Happy Birthdays and Birthdays the Beginning


I was recently reminded of this game when my dad and I were talking about Spore because one of the kids was playing it. This, of course, led to a conversation about various evolution theories…

In the blink of an eye, something happens by chance – when you least expect it – sets you on a course that you never planned on, into a future you never imagined.

Nicholas Sparks

So, this sandbox game has been released in 2017 under two different names: Happy Birthdays on the Nintendo Switch, and Birthdays the Beginning on the PS4 and PC (via Steam). They are all the same game, the only difference is the platform it’s being played on. The creator is Yasuhiro Wada, known for his work on Story of Season (aka Harvest Moon) and Little Dragons Cafe.

click for website
click for website

But what is it?

The premise of the game is you find one of your grandfather’s books and inside is a magic map to an uncharted planet. You are transported to said new land and have been promoted from a child into a deity where you get to terraform your land.

Add water, determine how deep or shallow you want it. Add hills and mountains, the possibilities are endless. However, what you do to your land directly affects what species are able to live. If not enough food sources are available, species can die. Temperature changes will alter what type of land it is (snowy, tropical, desert, etc), and ultimately determine what species are available to you. You will also affect evolution with your changes. Species already present may change to adapt, while you can end up with totally new species.

using the capture tool

There are several different playable elements to the game. There are the standard and timed missions you can complete, hidden achievements, and completing your evolution chart. When a new organism shows up, you “take a picture” in game and it is automatically studied and is added to your data.

part of the evolutionary tree

The most common complaints I hear about the game are the graphics. The game was designed using clay figures so you can turn the camera at any angle and your animals and plants will still maintain their shape integrity. Unlike many sim games, you are in control of the camera, rather than having a static view. You essentially have an active 3D model of a diorama.

Please note, this game is not considered an educational game. That being said, it does contain basic elements in regards to evolution, ecosystems, habitats, and is a nice intro for learning how to identify organisms (via their data cards, which are mostly comparable to organisms of the same species not in game.) It is possible for extinct animals to reappear once the ecosystem fits their needs, which can be amusing if you have humans on your planet.

Pros:Cons:
The tutorial walks you through everythingThe tutorial is not skippable
The evolutionary tree gives tips on how to evolve new organismsSometimes you have to wait billions of years for that new evolution to trigger (most often it is due to a lacking population of a food source)
Excellent music, very relaxing (link is to entire soundtrack)… that you can listen to while waiting for things to evolve
You can see changes happening real timeWhich may not work for a child with attention span issues
The game gets more challenging to balance the ecosystems as organisms advance (critical thinking and problem solving)Some children may need help
There are “rare” species to find, thus making the game challenging and ongoing once the missions are already beatCurrently there are only 10 missions, but they take a long time to complete each one. Don’t worry about someone beating this game within a couple of hours…
The game has a story line behind it, unlike most sandbox gamesBut the story line isn’t the heavy part of the game and you will often even forget the story as you play.
DLC’s for placing objects in your world (and possibly more missions) are planned for release.

PS4 has 9 cosmetic DLC’s available, where as PC has one so far.

Currently, if you beat the entire game and fill out the evolutionary tree, there is little replay value. At least as an adult, the kids haven’t filled out the tree yet.

This is the original trailer

In closing

It’s a cute game worth looking into, especially if you are trying to get your child interested in science or they already are. You are rewarded for your critical thinking and hard work vs many instant reward games you see on smart devices.

Currently prices vary for digital downloads, $40 on PS4, $40 on Nintendo Switch, and $20 on Steam. Physical copies for PS4 can be harder to come by, but used ones are usually under $20, where as used games for the Nintendo Switch are often more expensive than the digital download. (If you do find one cheap, it’s often not in English, so be alert).

Just a Little Bit Longer… and reminiscing


This year, not only have we reached record lows in winter, but we are reaching record highs. Yay me. ~sarcasm~ During a season that would normally see drops in temps all the way into the… 80’s Fahrenheit, we are stuck hovering 100 daily. Except for the few times we get hit with the left over bands of the hurricanes as they pass through the Gulf. My heart goes out to everyone affected by the damage and devastation caused by said hurricanes.

School has already been in session for over a month for us, which means sick kids, or waiting for kids to get sick, so all plans are tentative. This month is the month for ARD meetings. I know many people dread them, but I look forward to seeing what is available to help the kids succeed in life. I don’t know how many people watched Ren & Stimpy, let alone remember the LOG song, but for the last several years, I started singing LOG with ARD… ~shrug~

LOG from Ren & Stimpy

Random fact: the LOG song is a parody of the Slinky song.

We had a scare that involved several trips to the ER because we thought Thing 2 had a collapsed lung. Thankfully, they figured out she was dislocating one of her ribs from over playing her horn. Yes, musicians can get injuries, too. A dislocated rib can mimic a collapsed lung. That was a month ago and she’s still recovering from it because that kid doesn’t slow down.

If it doesn’t start cooling down again, I’ll do another big game or two…

In the meantime…

Spinoza Bear Project

As some of you may know, I have links to items and tools for special needs kiddos on the “Links Page”. There have been a lot of amazing advancements in the way of interactive toys to help with kids on the spectrum, anxiety, or specific medical conditions. However, before these advancements, there was a tape deck bear named Spinoza. He was much simpler than the other tape deck bear of its time, Teddy Ruxpin. Spinoza’s mouth didn’t move and you only needed to turn a nob on this chest (his heart) to turn him on and adjust the volume. This bear was ahead of its time as he was developed for children with physical and emotional issues.

There were tons of fundraisers to ensure children with chronic health conditions or those undergoing major surgeries could get one. Child therapy centers would have them for children with bereavement issues or those on the spectrum. The bear often came with a book and 9 cassette tapes. He was later upgraded to a cd player and the cassettes were transferred to cd. But, sadly, the project was ended in 2006 with no record as to why.

What made this bear so special over other toys with cassettes? He delivered stories that were relevant to cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback therapy. It had never been done before, and I don’t believe it has been done since. Details are as follows (I could only find the songs and stories for 4 of them. You have no idea how disappointed I am).

  • I’m Your Friend and My Name is Spinoza – a song and story to introduce Spinoza to children and build a relationship with them.
  • Everybody Needs a Little Tenderness – anxiety reduction techniques
  • You Are all You Need to Be – self esteem and encouragement
  • Do You Wonder? – curiosity and encourages learning
  • Dream on the Water – relaxation techniques that remind me of biofeedback therapy, and it would help promote sleep (I wore this tape out, no joke)
  • Good Friends – discuses feelings and healthy relationships
  • Hold on to Me – grief and loss/bereavement
  • Breathing Healthy, Breathing Free – was originally designed with children who have lung/breathing issues in mind. Promotes positive thinking and breathing exercises
  • New Beginnings – relaxation and making healthy choices
Spinoza’s songs by Peter Himmelman

You can read about the project direct from the voice of Spinoza himself, Peter Himmelman, here.

Alice

I went down this rabbit hold because I had a Spinoza who suffered water damage when I was an adult. However, I remembered this very special bear and his tapes and I thought it might help Thing 4, as she has chronic pain (8/10) even with meds. Thus began my journey into his history and his disappearance. Even if I can’t find the bear itself, I would be thrilled if I could find the cd, but there are none in production and I can’t find any second hand (they’re coveted items).

I wonder, if there was enough hype, would Peter Himmelman would release the Spinoza “tapes”, or if he even owns the rights to them, being the voice, singer, and the songwriter.

Let me know if you had a Spinoza or your thoughts in the comments.

#bringbackSpinoza

Summer is too hot… and HOGs


cover art by AAAGameArtStudio

There’s a heatwave everywhere. Our gaming area (and my filming area) is near windows and with the removal of several trees thanks to the winter storm and our tiny tornado, we have a lot more sun. This makes the house hot. Thing 2 and I have fans running almost where ever we go. This has made it hard to do some board gaming.

I have allowed more video games during this time. I found myself busy with crafts and working on links for special needs camps (available on the links page). I’d be doing more crafts, except my fingers have blisters.

HOGs:

What are HOGs?

HOGs are an acronym for Hidden Object Games (not to be confused with the hog pictured). The object of the game is to literally find objects hidden in pictures, some games will include puzzles with them. I’m sure you’ve seen tons of adverts for HOGs on your smart devices that require energy to play. Once you run out of energy, you have to come back later. I find these games annoying. Good news is there are full games that you can purchase and never have to worry about energy.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

The history of HOGs

excerpt from I SPY

Hidden object books were the first in this genre. The oldest being Where’s Waldo in 1987. (I thought I had all the books, but apparently 2 more were released in the 2000’s…). I Spy followed suit in 1992. Look and Find decided to follow up and incorporated major franchises into their hunting books. These books are still popular today.

Then came the disaster of the Saturday Morning cartoons trying to bring the books to the “boobtube”. Followed yet again, by more disasters of HOGs on early platform gaming.

Case in point, the original Nintendo, aka NES, released the Where’s Waldo game. Even if you were a master at the books, the pixilation, the poor movement controls, plus the timer made this game extremely stressful and unenjoyable for many. It’s right up there with Atari’s ET in my opinion.

Thankfully things improved as computers evolved.



An in-game screenshot from the 1991 NES video game Where’s Waldo?.
Fair use

How are HOGs beneficial?

  • HOGs promote attention to detail. Children who play HOGs get better at focusing on details of other visual challenges
  • HOGs increase vocabulary. Most have a list for the player to find. If the player doesn’t know what an item is, they can use hints to learn where (and what) the item is. The only issue I have with this is the game developers often get musical instruments wrong. It’s a pet peeve of mine. This is also beneficial depending on where the game is developed as other countries may have other words for items.
  • Instills good work habits. Because most HOGs now come with a story line, many kids want to continue the game to see what happens next. This promotes longer attention spans and focusing on the end goal rather than getting quick and easy achievements.
  • Self confidence boosting! Having a child finish one on their own, even with hints, is a huge boost in their confidence.
  • Improved visual perception. Children will be better at recognizing shapes and objects when they aren’t in their “typical” environment.

Benefits of HOGs for special needs kids?

Including the list above…

  • Most HOGs you can’t die in or have minimal consequences for mistakes. This can help with anxiety or anger issues
  • Most newer HOG’s have a relaxed mode, meaning there is no timer.
  • HOGs are run with a mouse or your finger on a smart device
  • Story driven… most have closed captions or the option for captions and newer ones have voice overs for those struggling to read

Suggestions on games?

We have tons of HOGs. Many of them come in a series. It all depends on your fav genre. Please note, I have found the best place to get HOGs both on the computer and the smart devices is from Big Fish Games. You do purchase the game, but that means no adds, no energy, and you can install and reinstall as much as you want. They also give you the feature to try games before you buy. That feature has been a major game changer in this house. Here’s a list of our favorite series by genre (all photos provided by Big Fish Games). Note: if you see one that says “Collector’s Edition”, it includes DLC and the strategy guide. Usually the strategy guide is sold separately and the DLC is exclusive to the Collector’s Edition.

Super natural and horror
12 games and counting. This is a fav in our house. It takes stories written by Edgar Allen Poe and turns them into playable stories where you are the assistant to a detective and need to solve them. No timer, added puzzles, spooky themes. Thing 3’s fav series. (warning, horror themes and murder).
fantasy
2 games in the series. You attend a magical school much like Hogwarts. There is a “timer”, your cauldron fire can go out.
other
9 games in the series thus far. Super cute game series when you are in the holiday mood. Some are versions of Christmas classics, others are blended fairy tales. No timer.

4 games and completed, this is definitely a spookier one. No timer, added puzzles. Warning: lots of ghosts and mention of how they became ghosts.
I think there are 7 games in this series. It follows a human princess in a fantasy world. There are various puzzles mixed in. No timer. Thing 4 and 5 love this game series.
5 games, all different locations or time periods. Beautiful scenes.
6 games in the series and completed. The theme of the series is you are visited by ghosts of famous historical figures, but they need your help to solve mysteries from the past so they can rest in peace. No timer, added puzzles, spooky themes/historical fiction
16 games and still going. One of our favorite series by far. This series tells the “true” stories behind your favorite fairy tales. All have a Grimm or Anderson like twist to what’s going on.
3 games in the I Spy franchise. Just like the books, except with a voice over. No timer, some easy puzzles added, and replay changes some of the riddles.
22 games and counting, not including the spin off games and novel series (this is a huge series). This is a favorite of the house, we often play it as a whole family. The first couple of games start out mundane, with normal crime solving HOGs, but by the 3rd one, it quickly goes supernatural. After the 3rd case, you are now specialized in the supernatural… all the games tie together (except the first 2). I suggest you play them in order. Timer leave by 5th or 6th game, if memory serves. Lots of added puzzles including Rube Goldberg machines. One of the harder HOGs. warning: “freak shows”, haunted houses, general macabre. Thing 2 avoids many of these game nights.
This is a stand alone game, but all the kids loved this one. Along with the hidden object scenes, you also make potions. No timer, simple enough for preschoolers.
7 games in series. This is just a relaxing game with interesting scenes on cruise ships. The kids like to find objects belonging to the lost and found and we make up stories about what kind of people would lose such items everywhere. No timers, added puzzles
3 games and completed. This is a pirate trilogy following a cursed pirate, a cursed town, and the scariest name to all pirates, Davy Jones. No timers, added puzzles. warning: sea monsters and ghosts. This was Thing 2’s favorite for years, she had a pirate fixation.
12 games in the series. Theme is a princess has to save her kingdom and her family form evil forces. No timer, added puzzles
11 games in series. I’ll admit I prefer Park Ranger or the Cruise Director. The scenery is prettier… except for the trash you have to clean up. It still has the lost and found bonus items and recyclables. No timer, added puzzles.

In closing…

I’d seriously recommend an HOG for you to try. Figure out what genre works best for you. Try before you buy! Play the games with your child(ren) so they can learn how to do them. Pick series you may want to play as a family. Remember, the family that plays together stays together!

Video Games are… good??


(Cover image by artist Walter Newton: Gallery)

For decades, we’ve heard not to play video games because they will rot your brain, just like the “boob tube”. . Video games are harmful to a child’s development. Many of these people will sit in front of a tv show or a movie, but video games are “bad”.

What if I told you video games can encourage reading? Video games can assist with physical therapy. Video games can help develop critical thinking. Video games help to combat the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Gaming in Health Care:

Gaming affects health care
Physical changes

Studies have shown that preschool children who have played with the physically interactive systems, like a Nintendo Wii, Playstation Move, or an X-Box Kinect have improved motor skills. They are often able to kick, throw, and catch balls better than their peers who have not been exposed to said gaming systems. Many hospitals, therapy centers, and some nursing homes are using the Wii, Move and Kinect as part of their physical therapy. In a study of 20 elderly Parkinson’s patients who played for three (3) months in physical therapy, they found an improvement of 55% in gait velocity, 65% in stride, and 55% in balance. ICU’s have reported due to the lower costs of the Wii, they are able to save patients money and they still see a significant improvement in the 33-64 age range. These systems are now older and thus cheaper so families can also have them at home to encourage their child to move. (You can check online or at your local gaming store that deals in older systems). This is also great for children who have to stay indoors during certain seasons due to a medical condition or severe allergies.

I do plan on doing an article on the differences between the Wii, Move, and Kinect in the future.

Boston did a study on surgeons who use microsurgery. The results showed doctors who play video games were 27% faster than those who don’t AND made 37% fewer mistakes. So now its a good thing to have a surgeon who plays video games. In another study, they found eyesight improves with video games. (They have no idea how). In children with amblyopia (crossed or lazy eye), when they play games for a year, there was 30% significant, 60% moderate improvement to the crossed eye. In addition to sight improvement, people develop the ability to differentiate between more shades of gray. (Not a book reference). People who drive at night or are pilots benefit the most from this… and the poor people asked by their partner to pick a shade of gray to paint with. The Leap Motion combined with a VR (virtual reality) headset is often used to help with Occupational Therapy and “hands on” educational and training programs. In a study using virtual table video games (like tablets) for occupational therapy over one (1) month for children ages 3-15 with motor disabilities, they found 3x improvement in fine motor skills and range of motion, especially with manipulations over door knobs, zippers, and buttons.

Brain functions

Gaming affects a variety of parts of the brain. Games can help people with decision making. RPGs (role playing games) are some of the best ones that encourage the player to make decisions, whether it’s based on strategy for gameplay or options that will change the story line. Studies show that people who play games make decisions 25% faster than those who don’t play, and they do not lose accuracy. They also found that gamers can often make 6 separate decisions and act on them within one (1) second, which is apparently four (4) times faster than the average person. (This means the non gamer makes 1.5 decisions and acts them out within a second.

The University of Rochester, New York, found that gamers are able to multitask more than six (6) separate tasks at the same time and not get confused; the average non-gamer can focus on up to four (4) tasks.

RPGs, text adventure games (old school) which are like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, and reading game guides are excellent ways to boost reading skills. Commodore 64 had tons of the text games that are still popular to this day. Classic Reload has them available to play online.

Off topic…

Interesting fact, a popular text based game called Jewels of Darkness was involved in a lawsuit. The game is actually a series of three (3) games that were based on stories by Tolkien (Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, Simarillion, and Tales from Middle Earth). Because of this, the game was originally released as the Middle Earth Trilogy. Needless to say, they didn’t have rights to his estate and so they had to change the name.

Psychological

The University in Auckland, New Zealand, had 94 young people play a computer/mobile RPG called SPARX, designed for ages 12-19 to teach skills that are often taught in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). In many cases, the game reduced symptoms of depression more than traditional treatments. There have been other studies with others young people and the total tested is 187 to date and they have found it also helps with anxiety and anger. 44% of players recovered completely from depression, compared to 26% who have standard treatments. 60% showed a reduction of symptoms by at least 30%. Unfortunately the game is currently only available in New Zealand. I hope it is more widely available in the future.

Oxford University found that people who play Tetris right after a traumatic experience can help reduce the chance of flash backs or PTSD.

The downside to this is individuals, especially males, who only play violent video games are foundto have a decreased activity in the prefrontal lobe, which can lead to altered mood states and aggression. It can also lower their empathetic response. It’s been found that those who only play excessively violent games have more anxiety than other gamers. Also, video game addiction can lead to decreased activity in the frontal lobe.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com
Gamification in Health care

These are games that encourage patients to make healthy choices. A very common version of this is apps that link to your fitness watch and such. Some are literal games that will let you trade in the steps you take for gear for your game, some are audio books that will read about an apocalypse or adventure. These often have “action scenes” that encourage you to run just like the characters in the stories do. Some are using games for behavior modification to combat childhood obesity. This has been particularly effective in the preteen range. They get more game time in trade for eating 2-3 more servings of fruits and veggies a day and less junk food. Results are typically seen within 2 months.

Zen games are becoming increasingly popular, these often have techniques that are taught in Bio Feedback Therapy. Some biofeedback centers use games to encourage children to relax. For example, we’ve seen some that are linked to the child’s heartrate and breathing that had a butterfly or a bunny come out and move when the child was relaxed.

There are some amazing innovations in electronics to help children, whether for education, calming, communication, or tracking.

Jerry the Bear is designed for children ages 4-9+ with Type 1 diabetes. He has lots of features so he children can relate. He is available for purchase (and donation) here.
My Special Aflac Duck is amazing. It is designed for children with cancer, although it is gaining popularity for those being treated with sickle-cell anemia.
Sidekicks was designed to he a holographic personal assistant. He’s been found to be helpful with individuals with Autism, Alzheimer’s, STEM education, and just plain fun. The Kickstarter is scheduled to start this month…
Purrble was launched late 2020 and it’s been an amazing tool in helping children with anxiety. It’s technically an interactive toy rather than a video game. There is not an app for it yet.
Gululu may be pricy, but they help children who actively refuse to drink water. Their water intake directly affects their virtual pet .
Jennie, although not a video game aspect, is an awesome interactive toy. It was designed with people suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, however, they are exploring it’s use for other people with disabilities who cannot care for an animal, but still crave the interaction. It was brought to life by Tombot and the Jim Henson Creature Shop.

Education:

In this day in age, many people have heard about educational games. Some commonly known ones are:

The Oregon Trail (Link will let you play online version. Oregon Trail has had many updates and expansions.) 1992 Remastered version.

Tinybop offers a wide array of STEM games for mobile platforms. We have several of them. Thing 2’s favorite was the human body. The apps explore anatomy, physics, nature, space, and engineering.

Note: the human anatomy doesn’t show the urogenital system unless you purchase it.

Toca Boca apps… when my kids were younger, they had all of the older ones. Toca Boca designs apps for younger children, or those with special needs. Many of these apps encourage human interaction so children who have social issues can learn from it (examples include Toca Store, Toca Birthday Party, Toca Tea Party). They designed a whole Toca Hair Salon series (I think there’s 5 games total) that can help with children who experience anxiety from the hair dresser. Tons of imaginative games, and even science games like Toca Lab, which is based on the periodic table of elements, and Toca Lab 2: Plants, which explores cross germination. (Update: I just got word they have also started releasing a box like Sago Mini.)

Sago Mini was also a favorite in our house. They design apps for toddlers and preschoolers that help them explore their world and emotions. They also introduced the Sago Mini Box which include playsets and activities that relate to the Sago Mini world. Sago Mini is a subsidiary of Toca Boca, so you know the quality is there, and it’s easy to transition to the next stage of play with Toca Boca.

And the list keeps going. There are online games that mimic school curriculums, games for subjects, games for typing.

One of the ways we help with education on “non educational games” is to have the kids design their own cheat sheets for the game. This is something my parents started with me. So I have PRIMA guides (which encourages reading and following directions) and tons of guides and maps I made myself.

In not so short, video games can be beneficial when used in the right way. If you are looking for ways to download games to your computer, our favorites are GOG and Steam for more modern games and indie games. Our favorite for puzzle games, including match 3, hidden object games, literal puzzles, and word games is Big Fish Games.

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or recommendations for types of games.

I’m now headed off to see if I die from dysentery again.

School’s out! … or is it?


School is out for the summer, but it doesn’t feel like it yet. LOL. This first week of summer, I have spent more time running back and forth between schools than I did when school was in session. We have camp for the extracurriculars, summer school because oops, testing because we all noticed a decline in the functioning in one kiddo…

So I’ll put some randomness up here for entertainment until we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming. (click on photos to enlarge them.)

Boring….

Boring stuff first, one of the things I get asked a lot is how I organize medications for a large house… off brand Tupperware. Everything is clearly labeled. We have an entire cabinet in the kitchen dedicated to meds, no joke. They are the ones that are used regularly, so it makes since to have them in the kitchen so they can be taken with food or drink or however they are supposed to be given. We have another cabinet in the bathroom with the emergency kits: glucometer, extensive first aid past bandaids (bandages, wraps, splints, oh my!), nebulizers, etc.

Ooooh, Shiny!

Something fun!

So my husband and I decided to back the expansion for MixTape Massacre before Covid hit. The game was supposed to release right before Halloween. We were stoked becausze we have a Halloween gathering every year and once the kids go to bed, we often game. (NOTE: This game is NOT ok for kids. I can do a review on it another time). Needless to say, it never happened… but we got the game, got some goodies like a character, a pin, and our names in the instruction book.

Goals…

During the forever quarantine, I came across this gem. It’s a canvas print of Atari games. I’ve played most of these listed. Have you played any of these? What is your favorite Atari game?

Patience is a virtue. And nothing teaching a child patience like having them wait for a video game to load on the Commodore 64. the photo on the left says, “Loading time is approximately two and one half minutes.” LMAO. I remember there were some games that we had time enough to make a sandwich, eat it, come back, and it might be loaded.

Educational:

If you have a science nut or someone who is struggling in science (middle school or higher), Theodore Gray writes awesome books about subjects in science and makes it easier to learn. The layout is aesthetically pleasing. We have the first two books in his series, Molecules and Elements. He has since come out with Reactions and How Things Work. Surprisingly, on his website, you can get autographed copies of these books for $30. Holy Toledo! He even has board books for an intro to science for kids. I love it. Not to mention the clear acrylic model kits, and other randomness you can get. The gif on the right and at the top are models from his site. So cool!

It’s been said English is the hardest language to learn… and Mandarin Chinese. This book makes fun of the language while helping kids remember how to pronounce words that are outliers or exceptions to the rules. P is for Pterodactyl by Raj Halder and Chris Carpenter.

Have a child that’s not interested in books unless there are pictures? We had several. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak helped greatly. Mind you, you have to introduce this book by reading it out loud to them. After a few reads, our book haters were reading this out loud to each other, to us, to their stuffed animals, anyone who would listen.

I guess, stay tuned. I may say something brilliant at any moment.

My Hiatus: End of School Chaos, Medical Testing, and Sanity.


We are steadily approaching the end of school here. This means standardized testing for all the kids, sans one; meaning a change in schedules (which does not bode well for attitudes in the house). Half the kids are in person and the others are still virtual, meaning scheduling for the testing… and rearranging any medical appointments we already had scheduled months in advance. Not to mention finals.

Oh yeah, I forgot we had an EF-0 hit our neighborhood. That required some cleanup, some of it urgently. (Trees down, broke one of the fences so the dogs found a way out. Fun times.)

Genetic tests, month long cardiac monitors, MRIs, OH MY!

The joy of getting all the testing done so you can wait what seems like an eternity for the results to come in.

In the meantime:

Books:

I’ll write about some books that have saved my hide over the years, and might help you as well. I’m going to do 2 serious books and a fun one. So please keep reading.

Kids in the Syndrome Mix of ADHD, LD, Autism Spectrum, Tourette’s, Anxiety, and More!

Besides the fact the cover reminds me of a pop art Sea of Colors print of the Beatles, the book is very helpful. The book is written as if you were going to family counseling to seek help in how to interact appropriately with special needs kiddos. The first two chapters include check lists and very real scenarios relating to diagnosis and treatment of said child. (I keep saying child because the book says child. But if you have an adult with any of these syndromes, I’m sure it would help to address them as well.)

Each chapter relating to the disorders are broken down into:

○Intro

○The definition: including symptoms, and breakdowns of the disorder.

○Real life symptoms – how it affects life so you can see issues they may be going through.

○Co-morbidities and family problems: other disorders linked and how this may affect your family.

○Statistics

○Treatments: not only including medications and therapies, but ideas for 504s and IEPs. OMG, a huge help when you are advocating for your own kid, or when they are old enough to advocate for themselves.

Some chapters may have additional fluff, but the main breakdown is as above.

Sea of Colors – The Beatles… I digress

Ideas for 504s and IEPs.

I cannot stress this enough.

The syndromes and disorders covered are:

ADHDAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
LDSpecific Learning Disorders
ASDAutism Spectrum Disorder
ASD Level 1Asperger’s Syndrome (This one is a nice throw in since the ASD is all thrown together and they consider Asperger’s obsolete.
Anxiety and OCDAnxiety and Obsessive – Compulsive Disorders
SID or SPDSensory Integration Dysfunction/Sensory Processing Disorder
TSTics and Tourette Syndrome
Depression
Bipolar Disorder
ODDOppositional Defiant Disorder and Intermittent Explosive Disorder
CAPDsCentral Auditory Processing Disorders

There’s an additional chapter on medications, a behavioral checklist, a quiz on executive functions, and dealing with insomnia. I used sticky tabs to mark what the kids had so I could quick refer to it, color coded them as well per kid. Hubs and I laughed because we ended up marking almost the entire book. ~sigh~. Whether you are a parent or a professional, I would recommend this book.

Geek Mom

I received this book from my MIL as a gift a few years back. It has tips for surviving modern kids, keeping them safe, and projects. If you or your kids are nerdy/geeky, this is an excellent book.

Chapter breakdown:

Chapter 1 Secret Identities: An Introduction to Imagination

This chapter further breaks down as it talks about superheroes, creating secret lairs, party ideas, cosplay, comic books, treasure hunts, steam punk, and conventions.

Chapter 2 Elementary, My dear watson: A child’s natural sense of curiosity will lead the way into learning

This chapter has surprisingly been a life saver during COVID. It talks about building a home learning center for homework or home schooling. It also talks about cartography (map making, our favorite is pirate maps), mazes, an intro to horror stories, time travel – family trees, role-playing, music lessons (like how there is a lot of classical influence in Rock and Roll. One of my favorites, not listed in the book, is Desire by Gary Hoey).

Chapter 3 resistance is futile: multitasking mothers are at the forefront of the digital revolution

This chapter is dedicated to video games. It discuses how they are beneficial to children (the right games, of course and in moderation). It talks about classic games vs new games, playing online and how to be safe online. TBH, I glanced over this chapter because it isn’t an issue for us. My hubs and I are both digitally savvy, but I see so many kids that are running free and getting into trouble on the net. I do recommend this.

In addition to board gaming, we also have a lot of video games. We use them in addition to therapy, as well. I have had some requests to cover them so I will be doing the digital library in addition to our board games. Please let me know if you have any requests or anything in particular you are looking for.

Chapter 4 inquiring minds want to know: bringing science home for our kids and ourselves

There are so many cool experiments in this chapter from sound wave experiments to lava lamps. Rocks, geodes, gardening, space! (I could use help with gardening…)

I think I found my next cross stitch.
Chapter 5 food wizardry: the geeky family about the kitchen
All Hobbit Meals by Charlie Nagelhout

This entire chapter is about food. If you have special diets, you can probably skip this chapter or try to modify the recipes. But if you are game, it includes a hobbit feast for one of their many meals. (If your kids are anything like half of mine, they eat like Hobbits).

Of course Hobbit food isn’t all there is, there’s fusion food like dessert pizza, sourdough bread (before it was cool), Tetris cake and Chess cupcakes, cephalopods… fudge Mt Olympus, essential seasoning, a spot on tea, and an ode to Julia Child and Alton Brown. Should your child like making chemistry in the kitchen, I can do another segment on cookbooks for kids if requested.

Chapter 6 Make it Sew! and other geek crafts: taking traditional crafts into new galaxies

This chapter gives a brief history lesson on handicrafts and then jumps right into the fun. It gives instructions on sewing a felt monster, crocheting an amigurumi… being, tie dye, DIY battery light up sculptures, painting with light, using electronic components into accessories and beading designs (I have some dangly earrings made out of resistors, they look so cool), and an mini abacus. It even tells you how to read an abacus. I wonder if you would have to remove it for all the standardized testing.

Two Picard jokes in the same section. I was set up.

All in all, the book offers some fun ideas to get kids (or parents) involved. It’s a fun read and it’s fun in practice as well.

Married with Special Needs Children

This is the last book I am reviewing in this post, and a very important one, even if it sounds like a spinoff of a 90’s sitcom. The data for divorce with special needs children is all over the map; unsurprisingly, it depends on the type of disability and the severity. There are rumors that the divorce rate is 80%, but this is false. The highest rate is among those families with severely disabled children, Down’s Syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, hovering at around 10% more than other families in their demographic. When I say this, this means the average rate of divorce in the US for civilians is around 2.9 (a major low), so a family with special needs kids of the above would have a 12.9 rate of divorce approx. Mind you, there are career choices that affect divorce rates. If you want to look at these, they are fascinating, but also disturbing.

There are suspicions that the higher the stress the job is, the higher the rate of divorce, and in some cases, add in the pay rate (or lack there of) and the rate goes up further. An excellent example of this is EMS: Firefighters make decent money and can have high stress during calls. They have a divorce rate of 30%. Where as Fire Inspectors (I’m assuming like Fire Marshals) have a rate at 39%, more money, but a lot more paperwork and government involvement. EMTs and Paramedics are at a rate of 41.6%. If they work for a private ambulance company, they spend their entire shift in their ambulance and wait for their next call. Some shifts they are so busy, they don’t have time to do their charting until the end of their shift. They often are on calls for backup with police (most police professions were surprisingly under 40%). Where as “Ambulance Drivers” that aren’t EMTs (other than MTP or Medical Transportation companies, I don’t think they exist anymore), their pay is barely above min wage, they are basically glorified taxis but with ill clients, and the divorce rate is 46.3%. 911 Dispatchers win with a divorce rate of 46.6%. Their pay is pretty good, but the constant phone calls and stress… Those who have jobs where an individual travels a lot has a high rate of divorce, likely due to a lack of connection or fears of infidelity (or flat out infidelity).

I digress… take the percentage of a career and add 10% for the special needs kiddo. Some of the rates can be alarming.

This book helps with co-parenting strategies. This is a common problem with parents and entire families with special needs kiddos. It helps find ways reigniting the romance you may have let fizzle while making your child your priority during the diagnosis phase. There is nothing wrong with this and it doesn’t make either of you a bad spouse, you were being an excellent parent, and now it is time to focus on you. Speaking of you, do you have healthy coping strategies? Are you taking care of yourself?

This book is also amazing in the fact that it is the first book I have read that talks about keeping your marriage together, but it also talks about second marriages and blended families. So many books I have read made me feel judged because it kept talking about the biological parent. This book is so inclusive, you can tell it is written by professionals that have experience handling special needs families of different types.

It’s not just about relationships, it does talk about having alone time, childcare issues, community resources and support outside of the family (because not everyone has familial support).

I wish I could say more or add quotes about this book. I read it years ago during a hospital stay with one of the kids. It’s been on my list of books to buy since then.

And thus ends probably my most boring post so far. I do apologize. I hope you find these books useful. You can always check them out at your local library (librarians have a really low rate of divorce, btw). School will be out in a couple of weeks, then we will hopefully have a schedule of entertaining games ahead of us. Until then, take care.

Spore – Sim Everything


Whilst I await my computer, I’ll do a video game review. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. If you or your kids like “sandbox” games, this is an excellent game. My kids started doing the creature creator as preschoolers and the whole game around age 7. This geek has been playing it since launch.

I’m not going to get into the spinoffs, this is the main PC game.

Spore – 2008 – the myth, the legend, the downfall…

Spore’s Teasers:

Spore was an awesome game that was teased at the E3 games in 2007 and launched in 2008. It was a widely anticipated game. It was originally named “Sim Everything” because of the large amount of control players have.

A Sandbox Games is defined as a video game that lets players create almost anything they want, coined from playing in a literal sandbox. There may or may not be tasks or goals, but there are often multiple ways of achieving it.

Spore Trailer from E3 2008

Japan calls sandbox games “Non-Game Games” or “Software Toys” because the focus of the game isn’t the quests, it’s the freedom to create and explore. (Much like hand held toys).

Spore “trial” by EA Games/Maxis

The game launched with a demo available to purchase (I think it was $10) that allowed you to get familiar with the creature creation portion of the game without being fully submerged into the Spore world. The demo was called Spore Creature Creator.

With the launch of the demo came the online collection of creations called Sporepedia. Players could choose to share their creations and also download other players creations (which plays into the main game). It was a little ahead of it’s time, game wise, as content shared could be favorited.

Needless to say, this easily boosted the hype.

Official Launch:

Along with the Creature Creator capabilities, this included actual gameplay to use your premade creatures. The ones you favorited on Sporepedia? They are now incorporated into your “world”. You may run into yours or someone else’s creation as a neighbor, a predator or prey, or maybe the random alien abduction… You could set the creature spawner to random and favorite any new creature you may come across, and thankfully had the option to perma-ban creations or creators (like all the teenage boys who decided to make creatures phallic in shape or name).

a short lived ad because the graphics in the animated short were more advanced than the game… causing upset. It is still a fascinating ad.
Spore, base game by EA Games/Maxis

There were complaints about the game, but it was minimal. Hard core gamers complained it was too silly or easy. Others complained that the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board – America) rating went up to ~gasp~ E10+, or PEGI (Pan European Game Information – Europe) 12.

The game was awesome though and was widely well received. ~I’m sitting here staring at my original CD copy and the cover still has the price of $49.99 on it. I am laughing…

Game stages:

In the story mode, each stage is influenced by your actions in the previous stage. The way you play your creation will ultimately decide its personality traits.

The Cell stage:

The gameplay of Spore, although a sandbox world, involved evolution stages. The first of these stages was the Cell stage. This stage is largely based on the scientific concept Panspermia. You are a single celled microorganism. You have to survive in a fluid based environment differently based on if you are a carnivore or herbivore. (The way you eat here is considered the “personality trait” of this stage).

Movements are decided based on cilia or flagella (real science words); want to be an omnivore? Get yourself a proboscis (more science). You continue eating and “mating” your way through evolution until you finally develop a brain. LOL

Mating is not graphic in nature, you have hearts appear between 2 of the same species and boom, you get to evolve the creature.

Science!

Panspermia – Greek for “all” (pan) “seed” (spermia). The hypothesis is that life exists throughout the universe. Although “life” is a term some people want to argue. Microorganisms have been found in samples from other planets, asteroids, meteorites, etc. This often gets confused with “sentient life”, which means intelligent life forms. The concept began way back in 5th century BC Greece by a philosopher Anaxgoras. It didn’t become a legit hypothesis until 1903 by Svante Arrhenius (one of the original founders of Physical Chemistry). This is still being studied today, especially at the space station. The late Stephen Hawking even spoke on this.


the Creature stage:
Sweet Forest Gump, I’m sure many of us relate…

You have finally grown a brain and ventured out of the water… even if you don’t have legs (the choice is yours).

Unlike the Character Creator portion, your body parts are limited in the story line. You have to go around and find parts to be able to use, not to mention DNA points, which are used as currency for evolutions. You can find parts from killing others, whether in self defense or as a predator; befriending other species; destroying plants; the list goes on. (Should you not like your creation, you can always go in and edit it in the Creature Creator later as a future species). Be sure you are happy with your creation before moving to the next stage…

There are 3 personality traits you can use here: predator, social, and adaptable.

Mating is how you evolve, once again. Even more hearts and is accompanied by a “mating dance”.


Tribe Stage:

Tools! Your creature starts using tools, (whether it is physically built for this or it moves like an epic disaster is your choice). Along with using said tools, your task is to unite all the tribes, Kill them all or make allies. Personality traits are aggressive, friendly, or industrious.

Your creation will also start to unlock “coverings”, can’t have your sentient creature running around in the buff.

George of the Jungle describing loincloths

Tribe Stage is different from the previous stages because this is the first time you are in control of multiple creatures (your tribe). This stage is set up similar to Real Time Strategy (RTS) games.


Civilization stage:
Pinky and The Brain, focused on world domination.

Ah, your species is becoming civilized. Design buildings and land/water/air vehicles. Traverse the world and decide how you will govern your cities. Take over the world!

Use your power over the military, start trade routes, or spread your pseudo religion to conquer the neighboring cities. But don’t forget to enforce your own.


Space stage:

This stage is based on philosophical notion the “Mediocrity Principle“. At this point you can travel the universe and interact with other space travelers (NPCs), fix the ecosystems in underdeveloped planets, complete random missions. Look on in horror as you forget to use the gravity beam while placing creatures on other planets, accidently dropping them to their squishy end. At this point, you will also encounter the mean species, the Grox. You will never be able to diplomatically handle them, so no matter how you play, you will have to have weapons at this stage.

This is the largest part of the game. It is said there are around 500,000 planets available to travel to in this stage. All your games are connected, you may be able to find the other planets you created. The Milky Way is hidden in the game and you can even find Earth… (I never found it). Not only can you fly around the “old way”, but you can use Black Holes as worm hole travel.

Your previous personality decisions now come into play. Depending on how you played the previous stages will give you 1 of 9 Archetypes: Bard (Philosophy of Chance), Diplomat (… Order), Ecologist (… Life), Knight (… Force), Scientist (… Science), Shaman (… Harmony), Trader (… Prosperity), Warrior (… Force), and Zeatot (… Faith). The exception to this is the 10th archetype, the Wanderer (Philosophy of Order), which is only obtained by skipping all the previous stages and starting in the Space Stage.

Your Galaxy in Spore

Mediocrity Principal – to simplify it, there are other planets in the universe with Earth like ecosystems. It cycles back to Panspermia… life is everywhere and with the right atmosphere it can evolve.

Expansions and spin-offs:

Expansions:
Spore Creepy & Cute parts pack, by EA Games/Maxis

During 2008, after the initial release, the parts pack Creepy & Cute came out. This included 120 new items, body parts, and emotes/animations. This also allowed additional painting of skin/textures.

This didn’t affect gameplay, but if you were heavy into creature creation, this was an excellent addition.

Spore Galactic Adventures, by EA Games/Maxis

This heavily affected gameplay in the Space Stage. Gone were the days where you could only have a hologram on the worlds’ surfaces. You could now explore lands, take on first person missions. This expansion introduced RPG elements into the vast universe.

The SIM elements are still here as you can now create missions, make “movies” using your creatures in the adventure creator, and other elements.

This short film was released as part of the Spore Galatic Edition, a special collectors edition.

Disappointingly, future planned expansions were scrapped. Some stages that were in development were a Molecular Stage, an Aquatic Stage, a City Stage, and a Terraforming Stage.

Sometimes you can still find concept art and videos about these stages.

Spin-offs, the dishonorable mentions, and the death of a series:

Maxis ended up coming out with smaller games focusing on elements within Spore, so you could download the creature creator or the cell stage for mobile devices, Nintendo had some Spore Hero games that focused on the RPG elements of Galactic Adventures.

A lot of these were not well received and bombarded the fan base with poor quality products rather than continuing to expand on the base game.

The most non-Spore spin-off was Darkspore, released in 2011. It was classified as an action/RPG with elements from Spore, like the creature creator.

The game’s servers were ultimately shut down in early 2016 making Darkspore unplayable. The Spore servers followed suit in the same year, although it said it was “under maintenance”… indefinitely. The Sporepedia was gone, but unlike Darkspore, you could still play without having the servers/Sporepedia.

Darkspore by EA Games/Maxis

EA Games was using a copyright protection program, or a Digital Rights Management (DRM) called SecuROM. It was a big SNAFU, resulting in a lawsuit and boycotts of EA Games. The program required authenticating the game every 10 days, there was a limit of how many computers you could download the game onto (sometimes the software would count a hardware upgrade on the computer as an entirely new computer), and it was hidden from the EULA (End-User License Agreement). All in all it was a huge cluster-fudge that caused demises of 7 games.

Maxis’ main studio ended up closing in 2015, which many speculated started the closures of servers.


Now I’m sure at this point you are wondering why I would suggest a dead game you can’t really play. Excellent question.

EA Games removed the SNAFU SecuROM in 2017. The reason for everything Spore being shut down is it was being modified for the digital download versions. There is a new Sporepedia. It has been re-released in digital format, which means some of the gameplay has been improved to work on Win10. (Thanks Win10…).

There was a short time when you could register your old game code from the disc with EA Games/Origin. (I was never able to get this to work, not to mention some of the games went missing during the many moves.) Should you have a copy, you can still try this method under your EA account – Customer Portal – Redeem Product Code.

Spore Today:

Spore is available to purchase via Origin (EA Games), Steam, and Galaxy of Games (GOG). All 3 sell them separately with each game costing between $20-30. (Spore, Creepy & Cute, and Galactic Adventures). I strongly suggest a bundle which is available on Steam and GOG, so you can get a discount. It also often goes on sale. I believe we repurchased the digital collection for less than $10 on GOG.

The trial version, Creature Creator, is now available for free.

To use the online features in Spore, you will have to register the product through EA games… I’m working on transferring my old creations from the previous version to the new one (you can do this under Documents/My Spore Creations). My Sporepedia name is HaphazardHolli, should you be interested. Some of my creations had exoskeleton parts, that was once available for download. It is now included in the Galactic Adventures game.

To Summarize:

I recommend this game.

Pros:Cons:
It is a nice introduction to science for kids. It’s not completely accurate, science wise.
Infinite ways to playNot structured, so it can be chaotic for those who need structure.
Uses mouse only control or standard WASD key movementDoes not support a game controller
PC only

The Mimic


Quick background story, I took what was supposed to be a short break from doing game reviews because I was prepping for a data transfer between computers:

Curse you!!

I have been delaying the inevitable for a while as my desktop computer slowly tries to die. It was top of the line for its time, but its time was 10 years ago. In recent years, my computer has started throwing “no boot disc” errors. usually in the middle of the night, sometimes while I’m in the middle of something. I’ve found workarounds to make my computer work again, but I suspect this won’t work forever (as is the case with my mom’s computer, the exact same model and it ate itself last year… however, I wasn’t there to do the resurrecting.) I didn’t want to get another computer until I could get one comparable to the quality of mine back in the day. I have things to do!

So the new computer came… and it had no hard drive. For the computer illiterate, it is the memory storage. It would be like buying a really good smart phone with an excellent camera, speakers, beautiful display screen, but there is no memory storage. No room for photos, no room for apps, and it can’t even function. But it looks pretty!

So off it went to the manufacturer’s and that phone call took my husband over 2 hours just to reach the right person. We are still waiting on the “repair”.

While we waited… we hatched a plan

We decided we wanted a fun way to store our specialty dice (meaning the dice outside your typical six sided dice with pips/dots on them), so we decided to make a mimic.

I have worked with pottery and ceramics before, even took a pottery class in college. My professor disliked everything I did involving the pottery wheel. His disapproval was delivered softly, “Hey, that’s pretty not bad. Put a hole in it and make it a planter because it’s not good for anything else.” This went on for months until we were allowed to sculpt. I sculpted a koi fish and his approval was worse than his disapproval. “Woah! Who made this?” I told him I did. “No, seriously, who made it?” I had to sculpt a few more pieces before he believed it was my work.

I dedicate this piece to my old professor who didn’t believe I did the work… said half jokingly.

Details:

We got some inexpensive wooden chests from the craft store and some air dry clay. I didn’t feel comfortable using the polymer clay with wood… I know it can be done at low temps over a long period of time, but I don’t feel like monopolizing an oven all day for that yet and it is getting too warm to have the oven on all day. I don’t own a kiln to use traditional clay, nor would the wood survive temps over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit (over 1000 degrees Celsius).

So I made the conscious decision to take longer and do air dry, without fully being prepared for everything that it would entail.

this is a backdraft, btw

I sculpted directly into the chest after disassembling it. Good thing is it has a firm grip on the wood. Bad thing: the moisture was now sealed between the clay and the wood. Drying time for 1 cm of clay is approx 24 hours. Of course this is a lot more than 1 cm and this dumb dumb put one side of it against wood.

For those unfamiliar with pottery and ceramics, natural clay has to be dry before being able to do anything else. If it isn’t, you will end up sealing in the moisture and the clay will essentially rot from the inside out.

It thoroughly gave Thing 1 the creeps.

bacteria and mold growth on wet clay

After four days of the mimic’s eyes taunting me every time I walked by, I took a hair dryer to it.

Side note:

I asked Thing 1 to model her frenulum for me as my hands were covered in clay and I couldn’t look in a mirror. Thing one told me to “Stop being weird and go look it up.” I asked Thing 2 and she gladly modeled. So yes, the tongue is so creepy in thanks to Thing 2.

Anterior view of open mouth showing underside of tongue. SOURCE: Original art. Fairview.org

The moisture in the box caused the wood to crack and the clay drying causes shrinkage… causing cracks. It was an endless cycle of repairs and hair dryer for a little while.

Bob Ross was amazing

Finally!!!! I was able to paint! Now, painting with acrylics on natural clay is very different from using a glaze and firing it and also different from painting polymer clay. It was being absorbed into the clay as I painted thus drying almost instantaneously. There was no room for error. Blending was a nightmare.

Adjusting shadows and highlights often took several tries. “Oops, too dark, now it’s too light. Great, now it looks cartoony.”

I used a polyurethane seal in multiple layers (thicker on the bottom) to a) seal the clay from exposure to moisture in the future b) to make a protective shell c) used a high gloss formula to make the inside of the mimic perpetually moist. It turned out great.

Did you know?

An upwards of 20% of the American population have a word aversion to the word “moist”. Word aversion is also known as Logomisia. Greek – ‘logos’ = word and ‘misia’ = hatred or disgust for.

Top words in Logomisia: moist, drool, cheese, suck, squab, cornucopia, navel/naval, brainchild, crud, slacks, crevice, fudge, and ointment
Lily from How I Met Your Mother, also hates the word “moist”

I had already stained the wood by this point along with using a gold leaf paint (far easier than using gold leaf foil). However, I had planned ahead by using the painters tape to make sure everything was safe while I worked on the inside… I did not take into consideration that the gold leaf would be even too delicate for the painters tape. When I peeled off the the tape, the gold leaf came off in chunks and what was left flapped in the breeze. (Remember when I had just said it was sooooo much easier than using gold leaf foil?)

After re-doing the gold leaf, I painted the fixtures to make them look oxidized (since this chest was supposed to be a water chest). I reassembled the chest and found that the drying process shifted the way the two pieces fit together. The frenulum ended up rubbing on the upper gum and the paint wore off a little (I’ll fix that another day) and the chest ended up with a gape between its… teeth. I had to adjust where I put the closure so I could latch it. And then I sprayed it with a clear, non gloss acrylic sealer and am calling it done. (Please watch the video for the final results. It’s a short video, I promise).

My thoughts

I would not recommend this for anyone who has never done handicrafts. If you are learning any of the techniques I used, this is not a beginner project.

Was it difficult? Yes it was. Do I plan on making more even more grotesque in some way? I sure do.

Fact:

The first mimic appeared in D&D in 1974, but wasn’t fully “fleshed out” until 1977 in the Monster Manual.

That’s right, the mimic is older than Star Wars.
Discussion

Please answer in the comments, on our Facebook page, or Twitter.

Where did you see your first mimic?

Where is your favorite mimic?

The Handeater

Q: Where did you see your first mimic?

A: My first encounter with a mimic was in the 1991 Sega Game: Shining in the Darkness. It was known as a Handeater. It was probably the creepiest compared to the others in the 90’s from the Dragon Quest series, Azure Dreams (which was never a chest), etc. There were some other dungeon crawlers I played with my dad that were under the D&D franchise (on the Commodore 64 and Amiga 2000) although I don’t remember their names nor did I personally encounter them.

Q: Where is your favorite mimic?

A: I honestly don’t have a favorite. I do like the old school style ones because I like old school games. I think my least exciting mimic is from the Breath of Fire series, even though it’s one of my favorite game series.

I’ve been told by several little ones to list the Mimic Queen from World of Final Fantasy because she’s pretty.

Mimic Queen – World of Final Fantasy

PSA: Disgust and Disappointment


Photo by Mwabonje on Pexels.com

Warning

This post contains sensitive topics for readers including abuse. If you have issues reading about such topics, please stop reading now.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse who needs help, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (or 800-656-4673) or chat with a trained professional at rainn.org

If you believe you or a family member is in danger, please call 9-1-1

I mulled over writing this. I wanted to hit this topic eventually, but not this early. Local current events decided to throw a curve ball. I will be addressing this from multiple angles, so please read through the post entirely before getting angry about any one thing. I have no quips and this post is not humorous, what-so-ever.

The current allegation prompting this post.

In our ISD, a junior high SPED (special needs education) teacher was arrested on allegations of sexual abuse towards one of her students. According to the sheriff’s office, the SPED teacher is accused of having oral sex with a minor in the back of a car. She is charged with improper relations with a student and indecent fondling. She has since been placed on administrative leave. According to news sources, she admitted to a friend she gave a student oral sex.

The news is explicit in details. I don’t feel I need to be. I’m not posting the links to the news source unless I absolutely have to because this story isn’t not the main point of this post. I’m also trying for some semblance of anonymity.

There is a mixed response in our community. Some are behind the family and awaiting the investigation. Others are upset with the ISD for taking action and are angry with the family, making disparaging remarks against the victim because he is in SPED and/or because they’ve known the teacher previously. (And the fact she previously was teacher of the year).

The teacher recently posted bail and we are all awaiting the investigation.

Emotions are running high for everyone right now. I completely understand both sides… let me tell you a little story:

Photo by Jill Rose on Pexels.com
A long Long time ago, in a land far far away

I was in college and I played in several semi-pro bands and orchestras for fun. A fresh-out-of-college band teacher moved to the area. Some of my fellow band mates, (a couple of which were my old band directors and other directors in neighboring towns) took it upon themselves to “set us up”. So we hung out quite a bit because we had a lot in common and we were only a few years apart.

A year or two later, allegations came out because officials found kiddie porn on his school computer. We were all in disbelief, but we waited for the investigation… and lo and behold… he was guilty. There was suspicions of other things, but they were never confirmed.

Statistics

RAINN:

  • 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault by an adult
  • 82% of all victims under the age of 18 are female
  • Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault

WHO:

  • Children with disabilities are 3.6 times more likely to be victims of physical violence than children without disabilities
  • Children with disabilities are 2.9 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than children without disabilities
  • Children with mental or intellectual impairments are 4.6 times the risk of sexual violence than non-disabled peers.

Candor Health Education:

  • The National Crime Victimization Survey concluded an average of  59,000 adults with disabilities are raped or sexually assaulted each year
  • Approximately 50% of all adults with intellectual disabilities will have endured ten or more incidents of sexual abuse in their lifetimes.

What can I do?

Parents, if your child (special needs or typical) is suddenly acting differently, please investigate. We have been lucky as to so far when we see a change it’s been due to bullying. I’d like to say our ISD has been awesome about nipping it in the bud.

Children don’t make up things that are sexual. They don’t know sexual. Unless they are exposed to sex, you can almost guarantee the story is real. Exposure to TV/magazines and older siblings is what makes that water muddy. Older children may be exposed through class mates. But by asking open ended questions, you can usually get down to it pretty quick.

If you are unsure, you can always ask for help. Counselors are available whether through your own ISD or referred by your doctor. Sometimes your child would feel more comfortable talking to someone else, and that’s ok! Encourage your child to talk to anyone who is a “safe person”. This will also make them more receptive to talking to you in the future.

How can I talk to my own child?

The ARC is an advocacy group that has many helpful things online including media. It isn’t just for children, so if you are taking care of an adult minor, there are resources there as well. You can use these videos and informational sheets as a link to start a conversation…

Fact: There were close to 3 million children with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities according to the Census Bureau in 2010. Often times, these children are excluded from sex education, including talks about puberty.

Candor Health Education

How many times have we seen a toddler talking about a baby growing in their mommy’s tummy? A toddler has already been given the basics of “The Talk”, yet many believe children with cognitive abilities behind their age, say equaling that of a 4-8 year old, doesn’t deserve the respect of knowing what is happening to them. Many ISDs won’t even send permission slips home to the families letting them make the ultimate decision.

Most children with disability will still go through puberty. They will still have the same sexual urges as their peers. However, without proper education, when they act on these urges they can often find themselves at a higher risk of abuse, can hurt someone else because they don’t understand consent, and a plethora of other complications.

The TALK:

There are resources available for you. I will list a few down below, hopefully you will be able to find what works best for you. Please understand this is just a handful.

Tip: Refer to body parts by their name or as “private parts” if you are uncomfortable. There are too many cases going missed because children have reported things like: “Johnny touched my ‘cookie’.” This is a common complaint I hear from police and teachers.

NameBenefitCon or ControversyFor Whom?
Sexuality Across the Lifespan: for Children and Adolescents with Developmental DisabilitiesEasy to read, includes photos, broken down by age groupParents and Caregivers
Sexuality Across the Lifespan….same as aboveEducator edition
King County (Seattle, WA) FLASH lesson plan for SPEDVery detailed, adheres to the Characteristics of an Effective Health Education Curriculum and is aligned to both the CDC’s National Health Education Standards for Sexual Health and the National Sexuality Education StandardsControversy:
Science based, not religion based, although it teaches to respect ALL backgrounds
The primary focus is educators, but parents can use it.
Woodbine HouseLots of self help books for special needsCon:
You have to find and buy the books
All
Puberty by MARSH mediaPamphlets and media about puberty written for/about special needs kids, includes HYGEINE and comes in SpanishChildren, Caregivers, and Nurses
Personal SPACE (Safety, Planning, Awareness, Choice, Empowerment)
A Violence Prevention Program for Women
This class is designed with older teens (18+) and adult women in mind. It readdresses sexual education for special needs for adult women.Con:
There is a list of locations on pg 139. Unsure if they offer the Personal SPACE class.
Educators, although a caregiver could probably touch up on subjects covered in the lesson
Amazon.comBooks and ebooks galore. And they have tons of reviews by people who have read them. Not freeE for Everyone
What’s Happening to Me80’s Animation about puberty. Very educational. It explains everything in detail.Controversy:
Everything… It leaves nothing to the imagination. And lots of cartoon nudity, please watch BEFORE you show your kids.
Con: Because it is old, some of the info may be out of date (like chocolate causes zits).
It’s an excellent tool if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your kid and you don’t want to censor anything.
Where Did I come FromAnother 80’s Animation about where babies come from; starting with conception, pregnancy, and childbirth. Controversy:
Cartoon nudity galore once again. Watch BEFORE you show your kids.
Con: And again, some things are out of date, but this can open the door to a discussion.
See above.
in no particular order

Should you not feel comfortable speaking with your child, reach out. Chances are you know someone who works in education or healthcare who can do the talk. Please don’t forget your local health department. A lot of people don’t know many of them offer services for having the talk, even with non-special needs parents. This is a service most commonly used with single parents of an opposite gendered child.

If you have a social worker or case worker, they may also be able to find resources local to you. Community centers sometimes have education for special needs individuals.

If you cannot find anything in your area, you have the right to request it.

And how does this pertain to games?

Tiddlywinks and Hijinks was primarily formed to talk about games and other items for special needs families. Other than sound like I’m on my soap box, how does this pertain to my main goal?

Gaming Group Safety

Many have no idea what this means. This primarily pertains to the older kids. A gaming group is when a group of friends or like minded people form a (for lack of a better word) group with the intent of playing games. A prime example of this is Dungeons & Dragons.* This has been in the news multiple times recently and I will share some of my experiences.

Photo by Armando Are on Pexels.com

I’ll keep this short: I got into D&D in high school. I initially played at school with some of my friends. I was invited over to some of the group’s house for some more extensive gaming. I went, was groped (no game was set up, needless to say), left, and I never played with that group ever again. I ended up using my character sheets on D&D Tactics for Sony PSP.

As an adult with children, I thought I found a group. I spelled out what I was looking for, explained I was not looking for any kind of relationship, it wasn’t an issue. Right before the first gathering, the DM (Dungeon Master) started propositioning me for sexual favors. He had been with his live in girlfriend for over 10 years….

There are some D&D DMs who take their torture of the gamers too far. It’s not uncommon to put the players through challenging trials and tribulations. Now, back in March of 2020 in Far Verona Season 2 (a D&D channel), the DM had a NPC (non-playable character) sexually assault one of the players. Let’s be clear: the player did not consent, the player’s character did not consent, none of the players approved of sexual role play in the game and they were all very disturbed by this (several quit Far Verona before they were even cancelled.

Unspoken but understood rules of roleplaying games:
  • Role playing games are built on trust. If your DM violates you or your child’s trust pertaining to basic human rights, consider quitting the group, because anyone who would violate human rights is likely to do it again and is unpredictable.
  • DMs hold the power. Other than the ability to quit, a player has 1 character. A DM has unlimited NPCs and monsters at their disposal. A responsible DM will not abuse that power, but others…

If your special needs or non special needs child is wanting to get involved in D&D or ANY RPG group, please go with them, especially in the beginning. If they are going alone at some point, make sure they have support person(s) to help prevent predators or who can help report if anything happens.

*All my negative comments are not about Dungeons & Dragons the game, but are instead about the players who decided to use D&D as their means to be predatory. Please understand this.

In close:

My platform is always going to be in favor of education. This is why I provide so many facts and statistics.

Listen to your child.

Be sure to be an advocate for your child or person; you know them best.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Photo by Cliff Booth on Pexels.com

I Can Do That!


We came across this little gem when Piper was in physical therapy and occupational therapy way before Kendyl was even born. We have only recently given it to family with little ones because Kendyl and Ari have grown too large to do half of the things listed in the cards, but it was a favorite with ALL the kids. Piper and Kendyl were the only ones who required PT.

We had The Cat in the Hat version of the game. That game is frequently sells out quickly when it hits the shelves. They have since come out with a Marvel version.

The Cat in the Hat, I Can do That! by Wonder Forge
Marvel I Can do That! Hero Training Game by Wonder Forge

Game Mechanics and Play

I’ll be talking about The Cat in the Hat version because it’s the one we had, but they operate the same way.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss

The game consists of story items from the book, a “Trick-a-ma-stick”, and a set of cards labeled steps 1 through 3. You “shuffle” the cards face down on the floor or a table like you would dominos and leave it in a messy pile. On a person’s turn, they draw each step, one at a time. The person reads (or has help reading) each step until all 3 steps are drawn. If they think they can do what is needed, they say proudly, “I can do that!” and perform the task asked. Keep the cards once performed. If they cannot do that, you can have your own catch phrase and you shuffle the cards back into the pile.

Once everyone has done as many combinations as there are no more combinations available to do or none that can be done (we came across some really physically awkward combinations involving the Trick-a-ma-stick), then you count up the stars on the cards you have collected. The one with the most stars wins.

We liked having a copy of The Cat in the Hat nearby to read along with the game. Sometimes we read it before to rev them up, sometimes it was a wind down activity afterwards. It all depended on how I read it to them.

Fish is in the pile to ruin your fun. If you draw a Fish card while drawing your three steps, you keep Fish and return the command steps. (Question: Does Fish ever get a name in the following stories? Please leave a comment if you know.)

Fish yells “Stop!”

There is also a card game version which is great for travel. We do still have this one and use it primarily if we have to stay in a hotel for medical stuff… It’s an easy way to burn off some energy and get some PT in.

Our older copy of the card game

Newer version comes in a tin. OOOOHHHHHH!

The card game is great for trips because the only “stuff” there is is poor old Fish. You have the action on card 1 (the red card), a location (the blue card), and stuff or Fish (the yellow card). The only issues I’ve come across with hotels is sometimes there isn’t a minifridge or a book.

Pros

  • It’s a great adjunct tool for physical therapy
  • The different shaped items make for good occupational therapy
  • The pictures on the cards make this a great tool for learning to read
  • You can read the matching book to encourage a love to reading (Cat in the Hat version only)

Cons

  • This will not work for non ambulatory
  • The foam Trick-a-ma-stick was very flimsy and was covered in duct tape by the time it went through 5 kids.
  • The foam items can easily tear, especially the pieces that require assembly (the cake and Fish) with lots of use
  • The kids get physically too big for the Trick-a-ma-stick before they are ready to part with the game

House Rules

  • We had several 1 player games. So instead of whomever had the highest number of stars, our single player would try to beat their previous score. We never worried if we didn’t make it through the entire pile.
  • Adults can play, too. There are many things I physically couldn’t do due to size and such and it helped the kids with issues feel better about putting their cards back in the pile.