We can’t stop here, this is Bear Country!

Berenstain Bears
The Berenstain Bears

The Things We Do for Family

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law invited us to see The Berenstain Bears Live. Seeing it as a great opportunity for my son and nephew to spend some time together doing something fun, I agreed. The day of, I was super-tired, and didn’t feel like going. Kevin had to prepare for his impending business trip, and so backed out. My brother and sister-in-law had both been battling bugs for the past week.

But I put on my big-girl panties, decided that for the sake of the kiddos, we needed to do this Family Thing. Why else did we uproot ourselves from New York to become Beantown “interlopahs,” if not for the kids to grow up together?

We drove ourselves, in two cars, mind you, over to the Theatre District and found our seats for the show.

What The Heck Are They Singing?

The show itself, meh. The acoustics stank. I couldn’t understand half of what was being said or sung, so I focused on how the actors moonlighted as stagehands and let the minimal props work for multiple situations.

Fat-Shaming Mama

That being said, I have big issues with the part that focused on The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food. The message is an important one: we all should cut down on junk food and make healthier choices. However, Mama Bear goes into a musical diatribe about how Papa, Brother, and Sister Bear are putting on “too much fluff on their tummies,” and they’re going to rip their pants. Of course, this is then demonstrated by Papa Bear ripping his overalls and exposing his polka-dot underwear, to much comedic effect.

(Oooh, look! A tie-in from the show’s Facebook page touting “healthy” recipes!)

Even though the show moves on to other topics, such as Brother’s grades, and Sister’s newfound fear of strangers, they then return, after their bows, to teach the “Fluff on Your Tummy” song, and related hand movements, to the audience. It begins with pointing out toward other people, then touching your belly, and laughing.

Yes, yes, jolly good. You, are getting so fat that you might ruin your too-tight clothes. Ha ha ha!

I don’t think I can quite convey the ridiculousness of it all. I wish there were YouTube videos of this, but photography was prohibited.

Eating Disorder 101

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Papa, due to Mama’s new rule against junk food, finds his secret stash of chocolates, an amount he proclaims should last him “for days,” and practically inhales them. He then has to find a way to get rid of the wrappers without anyone finding out, in order to avoid the wrath of Mama’s judgement.

Is this really the lesson we need to be teaching young children?

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Sisterhood of the Irrational Bossypants

Pants
Image by Toni Holmes (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonibduguid/)

 

A trans woman posted the following in a forum:

So, I was curious to find out how long my normal assertiveness at work would start to be read differently. The answer is: ~4 months. Apparently, I’m “overly emotional and irrational” now. I look forward to hearing that I’m “bossy” next

My response: “Welcome to the Sisterhood of the Irrational Bossypants.”

It’s a new way to look at the concept of male assertiveness turning into female bitchiness. One way to experiment with the concept is to give people written instructions that are identical except for the author’s name, and gauge their opinions on the person based on what they read.

But this,this, is interesting. Same person, different perceived gender, and therefore different response. I wish there was some way we could turn this into a randomized controlled study.

 

BTW, “Sisterhood of the Irrational Bossypants” is my Pussy Riot cover band, as well as my crossover fanfic. I hope that Tina Fey will play a starring role once I sell the movie rights.

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Holy Sugar, It’s Candy Corn Season!

With a blog named Sugar Palace, I figure I should talk about candy. It’s been autumn (in the Northern Hemisphere) for a few days now, so candy corn is ubiquitous. I first noticed it at Stop & Shop in late July.

Stop and Shop had Halloween candy in July
Stop & Shop Halloween candy display. Photo taken by Dee on July 27, 2014.

Now, I’m a self-confessed sugar addict. My blog is named after a fictional doughnut shop named in a Dar Williams song (“Party Generation”). In my mind, the four seasons are Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. I get cranky when there’s too much blood in my glucose stream. TL;DR version: I f*cking love Halloween candy. However, that being said, even I have standards.

There has been a disturbing trend over the past couple of years of candy companies making different varieties of candy corn. First, there was the awkwardly-named Indian Corn. Then came the pumpkins, followed by the all-star combo known as the Harvest Mix. All of these are pretty yummy, if you’re in the mood for candy corn.

However. Last year, I noticed Candy Corn M&Ms, and Starburst Candy corn. They were a bit odd. I could tolerate the Starburst variety; if I ignored the candy corn-like texture, they were pretty tasty.

This year, I have to draw the line.

Brace Yourselves: Pumpkin flavored everything is coming
Listen to Ned Stark. Unless he tells you to trust Littlefinger.

Brach’s is now selling Pumpkin Spice flavored candy corn. Being an intrepid candy lover, I decided to try it.

Never again. It was reminiscent of cinnamon, if you swallowed a spoonful of powdered cinnamon that had been left out for a year and a half. Seriously, it had the powdery feel to it, without much of the taste. I could smell the pumpkin, but I couldn’t taste it.

I am loath to throw candy away, but I had to spit this stuff out and throw the rest of the bag away. Ick!

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Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call logo
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call logo

I’m a Final Fantasy fiend. Ever since my (now) husband moved in with his Playstation and Final Fantasy VIII, I’ve been hooked. That means I’m a sucker for almost any game with the words “Final Fantasy,” is made by Square-Enix, (I’m looking at you, Bravely Default) or, in the case of that Kickstarter, involves the composer Nobuo Uematsu. I also love rhythm/music games; I’ve owned Dance Dance Revolution (including the super-expensive RedOctane dance mats), Beatmania, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Rocksmith, even Elite Beat Agents.

Needless to say, when the second installment of Final Fantasy’s rhythm game was announced, I pounced on the collector’s edition. Extra Final Fantasy soundtrack albums? Yes, please!

I know people have had problems with Digital River, the folks who run Square-Enix’s online store, but I’ve never had an issue. Final Fantasy XIV and Lightning Returns, arrived with no issues. Despite the warning on their site that the game might not arrive by the release day of September 16, I got it on the 13th. Three days early.

Time to get a good head start on the game, right?

I actually found the timing of the notes to be more forgiving than the original game. It was a lot easier for me to get critical hits and some nice combos. It got to the point where I developed very high standards for myself; a score of A or below seemed like failure. (Note: at the end of each song, you receive a letter grade. Above A is S, SS, and SSS.)

The song selection is insane. There are apparently over 200 songs available, though they’re not all available right away. I’ve put about 20 hours into the game so far, and just hit the achievement of playing 100 songs.

Apart from the regular mode, there’s a Quest Medley mode, in which you play multiple stages, and even “fight” bosses by making critical hits (i.e., hitting the notes in time). Beating the quests helps you unlock different player characters for your kick-ass rhythm party. My only gripe is that Fang from Final Fantasy XIII isn’t available; I’ve developed a soft spot for the “Magical Lesbian Death Squad,*” and I would have rounded out the party of four with the Lightning Returns version of Lightning.

The versus mode is pretty neat; you get to face off against either AI, a Nintendo 3DS friend, or a random person online. You can narrow down the search for random people by song difficulty and location (domestic or international). Then, you get to both play a song, and whoever gets the higher score wins. However, there is a trick! You get to inflict different status effects on each other, which can change the speed or direction of the notes. One effect even makes the timing super-strict! The status effects are random, but a friendly Moogle will warn you when they’re coming.

There is also the option to get more songs through DLC (downloadable content). I caved and bought “Shuffle or Boogie” from Final Fantasy VIII, because I spent many an hour playing the Triple Triad minigame.

Initial impression: It’s a super-fun game and the awesome music makes me nostalgic for all the old games in the Final Fantasy franchise.

More to come as I progress in the game. For now, however, my thumbs are sore.

 

*The Magic Lesbian Death Squad consists of Lightning, Fang and Vanille (thanks, ClockworkHouse). I hope it doesn’t come across as disrespectful; all I’m implying is that the Death Squad is pretty kick-ass. Also, Fang and Vanille really love each other, and remind me of Xena and Gabrielle.

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The Cycle Continues – Adventures in Early Intervention

Baby A
Baby A, at his first birthday party

My son, we’ll call him A, is sixteen months old, yet he doesn’t speak any words. He babbles, and sometimes says things that are almost words, but they’re not quite real English-language words. Otherwise, he’s a big, happy, and healthy baby.

I’ve been worried for a few months now about A’s lack of words. My mother kept saying, “at least he’s trying to talk; you didn’t do that when you were his age.” Sure, but I also didn’t talk until age four. I wanted A evaluated, just to make sure. I’m living proof of the benefits of early treatment (I don’t say Early Intervention, because interventions for kids under age 3 didn’t exist in my day). I decided, however, to wait until A’s next well-baby checkup.

That was on September 10. The doctor confirmed my thoughts: A’s height’s in the 92nd percentile, his weight in the upper 80’s. He’s very healthy, and on-target with physical milestones. However, the doctor also agreed with me that he should be saying more words at this point. She referred him for a hearing evaluation, to make sure he has no hearing problems, and for Early Intervention.

I was a bit conflicted. Part of me was glad that my instincts were correct. However, part was also sad that my beautiful, happy, adorable son has a delay. What will this mean for A’s future? Will he have as much trouble as I did in terms of communicating, making friends, managing emotions? Worst of all, will the service providers think it’s all my fault? 

I scheduled the hearing evaluation; it’s taking place next month. However, we’re all pretty sure that A can hear okay. He responds to his name (when he feels like it), and goes crazy when he hears me shake his can of puffs.

The Early Intervention place was slightly more complex. The lady who answered the phone was nice enough, and started collecting information. All was well until I told her what town we live in. “Oh, we don’t service [Our Town]; you have to call [Town 25 minutes away].” She then gave me their number. By that time, it was 3:58, and their recording stated that they close at 4:00pm. I left a voicemail.

8:59am the next morning, the Early Intervention office for my town returned my call. They took down the basic demographic information, such as: Name, child’s DOB, pediatrician’s contact info, insurance info, address, ethnicity, father’s highest level of education (but not mine, for some reason), who lives in the home, who will be present at the evaluation. The evaluation was scheduled for the following Thursday (i.e., the day I’m writing this blog).

I started worrying some more: They’re coming to the house. It’s a mess! Is it completely child-proof? What if they find something wrong and call Child Protective Services (CPS)? What if CPS then considers me an unfit parent due to my diagnoses? Will my husband and mother be considered sufficient mitigants, or will they take my son from us? Will they place him with his aunt and uncle? Will he grow up to resent me? My anxiety only got worse after I received a packet in the mail explaining the process, privacy policy, and other stuff.

On Monday, I received a call from Early Intervention. Apparently, I needed to sign the consent form before the day of the evaluation, so we scheduled a meeting for the following afternoon. I believe her title was Developmental Specialist. The first thing she mentioned is that we live so close to the first Early Intervention office I’d called (it’s within walking distance, but is technically in another county). She said that if A qualified for services, it might be worth looking into whether he could go to groups at the closer office, though it’s usually not done. She explained the Early Intervention process a bit, gathered more detailed information (e.g., where my son was born, birth weight, length of pregnancy, reiterating why I suspected he’d need services). She left me with a folder full of papers describing most of what she’d just explained.

On the day of the eval, I cleaned like a madwoman. Well, “dash and stash” is probably more like it. I cleaned up most of the clutter in the playroom to make room for all three evaluators (the fourth couldn’t make it). They administered the Batelle Developmental Inventory, a standardized test which consists of seeing what tasks A could do, such as grabbing objects, standing up from a supine position, waving bye-bye. For some of it, they were able to go by our reports (e.g., his favorite activities). After about an hour, A started getting tired and cranky, so we took him to bed for his nap. The evaluators then started tallying up his scores.

As suspected, A has delays in communication; everything else was within normal ranges. He therefore qualifies for Early Intervention services. I was actually a bit relieved, because I was partially worried that he might be delayed, but not delayed enough for services. Then what would we do? We’d have to pay for any services out-of-pocket. However, since he qualifies for Early Intervention, whatever our insurance doesn’t pay will be paid by the state Department of Health.

They asked if we had any goals for the initial Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). I said I wanted A to say more words to better communicate his needs. I think the evaluators were a bit surprised by the response. They don’t know that I used to be a service coordinator (for a different population) in my past life.

In a few weeks, we’ll be assigned a Service Coordinator, who will work with us to come up with more goals and details for the IFSP, and to match us with service providers.

It’s going to be an interesting journey, but it will be well worth it once A can start saying stuff!

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