So! When last we left our...us...we'd lost our damn AC. Again. We dropped it off at the Firestone in Lawton, OK and piled into Michelle's parents' pickup truck to go home (tight fit, but her mom let me drive because she's an angel).
Firestone got working on it the next day (it would later turn out that the first fix involved a faulty part, and the compressor exploded again. The mechanic was very excited, he said they'd never seen anything like it before. Yaaaay. At least it was under warranty so it didn't cost me more). Meantime, we did Oklahoma things.
We saw The Amazing Spider-Man, which I really enjoyed. But no pictures of that. We went back to the house in Temple, OK (which is small and empty and OH GOD GET ME OUT), which was being swarmed by crickets. Like, really, you'd go outside and there was a blanket of them. Frogs loved it, though.
Next day (which I guess would have been...um...Monday? I'm totally lost) I mentioned I wanted to cook. We were going to go to Michelle's brother's house so the kiddos could swim, but they also have this awesome kitchen that they seldom use. Michelle's mom was kind of flabberghasted that I a) could cook b) wanted to cook and c) would cook in someone else's house, but see, I center myself by cooking, and I was pretty off-center.
So we went by Wal-Mart (ugh, if I never set foot in another Wal-Mart it'll be too soon, but there apparently aren't grocery stores in Oklahoma) and got stuff to make chicken Parmesan, which is simple and easy to make, but also not strange (Oklahoma is the land of starch and red meat and that's it) for the diners. So the kids jumped in the pool:
|Will and Al, pooling.|
|Will and his superhero cousin, Libby.|
...I made dinner. It was well-received, and April (who's...geez, my sister-in-law, I guess. Wow, I just realized that! Neat!) asked for the recipe. So that was gratifying. :)
Home, sleep, uneventful day, crickets, and then next day, voop! Off we go! We got the CR-V first, of course, and then headed to Oklahoma City and Half-Price Books, where we sold off enough books and records and whatnot from Michelle's parents' house to finance most of our trip home (so that was nice).
We drove to Springfield, MO, stopped for barbecue for dinner, and then I realized there was no way I was driving another 180 miles to Fenton (which is where our hotel was) without coffee. So we drove down "C-Street" in Springfield, which was a cool little area, and found some photo-worthy stuff:
|A rose in the street.|
|A creature made of metal.|
We also found a coffee shop called Big Momma's, which is exactly my kind of place:
|They really like hedgehogs.|
|I totally agree.|
We got coffee and dessert, and then back on the road! We found some radio broadcasts of The Shadow to listen to, and that got us to Fenton.
Next day (Thursday), we set off toward home. We had breakfast at this awesome little restaurant called Maggie's Lunch Box (if you're in Fenton, I highly recommend it - I had a beef and ale sandwich that was amazing). Behold!
And then we found ourselves in Illinois, and near Greenup. We'd been here before, at a winery that we really enjoyed, so we stopped by again (amidst whiny protests from Will) to buy more wine. We also found a cool covered bridge nearby:
|Ooh, covered bridges.|
And from there, the long slog home. Stopped by Indianapolis and had dinner at an awesome little Chinese place with John Kennedy. And then home!
And then home. Our next trip, I think, is GenCon.
So of course I have a million things to do.
- Make a damn character. I'm totally doing this today.
Do write-up from Monday's game. Do write-up from last night's movie (which I didn't actually do last night because I was a bit drunk). Go through text for curse the darkness and highlight character examples to put in backer's names. List out graffiti elements. Message graffiti backers.
- Come up with a timeline for work this summer so I don't find myself writing ghost rules for curse the darkness the day I leave for GenCon.
Balance checkbook, weep quietly. Finish interview for Geekcentricity. Take stuff out of car. Price out Kits.- as done as I can be. Waiting on some quotes. Take kids swimming!
Holy shit, that's a lot to do. Let's roll!
( MARS! )
Overall impressions: Attendance seemed light this year. I don't have numbers to back that, but based on what I was seeing and hearing, the move to early June may have been a mistake. Next year it's later in the month, so we'll see if that really made a difference, but I dunno.
Professionally, though, I think it was a good con for me. I made some connections, spent a lot of time hanging with Matt McElroy in the DriveThru RPG booth and with Jonathan Lavallee and Mark Truman and talking business, pleasure, my Kickstarter, Mark's Kickstarter, game design, and so on. That was awesome. Also introduced to the joys of bibimbap, which I'm totally making as soon as I get my hands on some bowls that can handle it.
( Wednesday! )
( Thursday! )
( Friday! )
( Saturday! )
( Sunday! )
Well! Michelle has finished her MA. Now begins the long slow to getting herself a PhD (though you could argue that actually started when she started Case). But mostly I think she's just thrilled to be done with classwork for a short while.
The Kickstarter continues to kick ass. We've got the rest of the artwork back, and it's amazing (a new piece should be going in an update on the Kickstarter sometime soon, I hope). We've still got a few weeks, so I figure we should be able to hit $10K and do the curse the darkness companion, but honestly even if we ended today, we've done pretty damned well for ourselves.
In unrelated news, I had a job interview last week for my local school district. I really hope I get the position, and it's causing me a little bit of angst. I love my job. I love my kids. This district is driving me crazy. My caseload is too big, the bureaucracy is too stupid, and Ohio doesn't give a shit about poor people so they don't give a shit about the people who teach poor people's kids (that'd be me). I can afford to keep making what I make, for a little while. I cannot afford a pay cut, and that's what the district wants. I can't do it. I need to get somewhere that I'm not expected to make less every year, and it's bothering me, because I feel like I'm quitting on my kids. But it's an untenable situation, and I have my family to consider.
Anyway, something else. Umm. Oh, right, poo. See, here's the thing. I run this Clay-o-Rama game every year (most years) at Origins and/or GenCon. Clay-o-Rama is awesome; you make a monster out of Play-Doh and the monsters fight. I occasionally get a guy playing at Origins who wants to make a big piece of poo for his monster. And he's, like 40+. And there are kids playing. He should know better, but he apparently doesn't.
I'm not willing to just sign his ticket and tell him to piss off. I could, apparently, under Origins rules, since a GM can kick anyone out of a game for any reason (which I fully support). But I work with people who are emotionally stunted or behaviorally challenged, and the other thing is, I've never talked to him about it (last time because it just caught me off guard). This year, I'll make the rules clear up front - no scatological humor. And if he can't handle that, I'll excuse him (and anyone else that can't play by the rules), but I can't just jump directly to "go away."
Shit, when did I become patient?
( Anyway, Promethean. )
I'm a speech-language pathologist, and I work with students in kindergarten through 8th grade in an inner city elementary school. I work with an incredibly diverse population, and some of my kids are readers with articulation problems, but most of them either don't read or don't read at their grade level. Very few come from homes with a lot of stimulating printed materials around, and very few come to me having read Where the Wild Things Are. I consider that a tragedy and I use it with my students during the first week of school.
Some of it is education and therapeutic. Readers can practice with words that they know and a few they probably don't ("terrible," "gnashed"). Non-readers get to listen to the story, follow it along, and answer questions about Max and his private boat and his journey to the place where the wild things are. One of my favorite moments in my job was reading the story with a kindergartener who, when he saw the picture of Max chasing his hapless pet with a fork, exclaimed, "He's gonna eat the dog!"
I know the book by heart (it's only 250 words or so). I've recited it to my children, in long nights or plane rides or while waiting for tables at restaurants or while helping them go to sleep. And I've occasionally thought, if it all crumbles and I have to care for them in a world devoid of the structure and comfort that we enjoy, I'll still have that story, word for word.
I think a lot of people from my end of the geek spectrum think this way - in the event of the apocalypse, what would we do or have or know? Trying to figure out what we would do in a given situation is a normal part of experiencing fiction, and between zombies, nuclear war and (ahem) RPGs about ideologues wiping out the world with shadow-monsters, the notion of dystopia comes up a lot. It's not that we want it to happen, I think, we're just interested in seeing it, us included, maybe as the hero.
Max didn't want to live with the Wild Things. He just wanted the rumpus, and then he went home, to the night of his very own room.
In the larger context of curse the darkness and properties like it, I think that this desire to let off steam in aggressive ways might be part of the appeal. I know that every child I've read Where the Wild Things Are to, ever, has relished the part where they get to snarl at me ("roared their terrible roars"), snap at me ("gnashed their terrible teeth"), make faces ("rolled their terrible eyes") and swipe at the air ("showed their terrible claws").
Kids don't need everything tied up in a bow, and they can certainly handle a little surreal - even out and out weird - in their books. Mr. Sendak understood that. He understood that kids get scared but sometimes seeing the monsters makes the scary easier to tolerate. He understood that kids pay attention.
If you have kids, maybe hit a bookstore or library today and pick up a copy of one of Sendak's books? Or if, like me, you know Where the Wild Things Are by heart, maybe recite it to someone you love. And make the faces. That's fun.
A child with well-developed theory of mind will answer, "Under the basket," because she understands that, based on what Ann knows, she will think that the ball hasn't moved. A child without that will say, "behind your back," because she can't separate her knowledge and experiences from someone else's.
This typically develops around age 4, and is mastered by age 6 or so. Theoretically. And, as we know, folks on the autism spectrum have trouble with this.
I would submit, though, that our culture doesn't appropriately reward or teach this skill. I mean, it develops naturally in a normal environment, but I kind of feel like our culture, instead, teaches more of a "everything you think/feel/believe is right and OK" kind of ethic. Maybe this is changing? Hard to say.
But on another note, I can't believe I never thought to use Mercer Mayer's Boy, Dog and Frog series to teach theory of mind. Doy.
STUDENT: I take care of my cats. I love all my cats.
MY BRAIN: "But I can't hug every cat!"
ME: Shut up, brain, or I'll stab you with a q-tip.
So, this was just an overnight trip. We stayed at Castaway Bay, which has a nifty indoor water park. On the way there, we found this awesome Mexican restaurant in a castle. No, really:
After lunch in el castillo, we headed on to the resort. I wandered around a bit and took some photos.
Giant pirate ship in the lobby.
The water park.
Teagan, being eaten by a shark.
So we donned our swimsuits and hung out in the water park for a while. They have a wave pool, which is fun, and a slide with an inner tube that Teagan fell in love with. Also a cool arcade (though not in the water park) where you can earn tickets to trade for useless junk. So, y'know, vacation.
Odd bit: The cartoon tie-in for Castaway Bay, and in fact Cedar Point, is Peanuts. While I'm glad it's not Spongebob Squarepants or something, really, Peanuts? My daughter has no idea who she's hugging here:
Linux? Lunacy? Lucifer?
Cael, however, knows a security blanket when he sees one.
So we had breakfast there, which despite being expensive was good. Cael went straight for the Lucky Charms:
Look carefully and you can see green marshmallow on his nose.
Before we left for Cedar Point, we went back to the arcade to use our tickets. The kids all got fake vampire teeth through Sarah's beneficence.
And then on to Cedar Point! I didn't take a lot of pictures there, but a few I did get:
Sarah, having just gotten her hand henna'd.
Cael on the Frog Bounce. I'm sure he'll be the one who'll want to do all the supercoasters when he gets bigger.
The kids eating ice cream. Cael chose Superman.
And the Hallo-weekends car, which I photographed on the way out.
So there ya go! Heather, Aaron, Michelle and her boys were there, too, but just didn't make it into pictures this time. But Teagan rode some of the bigger coasters - the Mean Streak, the Gemini and the Disaster Transport - and liked them, though she felt the Disaster Transport was spooky (much of it is in the dark). We'll have to go back more often, particularly once the boys get out here.
So, last you heard it was Thursday evening. After I made that last post, we went to dinner at a place called the Black Swan:
Mila Kunis wasn't there. Trust me, I looked.
The food was really amazing. Black Swan Fries, which are just french fries, but they tossed them in truffle oil and parmesan. Wow. Yum. And other such food-porn, which I won't relate here because I have other things to do. But suffice to say I'm going back there next year.
Michelle and I also found another winery:
Got some more wine, then went back to the hotel, played games with the boys (including Geeks: The Convention, which I'd forgotten how much I liked) and then, the next day, GenCon.
( GenCon! )
Altair giving Deadpool a gentle smooch.
And really, isn't that what GenCon is all about?
( Sunday. )
Whew! And then we went home, watched Black Rain (review coming next post!) and went to bed.
This morning, then, we woke up and started to pack up. Michelle's mother went to fetch her father, and got into a car wreck (they're fine, don't sweat, though their car is not), which delayed things. But we did eventually get on the road, and stopped in Muenster, Texas, for lunch.
Yummy weiner schnitzel and sausage, followed by yummy pastry from this bakery:
And then on! On, through Texas, until we reached the home of our hosts, who graciously let me us their Internet and drink their coffee! Yay!
More photos to come, tomorrow, when I see more interesting things to photograph.
We left Ohio in good weather, but that was as far as our luck held:
( Wednesday. )
Thursday morning, we decided we'd go to the Gateway Arch before heading out to Oklahoma. The Arch is too big to fit into a picture, though I did take some. Anyway, Thursday looked like this:
( Thursday. )
OK, popping out from behind the cut to say that when you go up into the Arch, you go into these little space-capsule things:
The "4" there is a door.
And then you ride allllll the way up to the observation deck. Whereupon I took a bunch of photos of the St. Louis downtown area, and people on the ground using my zoom, which are behind the cut. I just wanted you to see how small that freaking capsule is, if you're the sort that doesn't look at my photos behind the cut. ( Moving on. )
So then Friday morning, we got up, had breakfast, and Michelle and I foolishly decided to go to the zoo. Why foolish? Because it's routinely getting over 100 degrees out here. Seriously, this heat is fucking insane. But we went, early in the day that it didn't suck overmuch, and I took some pictures of animals and so on.
( Friday. )
There's a chicken coming out of this wall. Your argument is invalid.
I've talked to parents who felt a profound sense of their own mortality when their children were born. I've felt that feeling since my kids were born, once or twice, but no more frequently or with more intensity than before. What I did feel when Teagan was born was amazement, humility, and love. And when she was born, tiny and helpless, I made a vow (that I would later repeat for Cael) that I would love and protect her, that I would teach her and nurture her, and that while I would not give her more knowledge than she could handle, I would never lie to her.
Man, that last one is hard. It's hard to avoid telling Teagan that Netflix just isn't working when she's got her heart set on watching something from there rather than one of her own movies. It's hard to avoid buying into the fun of the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. It's hard that I have to tell her that her grandfather is gone. Not waiting for her in heaven, not hanging around the house, not in a better place, just gone.
Tell you what, though: I gave Teagan the Lego test a few months back. We were driving by the cemetery and, as usual, she started talking about death. I asked her: If you make a house out of Legos, and then take it apart and put the Legos back in the box, where is the house? And she answered correctly: Nowhere. (Yes, I stole that from xkcd,
I've kept my vow to Teagan. It's hard sometimes. I get frustrated and angry like anyone, and she's six, and she gets whiny and needy and defiant sometimes and all those other things that kids get. But I think about the kids I see. I think about the kids that are disabled, that are born of parents who are addicts or broken or angry all the time. I cannot forgive what some of them do, but I can be thankful for what I have, for the growth that I've made and the wisdom I've accrued.
I came very, very close to suicide last year. The reasons aren't important (and here's the funny thing about depression - in retrospect it doesn't seem that bad. At the time, it's never seemed worse). My therapist told me something I should have known: Children of suicides are far more likely to become suicides.
I know my children are in for pain and fear and heartache. That's how life works. I remember being a teenager, and I have no rose-colored glasses about the subject. It sucked. I remember being a child, and I remember feeling afraid and alone. I cannot save my kids from the demons in their own heads, but maybe, just maybe, I can foster enough of an atmosphere of trust and love that when they hurt, they will seek me out and know that I will do anything within my power to protect them, to help them stand up, and to help them find their centers.
I won't break my children. I worked with a little girl yesterday who'd been broken. Or rather, I think the process is ongoing. I helped her with her homework - which she could do, she was just either unwilling or overwhelmed - but it was pretty obvious to me that what she needed was a safe space, if only for a while. She's not one of my students (not yet, anyway), just someone who needed someone to have her back.
Tonight, I'm taking Teagan to the movies and to dinner and to get a Build-a-Bear for being a trooper at the dentist (three freaking times. Little cavities, but I'll tell ya, I have a pretty good instinct to sock anyone who comes at her with a needle, even if it's for her own good. Damn Daddy alarm).
So wish her a happy birthday, if you would, so I can read it to her later. :)
I have a lot going on this weekend, but I'm sure I can eke out time to make at least one character. So I want folks to post and tell me what game I should do and inspiration in the form of either:
- ...a sentence beginning with "Although he said..." or
- ...a link to a Youtube video (and let me know if the song itself or the visuals in the video are meant to be the inspiration) or
- ...a quick description of your character in the chosen game, and I will create a character with a link to yours.
THE SCENE: Playing "Making Sense with Syntax: Dinosaurs!", this nifty board game I picked up that has a dinosaur theme, but syntax-related questions for most of it. One of my third grade students is reading out a Dinosaur Challenge question to another student.
STUDENT: "Which dinosaur resembles today's armadildo?"
ME: (suppressing laughter) That says "armadillo," actually.
ME: Cael, say "Eureka!"
(Cael wisely ignores me. He's busy doing SCIENCE!)
TEAGAN: He can't say "Ru-yeek-a." pause I can't really say it well, either.
Got a new couch. Well, "new" in the sense that it's new to me. The old couch, while comfy, was falling apart, so we popped down to the Goodwill and paid all of $65 to buy another. So far, so good.
Teagan's pirate birthday party was yesterday. Presumably Heather will be putting photos up on her blog soon. The takeaway quote of the day from Teagan, without doubt, was "Back up off my ponies!"
Trail of Cthulhu last night. I want to do the write-up, and I might do it after I finish this little update if I feel energetic enough. Or I might say "screw it" and go downstairs and play WET for a while. Let's see.
I love trading books! Yesterday I got Pirates of the Spanish Main and CthulhuTech for the price of shipping a couple of WW books. Anybody has RPGs they want to trade, go click here and see if I've got anything left you'd like.
May be getting some new RPG work soon. I'm enjoying only working one job, but an occasional freelance gig would be nice, if only for a little extra cash and keeping my hand in.
Today, my mother and the kids and I went to an orchard, and then to a nursery that was having some October-fun kids' stuff. The orchard included a wagon ride, during which Teagan asked me, loudly, if horses had penises. Fortunately, the other folks on the ride were parents as well and just chuckled in that kind of "yeah, been there" sort of way.
Not pictured: Horses
At the nursery, we found a big play-pen/sandbox area filled with dried corn, which was the Best Thing Evar as far my kiddos were concerned.
Teagan, making a corn angel
Cael, making a corn pile
By this time, Cael was about ready to collapse from sleepy-babby-ness, so we headed home. Teagan is presently helping my mom clean up from the party, Cael is in his crib, powered down. And that "crash on the couch and play video games" idea is sounding really, really good. I'll do the game write-up later tonight, after I've had some coffee.
But, any opinions on which game I should do next in my chargen rampage? anaka had suggested Serenity, but I lent the book out.
So this morning, I'm sitting in my office prepping for a thrilling day of Medicaid billing, and I hear this:
"Put your finger on your head, on your head - no, Michael, your head!"
Made my morning.
So why, you may ask, am I using my Bender mooning someone icon? Why, because Night Horrors: Unbidden is apparently available, and I just learned about it on the WW forums!
In addition, I have to finish the story that I should have finished, like, a month ago. Some time back, I posted some goals for the summer. I've managed to get some of my essays shifted over to my new blog, but I haven't written a new one yet. I didn't manage to get this damn story written, nor have I have managed to polish either of the stories I wanted to. I have, however, managed to spend a lot of time with my kiddos this summer. We wound up at the zoo and the playground, not to mention just hanging out at home and trying (and failing) to keep the house clean. But it's been a great and very leisurely summer.
I don't work during the summer, because I work at a school. I've been working during the summer for years, now, and this is the first year in close to a decade that I haven't been writing nonstop. And really, it's been awesome. I've got feelers in to a couple of companies looking for writing or editing work, because the extra money would be nice, but if it doesn't pan out, I can live with that, too.
Now, on to my goals for the school year:
- Polish up one of my stories and shop it around, dammit.
- Essays for the blog. Once a month, starting in September.
- Read more. I want to finish A Game of Thrones, for one thing. Use my lunch breaks for reading time.
- Gym, every day.
- The usual stuff: Be a dad, be an SLP, be a husband, but that's ongoing.
- Run/play kickawesome games.
Speaking of that last, yesterday we were going to play In A Wicked Age, but then we wound up having seven players, and arkhamhorror feels that's too many. So instead, we played Poison'd.
Poison'd is a game in which you play pirates, but it's less "swash and buckle" and more "rape and pillage." The set-up for the game is through that link. So, first off, we all made our pirates. Betrayal, murder, and pig-fucking ensued.
( C'mon, tell me you're not a little intrigued. )
Check it out: We (Heather, Teagan, Cael, me) went to the Toledo Zoo today. I grew up in Toledo, and we haven't been to the zoo since Teagan was about a year old, so it was nice to get back. And the zoo has become awesome in the interim; they've added new kids' exhibits (that's "exhibits for kids," not "exhibits featuring kids," which would be unsettling). Some things, of course, remain the same.
The kids on the brass lioness
I GET TO FIGHT THE LION!
Teagan with an octopus on her head
Teagan and Cael as bees
The family being menaced by a polar bear
Note, in that last picture, that I was wearing my "FREE HUGS" shirt. If you don't know what the heck that refers to, go here and watch the video, and then go here and check out Juan Mann's story.
During the day, I got stopped about half a dozen times for hugs. Mostly it was people saying, "Nice shirt!" and me saying, "Thank you. Like a hug?" Every single response was something like, "Hell, yes" or "Absolutely."
Look, I'm a humanist. I love people. And I think that when we invite people to share our lives, we run a terrible, terrible risk of being hurt, violated and used. And I believe that it's worth that risk. Today I got to embrace a few people whose names I'll never know. And I got to explain to my daughter that, yes, anyone could walk up and get a hug from Daddy. She loved that.
Today was a good day, for that and a lot of other reasons. I got to spend it with my family, and with some friends that I don't see often enough. But today was one day out of approximately 28,380, and that's all we get. Doubly important, then, then my wife and children know how important it was to me (they do, don't worry).
Consider, though, the World of Darkness, and a brutal reminder that we are finite. The human soul might be eternal (but then, it's edible, so maybe not), but the Bound will tell you that it's cold comfort when Mr. Reaper actually does come knocking. We shuffle off this mortal coil afraid and alone, either into the Great Unknown or a bleak existence as a restless shade.
Another option exists, though. For some.
The Game: Geist: The Sin-Eaters
The publisher: White Wolf
Degree of familiarity: As much as anyone could, at this point. I helped write and playtest the game.
Books Required: Geist: The Sin-Eaters (of which I have a handy pdf) and the World of Darkness Rulebook.
( If you're still with me, awesome. )
Last character for a few days. I'm in Niagra Falls until Thursday. I'll be on the lookout for talking wax lions.