Sunday, July 27, 2008

The quest

Caleb noticed yesterday that the novel we were reading, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, had the perfect plot for a computer game (adventure game, like King's Quest, which Caleb tells me are called "RPGs") because it has a clear quest with multiple steps required to collect the final treasure. So we had a nice long discussion with Caleb and Anda about the fact that most novels have some kind of quest in them, and we identified the quest in a whole bunch of novels we've read together. It was thoroughly delightful. Then today, Caleb took the book and used it as a script and began making the game. He uses RPG Maker 2003, which lets him make the maps, put the characters in, and actually produce a full, functioning game. He learned somewhere else that he can open the "sprite sheets"--pages you choose your characters from--in MS Paint and modify them any way you want, so he's making characters that look like the descriptions in the book.

It's all very cool, and not the first RPG he's developed.

All of this wouldn't be possible if he were wasting his time in public schools just between 1st and 2nd grade. Where you don't read novels at all, and making a computer game is something nobody even dreams of except as a job when you grow up.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why the small print matters

An ad came in the mail that claimed, "Green is the new color of clean. Through Green Seal Certified housecleaning chemicals, HEPA vacuums, and microfibers, The Cleaning Authority is committed to caring as much for the planet as we do for your home.*"

So I followed the asterisk and found this, in very small print, at the bottom of the page: "...Not all franchised locations will use Green Seal Certified products for residential housecleaning services, or follow US Dept. of Health and Human services recommended practices such as using HEPA vacuums and microfiber dusting cloths."

So not only might they not do what their main advertising point is--"green" cleaning, they might not even do the minimum suggested by the government! Yeah, they really sold me on their product.

Actually, if you read it carefully, they never claim they will use those things. Just that through them they are committed to caring as much for the planet as they do for your house, which apparently isn't much. It's not a very grammatical claim in the first place, is it?

Lip Injury and other stuff

I finally found the perfect soap dish. I've always been annoyed by the kind that drain sticky soap water onto the counter, and the kind that let the soap slide off, and the kind that collect it into a marshy mess that I have to look at and clean up, and the kind the soap sticks to. And leaving the soap on the counter coats everything with soap scum. The solution? A dry sponge. Set the soap on it, and everything stays clean and tidy, the soap doesn't slide off or stick, and no scum on anything. If the soap does stick, get it wet and it comes right off. If it gets gross--wash it with the next load of laundry and let it air dry. My bathroom counters look so much better!

As for the lip injury....You know how you can sometimes use your teeth to break that 2" wide clear packing tape? I was doing that for the kids, and had been for 20 minutes or so as they "wrapped presents" by stuffing random toys in boxes and closing them up. Out of the blue, one of the pieces of tape didn't just break and tear across. It outright exploded in my mouth, cutting my lower lip open in 5 places that are just now, several days later, healing. I've never had a bloody lip from biting tape before! We switched to using a broken popsicle stick to break the tape (since scissors are never around when you need them, right?).

2/3 done with my novel--yes, the same one--yet again. This time around it's about 91,000 words long, with a clear plot, clear character development arc, and (gasp!) romance element. I personally miss the epic-style "telling everyone's stories and showing how they intertwine in the long run", but everyone who read it said it was too confusing that way, and that the audience who really would love the book is not the audience who loves, say, The Gunslinger series, where both the length and the complexity are the joy of the series. So we have the pared-down, straightforward, more beautifully written version with more foreshadowing and other literary elements, fewer characters, more descriptive passages, and an easy storyline, focusing on just Kate's story and not all the others'.

I don't know if it's better, but it certainly keeps me distracted!

Pure cane sugar was cheaper than regular white sugar at the store so I bought some. It's less processed than white sugar (or even brown sugar anymore), and it's not quite as sweet, ounce for ounce, but it also hits the kids less when they eat it. Interesting find--more natural seems like it's always better. I think the processing that's going on in the food industry might be actually causing a lot of the health problems in the nation.

Babies are all crying.....more later.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More Funny Kids

I just asked Benji if he wanted to play with Pooh Bear. He looked at me funny, and then grabbed his diaper and said, "Ewww!"

Friday, July 18, 2008


First a funny:

A couple of years ago we were given a pair of stuffed bears. They have magnets in their noses, so when you put them together, they "kiss", and that completes a circuit, causing the "girl" bear's cheeks to glow pink.

I don't know where the girl bear is now, but the boy bear has become a favorite toy, especially when the kids discovered he can slide down the metal pole of our bookshelf, holding on by his nose. "He's a fireman!" they said.

Anyway, they wondered why he had a magnet in his nose, so I explained the girl bear thing, and concluded with, "When the husband bear kisses the wife bear, she blushes."

Anda said, "What is 'blushes'?"
I replied, "It's when her cheeks turn pink."
Anda thought about it for a minute and then said, "I guess she got a really cold kiss!"

Now a serious:

Every pre-kindergartner gets excited to go to school for different reasons. Caleb really wanted to raise his hand in class and answer a question right and get praised for it. My friend's daughter thought riding the bus every day would be the best thing ever.

I finally weaseled out of Anda her reasoning for wanting to go to "a big school"--one of her math lessons was too hard and she didn't get every answer right on the quiz, she "will get to go to the park more often" (I think she thinks the playground is a park) and she thinks all the kids in the school will be her friends and she wants lots of friends.

I'm afraid school will be a bitter disappointment to her. Math won't be easier when a teacher is explaining it. It will be the first year, when she's repeating kindergarten, but after that? It's more intimidating to ask a question in front of the class than in front of Mom, and Anda has the same hangups about making a mistake as I do--the first mistake she made doing school, she cried, deeply devastated, and refused to do school for weeks (which was okay because she was just barely 4 years old). So now I find out that weeks ago she got 3/5 on a math quiz after a lesson (it was a vague lesson that I had to re-teach Caleb, too, and the quiz tests things not taught in the lesson; I tried to explain this to her, but she took the failures to heart as her own instead of as the designers'), and she wants to give up on homeschooling all together.

That's Anda for you. Just like me. I can't count the number of times I failed at something, or perceived I failed, or was mildly criticized, or just got embarrassed (usually needlessly) and had the strong strong desire to quit and never try again, or to move, or to never go back. Some things I did quit--I didn't sing when I thought people could hear me from the time I was 12 until I had kids because a friend teased me. I never have played basketball again since the girls at church laughed when I tried to make a shot at a practice and didn't know what I was doing--and I've avoided other sports, too, just in case. I still remember the one worksheet I got less than an A on in elementary school (Fifth grade, doing math with Time; I still don't get how the teacher was doing it, with adding and carrying and borrowing to figure out what time it will be when she gets there). I also remember that the other kids in the class teased me because it was the first (and only) time I didn't say my score out loud when the teacher was collecting grades (he always gave us the option to pass, and I did, and they openly mocked me for it). Or the time I wanted desperately to move because the Relief Society President rolled her eyes at the condition of my house and refused to come inside, clearly uncomfortable.

The trouble is, the jabs of peers are much more painful than not understanding one assignment, and the damage is far more lasting. I read once that the only long-term negative parts of having Tourette's syndrome actually come from the way the child is mistreated by other children at school, not from the disorder itself.

And I'm not sure sending Anda to school will teach her to "get back on the horse," so to speak. In fact, I'm afraid all the positive attention she gets for being so darn smart will only exacerbate the problem. So then is it a favor to send her to school?

Not only will Anda be bored out of her mind in school, I'm afraid she'll be sorely disappointed in the "having friends" thing, and in the "easier to do math" idea and the "playground is like playing at the park" thing. I suspect she'll have more success at making friends by joining a home school group that meets at the park once a week or so, and going to the "science for homeschoolers" and "art for homeschoolers" classes at the local rec centers. And both of those things would be less work for me, and cost less than school does, and would not require us to be somewhere at 8:00 am every day, which would be so difficult as to be almost impossible for me. (Don't laugh or say I should try harder--the mixed up sleep schedule is something that I suffer from constantly; many tears have been shed, many options tried, and it's still a serious and very real problem for me that is not so easy to solve as you'd think).

There are good things that come from school, and Anda would probably do well. She's social, bright, pretty (the clerk at the store yesterday said she looks like a porcelain doll!), creative, fun. But the negative things that school does to children are so powerful and long-lasting that I hesitate to send my children there, even when they want to go.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Job Hunting Again

So, it's official: Toxic Audio is closing on July 30. At least, the V Theater's website isn't selling any tickets after that. I guess that's as official as you can get.

It all has something to do with the complex "recession-proof"-ness of Las Vegas. In other words, Vegas is very much NOT recession-proof, despite their claims to the contrary, and, with the gas prices preventing visitors from driving or flying in as much as they did last year, the entire city is in shock. Even the schools are funded by taxes on the tourism industry (read: Casinos), so having all of them losing billions of dollars each quarter this year puts everyone in a bad state.

Especially the theaters, from what we've heard (of course, since we're in that part of the industry, that's what we _would_ hear). Even the visitors who come aren't buying show tickets. Big shows here--headliners that don't ever offer cut-rate tickets or worry about selling out--are modifying their theaters to hold fewer people so they still look full. Little shows, new shows, and experimental shows (like Toxic) are all being cut back or cut out.

We don't know why Toxic didn't get continued, but I personally think we are victims of the economic state of the nation. After all, the show only had one bad review, and that was from a poker professional who fell asleep during the show (and that was the extent of his bad review--"I fell asleep during the show"). And we've had dozens and dozens of good reviews, both from news outlets and on "regular people" blogs. And the comments of the guests after the show have been consistently good, consistently along the lines of "I love this--you belong in a bigger theater". Comments and reviews don't sell tickets, and neither did the V Theater (I have theories about this, too, but I won't go into it). Word of Mouth does sell tickets, and the buzz was just building enough for this to really take form, but it didn't get a chance.

So we have to move on.

Tim is auditioning for shows produced by Disney, and we're tracking down audition notices from other big companies (Cirque du Soleil, Dragone, etc). We were going to go back to Colorado and finish school, but it turns out they aren't offering the last two classes he needs this semester. Go figure. So we're looking for work.

If you know of any jobs that are open out there....

Monday, July 14, 2008


Right now...

Anda is cutting all the corners off a big piece of paper. I don't know why. She says she doesn't want there to be corners.

Daniel is throwing English muffins at the walls. I don't know why.

Caleb is having a potty break while he thinks about whether or not his character on the RPG (a kind of computer game) he is creating needs a weapon or is strong enough on his own.

Benji is eating. As usual.

I am pondering how would a college freshman from BYU respond to a tree suddenly swooping down and grabbing her. Would she be terrified, amazed, looking for the trick, etc? Would she gasp or scream?

Tim is sleeping, since he was up all night with a migraine.

It's been a fairly normal day. I'm just glad English muffins don't leave as much gunk on the walls as watermelon or ice cream.

Speaking of ice cream, last night I was craving ice cream. Had to have coconut, not the other six flavors we already had open, so I went out the chest freezer on the back porch and got the coconut ice cream (tampico brand--really tasty stuff, as it the guava ice cream). I noticed it was unusually soft. Several hours later I went out again and noticed that the last popsicle out there was melting, and the last box of ice cream out there was soggy, and the frozen pizzas were all flexible, and....

At 2:00 am I had to empty the whole freezer into the inside freezer because it was apparently not working any more. Must have shorted in the massive rainstorm we had.

Naturally, I had to crave ice cream in the middle of the night so I would notice before we lost any of the meat that was out there. Fortunately, we had used a lot of our meat lately and when I went to stock up, the store was out and gave me a rain check.

This seems like a disaster, but since we are job hunting, and therefore possibly facing a move in the next few months, it might be a blessing. One less big thing to try to cram into a truck! Again. Plus, thanks to the midnight cravings and a constant nagging feeling 2 hours later that I needed to go check the freezer again, we only lost one popsicle. That's it. And some things (like a chicken and some mystery meat that was frozen in 2003) that we should have thrown away a long time ago.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Funny Kids this month

Today, Tim was painting new designs on a T-shirt, and Caleb came in and said, "Mom, Dad is editing his shirts."

A couple days ago, I looked down and found Benjamin trying to pull off his belly button. He has a slight hernia, so his belly button is a pronounced outie, which means he could easily pinch it. So he was trying to pull it off. I finally said, "What are you doing Benji?" and my little one year old replied, "I want a ding-dong!"