Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I am the Candy Slave

Halloween is upon us. Soon, many a youngster will come knocking on my door and shout 'trick or treat' at the top of their lungs. I, being the dutiful candy slave, will open my door and fill their bags with sticky confections designed to make them hyper and send their dentists to Disneyland.

In Scotland and parts of Northern England, the tradition is called 'guising.' The principle is the same. Kids go from door to door dressed up as who-knows-what and beg for the candy. The difference is they're expected to do something for it. Normally the kids will recite a short poem or a funny joke. More talented kids might play the harmonica or sing a song, or do a card trick or something. Most kids get a treat no matter what or how well they do. They certainly would if they came to my house.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It's a great excuse to just step out of our everyday lives and have some fun. I love reading and telling scary stories, watching the old black and white monster movies with my kids, and just generally having fun. My kids get into it, too, and not just for the candy. They like dressing up as their favorite heroes and heroines and parading around to our neighbor's houses. This year I think I'll don a gray hooded cloak, attach some reference to spider webs, and go as the "Web Master."

Trust me. It was funny a few minutes ago.

Outside of all the sugar, I actually think it's healthy. Creating costumes is a wonderful problem solving exercise. The kids get a little exercise wandering the neighborhood. And let's face it, we all need a little more fun in our lives.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How We Digitized My Daughter

It's Violin Girl's 13th birthday. I'm thinking I need to change her pseudonym, though. She's all but given up on the violin, these days. What she's really been getting into is writing fantasy stories.

She's really good. Yeah, she's still a kid and her writing shows that but, some of her stories have got me and her mom saying, "When are you going to write the next chapter?" Her ideas and characters have really grabbed our attention.

In order to encourage her writing, My Lovely Wife (MLW) and I decided to get Writer Girl (see? I told you I was thinking of changing it) a computer. Actually, we're going to clean up an older one that we're not using for much any more and let her have it.

We're cheap. What can I say?

All last week I've been clearing off old files and making sure she has the software she'll need installed. I've stayed up way too late at night doing this too, I might add.

We've been planning this for some time, now. We got her a roll-top computer hutch for her room a few months ago. She'd wanted a desk to do homework on, so we had a great excuse to get the master computer plan underway without her suspecting a thing.

There was one problem, though. We needed to replace the broken shelf the monitor would sit on. No problem. MLW would measure the desk and get a new one.

Initially, we wanted to set it up and let her discover it when she got home from school, yesterday. MLW cleaned off Writer Girl's desk earlier that day, and was going to move the computer, but ran into a snag. Two snags, actually. The monitor we had for her was too big for the desk, and MLW had measured the shelf size badly. The one she bought was too small.

MLW hurried and put the computer back and called me at work. We'd have to try another plan but, neither of us could deal with it until later in the day because of work responsibilities. Unfortunately, that would be after Writer Girl got home from school.


When Writer Girl got home, she noticed that all of the things she had on the desk were now on her bed. Like all hormone laden teenage girls faced with such situations would do, she confronted her mother.

"Mom! Why is all of my stuff off the desk, and on my bed?"

"Ummm ...." MLW isn't good at coming up with believable lies at short notice. "I wanted to help you clean your room for your party, but I had to quit in the middle and go to work."

"MAW-awm!" Writer girl whined in the way that only young teenage girls can, "That's just rude!" and she stomped down the stairs to her room, promptly putting everything back on her desk.

Fortunately for us, this was the same day as "Young Women's," a weekly group meeting for all the teen and pre-teen girls in our local church. Writer Girl would be out of the house. We had our chance, and we struck.

When I got home from work, later than I'd planned I might add, Writer Girl was already gone to "Young Women's." MLW and I created a new battle plan, which amounted to me running around the city to get a new shelf and monitor, and hightail it back home to complete the "secret op."

It was 8:00 PM. The stores I needed to hit closed at 9:00 PM. Writer Girl would be home any minute. The odds were against us, but you only turn 13 once, and we wouldn't have another chance to try and pull this off.

I didn't make it back in time.

As fast as I was, it still took 50 minutes to get the two different stores I needed to go, secure the goods, and get back to base. I came home to find Writer Girl sitting with MLW in my bedroom, smiling sheepishly.

"I told her she had to stay in here for a while, because you'd gone out to get her a surprise." MLW said.

Okay. Maybe we can do this, after all. Most of it, anyway.

MLW and sprang into action. I went back out to the car and brought in the monitor and shelf, and took them downstairs. The shelf needed to be cut to size, but I could do that.

Yeah, right.

After fiddling with two different saws and spreading sawdust all over the floor, I discovered that my carpenter father was right - measure twice, cut once. Apparently carpentry skills are not genetic because I'd cut the shelf way too short for her desk.

I'm just glad my daughter wasn't downstairs with us. I let loose with a string of vocabulary words that stretched well beyond the limits of what's proper around young women.

It was beyond the limits for most adults, too. And I had served in the Marine Corps, so that's saying something.

MLW remembered that we still had another shelf we'd used in another area of the house, but weren't using anymore. She found it (I have no idea how) and we got the shelf cut to the proper size this time.

Things got a bit simpler from here on out. Moving the computer over and installing it on her desk wasn't too difficult. A power cable had become lost in the process but it didn't much time, and more stretched verbiage, to find it.

The whole thing was so nerve wracking for me I swear I'm going to need therapy.

We fired up the computer, and made sure everything was still working right. I'd searched the 'net and found some pictures of horses to use for wallpaper (Writer Girl loves horses), and left it turned on so she could see it when she came down.

MLW went upstairs to get a camera and Writer Girl while I mopped the sweat off of my forehead, and tried to keep a straight face.

Writer Girl came downstairs, turned the corner and peered into her room. She stood there for several minutes, speechless and smiling.

New shelf and used monitor? - $20.00

One session of stress therapy? - $200.00

Look on your 13 year old daughter's face when she realizes how much you believe in her, and want to support her in developing her talents? - Priceless.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What Do You Get a Pregnant Gamer?

A good friend of mine just popped his head into my office to tell me he's expecting a baby. Well, his wife's expecting, anyway. Early spring of next year.

This is exciting news! He's excited to become a father, she's excited to become a mother, and I'm excited for them both. Lots of 'excited' goin' on here.

After congratulating them, my first thought was some of us in the office should pitch in and get them some kind of congratulatory gift. That's what you're supposed to do in this sort of situation, isn't it? I'm just not sure what to get them.

Both of these folks are rabid adventure gamer geeks. They love Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, Munchkin, and all sorts of weird and fun games like that. His newly pregnant wife loves Manga on top of it.

I like all those things, too, so you'd figure I could come up with an idea for a good gift.

The trouble is I can't. What do you get a pregnant Manga loving gamer chick to celebrate her ... um ... pregnantness?

I don't recall seeing any fantasy titles like "Conan the Babysitter," or "Lord of the Diapers." I’ve certainly not seen any Manga titles like "Ghost in the Womb," "Cowboy Babybop," or "Goo Goo Hakusho,” either.

Hmmm. I wonder if “Kiki’s Delivery Service” counts?


If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.