Discolor Online

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


Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines

Tomorrow may just be the day when I finally get the plumber into the house to install the heat exchanger and pressure gauge for our defective heating system. We got our settlement in October and have been talking with this plumber for weeks trying to schedule him to come in. I can't imagine how frustrated I'd be if we'd actually had to go with the full-on "rip out all the walls and pipes" plan at this point, with the cold weather upon us and scheduling conflicts abounding. Fingers crossed for good news and an effective solution this week!

Kate celebrated her 14th birthday this weekend, with a girly sleepover on Friday that dragged well into Saturday afternoon. Red velvet cake was made. I used Pinch My Salt's recipe and dirtied about every bowl in the house in the process but managed not to ruin anything in the kitchen with red food coloring. The girls were gleefully using the Domino's online pizza creation tool to create concoctions but Chris talked them into getting their actual pizzas from Stellar Pizza so they'd be, you know, edible. One Beanie and one Fidalgo Four Cheese later and the girls settled down to watch Star Trek together. One of the girls couldn't stay the night so I drove her home a little after midnight and, aside from having to put a stop to some rough-housing at 1am, the whole thing went off well and Kate was happy.

It was poignant for me because I'm all too aware of the changes looming in the future for these girls. Not bad changes at all, just that they're on the road to becoming lovely young adults. The girl who left early had to do so because she needed to spend the weekend working on her high school applications! Some of these girls have known each other since kindergarten but with Seattle's new school boundaries they're all most likely going to different schools by next year. Some are applying to private schools or magnet schools or out-of-district schools because the choices we're presented are difficult or dubious.

Kate's got three options under the new school plan. One is a small alternative school that had historically been good but last year was merged into a building with another orphaned program and an existing middle school. Parents complained that the new building didn't have proper science labs for high school science requirements, the building has several million in needed building upgrades that haven't been addressed because of the Seattle budget crisis, etc. There's not even a Nova school webpage anymore, so I don't know what to expect from that program, though it is a natural transition for kids from a school like Orca (250 or so kids, alternative education curriculum).

The second option is a new math and science magnet school. This is currently a regular high school in a recently upgraded building. It's the closest HS to our house and currently one of the worst programs in the city (lowest WASL scores... frex, less than 7% of students passing
the state's science requirement, highest dropout rate, highest suspension rate, lowest SATs). The new superintendent has decided to remake this school into a School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). The school will have accelerated math and science "academies" and an extra-long school day to add an additional full period. High focus on math and science with few to no options for electives and extra-curriculars and a school population of 1600 students. Kate is good at math and science and is currently on track to be able to enter HS having completed freshman math but that's all a huge switch from her educational experience up to this point. No idea if it would be a welcome change or a complete disaster for her.

The last option is the default high school: a failing high school with about 1500 students where 1/4 of freshman fail to earn the 5 credits necessary to advance, where only 28% meet standard in math and 18% meet standard in science. And, of course, there's also the issue of gang problems in the big Seattle high schools. Not exactly high on my list of places to send my child.

Of course all of this is what I see through my mom glasses. The kids are only vaguely aware of what lies ahead for them, nervous but excited about high school's opportunities. Four years of high school seems like a long way off and long time to get through when you're 14. When you're 40 and looking back at how fast those 14 years have flown by, being one high school career away from adulthood is more akin to a race car hurtling into the final lap, checkered flag in sight.

Speaking of mothers, my mom called Kate for her birthday and then talked to me for a while. She shared the results of some of her recent medical tests and will be needing more surgery in 2010, this time it'll be removing a section of her colon and will be a much bigger deal than the relatively minor sinus surgery. She hasn't talked to the surgeon yet so I don't know what the timeline is. She seems to think that she can put it off until the summer but I told her to let me know what the surgeon actually says. I suppose there's a chance that this will spoil the cruise we're supposed to take with Kate's class in May and, of course, if our experience with her sinus surgery is any indication she's going to need a lot of outside help with her recovery whenever this surgery takes place. I'm steeling myself, as I will inevitably be called up for duty.

Nothing to be done about it now, so I'm setting my sights on Christmas and chugging ahead towards the new year. Must decide on a holiday menu since it will be just the three of us for the first time in years.

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Table for 15

Table for 15
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Last night we had the pleasure of dinner with some friends of Chris's from high school. Elizabeth and Geoff live in Seattle with their blended family (her son and daughter plus his three sons). Elizabeth's sister was in visiting from Boston and another Boston to Seattle transplant plus the Lindroos-Pramas-Freins brought the party up to six adults and nine kids (mostly boys).

Dinner was a gigantic feast of Dungeness crab, cooked in perhaps the biggest pot I've ever seen in a home kitchen, plus corn, cornbread, a summer salad packed with seasonal vegetables, slabs of watermelon, and plum tarts with ice cream.

Very few of the kids had eaten crab before and Geoff was enthusiastic about introducing them to a real crab feast. Kate, a burgeoning near-vegetarian, was a little queasy about the crab but gamely tried it and then filled up on corn bread and watermelon (which is what I would have predicted). She's trying to expand her food horizons and challenge her palate but she has a hard time with fish and "sea bugs".

As the night crept on and the adults lingered first over wine and then over dessert and coffee, the youngest children started to drop in place, curling up with pillows and under chairs to stay close to the action until they just couldn't keep their eyes open any longer. Meanwhile, several of the boys (including at times both dads) stepped over to an adjoining room that was packed with musical instruments and began jamming. They were FANTASTIC. I tried to get some video of the moment but my phone video was too dark and really couldn't capture the energy and skill of the group. At one point Geoff and his step-daughter were swing dancing while the boys jammed but I was too slow to capture the moment with my phoen (and didn't have my real cameras with me). Kate, an only child, the oldest child there and a girl out-numbered, played a card game with some of the younger kids and then stuck close to the adults as has always been her way.

It was glorious chaos and good for the soul. I had a marvelous time.

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Where did April go?

Wow, I've definitely been AWOL on the blog front for the last several months but April has to be the worst blog month in my history of blogging!

I suppose it all started back in 2008. Many things popped up to cause me stress and anxiety last year. There were multiple family health problems and crises. There were challenges, irritations, and difficulties with the business that went beyond the sorts of things I've come to expect in my two decades of hobby game industry experience. Friends changed jobs, split up, and/or moved away which shook up every aspect of our lives from work to play. Even our game group was decimated and barely continues to lurch forward, zombie-like, with the two members who remain and like to at least come over fro dinner and drinks even if we can't agree on a game to play. Someone I thought I'd heard the last of over twenty years ago made a very unwelcome return to my life and stirred up a lot of horrific memories that I'd been perfectly content to leave deeply buried, untouched and unexamined. Even my food blogging all but stopped after my camera was stolen from Kate and we found our increased life expenses contracted our dining budget. 2008 was my year of withdrawal.

I thought I was starting to come out of it a little but then I looked at the calendar today and realized April has gone. The first week of April was Kate's spring break and I tried to spend a little extra time with her because I'm aware the days where she thinks it's fun to hang out with her old mom are probably numbered. The following week I took Kate to Sakura*Con here in Seattle while Chris flew the flag out at Norwescon, then as soon as that was over I flew out to Las Vegas for the GAMA Trade Show. Back to Seattle where I had to handle everything I didn't get to before I left, those things that came up while I was gone, and generally just catch up. In the midst of all this I finally got my painful arm problem diagnosed (combo of rotator cuff impingement and tendinitis, yay hooray) but the "try this for six weeks before we escalate to MRIs and surgery" therapy hasn't yielded any results at all for me so far and I am still in pain. Carrying a basket of laundry, twisting a tight lid off a jar, or even just vigorously chopping something for a recipe sets it off and that's meant that I've had to pull way back in both yoga and weight training, two things I was really enjoying and seeing good results from. Sadness. In much happier news, Kate was accepted to Rock Band Camp for Girls and I just need to figure out how exactly we're going to get there and where we're going to stay (as it's a day camp only) but she's one happy girl and we're all very proud of her.

Last weekend Kate and I visited the Portland area. I had plenty to do down there but wasn't sure we'd pull of the visit until the night before we left. I was able to get a deal on a hotel through Hotwire and a cheap last-minute rental car. We packed a lot in: visited with my doctor brother before he leaves for Haiti to do doctor things for the summer, stopped in on an old friend from my junior high/high school years, connected with one of The Moms and her daughter (a nationally ranked fencer who was competing in Portland over the weekend), and paid a short visit to my mother and her husband, the first time I've been down since he had a stroke a month ago.

Now April is nearly gone and here comes May. Tomorrow is the first Columbia City Farmer's Market. The days are longer again and it's about time to shake off this introspection and withdrawal, I think.

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What Your Kids Think of You

Thanks to Facebook, several of The Moms have done this with their kids. As I'm pondering issues of life, identity, mortality and the like, I gave it to Kate to get a glimpse of how she sees her ol' mom. Here's the result:

1. What is something mom always says to you?
Come look at this.
Can you get my coffee?
Dishwasher. [this is her chore reminder]
I'm going to yoga.

2. What makes mommy happy?
If I do my chores.
If I do good on a test.

3. What makes mom sad?
Not a lot, if the house is REALLY messy.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
Lots of ways. If she says something funny or does something funny.
Forgetting things that I remind her about.

5. What was your mom like as a child?
Tomboy. Geek.

6. How old is your mom?

7. How tall is your mom?

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Cook. Play on Facebook.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
Check e-mail, play Hatchlings? How am I supposed to know, I'm not around!

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
A famous chef.

11. What is your mom really good at?
Cooking, technology know-how, xbox, home improvement.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
Baking (she wrote in then crossed out "fixing computers"... I thought that was funny)

13. What does your mom do for her job?
Make roleplaying games, fill mail orders.

14. What is your mom's favorite food?
She has a lot... ... ??

15. What makes you proud of mommy?
When she stands up against my school!

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
That's a REALLY hard question. I don't know, best guess... Buttercup?

17. What do you and your mom do together?
Watch tv after dinner, eat together on Wednesdays [this is "girls' night" because Chris plays minis on Wednesdays].

18. How are you and your mom the same?
We both like the same stuff, we think the same.

19. How are you and your mom different?
She can't stand Naruto and is older, forgets easier.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
She says it. She just does. She knows me well.

21. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
Finland [she surrounded this answer with stars]



Breaking Hiatus

I've been on a blogging hiatus. Too much going on, most of it I can't blog about because it's grindingly mundane or just too damn personal to be spreading all over the internet, especially in light of the sorts of people who have been looking me up in recent weeks.

I may take the time to blog some recipes again, but they'll be without photo support because Kate brought my camera to school with her (with my permission) and someone stole it. The little assholes also stole her iPod, and we have no recourse because the school just says she's not supposed to have those things at school anyway. I guess that's true but since they rearranged the school bus routes she now spends up to half an hour more on the bus than she used to and it now takes her almost an hour to get home (whereas it takes about 10 minutes for me to drive to the school, in traffic even) and it seems unfair to tell her she's not allowed to listen to music to block out the little hoodlums-in-training while they scream and yell out the windows that passersby are "whores" or "gay" and other behaviors that are technically not allowed on the bus (and are grounds for having your bus privileges suspended) but no one does anything about.

In my last post I said I wouldn't mention Orca school fundraising again but I'm going back on that, just briefly. Since I am also of a mind to do less consumeristic giving and more charitable and uplifting giving this season, I'm passing this along for any like-minded readers.

Orca K-8 is partnering with the nonprofit organization Global Goods Partners (GGP) to offer beautiful handmade products- handspun silk scarves, home accessories and gifts for special occasions, - that are produced by women artisans in Africa, Asia, and Latin America according to fair trade principles.

From now through December 15th, 30% of each sale we make goes directly to support our school (20% thereafter). The remaining proceeds are invested in the community based organizations that partner with GGP to support advances in health care, education, and other social and economic programs within these communities. To make a purchase count for our school, please select "ORCA" from the drop down list on the home page under "Shop for a School or Nonprofit". You can then click on "Shop for Change" to continue browsing and shopping, knowing that you are benefiting Orca K-8.

I've already been doing some of my planning for Christmas gifts, shopping through The Hunger Site and Heifer International. The items available from Global Goods Partners may not be to everyone's taste (I'm pretty sure the redneck cowboy side of the family would not be interested in Nelson Mandela dolls) but I know some tweens who would definitely dig some zebra keychains, or orange peel treasure boxes in their Christmas stockings.

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After a busy but very fun PAX schedule, I spent Labor Day laying low and doing little more than combing through recipe books and magazines so I could make out a menu plan and go grocery shopping once I get paid. Since Kate came back to Seattle two weeks early, needing school clothes and supplies on the heels of our Finland/Gencon two-week whirlwind (and I didn't get any child support all summer) we were feeling significantly less flush than usual but not so much so that we couldn't at least enjoy some fun at PAX. Kate and I attended with three-day badges while Pramas worked the Flying Lab booth and then we all got to enjoy connecting in the evenings with friends and seeing Jonathan Coulton and The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets doing their late night musical performances. We even ducked out of PAX for a little while on Saturday to enjoy the nice weather and a final summer bbq with the usual suspects at R&C's. J&J were there with the fabulous Miss V so it really felt like the gang was all together again.

Labor Day evening I got an unexpected call from my brother who wanted to know if we were free for a visit if he came up to Seattle. He's been very busy since starting med school and until this summer it had been 18 months since I'd seen him so we were happy to make time, especially since Tuesday was Kate's last day of summer vacation. In honor of the day she got to take Uncle Chad to the Family Fun Center in Renton and we belted him with water cannons on the bumper boats, drove go-karts, played laser tag, and spent good money on games that gave tickets for plastic junk.

We met Chris after work and had dinner at Marco's Supperclub in Belltown after an unfortunate delay in the form of a flat tire on the Alaska Way Viaduct. There's a dime-sized circular hole in the tire where we ran over something (a bolt perhaps) that I heard crack against the wheel well and then started losing pressure fast. Luckily I was able to limp the 1/4 mile to the Seneca St. exit and get onto 1st Avenue without the tire completely shredding and Chad was all brotherly and changed the tire for us. That means today I'm headed out to get new tires on the car (they needed to be replaced soon anyway).

Kate is off to her first day of 7th Grade. I took our annual first day of school photo and will put it up soon.

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Rock Band Camp finale

People have been asking how it went, so here's a little clip that the school put up. I took video from a different angle of the whole performance (including Kate's favorite, Back in Black) but this will give everyone who doesn't have Mom-level devotion a taste.

Kate was scheduled to go back to Canada to spend some time with her dad on Sunday morning but there was a change of plans which means Kate and I are getting to spend extra summer time together and we've made the most of it. Saturday was a viewing of the new Hellboy and some barbecuing with Ray and Christine (taking advantage of the long overdue nice summer weather) and Sunday Kate and I hit the summer festival circuit while Pramas got some work done.

First we stopped by the Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon down on the waterfront. It was a gorgeous day and we walked a little way along the water before heading into the convention space. Unfortunately the exhibit space was sweltering and many of the exhibitors were having trouble because their chocolates were melting on their tables. I tasted at least a dozen interesting chocolates, truffles, caramels, brittles, cocoas, and brownies. The hands down winner for the "WOW, I've never had anything like this!" award has to go to the savory chocolates from Eugene, Oregon's Kekau, especially their "Smoky Blue" which is made with Rogue Creamery's Smoky Blue cheese. Holy crap was that good. Their Black Truffle Honey was another winner. There were many other delights (such as Poco Dolce's Aztec Chile chocolates topped with grey sea salt and I have a list (and a bag full of things I couldn't resist buying) for further study. We also tried to hit the rumored Berry Bash at the Pike Place Market but we arrived too late for any pie eating contests and saw few stands that were anything "special" that we couldn't find regularly in the market or at one of the excellent area farmer's markets, so we didn't linger too long. Instead we hopped the bus down to Seattle Center for their Bastille Day celebration. Food, live music, and perfect weather for playing in the fountain.

Unfortunately I ended the weekend with a flare-up of my TMJ, which hasn't happened in many months, and the pain/popping/locking is still plaguing me today. Add in a couple of doctor appointments, a bunch of household chores (like trimming our front foliage before the HOA decides they don't appreciate the natural look) and our printer spewing magenta toner all over everything and making very, very bad grinding noises and the work week seems off to a pretty bum start but at least the weekend was pretty glorious.

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Kate Rockin' the YouTubes

As they were leaving today she suggested that another kid play drums for one of the songs because he's better at it off the bat that she is. "You've got time to get better," he said. "You're not going to get any better by not doing it." I think this may be another opportunity for Kate to be surprised at herself.

Hooray Seattle Drum School!

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Rock Band Camp, Day 1

Kate completed her first day of Rock Band Camp. She was so excited and nervous about it that she woke up at three hours early. I dropped her off at 9am and picked her up at 2pm, hoping that everything was as fun as she'd been hoping.

Verdict: SUCCESS!

Kate is the only girl and a drummer to boot. Her description of meeting the boys went something like this:

Wait, you're a *drummer*?

And you like *comic books*?


Don't you like pink, frilly things?!

This is especially cute because Kate's outfit today was very (perhaps even unusually) girly, some khaki shorts and a pastel-checkered halter top.

The kids got right to playing music, too. "It wasn't a boring camp where you're waiting to go home. You want to know what time it is but just so you know how much time you have left to do things. And it wasn't full of facts 'n' stuff... 'The Clash is this kind of music and The Beatles are that kind of music, blah blah blah,' we just jumped in and played!"

They played Louie Louie, Blue Suede Shoes, "something from Nirvana, I think," and Smoke on the Water. "Oh, so classic rock, then," I said. "Yeah, totally classic!" she enthused.

She absolutely can't wait to go back tomorrow.

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What "Girls Night" turned into

It took me a while to realize it (like "Hey, why the heck is this cream I just bought bad already?") but it's confirmed, my refrigerator has died. The freezer side is still working a bit but the refrigerator side is definitely dead. I think the freezer took longer because it was packed with solidly frozen meats and whatnot and it gets opened far less often than the fridge.

So instead of going out tonight with Kate to see the new Indiana Jones movie, I ran out to the 24-grocery and bought half a dozen bags of ice and a new 52-quart cooler to supplement the coolers we already have. Kate helped me take all the beverages out of the small fridge we keep stocked with drinks for game night and we put as much of the perishable stuff (meat, cheese, milk, juice, the fresh strawberries I just bought... the raspberries had already started to go bad. :( ) as we could and then rearranged things in the little freezer to accommodate as much of the meat and seafood from the big freezer as possible.

I've now got the big new cooler mostly full of ice to supplement my inferior old coolers. One small cooler is full of jars and tubes of things like anchovy paste, mustards, jams, and other condiments. The bigger cooler has more of the same plus things like unopened yogurt containers and other things that are sealed and water-repellent. I also have a large bin full of all the sodas, beer, water and other drinks that were in the little fridge. Those can get warm and be re-chilled later, they'll be fine. I haven't been able to figure out what to do about the fresh vegetables that won't survive in ice water. For now I've got them in a smaller container with some ice packs but I think I'm going to be eating a whole mess of broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and other perishables this weekend.

Kate was a huge help in handling this mess. She was having a grand old time, in fact. "Now THIS is exciting!" she enthused. After all was said and done I collapsed into my computer chair with a drink and fired up my browser. "Going to Twitter?" she asked. "I already did," I replied. "Writing the Mom's List?" she guessed. "Already did," I responded again. "Going to blog about it?" she tried again. "Yes!" I was laughing at this point. She knows her mom well. Then she cracked me up offering me suggested titles "You should call it 'A fun start to a fun weekend.'" she offered. Then she launched into a story about how she was looking up a recipe at school on my recipe pages and how this led to her explaining to her classmates what blogs are and that I had one. I guess I may end up with a few new 12-year-old readers. Heh.

Not sure what tomorrow holds. Could be a repair place can work some magic on the machine, but the fridge is 8 years old and it might just be time for a new one. If I have to go fridge shopping this weekend I just hope I don't have the problem I had with last year's washing machine fiasco...and that they haven't built new refrigerators so big that I can't fit mine in the space allowed (like nearly happened with the new washer). Kate will be excited that more "fun" is on the horizon. She already said excitedly, "A new refrigerator means a refrigerator box, right?!" Oh dear.

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Summery Weekend

Friday turned out to be such a beautiful day it was little surprise to me that Ray and Christine summoned the usual suspects to inaugurate Grilling Season at Chez Pominger. A little more surprising is that we all made it. I came straight from dropping Kate with her dad and wasn't even the last person to arrive. Grilling was done, gin and tonics were made, I even got to carry the fussy Miss Vivian around the block so she could cool down and decide that she really did want to sleep. Felt triumphant and as if I hadn't lost that baby touch (especially since I found handling someone else's baby much less intensely stressful than dealing with my own wailing infant from back in the day) but ruined the effect by trying to put the sleeping babe back into a reclined position in her carrier. All hell re-erupted that I dared try such a thing (just as it used to with Miss Kate... I never did master that) but I think J&J had a slight rest and Miss V and I got to know each other better. She reminds me A LOT of Kate as a baby: bright, curious, observant, a little intense, quite physically strong. It was a pleasure.

Saturday was busy. I wasted time playing some online games with friends the way some might do a crossword puzzle over breakfast or something. Then we hit a lunch date (and found, to our disappointment that Stellar Pizza opens later on the weekend than on weekdays...but that Calamity Jane's will step up as a substitute lunch place in a jam) and conducted a marathon podcasting session, and went to Marc's party a little late for good food, good sangria, good conversation, and some fun Rock Band action. I ended the night by MacGuyvering a fix to a CPAP problem that had been irritating Pramas. He confirmed this morning that my fix (involving an old velcro watch band and a large binder clip) may indeed have solved his issue. Fingers crossed for a repeat good performance tonight!

Today was a leisurely day, but still summery and nice. I slept late and played more online games (the only thing I use Facebook for) before squeezing in a little Green Ronin work and some minor household chores. It was beautiful again today, a little more comfortable temperature-wise, so I took the bunnies out to the back yard for an hour or two and watched them romp and dig and kick up their heels. Had a good laugh that Bonnie spent an hour digging a hole for herself to lay in only to lose it to Sammy, who threw himself down in it the moment her back was turned. There's something so fun about scampering bunnies.

Today I also confirmed for myself that I'm loving yoga. Georgetown Yoga is so awesome! I highly recommend it to all my Seattle peeps. Sandy's only been in this location since October and I'm so glad we decided to go there instead of going to Columbia City or elsewhere. It's a lovely space and she's a gentle, attentive, calm and lovely instructor. I find myself feeling great when I leave, even if I'm just doing beginner's stuff and thinking about improving my form and technique on the days I don't have classes. I look forward to going and think about whether or not I can fit in an extra day during the week... I figure that must be a good sign that I've picked the right fit for myself. Yay! I'm definitely going to miss going to the class while I'm traveling during convention season. Sundays I have an evening class, and I found it such a nice way to end the weekend.

Came home to find Kate watching Angel again. Thanks to re-runs, Angel seems to be Kate's equivilent of The Brady Bunch or Hogan's Heroes or I Love Lucy or the numerous other shows that I grew up seeing because they were on before or after school. Thanks to the generosity of a particular video hound we know, Kate now has a bag full of the early seasons of Buffy and the entire run of Angel so she can start watching from the beginning and learn Angel's full story. We watched a couple eps of Buffy tonight to get things rolling. I even busted out a little Laphroaig to toast the weekend out. It was that kind of summery, relaxing, enjoyable weekend. Nice!

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I'm making a note here:

Huge Success.

Well, I seem to have survived the last couple of days. There were only four girls at the sleepover party which turned out to be a perfectly manageable amount. There was a little friction at first because they couldn't decide on a movie that would make everyone happy. The girls were really showing their personalities: the idiosyncratic friend wanted Juno, the girliest girl wanted Sleepover, the non-conflict girl was okay with whatever the other girls decided, and my steeped-in-geek-culture girl wanted Hellboy. Hellboy was deemed "too scary" (as were Ladyhawke, Princess Bride, Goonies, and The Mummy) and anything with ghosts (no Poletergeist) or aliens (no Galaxy Quest, no Close Encounters) were off the menu for two girls. Ferris Bueller's Day Off was given a thumbs down after the trailer was deemed "BORING!" despite two girls vouching for it being fun. I finally hit on Josie and the Pussycats, Clue, and (*sigh*) Sleepover and they ended up watching Sleepover though Kate was fairly sulky about it at first.

Band frictions threatened to flair up when the girls played Rock Band but they soon settled in and by the end of the party the girl with the least experience who was the most frustrated early on was begging to play more. Chips and sodas were consumed all evening, supplemented with veggies and dip and fresh strawberries, then the girls made personal pizzas which they shaped and decorated for quite some time. They spent the night in the living room and after I went to bed Kate tried to get the girls into Angel by showing them the Smile Time episode. They stayed up late into the night, being girls, but I think the most poignant and sweet part of the whole night was when they were all changing into pajamas and getting sleeping bags set up in the living room and they started comparing and showing off their blankies. Each of these sweet almost-teen girls not only had their blankies but brought them to their sleepover and compared them.

I made bacon, sweet rolls, and more fresh fruit, with optional juice, milk, and soymilk for them for breakfast and then one by one the girls left. Kate and I took her bike down to the bike swap but the larger bikes were few and far between (and being hoarded by one particularly annoying girl... Kate didn't even touch a bike for the first 40-50 minutes of being there. We finally left with a bike but it was way less fun than I thought it was going to be.

Headed from there down to meet Pramas for a very late "lunch" and strolled Emerald City Comic Con for a couple hours and ran into a ton of people we knew, some of whom we hadn't seen for ages. Feeling peppy, we crossed the street and finally caught a showing of Iron Man, which is still playing to packed theaters in Seattle. How great is Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark? Really, really enjoyed his performance. I saw him in Less Than Zero over 20 years ago and have followed his career ups and downs since then. When the man is on, he's SO on. I hope he stays on because I'd love to see more from him.

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A Girl and her (borrowed) Dog

A Girl and her (borrowed) Dog
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Rosie (the World's Sweetest Dog(tm) ) is once again our guest this Christmas. Kate loooooves it when Rosie comes to visit. This was the scene last night as we packed up and went to bed.

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Scarring my child

Kate was supposed to be in bed already. She's been dawdling and trying to draw bedtime out longer and longer... and it heading into that stereotypical teenager biorhythm (which accentuates her natural-born night-owl tendencies).

I chided her (again) about going to bed and getting enough rest and secretly counted myself lucky that I was able to browbeat her into finally taking a shower. (The spontaneous desire to take a shower just for the love of being clean thing hasn't kicked in yet.)

Reading my e-mail I see I've received an update from Patty Murray about Washington flood relief. "Oh, those poor flood victims," I say to Chris, "Did you hear about the farmers who couldn't save their cattle because the waters came up so fast? They had to listen to the cows bellowing and crying and they couldn't do anything."

A moan from the other room, where Kate was lingering instead of heading to bed as requested. "MOM! Stop telling these sad stories!"

I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on ghoulish news stories, I really don't! But through circumstance, over the last couple of weeks Kate has managed to hear a series of horrific stories from me. The sick child whose miniature horse (through Make A Wish) was killed by pit bulls, a missing girl (former piano student of a friend) first missing, then found but unable to move her legs and still in hospital, then topped off by the drowning cows. Poor Kate couldn't take it.

"Well, you should be in bed anyway," I offered.

Seriously, though, I'm the sap who gets teary-eyed over the Mr. Whipple Tribute Commercial or those coffee commercials where the son comes home for Christmas and makes coffee. I'm a HUGE sap and generally disinclined to dwell on horrible stories. Hell, I flat out cried watching the footage of the fall of Saigon during some history channel show Chris and Kate were watching, thirty-two years after the fact. It's unusual for me to even be aware of a string of horrible stories, let alone be reciting them. Kate has just had unfortunate luck in being around at all the wrong times recently!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm sure it will be cold comfort when it comes time for the therapy bills...

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Kate is home!

Very glad to have things back to normal.

Pramas is out at Wargame Wednesday with Rick so it was a girl's night out tonight. After making the usual rush-hour "enhanced" drive I'm rarely in any shape to cook when I get home. I convinced Kate to get wacky and go out to dinner with me at somewhere unusual. We finally tried Kallaloo instead of resorting to pizza or some other off-the-bat Kate-friendly location. WOW! Loved it. Kate was not so keen on it, mostly because it was all unfamiliar stuff (she sniffed suspiciously at the fried plantains but liked the macaroni pie because it was essentially a block of baked macaroni and cheese) but I found it all quite excellent. I had the Barbados oven fried chicken which came with a side of macaroni pie and callaloo (think creamed spinach with a stronger, almost artichoke-like note to the greens). Pramas would have liked the chicken. Next time, I'm definitely in to try some goat and I hope they have the stuffed plantains (which they were out of tonight) because those sounded excellent. Topped off with a nice strong ginger beer and I was full and happy.

We're a week away from Kate's birthday and the Festival of Children (on the same night). Kate is performing in the Festival of Children with her dance and cheer squad (who I'm told "don't have any idea what they're doing") and singing with her friend Gloria (they only found out last week that they made it and haven't had a chance to practice together at all since). Somewhere in there we have to have an actual birthday celebration for the girl. I haven't even started to think about how we're pulling that off yet.

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Kate looks like ?

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Long Weekend

Kate had a friend over yesterday for a play date that turned into a sleepover. Some Guitar Hero was played. Her new room set-up provided play and hang-out space so the girls didn't have to commandeer the living room. We made an abortive attempt to have dinner at Stellar Pizza because Kate wanted to introduce her friend to "the best mac and cheese in the world" but Stellar was closed so we routed up to Columbia City and improvised dinner at Geraldine's Counter instead. Then we made a run to the video store where the girls rented Lego Star Wars for the 360 (we only have the regular Xbox version) and Meet the Robinsons.

Today Pramas was scheduled to play SotC down at Tim's so Kate and I had a sort of Bed Day. Except I couldn't decide if it was better to have Bed Day in bedly comfort or have "bed" day on the new couch watching movies on the nice tv. In the end we opted for the nice TV.

It was all 80s all the time today. First: Adventures in Babysitting. Holy crap, I never clicked that Vincent D'Onofrio was "Thor" in that movie (and that was after Full Metal Jacket according to IMDB). I thought Kate might like it as a girly caper movie but her final verdict was "Meh." Then we watched Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome which I picked because it was rated PG-13. Kate hated it. "They gave you a character but no plot. It didn't make any sense." We also watched The Last Starfighter which TiVo had pulled down from SciFi for me. I had vague memories of that movie being decent but watching it again I found it pretty cringe-worthy. Kate was most interested in that one, though even she recognized it as a pale knock-off of Star Wars. That was enough 80s for me for one day, let me tell you.

For dinner I had failed to plan ahead and was looking to throw something together in a hurry for my hungry family. I remembered that I had all the ingredients on hand for Heidi Swanson's Toasted Wheat Germ Soup, from her excellent book Super Natural Cooking(and the blog 101 Cookbooks) so I whipped that up. It was so unearthly simple I could have kicked myself for not having tried it before. Seriously: a cup of toasted wheat germ, six cups of veggie broth, an onion sauteed and then simmered with a few red pepper flakes, some sea salt, a can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes and four cups of white beans. To my utter amazement, after a few ultra-tentative sips Kate had multiple bowls of soup and declared it "pretty good" which made my night.

One more precious day of holiday.

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Girly Night

Kate and I had a Girls' Night last night while Chris was wargaming. I picked her up from school after her "Dance and Cheer" activity and we went down to Starbucks for drinks and snacks and to decide what we wanted to do. Kate was in the mood to see a movie but the only thing even remotely appropriate in the major theaters was Bee Movie. I'm sure this will lose me cool points with someone but I just don't find Jerry Seinfeld that funny and I'm vaguely familiar with his show but only because Chris watched it so I'd sometimes catch an episode here and there. I got a few chuckles sometimes, it's not like it was bad, but it also grated on me similarly to Curb Your Enthusiasm. So much bickering on Curb, I just can't stand to watch it. Seinfeld's voice, that whiny, nasal voice... the thought of his voice trying to emote through a cartoon bee? Ug.

[Ranty aside: I saw Not-Ebert and Roeper reviewing Bee Movie and crowing about the brilliance of having some homage to The Graduate in this movie "for the parents"... I hate to break it to you OLD GUYS but The Graduate is forty years old and it might have been the hot shit when you and Jerry Seinfeld were teenagers but these days parents with kids young enough to be attracted by Bee Movie are generally younger than that.]

Anyway, Kate wasn't particularly interested in a movie about a whiny, entitled bee either so I looked for something else to do. I happened across an ad in the Seattle Weekly for Central Cinema and a plan was hatched. Dinner, drinks (for me), dessert, and a classy movie: Rear Window. Awesome.

We went and had a great time. Ate popcorn (with real butter!), each got an individual pizza, ended with a chocolate cake. There were old-timey cartoons, including this amazing specimen: The Butcher, The Baker and The Ice Cream Maker, which was apparently a sales device espousing the glories of "sanitary" pre-packaged ice cream ("...never touched by human hands...") and the space-saving wondrousness of square cartons. There were some appalling instances of racial stereotyping: the Indian chief in his rainbow rug" can't fill in for the missing maker because "his voice is one long grunt" and "the only word he knows is UG". There are also a couple of cute-as-buttons little Eskimos in fur parkas working in the freezer area, stacking the precious square cartons. Who knew how wonderful pre-packaged ice cream could be?

Had a nice Girls' Night and I would definitely head back to Central Cinema. According to the previews they're going to be showing The Professional, Gone with the Wind, and Being John Malkovich over the next several weeks.

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And the day was saved...

Kate and her friend arrived home after school and we got them all set up to take over the living room for Sleepover Extravaganza 2007. Furniture was moved, sleeping bags unrolled, Nintendo DSes were plugged in. I braced her for the bad news.

"I have some bad news..." I said.
"You weren't able to get the guitars from Ray?" Kate guessed.
"Worse," I said.
Stricken, Kate gasped, "BUNNIES?!!" (Poor kid, two hamsters deaths have scarred her...)
"No, no, not that bad!" I reassured her. "I wouldn't break news about your bunnies like this!" *sheesh*

I let her know that by "worse" I meant there was no Xbox at all... which meant no games or DVDs for the sleepover. Disappointing but not earth-shattering.

Meanwhile, people had been following along on my blog, where I'd vented about the situation a couple of hours earlier. After reading my tale of Xbox woe yesterday, Mysticalforest kindly offered up the use of his 360 in the comments of my LJ! Not only that but he was kind enough to drive up to my house and hand deliver it. I was soon able to share the happy news with the girls and Sleepover Extravaganza 2007 was saved! Games were played, movies were watched, pizza ordered, popcorn popped. Bunnies frolicked, girls and parents were happy. When the replacement machine was plugged in and booted up, Kate said, "He even uses the same icon I do!" Big Hero Points to Mysticalforest for saving the day.

The girls are crashed out on the living room floor now and I expect they stayed up pretty late. They were still going strong playing Animal Crossing when I went to bed. At some point during the night they pulled chairs up to my computer and were watching Code Monkey videos on YouTube (because that was what was on the screen when I got up this morning). I've been puttering around trying not to be too noisy but I've been up for two hours already and I'm starting to get hungry and want coffee. When the girls arise I'll probably bust out the recipe for pumpkin pancakes and make bacon.

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Kate in the Seattle PI

Last April I described how I learned about Kate's activism in her school, petitioning the school district about the school lunches and basically being a ringleader for a nutrition revolt.

Yesterday there was a nutrition committee open meeting during the school day that she attended. We had company last night for dinner and gaming so I didn't have a chance to ask her how it went. Today she came home and informed me that she'd been quoted in the paper! The Seattle P-I covered the kids' efforts to get better food at lunch and one of the students quoted in the piece was Kate:
"You get more servings now, so we're not as hungry, and I think it's just plain better," said sixth-grader Katherine Frein, who said the cafeteria still runs out of some choices by the time she gets to lunch. "I'd like more variety."

She tells me there were photographers there but for the second year in a row the school believes that I've not given my permission for Kate to be photographed (which I'm pretty certain is not true, since I've signed the papers each year when they've come home in the student welcome packets) but there are no photos with the online article anyway. I haven't seen the print paper.

Some of the nutrition concerns were addressed with the move to the new school building, which has a proper cafeteria and can allow for food prep instead of prepackaged meals. Other items (like the organic salad bar that was popular with a small-but-very-vocal minority of parents and students) were deemed not practical to continue. Still, as another student noted, the kids are learning to organize themselves and strive for solutions rather than just grumble amongst themselves about how they're unhappy.

You go, Orca kids!

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Kate Hates Leap Year

Kate is back from OPI and had a great time.

I gave her the update on what's been decided about her visitations with her dad in her absence. He's coming down to take her out for the day on Sunday, but has to work over her Thanksgiving break (as it's not a holiday in Canada) so we decided she'll spend her break with us. She was okay with that as she had a long, boring summer of hanging around his house while he worked and isn't anxious to repeat that for Thanksgiving break. Then I broke the news that her dad is going to see her for one weekend in December, but nothing else until January because he's going to be in South America touring gold mines or something (WTF? I didn't ask.) and she handled that news just fine, too. Hooray for maturity!

That discussion spawned talk of making birthday plans. This year is 12. "Next year, I'm 13 on Friday the 13th!" she said, excitedly. She figured this out for herself a couple of years ago and has been looking forward to it ever since... except she forgot to calculate for leap year. Poor kid. She was not happy to find out that she will not only NOT turn 13 on Friday the 13th ("...which I've been looking forward to for my WHOLE LIFE!!") but she won't have any Friday the 13th birthday until 2013, when she turns 18. I tried to make it seem cool that she's going to have Friday the 13th in 2013 and that 18 is a great year to have a big, cool theme birthday, but it's just not as cool as turning 13 for Friday the 13th.

She announced that she hates leap year and was going to "drown her sorrows by watching Meercat Manor."



Fewer To Dos

I'm slowly making it through the To Dos on my list. I did a reasonable job of preparing for the summit, though I didn't have as many charts and graphs as I would have liked and I failed to flog my employees into complying with my requests for a new podcast or a new staff photo. Still, we made it through the summit pretty well and the food, at least, was solid.

Then it was my in-laws' visit. After brief confusion about their arrival dates, it turned out they were indeed arriving the day after the guys departed from the summit. Between the summit andthe visit, it's been two solid weeks of eating out or eating in-but-fancy, including a weekend barbecue at Ray and Christine's house (since they're our "Seattle family" it was nice for the Family family to meet them). A couple of false starts (Panos Kleftiko unexpectedly closed the first day we tried them, and Serafina not open for breakfast on Saturdays, which we didn't know until we showed up there) but all in all it's been a good run of food and activities. I've even managed to squeeze in a little cooking, including some Chewy Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip cookies. Bill and Elaine will only be in town for a couple more days and I hope it's not another two years until we see them again. It's been quite a while between visits recently.

Kate left for her class trip to OPI this morning. She's having a fantastic year, really coming into her own and bonding with a small group of very nice girls. Many of the kids who tormented her in previous years have left the school to attend middle school elsewhere, plus the kids are all just growing up and getting more mature. Kate was telling us about a kid who is new to the school this year who is annoying a lot of people with his behavior and how the kids got together to pick two "representatives" to take the kid aside and try to talk through their issues with him. So far it hasn't resulted in much for them but I'm quite pleased that the kids selected Kate to be one of their reps and that her ability to be fair, compassionate, and level-headed has been recognized (and is being honed). She was beside herself with excitement about this trip and I wish I could have squeezed in going to camp with her again this year, but it was not in the cards. I'm certain she's going to have a really good time. We'll hear all about it on Friday, I'm sure.

Now that the big milestones are passing I can get back to the regular level To Do lists. That in itself seemed miles away a few weeks ago.

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Pirate Attack

That's both a tribute to yesterday's Talk Like a Pirate Day and an expression of dismay at how much I have going on right now.

I'm swamped at work. Still trying to catch up on things. We've had a particularly heavy release schedule since GenCon, with products staggered out every two weeks, so I've been up to my eyeballs in invoicing and whatnot. I had a slew of mail orders backed up after GenCon and my week of vacation, had to wait for restocks on items we ran out of, blew through and needed to reorder shipping supplies, plus I'm trying to put together materials for in prep for our summit (the first weekend in October). It's not helping that I've been called for jury duty again this year (which is going to blow at least a couple of days out from under me next week). It's also my anniversary next weekend and Chris and I had a special trip to Vancouver planned (just in time for the worst exchange rates against the Canadian dollar in 30 years!) but Kate's dad has to skip that weekend's visitation so it looks like it's going to be me, Chris, and Kate in the fancy hotel. Oh, and my in-laws arriving the week after the summit, and Kate's school trip to OPI the week after that. Tiny bit busy.
Kate's Pirate Look

On the personal side, I'm really trying not to spend nights and weekends working on GR stuff, even with everything I'm trying to juggle. I have friends and family who deserve my attention as well. Tuesday I invaded R&C's house and whipped up some beef bourguignon in honor of Ray's birthday and managed to wash, dry, and fold six loads of laundry (because I still haven't had time to deal with finding someone to fix my machine). Last night we attended the Flying Lab Software Talk Like a Pirate Day gala at the Seattle Aquarium. Kate and I rode the streets with the Seattle SeaFair Pirates, yelling out "Avast!' and "Yarr!" at random people as we passed. While stopped at a light in front of a Pioneer Square bar where the members of Tripnine were unloading their gear in preparation of playing a set. They started cheering and beating on their drums and just as the Moby Duck was pulling away ran up to thrust a CD into Kate's hand. They're a little too hard for Kate but maybe Rev. Dr. Evil will take it off her hands when he's in town for the summit. All in all, it was great fun but we got home late for the second night in a row which made us tired and not particularly eager to get up this morning.

Tonight I really want to just declare "Bed Day" once Kate gets home, order some pizzas, and lay around watching TiVo. Unfortunately, there's a PTA meeting and I have too many questions about the new school and what's happening this year to skip it. Then there's the plums. I have just enough amaretto to make Plum Amaretto Jam, but it's making me crazy to think of all those plums still at RH's going to waste, so I've got to get myself over there to make more. This weekend: Rock Ridge Orchards Harvest Festival if Kate and I aren't too tired out to handle it.

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First Day of Sixth Grade

6th Grader Close-up
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
And she's off...

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Back from camping

Roasted corn
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We had a good time. I've posted many photos. We

stopped at Carek's Meat Market to buy beef jerky
fell in the creek
set up the tents
played horseshoes
made quesadillas on a hot rock
fire roasted corn
listened to the Mariner's game
roasted marshmallows
threw around a football
explored the woods
found a ruined log cabin
couldn't see any stars, let alone shooting stars
learned our air mattress leaked
got rained on
packed up
stopped at The Old No 3 for chicken fried steak

All in all a pretty successful camping trip even if it did end with us getting rained on and having to leave early. We're damp, dirty, full of scratches and scrapes, smell like a campfire, and personally I'm glad to be back in my warm, dry house. We've vowed to try one more trip if we have good weather in September.

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Summery Girls' Night

I'd planned to have most of the day off today so I could go pick up Kate for the weekend but her dad was heading down to Vancouver, WA anyway so he let me know he'd just drop her off at the house. This left me with a few hours free to play Guitar Hero. Won the game on Medium (complete with encore) and jumped up and down like a fool when one of the songs I unlocked was YYZ. Rush geeks unite!

Kate walked in while I was rocking out and started jumping up and down with glee. I've told her she can play as much as she wants tomorrow while I'm working.

Because I'd already reserved the Flexcar for the day we decided to go out to the movies together. There's not much that I'd want to see in the theater at the moment but we did catch No Reservations. It is definitely NOT a movie about Anthony Bourdain's show on the Travel Channel, though the main characters are chefs. It was PG-13 and Kate and I had seen the trailer earlier in the summer and given it a tentative thumbs up, so we went ahead. Kate was hilarious. She looked around the theater and counted a total of 4 guys ("husbands or boyfriends" she declared) and the rest of the theater was women and girls. I was not the only mom out with her young daughter tonight, either. "Yep, that was definitely a chick flick," she declared on our way out. When did my daughter become so worldly wise?

This weekend: camping!

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Past and Present

Young Kate
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
My ex- found this photo of us circa October 1996, when a young Katherine and her parents were attending the UBC Botanical Garden's Apple Festival. That's Kate, checking out an apple that is nearly the size of her little head.

Our lives now are completely different than they were then. Completely different than the lives we would have sworn lay ahead of us from that point in time.

Katherine starts middle school in less than a month. Even though I try to be aware and maintain a sense of time passing, of Kate growing and changing and progressing towards her adulthood, every now and then something unexpected like this photo drops out of the blue and takes my breath away as I'm struck by such measurable evidence of fast the time has gone.



And summer disappeared again...

Rained this morning and was cloudy depressing until early afternoon so we weren't able to have bunny play time outside or go bike riding. I thought about trying to hit the Ballard Seafood Festival on our way out of town but decided to give it a pass to be sure I wasn't late meeting up with Mark. Instead I took Kate shopping at the JC Penney's 70%-off sale that's going on now, with an eye toward early fall school clothes.

Improvised some enchiladas from a recipe in Southern Living (involved Cajun seasoning, which I just so happened to have in the cupboard). Beef instead of chicken because that's what I had on hand. Swiss chard in a white sauce with cheddar instead of spinach in a white sauce with Velveeta, again because that's what we had. Just took them out of the oven a minute ago, so I haven't had a chance to actually eat them but I hope they turn out. My cooking experiments lately have been disappointing, nothing worth posting about. I could do with some successes.

Discovered Kate has at least one visible cavity on one of her permanent front teeth (behind, near the gum line, in one of those really hard places for kids to remember to brush) and asked Mark to please take her in to have it looked at right away. We'll see how that goes... last time she had a cavity at his house he waited and in the end I had to handle it anyway (and with my severe dentist phobia, too). Kate's a very healthy kid in all other respects but her teeth have been a weakness. She's finally about to lose the last of the four silver crowns she's had on her baby teeth for all these years and I'd really hoped her permanent teeth might fare a bit better.

I hope the forecast for tomorrow and Tuesday holds. Having summer in bits and pieces like this is driving me insane. I'm seriously thinking about getting myself a SAD lamp or something. The lack of sustained summer and the sunshine that usually goes with it reminds me of the winter when we had those three straight months of rain. Bad for my brain.

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Lovely Day

I spent the day with Kate. She's been with her dad since July 3rd (granted, it was after a three month disruption in visitations) and while it's been nice to be footloose and relatively free in July it was also wonderful to have her back home for the weekend. Tomorrow will be a short day because her dad needs to exchange her early because he has something to do in the evening. Meanwhile, today was lovely.

While Chris went down to Renton to finish up a hanging story arc in his SotC game before convention travel hell makes all of August disappear in a haze, Kate and I went to see the Harry Potter movie at the Columbia City Cinema. I'd seen it already but her dad hadn't taken her to see it yet and I knew she wanted to go. (She was very sweet and happily agreed to see The Simpsons Movie last night instead of pressing for HP.) Gorgeous day, we caught the buses without problems, enjoyed the movie (and supported the local indy theater while doing so). We lunched on Subway sandwiches out in the sunny park before again catching all of our buses and making perfectly timed connections. I even had half an hour to read the newspaper at the library while she read her latest obsession, Chibi Vampire. She finished all of book 4 today (yay reading!).

At approximately the time when gaming should have concluded, we joined everyone at Tim's for some of his homemade ice cream and brownies, plus a little Xbox 360 fun. He showed off the Xbox Live version of Carcassonne, which does indeed look swell (and which Kate enthusiastically encouraged us to buy). Upon returning home, Kate helped me make dinner. Not only did she willingly help clean and prepare the fava beans (both shucking them out of their fluff-lined pods and skinning the blanched beans) but she mashed them and prepared a vinaigrette of her own concoction, which was lovely. I marinated and George Foreman grilled some zucchini and some chicken breasts and to my utter shock Kate ate all of her (admittedly small) portion, exclaiming multiple times about how good it was, but she also asked me if I was going to finish my portion and helped finish off what I had left. Amazing! Suddenly all grown up.

I can barely keep my eyes open to write this report of the day but I wanted to get down the gist of it while it was fresh in my mind. Just a thoroughly enjoyable day all around. Tomorrow if the weather holds we're going to take a bike ride together and play with the bunnies in the yard before she has to go back to her dad's.

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Knock me over with a feather, Kate's passport has showed up!

Last week I called the agency because her status was still not showing up online. After waiting for over 30 minutes on hold, I got a confirmation that it had been received "June 19th" which was a full week after I turned over the documents. The woman on the phone told me flat out that I shouldn't expect to have it by Friday (when I thought she was going to her dad's... he's begged off of that and she's not going until the 3rd now but I didn't know that then) and gave me a locater number so I could go to the website to print out an official receipt on the assumption that Kate would have to travel before we got her documents back. Of course, when I went to the website armed with the locater number I found the option to look things up by locater number has been "temporarily disabled". As of yesterday her application was still not showing up on the website as even being received.

Needless to say, I was feeling very confident in the process.

Yesterday was exactly two weeks since we went to apply. Could it possibly be that because our case was weird (establishing her citizenship and all those additional documents) it got special attention off the bat? As I was told not to expect anything until the middle of July, I'm
quite thrilled.

Her passport is far fancier than mine (issued in 2000) and includes all sorts of electronic bits inside a thicker, sturdier cover. Even the individual pages are all full of patriotic slogans and illustrations of flags, eagles, Mount Rushmore, the statue of liberty and so on. The inside back cover includes an image, as if from space, of the moon, the earth and a satellite. Is this some sort of imperialist claim to the planet and space? All this hyper-nationalism is a normally the kind of stuff I find weird and not a little creepy but hey for now I'm just incredibly, blessedly relieved that Kate can come and go to Canada as she pleases now AND I don't have to worry about anyone questioning her citizenship or her right to be in the country/living with me/going to school anymore.

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Goodbye Orca at Columbia

Orca Mural 26
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Today was the last day students will be at Orca at Columbia. Our award-winning student gardens will make way for portable classrooms as our students are relocated to a new school and a different school program moves into Orca's building. I tried to capture the gardens, the murals, and the students celebrating the end of their year (and all the years Orca has been here).

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Passport Away


I was told flat out that I should expect "expedited" service to take at least five weeks, not the two weeks listed on the government websites. I'm not surprised. I had to insist that the guy at the office actually send the various notarized lists, forms, and statements that I painstakingly collected over the last couple of months. He started dismantling the packets of information I'd so carefully assembled: my citizenship documentation, my sworn list of addresses, corroborating documents for the sworn statements, certified copies of our parenting plan (which specifies that Kate is to travel to Canada to spend the summers with her dad), etc. I said, "I'm pretty sure they want that documentation; they asked for it on the website." Sheesh.

Now the waiting begins. I don't actually expect to see her passport in five weeks. As long as I get it in the next ten weeks sometime we should be okay. She can get INTO Canada, it's just getting her back that could, in theory, be a problem. Though with the easing of the passport requirements I'm hoping that having the receipt showing that we've applied and it's in process will be sufficient.

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Operation Half-Birthday: Success

Cake close up
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Because Kate's actual birthday fell during the Great Windpocalypse of '06, causing days of power outages across the city and so on, it's fair to say her birthday was kind of a bust. I promised her that we'd do a "make up" party and yesterday was the day.

We started by getting up early to try to go get passport stuff sorted, only to find me tearing the house apart looking for her passport and my certified copies of the divorce decree and parenting plan. To my immense frustration, I did something "smart" with my paperwork (putting it in some "safe" place I've still not uncovered) and while I eventually turned up the birth certificate, I'm just going to go buy a second certified set of copies at the courthouse tomorrow because I have NO idea where I "safely" put my others. I'm a dumbass.

Chris went off to play in his bi-weekly-ish Spirit of the Century game and Kate and I took the bus up to the SIFF Cinema where we watched Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. A little surreal to hear them talk about Baghdad and Basra (and how the people of Baghdad suffer under cruel invaders who need to be forced out) under the current conditions. Kate declared it was "better than that other one" (referring to our excursion to see Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast at the SIFF theater back in March).

On the way to and from the theater we listened to the last bit of the audio book of The Amulet of Samarkand (which we'd been listening to in the car on the way to Vancouver until Kate was no longer allowed to travel). We finished it up and I must say it was a very enjoyable book. Reader Simon Jones absolutely MAKES the audio book. He's great. I've become a big fan of certain readers in the audio book circles and I'm adding Simon Jones to my list of favorites immediately. He reads the next two books in the series as well, so I'm definitely going to be listening to the whole trilogy.

We got home just in time to pick up the Flexcar and the cake and dash off to the Family Fun Center. Kate picked out a Pirates of the Caribbean cake. Funny that the character of Will Turner was such a non-entity to her that she kept referring to the figures on the cake as "Jack Sparrow and Orlando Bloom." I have an unbelievably large amount of cake left. I may ask Chris to bring it to Flying Lab to get it out of the house!

The kids had a great time at the Fun Center, playing laser tag, dousing each other on the bumper boats (once it stopped raining), riding virtual roller coasters and eventually conning some of the parents who attended into paying for tokens so they could win tickets for a large amount of cheap plastic crap at the prize counter. Multiple kids told me the party was "awesome" and thanked us repeatedly for inviting them on their way out the door. Kate thanked me profusely as well. I warned her that I don't intend to do another big party like this before she turns 16 and for now, she's satisfied.

Today we're SIFFing it again. This afternoon Chris and I catch "Japanese psycho-thriller" Retribution and tonight the whole family is going to go TEKKONKINKREET.

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Kung Fu Jackson

Tonight was the performance of Kung Fu Jackson by Orca school's resident playwright and Star Wars-loving teacher Donte Felder. Donte is currently teaching 5th graders (as is my daughter's main classroom teacher, the outstanding Katherine Law) and both he and Katherine will be moving up along with the fifth grade students when Orca adds its sixth grade curriculum next year.

Kung Fu Jackson was an ambitious undertaking for a grade school play. The kids learned mock fighting and real martial arts moves. There were several dance numbers that involved large groups of students. There were ten acts and an intermission. I was not sure what to expect from the kids but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were plenty of jokes for the parents (though at times I swear I was the only one laughing, I was laughing genuinely and out loud) and unabashed episodes of bathroom humor for the kids. The performers were hilarious, both during scripted humor and unscripted moments.

This year's Orca performances have thoroughly erased the psychological trauma of the infamous "Cranes over Hiroshima" holiday performance from Kate's Kindergarten year. I'm actually looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the us next year and am very glad Donte will be joining Ms. Katherine to team-teach the new sixth grade program.

I realized the other day that the SIFF has less than 10 days left and I hadn't seen a single movie so this afternoon I snuck out and caught my first, a sparsely attended matinee showing of While Palms, an introspective but enjoyable enough film about a Hungarian gymnast-turned-coach. The Seattle Weekly reviews it here and was absolutely correct about it. If nothing else (and truly, there's much more to the film, no worries) it was worth it just to see real-life athlete Zoltán Miklós Hadju strutting his stuff and flexing his impressive muscles time and again during the many scenes of competition and training. Tomorrow Kate and I are catching Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves at SIFF and then it's off to the Family Fun Center for her make-up birthday party (just in time for her half-birthday). She couldn't be more excited and a lot of very nice kids are joining us. This school year is shaping up to end very nicely. I'm so pleased.

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June is too busy!

It's the last month of school for Katherine and the last month that Orca will be in their current location. They have to move out of the school by the end of the school year, which means there's a lot of activity surrounding the move taking place in addition to the usual end of the year activities. Additionally, the teachers and the PTA are really going out of their way to try and make the end of this school year a special one for all the students but for the departing 5th graders especially. In that vein we have the following social calendar:

June 8th School Play (fundraiser for next year's 6th grade trips)
June 13th 5th Grade Class Trip to Wild Waves and sleepover in the Columbia Tower
June 14th 5th Grade Breakfast after sleepover
June 18th 5th Grade Graduation
June 19th 5th Grade Luncheon
June 20th Orca Field Day
June 21st Orca End of Year Celebration

In among all the school activities, we have Kate's make-up birthday party on June 9th and Chris's birthday dinner (I'm taking him to the Herbfarm!) on the 15th, then a "thanks for watching Kate for us" brunch with our kindly Kate-sitters on June 16th. Holy crap, June's half over! I haven't even been to a single SIFF movie this year and it's not looking like there's going to be much chance for me to change that.

I've gotten the papers I needed from Kate's dad to finally make the passport application we've been needing to file since April, so we'll be doing that tomorrow. Yay!

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Fun at Game Night

No roleplaying this week but we did play Ticket to Ride and a couple of games of Walk the Plank. Kate even joined in. It's nice that she's old enough to play with the adults now. In fact, she's pretty capable and uses good strategy. She plays to win.

I heard her on the phone earlier in the evening. She was using my old headset to talk hands-free on the cordless phone with her friend Alex while they played games and roamed around Club Penguin together. She was pretty funny, trying to explain to her friend that she wasn't cheating, she was "using strategy to win."

Anyway, it was good food, good company and fun games. That's what game night should be like!

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Changing like the Weather

Man, last night it was hot in the house but I could smell rain moving in. I rarely get that feeling out here, so common in the midwest, where you can smell the rain, feel the pressure change as the storms move in. Had it last night, though, and sure enough around 8:00 rain came dumping down in big fat drops. Didn't last long but it seems like the clouds and cooler weather are going to hang around for a couple of days which makes me even more glad that I spent the sunny part of the weekend the way I did.

I made time to do a smidge of gardening while the weather was nice. I had been nursing along the tomatoes and basil that I bought at the Orca plant sale and finally transplanted those to proper containers. I'm not digging up the yard this year. Instead I'm confining myself to container gardening (herbs, tomatoes, a couple of peppers that I don't think will grow, a couple of wee little sunflower starts from the Orca kids...) and a whack of random wildflowers in the side yard and the sunny side of the garage. Nice and easy.

I've mostly kicked the plague I caught while the guys were in town for our designer summit but did have a strange and irritating headache develop two nights in a row. Pramas, too, complained of headache and he never gets them so that's a sure sign that something's up. He woke with a sore throat this morning but it seems unlikely that he's just now picking up the thing Rob, Steve, and I had a week ago. I hope it's not a new infiltration of sickness. We've had a pretty good run of being healthy around here and I'd like to go back to it.

Next weekend is Kate's make-up birthday party (her Cinerama and sleep-over party had to be canceled because of the Windpocalypse) which I just managed to schedule in time for her half-birthday. Can't believe she's halfway to 12! My mom threw a party at the local rollerskating rink for me when I turned 12. Kate gets to bring some yet-undetermined number of friends to the Family Fun Center for bumper boats, go carts, mini golf and assorted goofiness. She's invited a bunch of nice kids and if they all come I'll be in the poorhouse by the end of the month (as Pramas' birthday is the weekend following) but Kate doesn't ask for much and I'm all too aware that I only have a couple of these celebrations left to enjoy with her. All too soon she'll be through high school and off doing her own thing, so next weekend it's mini golf and bumper boats. Not sure how the other kids/parents will respond if she chooses Guinness cake as her birthday cake but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

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Busy Sunny Saturday

The weather in Seattle today was just gorgeous. In the low 80s, sunny and breezy.

This morning was the awards ceremony for the Seattle Reading Award for Highest Improvement in Reading. Katherine was one of 234 fifth graders from 58 schools across the school district to get the award. Considering Kate's struggles with reading we're very proud that she received this distinction. She received an autographed book, a personalized certificate and a handshake from former mayor Norm Rice. It was quite interesting to see how different families approached the award. Some kids were dressed to the nines in suit coats or sparkling gowns and matching heels. Some kids came wearing track suits and t-shirts. Some families arrived in large, proud, rowdy groups, other kids came with just one parent or grandparent. Norm Rice's address to the kids had the well-worn cadence of an oft-told tale and was particularly funny as he was trying to explain to the kids about his experience as a kid being quarantined after exposure to polio and how books became so important to him because those were the days "before television, before computers, before Pac-Man..." and, as the parents in the audience began to chuckle and the kids looked confused someone helped him out and he added, "...before iPods." The days before Pac-Man! It was just so adorably quaint.

After the awards ceremony we were feeling good and the weather was so delightful, we decided to walk from the awards location up to the Beacon Hill Festival at the Jefferson Community Center. We bought some hamburgers, watched some folksy entertainment, and Kate won some cheap trinkets by playing games like bean bag toss. We exhausted our tolerance for community fairs in less than an hour but undaunted, I suggested that we continue to spend the day outdoors, doing stuff.

After a brief stop at home to pack up a picnic dinner (cold fried chicken, watermelon, assorted vegetables and dip) we made our way up to Discovery Park. On our way we were pulled over by a procession of motorcycle cops on an official escort of some sort. Finally it was revealed to be a small funeral procession of some sort. "Maybe it was Norm Maleng," I suggested. Rounding the corner, once we were allowed to go on our way, we saw a sign at a local gas station had been changed to read "In Honor of Norm Maleng".

We had a lovely picnic dinner at Discovery Park and walked the trails, looked out over the Puget Sound and generally wore ourselves out. Home now to cocoon for the rest of the evening, maybe read, maybe catch up on TiVo. I may even flirt with danger and treat myself to some coffee and a piece of the strawberry rhubarb tart I baked yesterday.

This is what summer weekends should be like!

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Issues with Authority

The "office lady" was the bane of my childhood: it was in her disapproving hands that I had to put any notes from my mother, it was her disbelieving sniff I had to tolerate when I went to the office sick or in turmoil, she who frowned or sneered when I came in late or left early for a doctor's appointment.

My junior high office lady was complicit in lies and betrayal against me that I do not forgive her for to this day. (After being bullied in gym class, I fled the gym in tears. Instead of running straight to the nearest bathroom, where I knew they would just grab me and haul me back to class, I ran out the front door of the school, around the building to the back door, back up the hallway and into the bathroom...buying myself enough time to have a good cry, or so I thought. My evasive action so baffled them -- because, of course, they went looking for me in the bathroom right away but not three minutes later when I was actually there -- and they were so furious that I had evaded capture, they snatched me up when I did come out of the bathroom at the end of the period. The bathroom was right in front of the office and the office lady was livid that I'd somehow been under her nose the entire time. She and the Assistant Principle teamed up, called my mother, and while I was in the room listening completely LIED about having "found me" wandering around somewhere off school grounds! LIES. Complete fabrication. The Assistant Principle looked me right in the eyes while he told this lie; he knew exactly what he was doing and did it on purpose. It was the most petty and blatant abuse of power I'd ever experienced to that point in my life and it affected my default position on people in positions of such authority ever since.

Until last year Kate's school had one pretty decent office lady and one older and slightly more abrasive office lady who I got to know and get along with alright. This year there's been a new office lady and I find I don't much like her. She's called me a few times this year over various Kate issues and each time she manages to insult me in some way. Like when I spoke to her about Kate's lunch money account being overdrawn; I thanked her for calling and told her this was the first I'd heard of it but that I would send a check the following day. That should have been the end of it but she kept talking, insinuating that there was some other reason that Kate did not have lunch money or that Kate was lying about forgetting to tell me. Finally I said, "I assure you I can afford to pay for my daughter's lunches and I've already told you I'll send a check tomorrow. What more do you want?!" and only then did she shut up and apologize if she'd offended me. Or the day she called because Kate had been in the office with a headache for over an hour and "it was up to me, of course" whether I should come get her or not, but basically she was not going to let me off the phone unless I said I'd come pick her up. I despise that things are such at public schools that you can't just offer a kid with a headache a tylenol and send them back to class!

The day after the incident with Kate's pants being cut at school, I went to pick her up because I happened to be going to the post office that day at the time her classes let out. I arrived on the playground but there was no Kate. Her 3rd grade teacher was on playground duty and told me he'd sent her to do an errand for him ("I needed someone I could trust.") and she should be right back. He needed the megaphone they use to call kids to their bus lines but it was in the office, so he sent Katherine to fetch it. Because English is not his first language, he called it "the loud speaker" so that's what Kate went to the office to request. When she returned with it she told me that she'd gotten in trouble with the new office lady because she'd asked for "the loud speaker" and the office lady said "Loud speaker?" and Kate confirmed "Yeah, the loud speaker." Kate was then treated to "Don't you talk to me that way. Don't you talk to me like I'm one of your little friends!" When I heard this, I was angry. It pressed all my buttons and I marched into the office intending to ask the office lady where the hell she got off. I arrived not two minutes after this exchange took place and she was on the phone so I did not launch into things right away. Seeing me, she was immediately all sweetness and light, calling Katherine "Sweetie" and so forth. In the end, I merely picked up Kate's pants (which we'd turned over to them to prove she wasn't making it up and about which they did nothing) and left, but that episode told me all I needed to know to make up my mind. This woman treated kids one way when she thought she was the big boss and completely differently in the face of any parental scrutiny.

I had to deal with her yesterday when she called to tell me, with all the disdain and judgment she could muster, I had to come pick up my daughter because "her head is crawling with lice." That's what she said. "Her head is crawling with lice." I spent the day treating Kate for lice to be safe but after thoroughly going through every strand of her hair I can tell you that she was NOT, in fact, "crawling" with lice. Not only did I have all that unpleasantness but I had to deal with HER. I'm sending Kate back to school today and I'd better not hear from that office lady about it or we will have words and she will not like it.

I still have problems with authority figures.

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The "pimp" stand

I was walking near the park the other day with Kate when she asked me if it was true that you had to have a license to have do a car wash, because she and her friends had been talking about ways to make money and having offering a car washes was one idea. I told her I didn't know. "I've heard in some places you have to have a license for a lemonade stand," I said, thinking of those cases in Florida that made the news. Kate was disappointed to hear it.

"I wanted to have a car wash stand but Flo wants to have a Pimp Stand," Kate says.

"Uhhhhh...." I say. "I'm not sure that's a good idea... what would you have at your 'pimp stand'?"

"I dunno, Flo wants to pimp their cars and charge them like $100."

"Uhhhh...." I offer feebly. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure you couldn't do that without a license."

I'm trying to imagine what kind of attention three 11-year-old girls (and one boy, if their friend Alex got in on it) would attract if they put up a sign for a "Pimp stand" with $100 prices. ::shudder:: Thankfully Kate is innocent and completely oblivious to the potentially ugly outcomes of that one.

Thanks a lot, Pimp My Ride for getting kids using the word pimp as a synonym for "fix up" or "extravagantly decorate". I know I'm showing my age here, but WTF!

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Art Appreciation

Proving that 11-year-olds are the same now as when I was a kid...

Kate's class had a field trip to Meany Hall at the University of Washington to see the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company doing their interpretive dance program of Jacob Lawrence's paintings.

Kate's assessment? "Just as boring in motion as they are still." and "They were crawling around on the floor and jerking around. No one understood what was going on." She also noted, "All the women were really buff. You could see their muscles and stuff." This was not said in an admiring way...

Ah, interpretive dance. Ah, fifth grade.

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Bella Sara

A while back Kate participated in a little PR thing for the folks at Hidden City, for their card game Bella Sara. I talked with Hidden City marketing guys at GTS and they told me that the video was up in the press area of the Bella Sara website. Check out the video of Kate (holding the dog of some innocent bystander who walked by and was shanghaied into letting Kate hold his "cute, cute puppy"). No need to watch to the end, where they shoved me in front of the camera when I least expected it. God, I wish I could stop rolling my eyes around when I'm on camera... I looked like a dork in the video of my first wedding, too. Kate, on the other hand, is a natural.

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Many Cultures (of Dissent), One World

Last night was MCOW (Many Cultures, One World) night at Kate's school. Kate's classroom was Brazil and the kids made "Carnival" masks, had a Capoeira demonstration and a table full of Brazilian food. One over-achieving family had feijoada brought in from a restaurant. There was, as always with these events, rice everywhere. Every culture has rice, which is always Kate's favorite part. Other classrooms were Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, "the lunar year countries", and several others I never made it to. My favorite this year, though, was the 2nd grade room that was merely the "Culture of Dissent".

I made it to the Culture of Dissent room as it was being hurriedly cleaned up, so I didn't get to see what kinds of foods and "cultural items" were laid out. The teacher wasn't in the room at the time, just the room parents. One project on the bulletin board was an essay about social divisions, labels like "hero" versus "dissenter", the power of the police, and a rant about water as a right versus a commodity and Bolivia's water revolt. I didn't have time to read the whole multi-page essay because at that point the principle came into the room and started talking with the parents about how this teacher had been wanting to do Culture of Dissent every year and he'd been to distracted with the K-8 transition and the physical relocation of the school next year to stop her from doing it this time.

My very favorite part of the Culture of Dissent, perhaps even more than the teacher engaging in activist dissent against the principle to even do it, was the display of the food for "dissent". Loaves of cheap white bread and jugs of water, under a sign talking about how bread and water being food for prisoners. Best MCOW night ever!

I also found out that my daughter is starting a petition to the school district to get better food for school lunches. After kids have allegedly bitten into undercooked hamburgers, found a hair clip in their brownies, and been served reheated leftovers multiple days in a row, the kids have decided they've had enough. They're bringing the situation to the school board (or whoever "They" are who are in charge) and threatening a lunch boycott if better food is not served. If unsatisfied, the kids are threatening to go to the press. Aside from mentioning to me that she really didn't like some of the food served at the school and that the kids found it gross and downright offensive, Kate never brought this up with me. I'm generally pretty happy staying out of the politics at the school and I have very little sympathy for the people who have to have multiple, angry community meetings because their little discipline cases necessitated that the school adopt a detention program for bad conduct. Perfectly happy "missing" all those political dramas, thanks. But it also leads me to find out things like my daughter is the ring leader of a nutritional food revolt.

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