lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
Mason will be fourteen on Monday. It’s kind of hard to believe that I have a high schooler in the house.

On the other hand, I like teenagers. Maybe I will live to regret the words I just typed, but I will confess that my very least favorite stage in child development is everyone else’s absolute favorite: infancy.

Babies? Not for me. You can keep the “new baby smell” and the diapers and the once every two hours feeding schedule. I like young people when I can have a talk with them. Pretty much the instant they’re able to communicate, I’m there. I quite like the stage where they hand you random things and you suggest, “Oh, you’re giving me an apple?” and they sternly correct you, “No, moose.” Because, you know: toddler brain. But, that delights me. Plus, they just grow more interesting, IMHO, the more they age.

Even though he’s moody af sometimes, I’m happy to have a clever, bright young adult at home.

My folks came up to celebrate early.  We had a good time. Friday night we met them at their hotel and ordered Red's pizza. Mason got to open his present, which was from all of us: a Nintendo Switch.  He was so excited by it (and the new Zelda game) he lost track of time playing it and ended up staying up all night.  This morning, my folks came by ours and we went off to the Good Will Outlet.  That's always an experience. It's the sort of place where you pay by the POUND.  Shawn gets a ton of fabric for her rugs this way, and we usually actually find a few shirts and whatnot for me to wear.  The outlet is a little different from the experience of a regular thrift store because nothing has been processed yet at all--except in the barest minimum of ways: all the clothes are together, all the non-clothes are together. That's it. Sometimes stuff is still in the paper or garbage bags that people donated them in.  We were there when the outlet first opened and there were only the hardcore sifters there.  I watched people just take handfuls of stuff and shove them into their shopping cars--I presume to sort later, though maybe, like us, these were people who wanted fabric of any kind. I'm not sure.  It's quite the experience. I highly recommend it.

Mason and Shawn are both napping now. My folks have left and the temperature is climbing.  I'm thinking about joining everyone in the "cool room."

lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
 A lot happened since I last posted, however.  Mason and I went down to Mankato, Minnesota, on Thursday night. We had a fun time traveling together as we always do.  We ended up stopping early for "road food" in Burnsville.  Shawn laughed pretty hard when I called from the "Old Country Buffet," given that we hadn't even managed to break the exo-suburbs before pulling over.  To be fair, Mason had had one slice of pizza for lunch (one of those school fundraising things) and I was just generally starving, too.  Of course, the food there was.... meh. I always make the mistake of thinking the taco bar should be okay. (It's not.)

We only got turned around a couple of times once we reached Mankato.  The in-city map was printed very small and there was the classic confusion of is Stadium Road the same as Highway 58 (or whatever)???  Turns out it was, but we at least figure that out BEFORE we drove too far out of town.  Yes, there is great irony in the fact that we got LOST ON THE WAY TO THE GEOGRAPHY BEE.

We spent out hotel time doing geography quizzes based on Trivial Pursuit cards, which was our fun way of studying.  Mason did bring along some atlases and such, but it was much more fun to read the questions and think... is the answer going to be the USSR? Or some other country that no longer exists because this deck was printed in the early 1990s???!  We laughed a lot, which, IMHO, is the very best way to study.

On the day of, we got up early (too early in my case. I woke up precisely when the cats normally would rouse me: 5:45 am.)  We were too nervous to do much constructive, so we at at the hotel (passably okay) and then thew everything into the car, checked out, and headed to the bee, which was being held in the Student Union of Mankato State University, about four or five blocks away.

Here's another attempt at a picture:

Mason at bee 2017

This is a picture of a smiling (smirking?) Mason holding up the classic yellow National Geographic magazine's frame around his face.  He's wearing a blue plaid shirt and you can see his official geography be name tag over the right pocket of his shirt.  The wall behind him is marble-esque and has some letters carved into it, which make up some part of Mankato State University, I suspect.  

After some brief discussion, it was decided that I sit out the preliminary round. Two of his teachers were there--Ms. Lesser and Ms. Croone.  Ms. Croone was there as one of the judges, but Ms. Lesser went in with Mason to root for him.  I would have done the same, but we decided that me being there might make Mason more nervous. If you can't tell, one of the big themes of this trip for us was that we really, really wanted this to be as FUN as possible. No stressing about how far we made it in the competition, etc.  Just to accept that it's really pretty damn awesome that we made it this far--because it is/was.  Mason had to beat out not only his whole class, but also the other two grades that were eligible (there were some 6th graders in the competition: Mason is in eighth.) Out of the 500 people who got that far, only the top 100 scorers on the written test advanced to state.  

Out of those 100? ONLY 10 advanced to the final round.

Mason wasn't one of those. But both he and his teacher thought that he did very well in the preliminary round, but he was eliminated. You have to get a near perfect score (only one wrong is allowed, two wrong and you're OUT) to advance.  

We stayed to watch the final elimination round and it was INTENSE.  There were a couple interesting things that happened.  At one point, in the second round of questions, you could hear someone in the audience give the right answer. What I found fascinating is that, though there was an admonishment from the National Geographic judges to the audience, that question was allowed to stand (no re-take) and the person who answered that question went on to be the final-place winner.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, but the judges decided to let it stand.  I'm really surprised that they didn't give that particular competitor a different question. But, whatever.

it's also interesting to me that the winner was actually the previous year's winner... and home-schooled.  I've been trying to decide if I feel like homeschooling is an unfair advantage here, or not.

Also, 90% of the competitors were white and male.

As Mason wondered out loud, "Why? What about geography has a gender bias?" Outside of institutionalized sexism and racism, I have no idea. Two of the ten finalists were obvious PoCs, but they were all male.

Other than that depressing observation, we had fun.  I don't know if there is a high school version, so Mason may not have a chance to do this again, but we ARE planning to watch the National bee when it's aired.  Despite the weird start, we ended up liking the state champion.  Mason called him, "The Han Solo of Geography Bees" because it was very clear that he was making a lot of educated guesses that were turning out correct (you could tell by his occasional SHOCKED expression.)  That made him very likable, so we will root for him in the Nationals.

The drive home was fun. Mason LOVES road trips, so we had our usual enjoyment of watching small towns roll by, commenting on especially creepy rural cemeteries, etc.  We managed to leave behind Mason's school iPad's cord, but that was the only even vaguely dark cloud on the whole trip. (Cue a lot of calling the hotel, not getting answers, and then finally what I think of as a brush off, which was, "Nope we never found it." The next whole rigamarole will be getting a new one either from school, or apparently the Apple store, but that's a whole other headache. Though, it should be noted, ultimately VERY solvable.)

Saturday was Shawn's birthday. She has now successfully leveled up to level 50. When I went out to fetch the birthday cake and coffee on Saturday morning a lot of the people I interacted with asked, "So BIG plans?"  I had to say, "Listen, Shawn is an introvert. It's big enough we're going out to dinner." And, it was true, after the excitement of cake and presents we spent much of her birthday doing a lot of napping and jigsaw puzzling on the porch.  It was so lovely out that I did a little garden prep, but that was about the pinnacle of excitement for us.  :-)  Dinner was at the Indian place in Maplewood, per usual. Shawn and I both really love that place.  Turns out, Mason loves it now, too, so that's extra wonderful.


lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)

The wind is howling outside, but we decided to forego dinner out to stay snuggled in under the blankets.  A good choice, I think. I'd hoped for Indian, but pizza delivered was just as nice.  Especially since it meant I didn't have to go in sleet and snow.  

This morning we woke up to thunder and rain. We did venture out for breakfast at the Egg & I -- all of us. Mason had the day off school and Shawn took a vacation day.  I got my presents first thing in the morning.  All of them were EXCELLENT.  I don't think I talk about this very much, but I'm an avid stamp collector.  I'm not... a terribly fussy collector. I don't use  sleeves or the little tabs.  I stick things in an album with pre-printed pictures that I bought at a hobby store in 1973.  But, it amuses me to look though the piles of stamps we buy off eBay and put the ones I find in the right places.  I can't explain it.  It's a very relaxing hobby for me.  At any rate, Shawn bought me both US stamps and world stamps, and I spent much of the afternoon playing with those.

Mason got me stationary, which goes to another fondness of mine--writing letters.  I have, currently, three regular 'pen pals.'  A friend of mine who moved to Taiwan, a friend in Washington state and another old work-collegue of Shawn's who lives in Oregon now.  Not a lot of people write letters. I don't know if you know this, but letter writing has kind of gone out of style.  Consequentially, this also means that finding actual STATIONARY is kind of a pain in the butt.  One of the few places I still see stationary packets for sale is Barnes & Noble. Mason bought me stationary and some new pens.  I'm psyched to get writing!*

Shawn also got me a couple of fun books.  I showed her the My Drunk Kitchen once and she found the cookbook and it's hilarious.  She also bought me Hannah Hart's (the My Drunk Kitchen woman) book BUFFERING.  

So mostly I managed to have a day where I didn't think overly much about politics (which is kind of amazing.) But which also might be why I feel pretty good at the moment.

By the way, I'm always looking for new pen pals. If you want me to write you a letter let me know.  My rules for pen pals are really not at all onerous. I don't even require you to write me back, though I do enjoy getting letters, if people feel up to them. Basically, I write once a week or so. Mostly my letters are very mundane, about as interesting as one of these blog posts.

lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
 ... I welcome you over to my boring corner of the world where I will catch you up on news of my birthday and the cool sale of multi-colored Christmas lights I found today at Walgreen's (only $25! For two!)

So, my birthday, right? That was last month, on the 18th, and I turned all of 48.  I should tell you, I'm really HAPPY to be 48. I know some people, including Shawn would like to not think about growing older.  But, for me?  I'm really grooving on heading into my 50s.  As my optometrist likes to say about growing older, "Beats the alternative."

My birthday started with a chiropractic appointment, and since I've already told you about how effusive Dr. Matt is, it will be no surprise to you that when I told him it was my birthday, he gave me a gift.  A coupon for a FREE hour massage, which was, like, seriously: Wow.  Thank you.  I only just today got around to booking it, because, while they had one that day it would have been right during the time we'd planned to go out for my birthday dinner at Masu, a Japanese restaurant at the Mall of America that I wanted to try out.  

Shawn bought me my very own Kindle, which I have to admit, so far, I have mostly used for playing games.  

I blame the library. They have for free what I would buy in hardcover, and not in e-book.  Though it was kind of cool when I read WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler, I simultaneously took out the e-book because it's nicer to read the Kindle in bed.  We don't really have a good bedside lamp, so having the back-lit Kindle is actually really handy. So, I just switched back and forth depending on where I was and the quality of light. I should do that for the book I have now (THE SHORE by Sarah Taylor, which is on the short list for the Guardian First Book Award.)  

I just went to the Locus Magazine site to remember the author's name and I see that I'm behind an award or two.  My list is ever-growing and I don't think I even read half of the books actually up for awards this year.  Even so, it was a fun challenge.  I've read a LOT of books (for me) this year and have been exposed to a ton more authors--many of whom I'd never read before. I talked to Bitter Empire about whether or not I should continue with the same thing, and we decided that since the Hugo could be in question again this year (and those were by far my most popular posts) that I should go ahead.  Plus, this year I'll be _at_ Mid-AmericaCon (aka the Hugo's/WorldCON), so I could do a bit of live reporting for them (possibly along with fellow Bitter Empire-r Naomi and/or Haddayr, if she comes.)

But, back to the story at hand.  The rest of my birthday continued along rather phenomenally.  When people asked me if I had "Big Plans" I told them the truth.  "Yes," I said, "My wife is taking the day off to spend with me and we plan *to nap.*"  I kind of feel like when you're nearing 50 the idea of intentionally setting aside time during the day to nap is like the deepest luxury EVER.  And we did.  We had a great nap in the middle of the f*cking day.  

Best. Birthday. EVER.

Masu turned out to be a fun experience with 'meh' food.  I have to tell you that I rather prefer Zen Box, which Mason and I went to together on the Thursday after my birthday (which is to say the next night, since my birthday this year was on a Wednesday). He and I are huge takoyaki fans, and Zen Box makes the BEST takoyaki.  (Octopus balls to those who might not know.  SO GOOD. They're a little like hush puppies, but with octopus bits inside, covered in Japanese mayonnaise and bonito [fish] flakes.  But, we had some sushi, which Mason tried and might have liked better if the chef's special hadn't included a very powerful hot pepper.  

(Note: in the absence of Jaffa Cakes, I can also be bribed with takoyaki.)

But, all was not lost because one of the things Shawn and Mason bought me for my birthday is "Japan Crate," which is one of those monthly services where they send you a box of cool sh*t.  Japan Crate specializes in candy and snacks from Japan.  The first one is scheduled to arrive here in early December and you have no idea how excited I am.  


Even though the picture function seems a little broken, I will attempt to post pictures when the first crate arrives.  Shawn and Mason splurged and got me the "deluxe" shipment, and Mason and I have already pledged to at least TRY everything.  We may also spend the day it comes (or the weekend immediately thereafter) watching anime while eating whatever the heck they send us.  I'm really looking forward to it.

Yeah, so, actually, as far as birthdays go, it was truly one of my best yet.
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
 My birthday was phenomenal.  

It started out with presents.  As I later talked to Naomi about, we're a family of impatient larks, so we always (with the exception of Christmas Eve) open presents at the crack of dawn.  Because of Mason's ridiculous school start time this means I opened my presents at 5:15 am, which is technically pre-the crack of-dawn.

My family bought me a blank journal (one of the things you can NEVER SCREW UP by giving me.  That, and art supplies,) and manga.  Inside the cover of Blue Exorcist #1 was a gift certificate to B&N, which, in essence, was a gift certificate for MORE MANGA.

Then, after dropping everyone off at their respective places, I stopped by my favorite St. Paul coffee shop, Claddaugh, and the barista told me it was on the house because they knew it was my birthday (tbf, I was there the day before talking about it, because had to hang around for several hours to take Shawn to her MRI.)  But, hey, it really doesn't get much better for me to get a free fancy latte.  It was my favorite kind, a "Black and Tan" which is horrible for my personal Irish politics, but is actually what is, in most places, called a meil or a Vienna (a honeyed latte, Viennas will also have cinnimon.  I like them both equally well, and Mary, the barista, makes a mean Black and Tan.)

So, with that in hand, I headed home wrote up a chapter of Tate's WIP, "Mending Fences." (This came out, as well:  "Post-Apocalyptic Pizza") And, just as I was putting finishing touches on that, my friend Naomi called to ask if it was okay to drop-by.  She handed me an absolute PERFECT birthday card and ended up staying and chatting for a really long time about all the things.

We chatted until I had to leave for my lunch date with Shawn where we went out to one of my favorite Mexican buffets on the West Side, called Boca Chica.  It's cheap and is the kind of place where, to be grossly general, a lot of office ladies seem to go to have cocktails with their cheap buffet.  However, that's a huge part of its charm, IMHO.  Plus, it's owned by a Mexican family and the food is authentic and very, very yummy.

Plus, I've long loved food out.  Though I love to cook and probably, ultimately would prefer a home cooked meal, I really love the dinning out experience.  Maybe because we don't do it a lot and it's kind of luxury?  Anyway, it was fun and, of course, Shawn is excellent company and has been for the last 30 years.

After that we rolled home (having eaten one after dinner mint too much), I napped.  Then, we picked up the boy and headed out to B&N to cash in my gift card for manga.  I decided to fill out some of my blank spaces in Bleach, so I bought as many as my card would cover.  Then, I headed off to my very last Japanese class.  I bought a bunch of Japanese snacks/candy at the Mall, so I laid them out for everyone to enjoy as part of my birthday.  This worked out well because one of the projects we did was origami so we folded paper, chatted, and ate Every Burgers.

I was particularly pleased to introduce Tetsuya-sensei to Every Burgers, because not only are they delicious, they are one of those things you read about on-line as "weird Japanese candies" and, given that he was born and raised there, I was like, "Ha!  And they said anime would teach me nothing!" (which, btw, is a long standing joke in my class.)

Even though class is officially over, we're meeting at Tonpopo, next week which I'm really looking forward to.  Should be a blast.

So that was my day.  I came home to a hot bath and manga.  Life is good for the 47 year olds.

I mean, really, one of the things that occurred to me is that I've been living happily on coffee and comic books since I was about 15.  It's nice to know that some of the same things still give me so much pleasure.

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