Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Junior is One Year Old!

I have three takeaways from Junior's first, rollercoaster year, but before that -- I must brag.

My son learned to walk before his first birthday.
Item 1: Regularly lifting 22 pounds every day was doing a number on my lower back.
Item 2: Junior's crawling skills had become so advanced that he could do the Cockroach Scuttle -- a lightning fast movement from Point A to Point B, designed to evade hunters.
Item 3: Junior had been cruising for a month, a precursor to actual walking.

The prep: In the three days before his birthday, I encouraged him to walk "long" distances with me, holding his hand and beaming encouragingly as he waddled three feet, his ponderous belly leading the way. He would fall, get boosted up again, waddle another three feet... you get the idea. I also took him to the park and pointed out all the other kids who could run, then helped him waddle to an area where he could cruise.

All our practice paid off. The big day came and he was all:

Just so unbearably cool and walking, NBD.

Here are some party photos. His cake was a Chocolate Birthday Cupcake from Georgetown Cupcakes on Newbury Street, because my baby deserves a $300 cupcake for his special day! Just kidding, divide that amount by 100.

Anyway, at first he had no idea what the cupcake even was, being much more interested in the bright shiny glowing thing that mommy and daddy blew out and quickly put away. Then he got a taste and his brain went "thing = delicious" and it was a choc-splosion. It got into his hair, his ears, the back of his chair (which he then licked off), and we had to take him to the tub to clean up.

That's how babies party!

And now... my three big takeaways from having my little peanut for a whole year:

1) Baby = (Time)(Effort) - Sleep
The simplest tasks are compounded by the Baby Factor. To get out the door in the morning, I get up at the crack of dawn to nurse. Then I have to shower, dress, feed myself, feed Junior, dress Junior, and then do one last diaper check before heading out, because chances are 50/50 that he just pooped. #timing

Or, say we stay in one day. Even though he broke his fast on an entire banana and a bowl of cereal, an hour later he'll be all:

And he'll do this while I'm preparing his snacks.

I tell younger people to wait before having babies, because their size is inversely proportional to the effort it takes to keep them alive and unharmed.

Now that Junior's one and walking, Hubby and I can leave him alone with his toys for minutes at a time, it is amazing. And he's even sleeping through the night, except when he's teething, which he will do for the next year! Oh, well.

The upside, as Hubby found out when he went on a work trip up north, is that we're now able to function normally at five in the morning, which helped him with his 5 a.m.-7 p.m. work days. Engineers: working overtime since forever because we need more of them!

2) It takes a village
It's been awesome how nice and helpful strangers are. When we're at restaurants, food servers will stop and do funny faces for him when he starts getting hangry. In fact, he's very willing to be carried around by waitresses for an impromptu restaurant tour. When we're on the train, other passengers will wave at him so he can practice being polite and adorable. Passersby will open doors for us. Faced with all this extra and very welcome participation, I reciprocate as best as I can when I see other parents with their little humans. 

Single moms are fucking heroes for doing this on their own, pardon my French. There were times, especially in the early days, when I had to walk away because I don't know what I would have done in my sleep-deprived state. Those times, Dad would heroically step in. (Obviously he steps in at other times, it's just that I was the main food source for the first 12 months.)

Having a kid is draining. It's also awesome and fun and will touch you in the feelings, but tending to all the needs of a whole 'nother human takes energy, and I, being an Energy Vampire, require at least one other adult as sustenance. Yay Hubby! Yay other people!
3) It gets better
The journey from screaming hungry raisin goblin to smiling hungry chubby cherub is fraught with peril and delights, but the love and joy outshine everything. I mean, look at that face.

The best part: no more pumping! *intense happy dance*


In case I'm giving off the vibe that I'm all happy-happy-motherhood, let me share this gripe: it's so annoying when other people are like, "Oooh, wait until he starts walking!" or "You can't wait for him to start talking, then you wish he'd shut up!"

I'll have you know that in my family, children are encouraged to be talkative, because tradition! My mom even expressed concern at a lack of pekpek ng baboy (pig vagina) here in the US, because in her hometown, that is what one feeds babies so they grow up to be chatterboxes! Apparently I ate a bunch of porcine unmentionables, and it totally worked!

The point is, parenting can be a blood sport, so new parents must forge Anti-Judgement Armor, and also refrain from firing Judgement Bullets. Of course, parents who shove their nostrils into the air and drawl about how little Wilder was nursed until age four, only ever eats artisanal organic kombucha (question: what is kombucha?), and didn't watch television until age five (lies!) are their very own parodies, so when you meet one, grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.


Unrelated: Junior tends to dance at random moments, and this is what he looks like:
Source: a commenter on Jezebel.
TL;DR: My baby turned one this month, see photos.

This post brought to you by Cerave Moisturizing Lotion! Cerave: well, my fingers haven't gotten worse, so it works?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Game Review: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (PS3)

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is a terrific sequel to Tales of Symphonia (my review here). It boasts a better story, superior graphics, excellent music, a non-lame (but still hideously attired) Big Bad, and a fun combat system. Dawn also lets players collect monsters to serve as battle buddies, but alas, this new mechanic can only be truly enjoyed by the Mindlessly Obsessed.

Now, when I say "better story," I really mean "slightly less needlessly complicated." As a sequel, Dawn benefits from being set in a world already familiar to players of the original, ergo, a place where mana exists in all living things, and where a tree is the source of mana. Dawn deals with the fallout from the previous mana tree being destroyed in Symphonia -- the tree's Summon Spirit, Ratatosk, finds out about it, and boyfriend is pissed. Also, a group called the Vanguard is assaulting towns, claiming to protect Sylvarant (Sylvarant being the less advanced of the two worlds united in Symphonia). Are the two plot lines connected? Maybe! (Yes. Yes, they are.)

The game's main protagonist, Emil, pledges himself as a Knight of Ratatosk to protect the female lead, Marta, who bears the mark of Ratatosk on her forehead. As a result, Emil goes from being timid and reasonably dressed to aggressive and dressed in something that stumped a civil engineer ("How does he put on his outfit?" I asked Hubby, who concluded that it was not physically possible to put it on.) ((He is actually correct, because Emil got his new clothes via magic.)) Anyway, Emil and Marta go on adventures to collect the McGuffins needed to restore the balance of mana, McGuffins that are also sought by the Vanguard and Lloyd, the hero from Symphonia. At various points along the way, Emil and Marta meet members of the Symphonia cast, who join the party as playable characters.

I enjoyed the two major conflicts in Dawn: first, the one between Emil and Lloyd; and second, Emil's internal conflict. While the former was more of a distraction (Lloyd is an obligate do-gooder so it was obvious that Emil was barking up the wrong tree), the latter makes players aware of two distinct personalities with competing desires, world views, and tactics--all in one androgynous body! Pretty sure a lot of players were rooting for the other Emil, known as "Ratatosk Mode," who is strong, confident, and brusque--the diametric opposite of the soft-spoken and despondent boy that we begin the game with.

Another awesome element in Dawn is the side quest option, which netted me lots of EXP and shiny new equipment that I used to gleefully plow through underleveled monsters in dungeons. The ability to synthesize items was also useful -- I mainly went for better weapons and armor. More exotic products would have yielded far cooler results, like turning my tiny Killer Fish battle buddy into a beastly Jaconius, but I just couldn't get the one rare drop I needed for it. sadface

Best of all, Dawn doesn't skimp on the after-battle reward money like Symphonia did! I could barely afford basic healing items in the original; meanwhile, I finished the sequel with like half a million bucks. Sure, it's also partly due to my synthesizing and side questing, but these options were soooo much better than the cooking feature in Symphonia. See, in Symphonia, you can cook food to restore health, etc., so you don't have to buy healing items, but you have to buy ingredients to cook food. And you had to collect recipes from an idiot called Wonder Chef who hides in every village. Granted, you still have to do that in Dawn, but the food is only for your monster menagerie, and you have enough money for person healing supplies.

***Note to people playing Symphonia: once you have Zelos, give him the Personal skill and make him the point character to talk to women and girl NPCs -- you can rake in the cash!***

I found out only after finishing the game that the choices I had made throughout determined the ending I saw, aka the True Ending. How nice! If only I could do it this effortlessly for every game, I am looking accusingly at you, Final Fantasy X-2, which I have yet to finish because the combat system is driving me nuts!

Speaking of combat system...Dawn is heaven, I tell you, heaven. Apart from the wicked combos and unison attacks, it's so easy to perform a Mystic Arte (/Ultimate Move). And, once Symphonia characters join and get the needed skill, players can use Mystic Artes to wipe out an entire battlefield. Spamming Mystic Artes is how I got through the penultimate and final boss fights, which were hard and took several tries. Whew! World-saving, such hard.

TL;DR: It was worth playing the flawed original for this sequel.

This post brought to you by daycare colds! Daycare colds: your kid shares with you, you share with the world!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Movie Review: The Babadook (2014)

With hubby out of town for a couple of days for work, I decided that it would be a great idea to watch The Babadook, a horror film about a single mother and her young son. It was an excellent life decision and I regret nothinggggg!

Plot: A widow and her young son read a sinister children’s book, which triggers frightening events.

Let’s get to the point: if I read the actual Mister Babadook book, complete with its disturbing pop-ups, I too would be wailing like Samuel, the child in the movie. And I’d flambĂ© it on the grill like Amelia, his sleepless mum, the second time it mysteriously shows up in my house. That is one scary book.

The monster, meanwhile…not so much. As a supernatural threat, the Babadook was utterly unimpressive and its reveal actually eased the feeling of shrieking dread that the movie had been building up to that point. Real life offers scarier visuals (c.f. the 2016 candidates), plus the sound team couldn’t muster anything more imaginative than the monster saying “BA BA DOOOK” in a pack-a-day smoker voice, followed by a triumphant T-Rex roar. I mean, really?

However, as an allegory, Mister Babadook is terrifying. It’s a wrenching story about grief, loss, trauma, love, family, and human connection, and the actors’ performances do justice to the broken humanity that is the film’s central focus. The main characters, played by Essie Davis and little Noah Wiseman, are almost immediately sympathetic, which makes the escalating threats by the Babadook all more horrifying. They’re an isolated dyad clinging to each other but also separated by unspoken resentments. The set design and lighting also brilliantly portray the self-neglect and creeping madness caused by the Babadook.

On a more personal note, as a mom, I can relate to Amelia's sleeplessness and irritation at her son's high-pitched whinging. Dealing with the Babadook is just icing on that poop cake. But at the end of the film, moved by the ending (tiny critique: was expecting The Scream to be more primal), I rushed off to pick up Junior from daycare and smothered him with affection until bedtime.

Also...y'know what? I like saying "babadook." It's a fun word! "Babadook!" "Babadook!" Kind of sounds like it means sheep poop.

Final note: there’s a lot of interesting background about this film – its writer/director and cast are Australian, but the crew is international, the production used Kickstarter to get off the ground, it grossed over three times what it cost to make, and so on. This was a labor of love, and it shows.

TL;DR: More sad than scary, and definitely worth a watch.

This post brought to you by impending rain!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Review of the Back Bay Chocolate Tour, by a Non-Lover of Chocolate

The Back Bay Chocolate Tour is a two-hour journey to several locations that either specialize in chocolate, or use some sort of special chocolate as an ingredient. The two rules of the tour are:

#1: No chocolate left behind.
#2: Be friendly.

My group had almost 20 people. Here is a summary of our choc-tivities:
Location Choc-tivity Reaction
Flour Bakery Learned history of chocolate chip cookies. Ate chocolate chip cookies. Publicly declared my love for the tour.
L.A. Burdicks Told of marriage between interior decoration and chocolate craftsmanship. Given tiny wrapped white chocolate mouse. Carefully placed mouse in backpack for later. Somehow lost mouse at next stop.
Georgetown Cupcakes Handed insane menu of specialty cupcakes. Had to protect tour guide from tourists/vultures trying to see what was being handed out. Ate two chocolate2 cupcakes.
Ben and Jerry'sLecture about ethical sourcing. Ate brownie fudge ice cream. Easily the best thing I ate on the tour.Froze to death during lecture due to intense a/c.
Teuscher Lined up to eat mini champagne truffles. $30 for 9 tiny balls. No.
Sugar Heaven Ran wild in the shop. Will take Junior there if he is especially good.
Gourmet Boutique Ate a selection of imported chocolates. Brought extras home for Husband. Forgot to give to him.

I mentioned in the title that I'm a non-lover of chocolate. Let me explain in terms of ice cream: I prefer vanilla. So this tour was fun but my mouth would have been happier consuming every single item on the menu of the Roving Lunch Box food truck.

Every. Single. Item. It will happen, I promise.

TL;DR: Ben & Jerry's ice cream RULES.

This post brought to you by Hump Day!

Movie Review: Hereditary (2018)