02 July 2012

Time Marches On... Updates!

  Good morning, True Believers.  OK, I'm not Stan Lee, but thanks to Z I've been watching a lot of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  And He-Man.  And I've now seen every Beethoven movie about 167 times.

  Quick updates on... stuff... and then on to some new games (new to me, at least) I'd like to draw your attention to before I plunge into this week's adventures in finishing my BA.

  Well, things are still up-in-the-air.  SSDD.  Our caseworker for CPS has left the department to move up north somewhere and get married.  Huzzah for him!  Hope he knows what he's in for...  That leaves us, once again, with a new caseworker.  Who is it?  Well, your guess is as good as mine this morning.  We've been without a caseworker for over a week now.  Fun, fun.

  We had a surprise court date come up last month.  Birth mom's lawyer filed for immediate change of placement for the kids.  The Judge said negatory to that, but did order that visits would have to begin with the "fictive kin" the parents want to see the kids placed with.  And so they have, which has made the case more complicated.  First of all, CASA and the Ad Lidem Attorney surprised us by being overwhelmingly supportive of the kids staying right where they are, with the Ad Lidem going so far as to tell the Judge she felt it was wrong to call these new visits "pre-placement visits" as the Ad Lidem's office does not agree this is an appropriate placement for the children.  We'll see how far they can get that line of reasoning to go.  I hope all the way, as it would mean we'd have a shot at adopting Z and K. 

  What has occurred is now we have to schedule two visits per week, one with the birth parents, and one with these fictive kin.  Mary and I have gotten to know them over the two visits that have already occurred, they are good people.  A bit long in the tooth to be raising toddlers, but their hearts are in the right place.  I've found that I remember a lot more Spanish than I thought I did, and I am able to communicate fairly well even though Mary requires translation by one of their teenage kids.  They have a son who is going to be a Senior and a daughter who I think is going to be a sophomore.  The kids speak fluent English and Spanish.  If Z and K end up living with them, I will feel a little less troubled than I did before I got to know them, but I still feel their optimal situation would be for us to adopt them.  Better neighborhood, schools, and an amazing support structure of family and "fictive kin" on our end.

  K turned 1 in May, Z turned 3.  We had small parties for both of them, with K being way too clean with her cupcake for a 1-year-old and Z riding the train at Zilker Park.  These kids are so much of our lives now - they ARE our family.  As far as they are concerned, Mary and I are mommy and daddy.  I hope, for the sake of their stability and growth, that we remain so.  Our CASA worker mentioned in court that the bonds formed at this point in a child's development have an overwhelming effect on their ability to form close connections for the rest of their lives.  That alone is enough for me to fight for these kids - not to mention the fact that I love them with all my heart.

  K has learned now to point at Mary and say "Ma ma."  She points at me and says "Da da."  She has learned that pointing is effective in letting us know what she wants, like her sippy cup or some of Mommy's fries.  She also loves green beans - so I cook them often.  She's scooting around like lightning, and we expect her to be walking soon.

  Z is having some temper issues of a different kind.  Unlike the wild, primal tantrums he had when we were first placed with him, he's acting like an angry 3-year-old- which he is, when he's angry.  He doesn't like to be corrected (who does?) and we're working with him on it.  He's also going through his hitting phase, so we're dealing with that.  I got him Castle Grayskull for his birthday, the original 1982 one, and some He-Man figures.  Yeah, he's a little young for it - but Mommy and Daddy watch him while he plays and he's a very smart little boy.

  We watched E.T. with Z the other night.  I keep getting blown away by the experience of being a dad for the first time, and this was no different.  For the first 20 minutes or so, we thought he wasn't going to pay attention to the movie- then he got drawn into it, snuggled up with me, and stayed rapt for the rest of the film.  When the guys in the space suits showed up at Elliot's home, Zane pointed and yelled "I don't like that!!!  Scary!"  He loved the movie.  And I got to watch E.T. through the eyes of a child who had never seen the film before.  It was a pretty moving experience, watching his expressions and reactions to the movie- it was like I was seeing it for the first time.  I noticed things I never noticed before.  Being a dad is amazing.


  Aside from the foster parent shuffle, I have to report that my body has finally sent me the message my friends, family, and Dr. Lisa have been trying to tell me since November.  I am not a superbeing, I cannot do it all, I need to slow down.  I landed in my doctor's office with what is probably a stress-related illness.  Too soon to absolutely tell, but all the indications are there.  I'll have to go back for some follow-up work, but it seems I have something akin to a dissociative anxiety disorder that caused me to explode into the most severe case of hives I have ever had in my life for four days plus.  Benadryl, which knocked hives out in 30 minutes when I was a kid and had them with some frequency, did nothing.  I was perscribed some super-antihystamine that did work after a few days, but it knocked me on my butt.  My office mate was chuckling at me for two days as I kept falling asleep at my desk courtesy of my meds.  So - I HAVE to slow down.  I've been looking over my posts and realizing that I've been saying I was going to slow down for months, and I was going to run that "for me" game Dr. Lisa thinks I need to help me relax, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

  Well...  Now I kinda gotta.  I kept telling myself if I just put my head down and kept marching I'd reach the goal line.  My goal line was this November or December, basically because by then I'll know if Z and K will be ours permanently, I will have finished my BA course work and started a well-earned break before beginning my MA, and should be sworn in to the State Guard by then.  All my major stressors resolved more or less.  Well, I didn't make it that far.  So I've enacted a few changes that are supposed to make my life easier, and if this last weekend is any indication - it's starting to work.

  First of all, I have to have the discipline to get my schoolwork done during the work week, preferably during work hours as my job permits.  This allows me to have my weekend to do weekend stuff, rather than stressing about homework.  I crunched HARD last week to achieve this, and I can tell you my weekend was much more laid back without worrying about setting aside Saturday or Sunday for homework.  So that much helped.

  Second - some chores can just wait.  If it's not mission critical to do something RIGHT THE HELL NOW I am going to consider going to bed at a decent hour every night after some leisure reading time.  I've been able to do this for about four days now, and it does help immensely.  Strangely, this weekend I was MORE productive on the chores front, since I found I was feeling more rested and motivated.  I got a lot of work done on the game room - including scrubbing the floors by hand, vacuuming, and doing a bit of re-org and re-shelving.  Someday I want to do a complete catalogue of my stuff...  But that's major project for a later time.

  Third - a leisure game will happen.  Period.  It has to.  I must disengage my brain.  Gaming is the way I do that.  Sure, it's escapism - but it's healthy escapism.  And it stimulates that imagination part of my brain that I find absolutely vital to feeling like "me" and not an automaton.  What will it be?  That's the question.  And to with who?  That's another problem.  TO MY FRIENDS - For the love of sweet merciful crap.  Life is too short for us to hold onto crappy grudges and stuff.  I've done it - and I wish I hadn't.  I'm sick and tired of having to plan crap around which of you yahoos can stand to be in a room with one another and which can't.  Once upon a time we were all one big happy group, and we can be again.  I know we've hurt each other, and it's been everything from personality issues to folks cheating on each other or breaking up or whatever.  It's time to move past this stuff and enjoy life.  Dammit.


  Still working on getting my weight down.  But dammit, it's going to happen.  My mates all went to Annual Training without me, but by God they impressed their chain of command and told them it was all due to the training I've given them.  I want to get off the bench and back into uniform - for the first time in my life as a soldier rather than as a cadet.  I will be a soldier or NCO in the 3/2 before the end of the year.  Big goal.  Gonna make it.  Hooah.


  Ok, what you've all been waiting for.  The fun part. 

  First, I want to talk to you all about Cosmic Patrol, by Catalyst Game Labs.  This little red hardcover is definitely worth the price of admission.  Cosmic Patrol is just what it says on the tin, folks - pulp sci-fi gaming with rayguns and fishbowl helmets.  The system?  Imagine if FATE and Savage Worlds had a lovechild.  Abilities are rated in dice, D4 through D12, you have plot points you can spend, and your characters have "cues" that are very much like FATE aspects, but don't have a mechanical effect - rather, they are there to help you get into character.  There are Red Martian Barbarians, Venusian Scientists, lots of pulpy aliens... this game would be amazing for pickups and one-shots.  Character creation is pretty quick and straightforward, and the rules are extremely light.  The other nifty thing?  Well, you can share GM duties.  In the default style of play, each player takes a turn as "Lead Narrarator" and GMs once scene before the mantle passes to the left.  Player doesn't know all the rules?  Well, no problem.  The LN doesn't have to set difficulty numbers or make up monsters.  The bad guys are in the book, and the difficulties are set by rolling a D20.  Done.  Check this book out, or download the free preview that was handed out on free RPG day back in June.  If you're a fan of old school sci-fi or the old black-and-white serials like Flash Gordon this is for you.  http://www.rpggeek.com/rpg/11720/cosmic-patrol

  Next up - my Reese's Traveller games.  Why do I call them that?  Because in both cases Traveller is the peanut butter, and something else is the chocolate.  In the case of Stars Without Number, the chocolate is good old B/X Dungeons and Dragons.  For Diaspora, it's FATE.

  Stars Without Number is available for free online, or as a hardcover book.  This is sort of a retroclone, in fact as I read it I got the feeling this very well could have been what resulted if the TSR staff circa Moldvay Basic had decided they wanted to do a more direct competitor to Traveller instead of going their own way with Star Frontiers (which I love, too...)  So, SWN is a class-level game with only three classes - warrior, expert and psionic.  There is a skill system that uses 2D6 task resolution, which means easy adaptation of older Traveller or MechWarrior material.  There's ship construction, planet and sector generation, even notes on simple artifact mecha.  SWN also has an amazing section on factions and how to use them.  Everything from basic mercenary units to full-on stellar empires.  Also of interest to any Game Master is the section on names for characters and places.  Lots and lots of tables of names based on multiple backgrounds and ethnicities.  This information alone is worth the download- but the game itself is pretty darn good.  We all know I have a deep and abiding love of Battletech, Dungeons and Dragons, and Travller, right?  So I've got this idea to do a Battletech game with SWN since the faction system would work GREAT for a Succession Wars game.

  My final notes today are on Diaspora.  I don't have a lot to say about it at this time, as I've only owned it for about 48 hours and haven't gotten to dig into the meat of the book - but the authors credit it specifically as a FATE take on Traveller.  This, too, is pursuant to my interests.  Also - I'm thinking about doing Battletech with it.  Again.  I guess I'm just so disillusioned with A Time of War that I keep looking for other systems to run in that universe with.  SWN would scratch my old-school itch, but Diaspora definitely has that FATE narrarative quality that some of my friends call "Tree Huggin' Hippy Roleplay."  I like it.  It has all the... erm... aspects... of a FATE game, along with minigames concerning star cluster development, ship combat, ground combat on the platoon scale, factions...  Yeah, it might be tailored to be FATE Battletech if only there were a specific section on 'Mechs.  Maybe I'll get to write more on this one when I get to read the rest of the book.

  Well, that's all for now, folks.  Excelsior!

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