Wil Wheaton reader felt sparked by Wil's post to blog his own take on the current state of politics in the US, and why none of the parties available to us are remotely satisfactory. Coming at it from the "other side" this registered Republican manages to still hit on the same pattern of shameful pandering and political unwillingness to tackle certain issues. "No major party supports a scalable and fair tax system, none are fighting the DMCA, Sonny Bono copyright extensions, and Patriot Act, and none have a workable plan for changing our broken education system. Neither party seems interested in protecting domestic manufacturing jobs, neither feels a rush to stop spam, and no one seems interested in the damaging effects of the current low chinning bar for software and business method patents." Again, right on! I am dissatisfied with the Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians all for the same reasons this fellow outlines.

Part of me keeps wondering why, if we can all so clearly see where the political parties fail to meet our needs, why can't we come together somehow? Why, when we can see the problems is it so hard to come to a solution?

Then I remember everything I've seen happen with the vicious game industry politics ("The politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low.") and how getting even a group of ten thoughtful, experienced people to agree on the management of a game convention or the adjudicating a set of industry awards is an impossible task.

The thought of reliving those experiences on a national scale makes me want to give up the whole thing and move to a cabin in Montana or the Yukon.



One thing after another

Woke and fed Kate. Talked to her father on the phone about some school issues. Drove Kate to school. Stopped at Starbucks for a nonfat latte. Drove to Renton to check the PO Box. Gave $1 to "homeless" couple on expensive bikes, for which they were blatantly ungrateful (having accosted me outside of the post office and having seen that I also had $10, which I flatly refused to give them). Told woman I did not have any sanitary pads or tampons on me, sorry. Drove to Costco, lusted over the high definition tvs. Bought giant box of cheddar cheese Quakes. Drove to Arvey, picked up a great whack of more padded envelopes and cardboard mailers. Returned home, answered e-mail. Made a ham and cheese omlette for lunch, with Omega-3 enriched, free-range and organic eggs. Finally cut the grass and weeds in the front yard. Filled a gigantic stack of mail orders. Tore the house apart looking for the stack of return address labels I'd recently printed. Found Chris's missing Banewarrens book (so we can actually play on Thursday). Removed the bird's nest that industrious birds built on top of my back porch light (right beside the back door). Put together yet more packages for people who need products of ours for one reason or another.

I'm absolutely worn out, and still have to wash clothes (it's become desperate) and help Kate with her homework. Several number crunchy projects await my attention, but I have no brain for them tonight.

For now, Buffy.



More headache

Have a headache today. Very grumpy. Woke up well, but found a note from Kate's teacher requesting a conference about her behavior. She's not a bad kid, but she is over-sensitive and dramatic and breaks down in tears over some little thing every single day at school, sometimes multiple times a day. Her teachers have become very concerned and it's clear that my theory of letting her mature and make friends over this year has not worked. Made an appointment with her pediatrician for an evaluation. Not much else I can do until that's out of the way.

Spent the afternoon making oxtail stew, but now that it's finished, Kate doesn't want any and I feel sick from the headache. Woohoo. I hope it's good when I have some tomorrow.

Broke up a fight with some neighborhood immigrant teens who were screaming at each other and threatening to start throwing rocks in front of my house. My rep as the crazy/annoying neighbor lady remains intact. I told them that I didn't care who called whose mama a bitch, they were going to disperse in separate directions or I was calling the police. They were nearly old enough that my adultness didn't intimidate them, but backed up by the police threat, they finally left. Probably best for my temper that I don't speak whatever language they were screaming in, or I'm sure I would have heard a few choice descriptions of myself as well.

Going to lay down until this headache goes away.

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Went to see A Mighty Wind yesterday afternoon. I found it entertaining, and there were times in the theater where the audience was laughing so much that the follow-up lines were missed. The cast was excellent, but there were several times where I felt the pace didn't quite clip along in the same snappy way as Best in Show (which in turn was criticized for not being as snappy as This is Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman). Quite enjoyable nonetheless, and nice to see such a quirky, non-standard film in such wide release (it was on four screens at the theater I chose yesterday, and playing all over the rest of the city as well).

Grabbed a coffee after the movie and tried to dodge the panhandlers parked in front of every door to every venue and parking garage downtown. I'm not unsympathetic to the needs of the down and out! Far from it. But I am wary of being scammed by people who make a living standing on street corners, and I dislike being hassled for money on the rare occasions that I actually venture out of my house to enjoy the city.

Made good on my threat to call Ray, and sure enough, when we called he was all in favor of our dropping by. Christine was out with John Tynes at a birthday party/cooking class they'd been invited to, but the menu was quite seafood-heavy and since Mr. Ray is deathly allergic to seafood, he'd had to decline the invite while they went on without him. Chris and I took him down to The Ave instead, for some nice, safe sausages.

Walked over to Scarecrow Video to find something else fun to watch. Chris found a Hong Kong flick he'd been hoping to see, but it was Region 3 and our player at home is not one of those new-fangled Multi-Region players, so he gave it a pass. Ray came away with a delightfully awful vampire movie called The Vampire Lovers. Lesbian vampires, a goofy green-skinned man on a black horse, and Peter Cushing as "General von Spielsdorf" in a kick-ass flowery smoking jacket. What more could we ask? It was awful and delicious and I laughed my ass off.

Partway through The Vampire Lovers, John and Christine returned to the house and joined us in the home theater room for a while. Christine went off to bed before the movie's dramatic conclusion, but John stayed for the whole thing. I had a single cocktail (Chris was curious about this Japanese cocktail he'd been hearing about, so, ever the gracious host, Ray mixed up a few) and then headed home at a civilized hour in the hope that I'd have energy to mow the lawn this morning.

As morning is nearly over and I'm just now getting around to having coffee, lawn mowing will be waiting until afternoon.

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Went out for sushi last night with Evan and Rona. Kate's with her dad, so I have a free weekend. Sushi was good, up on the north end of Seattle where we never really go. Lots of spicy rolls, and some spicy scallops that were out of this world. It was nice to see Evan and Rona socially, haven't seen Rona since the wedding reception. After sushi, they tipped us off to a place that serves a really decadent Mexican chocolate cake (complete with fried bananas, caramel sauce, and vanilla ice cream), so we walked over and had coffee and dessert.

We also took the opportunity to look over copies of Cartographica, our new full-color map book. I really hope people like this one, but lately we've been receiving such strange criticisms of our products I'm filled with worry that we're going to see reviews that grade us down on the product because it's not in a spiral binder (of course, if it was in a spiral binder, we'd be graded down for non-standard binding and pages that could possibly tear out) or some such. It's a beautiful book, meant to serve as inspiration for the GM who needs a location to build an adventure around, or a map of a keep or tower or mine to show players where their adventure is taking place. Todd Gamble created the entire thing and really went all out. Still, I want so much for people to respond well (while fearing that they won't) that I'm going to worry about it for the next few weeks until the first reviews are in. I'm such a freakin' people pleaser at heart, it's tough when your market is the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. Link shamelessly stolen from foldedspace.org, where JD talks about CBG's recent career switch: JD's new doctor.

Woke up this morning having slept soundly and about 45 minutes longer than usual. My head is full of ideas of how I can spend my day. First on the list is definitely cutting the grass, since it's about 4 inches longer than our Home Owner's Association permits, and growing steadily. I also have a large bag of potting soil, seeds and bulbs in the back of my car just waiting to be planted. Waiting since pedicure day, in fact, so it really is about time I got to it. Would like to slip out to see a movie this weekend as well, but that might be asking too much. May end up calling Ray and Christine, our traditional "free Saturday" friends, if the roving Mr. Tynes didn't drink them dry last night.

Ah, the endless possibilities for a free Saturday!

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Green Valley

So when we last left off, Kate and I were headed for Tucson. More specifically, we were headed to Green Valley, a little retirement community a bit south of Tucson, and a bit north of Nogales on the Mexican border.

My grandparents have had a summer home in Green Valley for many years now. I first visited them there when I was about 16. After my grandmother became ill, they moved to Green Valley year round and sold their Minnesota lake home to my uncle, Jack.

It was wonderful to see my grandpa again. It had been six years since I last saw him, despite my best attempts to visit with him the last few years. He's looking good, still healthy and active and very mentally aware. He's a little skinnier, has a slight tremor and a little more trouble getting out of a chair than he used to, but for an 86-year-old guy he's extremely mobile. He's a shark at competitive shuffleboard within the retirement community. He seemed delighted by Kate's antics and spent a lot of time just watching her or listening to her gab with a big grin on his face.

On the other hand, I wouldn't have recognized my grandmother. She's been confined to full-time care for the last six years. Her face is drawn, she's lost her ability to move and speak. She recognizes my Grandpa, who devotedly visits her every day, twice a day, and greets him with a laugh. The last thing Grandpa heard her say was a some weeks ago while a chipper young nursing aide was fussing with Grandma's hair trying to style it and chatting away to her about how she couldn't get it quite right, Grandma suddenly responded, "Who cares?" I had to laugh, that's my grandma. Grandpa speaks fondly of her being a "tough ol' gal" and it's touching and heartbreaking to see them together, him holding her hand or giving her a kiss and saying "See you later, honey." He brings her a Hershey bar as a treat every afternoon, and has a boxful of Hershey bars in his refrigerator just waiting to be doled out.

My grandpa knows everyone at the nursing facility. We couldn't walk 10 feet without someone greeting him or him greeting someone: other residents, other family members or friends of residents, staff, volunteers, you name it. He volunteers with the assisted living residents once a week, and he talks with some of the other lonely residents who have no one else to visit them. My esteem for him, which was high before, is now nearly indescribable. If you click this link you will even see an image of him from a few years ago on the official website in the photo montage (that's him in the right-most photo). I am embarrassed to say that I can't recognize whether the woman in the picture is my grandmother, she has changed so much from how I remember her and has gone through so many stages of change between the woman I grew up with and the woman she is now. The woman with the balloons, however, is either a relatively recent picture of my grandma, or someone who looks exactly like her.

La Posada is a large facility, with assisted living suites, a secure unit for dementia cases, and then a full-service nursing care facility for people like my grandma who are in the last stages of their diseases. Grandma has been in hospice care for 6 months now, hanging on much longer than anyone thought she would. When Grandpa first gave in and arranged for her to live at La Posada instead of at home, he thought she'd be able to move to an assisted living apartment. He left her that evening, unpacking and putting things away, but within a few hours of his leaving, Grandma took off and they found her wandering on the road a couple miles from home. It was a staff person who had met her that day who noticed her walking on the road and offered her a ride. When Grandma wouldn't get in the car, this woman stayed with her while her daughter called the sheriff. Poor Grandpa got a call to come get her that very night. It was the first time she'd ever wandered (at their home she would stay home while Grandpa went to shuffleboard and so on, no problem) but it meant she had to go into the secure unit instead of assisted living. They moved her out of the assisted living apartment the next day. Before she lost her ability to walk, she would wander in and out of the rooms in the secure unit, cleaning and reorganizing everyone's things. Luckily, the staff attitude was "It's her house, let her clean and we'll put things back in order later."

Grandma was keenly interested in Kate. She perked up and spent a lot of time watching Kate playing or walking around (as we took Grandma on a stroll around the grounds in her wheelchair). She was always a very active woman, always cleaning and straightening her house, working in her garden, crocheting, tatting, painting, you name it. It was so hard to see her hands, crippled and clenched.

My aunt Joanne says she thinks Grandma's time is about up. Even though she's healthy, she's starting to lose weight. Her body seems to be just slowly giving out. My family isn't terribly communicative, so until last month I had no idea that my aunt Dolly and Uncle Jack had come down for a month-long visit in March, or that my dad and step-mom had taken a golf trip to Phoenix and come down to visit Grandma a few weeks ago. My cousin Connie visited with her new baby in October, and I, independently of all of this, scheduled a trip as well. Joanne sees this as an omen, as if the family has been called back one by one to say our goodbyes. I'm so glad I made this trip, as heartbreaking as it was at times. I'm grateful that Kate was able to meet her great-grandma, and see a little of grandpa's devotion to her in her final days.

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Used to be you had to wait until the 4th of July for stuff like this. If you visit this site, you *MUST* click on the CrapSale link.


Home Again

Arrived home after midnight. Poor Kate was so sleepy this morning, it was hard to get her up for school. Will post a recap of Tucson later, but for now, duty calls. Lots of work to catch up on, especially some very whiny customers who missed the announcement that I was on vacation and are unsympathetically demanding to know why I have been "ignoring" their e-mails.

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Last Days

Yesterday was Kate's last day to have fun with the kids before we head to Tucson this afternoon. We tried to make a day of it. We went shopping (because we found we needed a few more hot weather clothes as the temps reached 90 degrees yesterday), went back to the zoo and made a stop at Zoe's school. We were planning to take the girls bowling, but they started fighting in the car, so we went home for time outs instead.

After her time out, Kate was on her best behavior, hoping we'd reconsider bowling. Eventually we decided to go bowling after all, the girls had enough of an attitude adjustment. We bowled two games and then hauled our tired girls to the grocery store to pick up some things for my favorite black bean and goat cheese quesadillas. I cooked those up, and made some nachos (Kate complained that I forgot the olives) and plain cheese quesadillas for the girls. Bought some chocolate truffles to enjoy after dinner, but we went on a golf ball hunt on the darkened golf course instead.

Jim came out and started hitting golf balls around with his baseball bat, while the girls were hoarding all the balls they could find. Three girls running around with flashlights and screaming eventually attracted the attention of the country club security guard, who tooled out on his little golf cart with high-beam lights to bust us! Apparently some tightass neighbor complained about us being on the course after dark. Phooey. The guard was nice enough. Said "Ah, a little pre-Easter egg hunting?" Chided us gently, since Ashley is a resident, and sent us on our way. The girls collected (and divided evenly between them) 42 golf balls! I'm secretly leaving our stash of balls in the guest house for Sarah and her family to find when they come to stay next week.

The golf ball hunt was great fun, but we spent so long out on the golf course we ended up putting the girls to bed way after 10:00. Zoe had to go to school today! Mad was supposed to go to school too, but she was too out of it, so for the third time during our visit she got to play "Hoo-tey". (Mad's got the cutest way of speaking. All of her K sounds come out as Ts, so Kate is Tate, and School is Stool. Hookey is Hoo-tey. It's made for some interesting translations, but Kate seems to understand her perfectly well.)

Sadly, Kate woke up in the middle of the night. We've been sleeping in the same bed out in the guesthouse, so I was awakened right away when she woke up and started making gagging sounds. I said "Honey, do you have to throw up?" and she suddenly sat bolt upright! Yikes! I hustled her off the bed and got her as far as the dressing room sink before she puked into it. I managed to eventually move her over the toilet, but I had quite the mess to clean up. YUCK. So gross. Puking kids has to be one of the worst things about parenthood. She was crying "Why, why? I don't want this to happen!" and saying she wanted her Daddy, but when I got her back to bed she fell back asleep right away. She slept restlessly the rest of the night, and of course every time she moved I bolted awake out of fear of being puked on, but we had no further incidents and she feels fine today. No idea what that was all about, but I'm hoping it's nothing serious that's going to come back while were on the road or visiting any of my physically frail relatives!

Now it's time for me to hit the road. Tucson here we come.

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Took Kate on a daytrip to Sedona, Arizona yesterday. The weather was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky. The red cliffs and scrubby green trees had the effect of making the sky look like the richest color of blue I'd ever seen. Absolutely beautiful! We hiked a short trail, but Kate is so unused to any heat over 79 degrees that she wilted before we even got to the base of the big rock formation I was heading toward. I ended up taking a scenic drive while she snoozed in the car.

Quote of the hike: "Mommy, I'm *sweating*! Eww. It's *wet*." I swear the kid's never seen sweat, coming from temperate Seattle.

I tricked her into making another stop "on the way home" that wasn't exactly on the way. There was a scenic loop between Phoenix and Sedona that ended at Red Rock State Park and included a little visitor center and a very nice little viewing area. I would have liked to spend more time out on the trails, but my delicate little flower couldn't take it.

Today we're going to the Phoenix Zoo for a couple of hours and then going bowling with Ashley's girls when they get out of school. It's our last night at The Compound. Tomorrow we'll be heading to Tucson to visit my family. Kate will be so sad! She's loved living here for the last week with two instant "siblings" to play with. She is getting along with Zoe and Madeleine so well. While we were on our day trip she kept saying "I just keep thinking about the kids back home." She did NOT mean the kids in Seattle, by "home" she meant Ashley's guest house!

Happily, the Phoenix moms and their girls will be coming to the San Diego get together we have planned for July. It will be like a giant family reunion.

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Survived having 10 kids over to The Compound yesterday. 8 girls and 2 boys managed to play nicely together for the most part. Some of our more introverted kids needed a little more quiet time and space, but there were thankfully few meltdowns or melodramatics. My worldly daughter was eager to show off Homestarrunner.com to her new friends, who ranged from the girls who watch The Simpsons and Survivor with their parents to those who live a much more sheltered existence, for whom Strong Bad shouting "Holy Crap!" was going to be a big deal. I figured it was clean enough for the big kids, but unfortunately for me the mom of the more sheltered kids walked in just as Homestar was growling "Hey Crapface," in Kate's favorite episode of Strong Bad E-mail. ::sigh:: I'll be responsible for therapy bills in the future, I'm sure.

Kate, being born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, keeps begging to go swimming in the outdoor, unheated pool. To her, we're in the midst of summer here in Phoenix, while the natives are sure to bring sweaters on outings and feel the weather is MUCH too cold to consider swimming. She's become a much better swimmer in the last year, thanks to swimming with her dad on their visits. If it were up to me, she probably still wouldn't know how to swim. I'm not much of a swimmer myself, after a near drowning experience when I was 6 or 7.

Today is another beautiful day, though. Looking out from my host's computer room I see blue sky and sunshine, palm trees, and green grass over the fence on the nearby golf course. They have tons of trees around a large, sunny patio directly in back of the house. Along one side is a grassy play area with a large play structure for the kids. Along the other side of the house there is a long, narrow stretch of lawn bordered by orange, lemon, and fig trees, all currently with fruit. Strange desert birds of all sorts flit around the house all day, singing in the trees. The first night we spent out in the guest house there were birds singing at 2:30 in the morning, but either I'm getting used to it now or they're keeping the racket down, because I haven't heard them in the middle of the night since.

We have been keeping all of our bags and belongings up off the floor out in the guest house, though, since it's the beginning of scorpion season. Jim found one outside the other day, but I haven't seen any. Kate was very afraid of seeing any scorps because Animal Planet had her convinced they were deadly poisonous, but the local scorpions are merely unpleasant (like a bee sting) according to our hosts. That calmed her fears considerably. Apparently scorpions are not entirely common throughout Phoenix, but Ashley and Jim have them because they migrate through the near-by golf course. Just on the chance they're keen to make a home in our suitcases or sneakers, we've been keeping everything up high anyway.

It's about time for us to all trek off to the Phoenix Science Center with the Kate and a couple of local Phoenix kids who are playing hooky for the day to spend some time with Kate. Another fun-filled day on the road.

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My pale, pale Seattle skin isn't adjusting to the bright rays of the Arizona sun. Even with sunscreen on, I've managed to burn the back of my neck, the tops of my ears (darn short haircut) and my shins. The back of my neck is the worst, the rest is just a little pink. But I've got several more days to get burned to a nice crisp if I'm not careful.

So far the kids have been playing together exceptionally well. Kate and Zoe have hit it off like best friends, although they're both kind of "dramatic" so they've also managed to have a couple of screaming rows (too much sugar, too little sleep). Have dragged the kids off the the botanical gardens, the Phoenix Zoo, a tie-dye event with Lauren's Campfire group, and a swim party. Today Ashley has her two, plus mine, plus a friend's three girls. Wendy is bringing Lauren and Carli, and Karyl is bringing Adam and Aaron over sometime this afternoon as well. We're going to be crawling with kids! A big ol' get-together. Kate will be thrilled.

So far she's found someone to play Polly Pockets with her, she's been swimming, she's had a "sleep over", and her friend will let her pretend to be a dog in just about every pretend game they play. Zoe also has a very sweet hamster, Teddy, who Kate is crazy about already. Ashley also agreed to let the girls make lemonade from scratch, using lemons from the trees in the yard. (Exactly the kind of thing I always say no to, because I don't want to deal with the mess.) I'm sure she's going to want to have a barbecue with the kids this afternoon. Hmm, that's a fun idea!

Now to unplug myself from my host's computer and participate in the communal hair washing going on in the other room (all three girls in the tub together; Ashley's two modest girls are wearing swim suits, while my little nudest in training said "Nah, that's ok, I don't mind," and plunged in naked).

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

Kate and I are nearly ready to go on our Spring Break trip to Arizona. She is so excited about going she was barely able to sleep last night and woke up at 2:30am wondering if it was morning yet. This is a grand experiment on my part: Kate and I haven't had a solo holiday together since I grabbed her up and took her by train from Vancouver BC out to a get-together (the first!) with my e-mail mom group, then made a brief stop at GenCon on my way to my parents' place in Minnesota. She was, oh, just about 8 months old for that trip. She's a bit bigger now but every bit as fun.

We'll be staying with a friend of mine who has daughters 7 and 5 years old, and visiting other mom-list friends, including the only mom on our list to have lost a child since we've all been together. Her daughter, Melissa, would also have been 5; she has two living daughters as well, ages 5 and 3-ish. Her Kate-aged daughter is a child of a much different temperament than her mother, and I've been pleased to be able to give my impressions of what's likely going on in Lauren's head (since I was very much like Lauren when I was her age). I'll also have a couple of days to spend with my friend Karyl, who is just an amazing woman: working full time, mom to two boys, going to night school to get her degree, and she's lost 40 pounds since last October.

That's the fun part of the trip. Visiting with The Moms, exploring the wilds of Arizona with Kate and their kids, swimming and sunning ourselves. Not much not to like about that!

The second half of the trip is more sad for me. I'm taking this trip primarily because I fear it's going to be one of the last times I will get to see some of my relatives, who are ailing in various ways. I have not seen my grandmother since 1993. It was shortly before we found out that she had Alzheimer's, though we'd had our suspicions that something just wasn't right before that. My grandmother is one tough cookie, though, and fiercely private. She and grandpa had long since decided to winter in Arizona, and she groused about coming back to Minnesota in her later years. "It's just a work farm," she'd say, as she cleaned the beach or hung clothes out on the line. It was no surprise when they eventually decided to live in Arizona fulltime, though I have no doubt that being able to hide grandma's illness through distance had a little something to do with it. My grandma has long since forgotten that she ever remembered who I was. I don't exist in her world anymore. I'm not sure anyone does. She went through a serious bout of pneumonia last spring that they feared would be the death of her, but even in her diminished state she'd have none of that. She'll be going out when she's good and ready, thank you very much. I feared her for much of my childhood, afraid of crossing her and making her stern with me, but it's clear to me now that the same scrappy will to make things "just so" that intimidated he hell out of me as a kid is fundamental to her being. Even when everything else that made her her has eroded, that iron core of her determination remains.

My Grandpa Lindroos, meanwhile, was diagnosed with prostate cancer a couple of years ago. My dad broke the news to me that Grandpa had decided not to bother with treatment. I guess he figured at over 80 years old, it was a slow disease that wasn't going to take him before Grandma passed on, so why go through treatment? I've seen my grandpa a few times since he made the decision to put Grandma into fulltime care. I know that had to have killed him, they'd been married for over 50 years at that point. I used to work in a nursing home that specialized in care for residents with dementia conditions (mostly Alzheimer's, but some other conditions as well), and we saw over and over again that families would try to keep their loved ones in the home as long as they could, often far longer than they should have. My fondest childhood memories revolve around the time I spend with my grandpa, at the lake house he built himself, where he indulged my requests to go fishing or drive the motor boat or "build stuff" with his power tools. He loved me unconditionally, was patient and understated, and proud of me. When I "helped" him post some No Hunting signs on his property, he proudly displayed an entire row of my childishly-scrawled "Don't Shoot the Baby Rabbits!!!" signs (complete with animal drawings made with black permanent marker on wood planks) all the way down their winding rural driveway.

I made special plans to bring Kate and Chris up to Ely last summer, to coincide with my grandpa's scheduled visit to his old house (which now belongs to Uncle Jack and Aunt Dolly), but then Grandma had her scary bout with pneumonia, and everyone thought she could go at any moment. Grandpa certainly didn't want to take two weeks to go to Minnesota if Grandma was at risk of dying while he was gone! Under the current circumstances, I don't know when he might make another trip "home" and goodness knows if I would be able to arrange to be there at the same time. So, I've scheduled a trip to see him in Arizona instead.

I'm quite a bit frightened by what I might see when I get there. I deeply love my grandparents and they were undeniably influential in shaping who I've grown up to be. The feeling I have about them now, in their current circumstances, is tenderness and timidity. I feel like I'm watching the beautiful bubble of their lives, full, shimmering, increasingly transparent and in danger of popping out of existence at any moment. I've never known anything like it before in my life.

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JD reports that ComicsOne will be publishing a series of graphic novels based on the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon novel. Sweet! Sounds like it's definitely a good time for Chris to be working on the revamp of DragonFist. Stupid stupid Wizards of the Coast squandered the potential of Chris's game the first time around (just one of the hundred reasons I'll never forgive certain key people), and I can't wait until we're able to give his game the full treatment it has so long deserved.

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I Win!

After about 2 minutes in the Mitigation courtroom, the judge had ruled in my favor on the "unlicensed vehicle" issue and additionally knocked the parking fine down from $25 to $5. I'd been willing to pay for my mistake on the parking issue, but I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth either. Yay! Far less painful than I feared it would be. The judge clearly didn't want to hear a bunch of whining (and after hearing about 30 seconds of the story the guy before me was telling, I couldn't blame him! I was sick of it after mere moments. That job would drive me batty).

On the other hand, my visit to the Post Office was far *more* painful than I thought it would be. I wasted a good 35 minutes there, standing in line and listening to the somewhat unnerving Mumbly Guy who sometimes works the counter mumble to himself while he worked over my thirty-odd mail order packages. He's never been anything but nice when I 've seen him, but man, he still gives me the creeps.

While in line, people behind me were complaining about the wait and the slow service. "If this were privatized, the line would be moving faster," I heard one woman grouse to someone. Am I the only person left in the world who doesn't think privatization and deregulation are the cure for everything? Sure, the line might move faster, but I have no doubt the service would plummet and the cost would sky-rocket. Profit-conscious investors would constantly be under pressure to net more and there are very few ways to do that: pay the workers less and charge the customer more are two of the most popular. No thanks.

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