Thursday, August 28, 2008


I'm really making an effort toward some fitness, here. I've been doing arm and leg strength exercises almost every workday for two months, now, and going to the Y to swim or bike at least twice a week. (Or walked, but several sessions of walking have taught me that my foot problems are still not going to make walking for exercise a practical option. Any time I get going fast enough to raise my heart rate, I end up limping in pain for three days afterward. This is Not Progress.)

Anyway, I like going to the Y. Maybe it's the technogeek in me, but I like entering my data on the big computer on the recumbent bike, I like watching movies (well, Firefly episodes) on my iPhone while I chug along, and I could easily see myself cranking the difficulty level from 6 to 10 or 12 (scale of 20) and the time from 30 minutes to 45 over the next six months. It feels like progress. I don't like doing it, but I do like how I feel afterward. I've even started to want it, occasionally.

I wanted it yesterday. I was really looking forward to it. I got changed and drove over there... and the Y was closed. A massive cleaning operation, the sign said.

Well... damn.

Since I was over there, I decided to swing by the allergist's office and see if they'd let me vial test.

Rather to my surprise, I passed this time, and they gave me the actual shots. (Three of them. Weirdly, though the vial test stung like a bitch, I didn't even feel the official shots going in. I kept wondering when they were going to stop fiddling with my arm and do the shot already, and suddenly the nurse is slathering hydrocortisone cream on my arm and giving me instructions in case it flares up later.)

I happened to mention my plan to combine my exercise and the shots, since they're right next to each other, to optimize my travel time, and they shot me down -- since exercise increases blood flow to the muscles, they don't want me to exercise within two hours of getting my shots. Two hours before or two hours after. So much for my wonderful optimization plan.

So. Driving from either work or home, it takes me about 45 minutes, round trip, to get to the area where the Y and the allergist's office is. Exercise takes at least 30 minutes. In theory, the shots should only take about 15 minutes (except for vial tests, which only happen about once every six weeks) but I haven't been there yet that I haven't had to sit in the waiting room before getting my shots for 10-15 minutes, so figure about 30 minutes for that, too. Which means every time I drive up there, I need at least an hour and a half free.

I'd been hoping to increase my visits to the gym to 3 times a week, starting in September. And I should be getting my allergy shots twice a week. So that's five times a week that I need to find an hour and a half of free time.

I've got the kids with me until 8:30 in the morning, I need to be at work an average of 8 hours every weekday, and I have to be home by 5:30. The allergist is open from 9-5, more or less, and is closed at lunchtime except on Tuesdays. The Y is open weekdays from 6am until 9pm, but their childcare doesn't open until 8am, which is too late to be useful to me.

That's not to mention any other things, like other doctor appointments (there are no fewer than 9 appointments already on the calendar between now and the end of the year, plus three more I can anticipate) or days that the daycare or school is closed, or days I need to work late.

So my schedule is stretched so thin that it's practically transparent, and I'm hemorrhaging vacation time. My stress level is correspondingly precarious.


The allergy shots are going to take bites out of my workdays. There's no getting around that. I'm hoping that if I time it so I arrive right as they re-open after lunch, it will minimize the wait time, and hopefully I can do those in an hour instead of an hour and a half, which prevents vacation time bleed.

I'm going to move one workout to Saturday mornings - those are usually mostly open, and I can upgrade my Y membership to the family level to take advantage of their childcare so I'm not saddling Matt with them.

The other two workouts... I guess they'll have to be in the evenings. Can I get away with leaving at 7 and having Matt put Penny to bed twice a week, or do I need to wait until she's in bed?

I'm researching crockpot recipes that will move most of my dinner-prep time from the evening to the mornings, so I could delay getting home until 6. But even that's only a stopgap; I can only really use the crockpot maybe twice a week.

How the hell does this work? How do other working mothers manage to exercise on a regular basis?

(They eat a lot of takeout, maybe? They don't spend any time with their kids? What am I missing, here?)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And Now, A Commercial Break

I don't know how much influence ads have on me as a whole, but sometimes they stick in my brain.

There's a radio commercial from AT&T lately that goes something like this:

Announcer: AT&T has added 237 new towers to the Hampton Roads area this year, so you can talk more!
Woman: I have a signal even when I'm at the beach with my friends, so I can still help the kids with their homework!
Man: My connection works great even when I'm [some location], so I can do more work!
Other Man: I can check the scores from [location] to [other location]!

And then the announcer continues on... The thing is? Those first two "testimonial" folks really don't sound all that happy about it. I'm not exactly being sold on the benefits of good coverage, here...

And there's a McDonald's breakfast wrap commercial that makes me twitchy, because its lines don't match up, grammatically:

Old Man: ...You kids, with [umpteenth description of the wrap] handed to you for practically nothing!
Young Man: Actually, Grandpa, it's in a flour tortilla, see?

See, the "actually" implies that Grandpa was wrong about something, and the youngster is correcting him -- but he's not contradicting anything! Argh!

Though I find this one funny:

Football Fan: In the ham and egg breakfast sandwich, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. BE THE PIG.

I especially like the subtle alignment of the pig in the food and their sweepstakes for "pigskin" tickets.

Speaking of which, Penny may have had something of a revelation forced upon her the other day.

Matt's habit, lately, has been to answer random questions of Penny's with, "Bears!" "What's Alex playing with?" "Bears!" Like that.

So on the way home from school, she said, "What are we having for dinner tonight?" and Matt said, "Bears!" and she said, "Nooooo. Silly Daddy! We don't eat animals!"

And Matt said, "Uh, yes, actually. We do."

"Noooo! Silly Daddy!"

"I'm not kidding. We eat cows..."


"And pigs..."


"And chickens..."

"N- Wait."

She tried to shake it off, but when they got home and Matt was telling me about it, she started to protest again, and Matt said, "What do you think hot dogs are made of?"

She pondered the question briefly, and then decided that perhaps the better part of valor was to go draw a picture.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Say Cheese!

Now that I've got my computer back, I'm doing what I'd meant to do ten days ago, and uploading pictures and movies from Penny's birthday (and other events since). Thanks to the weird Flickr uploading program, they're not altogether in the correct order, and I might have some duplicates in there, but it's nearly 11pm, and I promise I'll weed them out and add captions and tags and such... later. When I have some time.

For tonight: just pictures.


Much better.

I had a busy, productive work day. I sketched out some ideas for my schedule when Penny starts school, and a couple of them actually seem viable, at least for the short term. I made it to the Y and spent half an hour on the reclining bike. (Had to adjust the difficulty a few times; I'm still figuring out what my level is, but I'm finally getting the hang of it.)

I got home just before Matt and the kids, and while we were doing the usual get-home things (wash bottles and little cups, make lunches for tomorrow, etc) my cell rang, and it was the concrete guy. He wanted to come over and talk to me about expanding the driveway and make sure we were on the same page, and he thinks he can get started in about a week. (*Note to self - need to contact the HA and see if we have to get it "approved" first.)

And while I was getting ready to make dinner, the phone rang, and it was the DHL courier. Wait, let me back up: I'd checked on the status of my computer yesterday at lunch to discover that it had gone from "On hold - part ordered" to "Completed" and "Your tracking number is..." So I clicked on the tracking number, because I always do, just to see if they'd already picked it up.

DHL's website said, "Delivery attempt failed." ...Wha? I checked the dates, and apparently Apple had completed my repair and shipped the computer off on Saturday, but the repair status website hadn't updated, for whatever reason. (Databases don't sync on the weekends?) So DHL had tried to deliver my computer and, it being a signature-required delivery, failed. Well, crappit. So I printed out the signature release form, stuck it in my bag, and took it home.

When I got home, there were two delivery attempt stickies on the door -- the courier had come by at 11:30, and again at about 3:30. Dangit, I'm at work, people! The notes said they'd come back again today, so I signed them, and I signed the release I'd printed out, just to be safe, and put them by the door so I could tape them up on our way out in the morning. I grumbled a little, but since I really wasn't expecting to get my computer until Wednesday at the earliest, I was still ahead of the game.

Anyway, while I was preparing dinner, the DHL guy called. "I'm about to head back for the day," he said, "and I thought I'd see if you were home before I went, so I can drop off your box."

Yes, yes, yes!

I don't know if that's standard DHL policy -- but FedEx and UPS have never done anything like that for me, and so either DHL or that particular courier now have some major bonus points in my book.

So I got my computer back, all fixed, whoo! They'd turned off my desktop picture and changed my screensaver, and for some reason my WoW shortcut had been moved, but otherwise everything was fine.

Anyway, I made a lovely dinner -- curried salmon with couscous and green beans. Penny didn't like the curry sauce, but Matt and I did, so next time I'll just cut her piece off beforehand and bake it with butter and lemon.

Alex was feeling good for most of the evening -- all smiles and giggles -- and managed to stay up until 7:10, which is pretty late for him (we usually end up putting him to bed between 6:45 and 7, when he turns into the FussMonster). He's almost mastered pulling himself to standing, and is trying to figure out how to take steps while holding on to things. (That'll still be a while in coming, but he's working on it.)

And after the kids were in bed, I caught up on websites I haven't been able to read for a week (oh lolcats, how I missed your funny!) and dove into WoW.

Ahhh. A good day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Week

Optimism did not work as well as I'd hoped on Friday. When I went to pick up my new glasses, they were the right prescription -- but the wrong frames. (They gave me the glasses anyway, so I can see -- luckily, the wrong frames are not horrible -- and are re-ordering the glasses with the right frames.) And when I tried to stop for my allergy shot, they looked at me like I'd grown two heads and told me that after failing a vial test, I needed to wait a week before coming back. Would've been nice of the first person to have told me that, so I didn't burn an hour for no purpose. The status for my computer repair changed from "in progress" to "on hold - part ordered." Having no idea what the part is, I can't even hazard a guess as to when I'll get the computer back. The fact that the repair shop didn't have it, however, isn't the best sign.

Saturday morning started out right on the same vein -- I tried to take Penny out to use a gift card she'd gotten for her birthday. The store wasn't where I remembered it being, and I wound up driving from one end of town to the other and then back again before I found it.

But the afternoon improved -- KT and I went to the beach. It was the perfect day for it -- a few clouds, but not too many; warm enough to swim but not so hot that sitting on the beach was miserable. The beach was packed, but we found a spot and swam for a bit, then settled onto our towels to enjoy the weather.

Some kids near us were feeding the seagulls, and it only took about five minutes before they had an entire flock of the sea-rats hovering around waiting for treats.

We couldn't decide who was funnier: the kids, who would hold up a Cheeto in the hopes a bird would take it from their hands and then shriek and fling it to the ground as soon as it looked like they were going to get a taker; or the tattooed bikini-bimbos just behind them who huffed and rolled their eyes and were indignant about the whole thing. I do think my favorite part was the bimbo who finally got up, stalked the four steps over to the kids and said, "Could you stop feeding the birds now?!" angrily, then stomped back to her towel... about five minutes after the kids had run out of Cheetos.

After we'd had enough of the sand, we wandered up to the shops to pick up souvenirs for the kids (I got Penny a shell that had been painted with the Batman logo) and then down the street to look for somewhere to eat. KT had originally wanted seafood, but we walked about three blocks without seeing anything but fast food (and one raw bar, but while I will occasionally eat sushi and am trying to learn to like fish, I am really not a fan of shellfish), so we eventually turned into an Italian place. They had wonderful food (and a cute waiter), so we felt pretty good about it.

Sunday was the usual errands, plus a trip to Target to get cards for a couple of Penny's teachers and new shoes for her. (With laces! Pink ones!) I've started teaching Penny how to tie her shoes, starting with the initial cross-and-through step. She's pretty awkward just at that first step, so I'm going to leave it there until she's got that more or less mastered, before trying to move on to making the bow.

Speaking of learning and growing: Alex, who still doesn't really crawl all the time, has decided to move on to bigger and better things. This morning, he pulled himself to standing at the couch, and for just a few seconds, there, looked like he was trying to figure out how to "cruise" sideways.

This week starts out calm, then crescendos -- I've got Book Club Wednesday evening, then Thursday morning is the elementary school's "meet-and-greet". Thursday afternoon, the daycare is having an end-of-summer party and then they're closed Friday, so Matt and I will probably each take a half-day off to stay home with the kids.

We're doing another proposal compilation at my work this week, too -- the boss wants to have it all assembled and ready to go by Thursday so as not to interfere with anyone's long weekend plans, but I suspect that means I'll be doing last-minute changes into Friday. (Not sure how that's going to play with the kids being home all day... I might need to get my parents to babysit. Of course, they've spent the last two and a half weeks in Cancun, so they're probably ripe for some grandkid time anyway!)

It's a new week. Let's hope it goes better than the last one.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Well, crap.

Had a crappy afternoon yesterday.

I left work early to get everything into my schedule.

Stopped to pick up my new glasses to find out that they've been delayed yet another day.

I was so irritable about that, I autopiloted past the exit for the allergist's office. I took the next exit and backtracked, but it probably added an unnecessary 10-15 minutes to the drive.

Signed in at the allergist's with only 2 minutes to spare before the deadline -- they need 30 minutes for a new serum set. Wound up waiting 15 minutes anyway, after which they told me they didn't have enough time to do the vial test and the shot, and the fact that I'd signed in on time didn't matter.

They did the vial test anyway, with the intention of me being able to pop in quicker next time for just the shot. But I reacted violently to one of the vials, so they wouldn't have been able to give me the shot yesterday anyway. For some reason, that did not make me feel any better about it.

The nurse recommended that I take an antihistamine before I come back next time -- if I have to take an additional antihistamine, then what the fuck am I paying for this Allegra prescription for?

She also told me that they'd prefer to do the shots twice a week, to start, which is just going to blow a huge hole in my schedule. They are, naturally, not open at any time that I'm not supposed to be at work.

In all, I wound up running twenty minutes or so late picking up the kids. Walked into the daycare, and could hear Penny crying for me all the way from the lobby -- turns out she'd been racing with a friend, tripped, and fell on the blacktop, skinning and bruising both knees and one hand. She was in so much pain she could barely stand, never mind walk. I had to carry her out to the car, then leave her to go back and get Alex. I felt kind of widgy about leaving her in the car, but what else could I have done?

At least it was hot-dog night, so I couldn't ruin dinner for the third night this week.

Being frustrated and grouchy is fuel for all kinds of other negative thoughts, better left unmentioned. By the time we were putting Penny to bed, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and cry.

Today will be better.

It's a new day. The weather could not be more gorgeous. Penny's feeling better, and Alex was in a pretty good mood for most of the morning (excluding the part where I put him down and walked away to get dressed -- he let it be known that as soon as he learns how to dial a phone, he's contacting Child Protection Services, who will take him away to the Land of Free Ponies and Candy).

The concrete contractor finally called me back, and he did, in fact, have a good reason for not returning my call last week, and hopefully soon we will see about getting our driveway widened.

The eye doctor just called, and my glasses are finally in. (Three weeks after they were ordered... sheesh.)

I'm going to take a long lunch so I can pick up the glasses and get my allergy shot (hopefully - I took a Claritin along with my Allegra this morning) in addition to having lunch with Matt.

And I am going to the gym after work if it kills me.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Alex woke up at 4:30 this morning. I can't blame him; he had a dirty diaper, and that's not really conducive to sleep. I got up, changed him, and put him back to bed. Surprisingly, he fell back asleep within fifteen minutes or so.

I... did not. I stayed in bed, but I couldn't really get back to sleep. So I don't promise a lot of coherence today.

So Penny's soon-to-be new school had its pre-K assessments yesterday.

It was total chaos. The kids and their parents checked into the library and just milled around. Every so often, they'd get on a microphone that was only barely loud enough to carry over the noise and announce a kid's name, and a teacher would lead that kid off to a classroom for the actual evaluations.

Penny was gone for maybe fifteen minutes or so, and when she came back, we had a good half-hour to kill until our next meeting, so we took Penny over to the playground for a bit. She seemed to have a lot of fun, climbing around, even if she wasn't too interested in playing with the other kids.

After a bit, we had a meeting with a whole stack of people to discuss her 504 plan. (That's the care plan for disabled students -- it lays out exactly what the school, parents, and student are responsible for with regards to specialized medical care.) Matt and I were both braced for a fight -- we wanted some things that we'd been led to believe the school might argue with us about. But once we were in the meeting, they agreed to the things we wanted without so much as a murmur, and everything fell into place fairly rapidly.

Still, we were at the school until noon. Penny, who had been excitedly anticipating a trip to a "restaurant" for lunch, got hungry and tired enough to just want to go home to eat.

After dropping her off at daycare for the afternoon, I dropped by my eye doctor's office to see if my new glasses had come in yet. They hadn't, and the ophthalmologist called the lab in Richmond to find out why, since when she'd checked Monday, they were in the courier's hands.

Apparently, they'd been returned to the lab. She talked for a bit, then took my number and promised to call me as soon as she found out exactly what had happened.

She called me at work two hours later. Apparently, the courier had made nine stops, and then quit. Or got fired, or something - it was a confusing little tale. At any rate, they didn't finish the run. The lab manager, she told me, was going to get up at 5 this morning and drive a bunch of late orders up to Charlottesville, then come back down this way, and she swore she would call me the instant they arrived.

Charlottesville is a solid two or three hours away, and if he's making multiple delivery stops, I'm not really expecting them to show up before lunch. But they might be here in time for me to pick them up this afternoon. Fabulousness awaits!

(Also, this afternoon, I need to go to the allergist's office and get my first shot. They say to allow a good half-hour for a "vial test" for the first shot from any new batch of serum, so I'm probably leaving work at like 3:45 today if I'm going to pick up my glasses and get my allergy shot on my way to pick up the kids. Whee.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I forgot to mention this, or more precisely, didn't have time when I was writing up the birthday party yesterday.

The kids were settling into the party room after their hour of jumping, and the jumping place employee who was helping with our party came in and started handing out a juice pouch to each of the kids -- it's one of the things they include in the package.

As soon as she put the little bag in front of Penny, I moved to intercept, but Penny was way ahead of me. She picked it up and held it out to the girl with an attitude I can only describe as imperious. "I can't have this," she said impatiently. "I'm diabetic."

I was really proud of her. It's tough to keep all the rules in mind, and she loves juice. It would've been easy to clutch at the bag and beg me or Matt to let her have it just this once... I probably would even have caved -- all the exercise was likely to keep her sugars fairly low for the rest of the day. But she didn't. The "no juice" rule has been internalized, and she obeyed it without so much as a word from Matt or I.

Back when she was diagnosed, I said, "By the time her birthday comes around, she probably won't even really remember a time before she was diabetic." That's probably not precisely true -- she certainly remembers the ambulance ride, and being in the hospital. But she has adjusted, even more than I'd expected she would.


Back in May, my office submitted a proposal. (Wait let me back up; not all my readers are government contractors: What happens is, one government entity or another -- for us, it's usually one of the military branches or the DoD -- issues a Request For Proposal, which is basically a description of work they'd like done, and then any companies or groups of companies that want to get the job have to submit a proposal detailing how they'd do it and how much it would cost. This is a gross oversimplification, mind you, but that's the idea.)

This was about 150 pages total, split into six physical binders, with tabbed dividers for each section, five or six copies of each binder. This is all pretty standard stuff, mind you. That was in May.

Last Thursday, the government sent us back about 50 things they wanted us to change in our proposal. Some of them were significant, like, "You didn't talk about this section here." And some of them were trivial like, "We don't like the acronym you're using for the project name." (Yes, seriously.)

At any rate, they wanted us to make the changes and resubmit the proposal -- but all the parts that we changed, they wanted us to print on blue paper. Which, I hardly need to tell you, is a pain in the ass, because we had to physically print each section, figure out which pages were changed, and then reprint those pages on blue and swap them out. Still about 150 pages, still in six binders, with tabs, and still needing five or six copies of each binder.

Oh, and they wanted it today. Tuesday. Five calendar days from when they sent us the comments, including an entire weekend.

Which is why I was at work for five and a half hours on Sunday, and twelve and a half hours yesterday. I wasn't even doing any writing. I was just helping with the printing and assembly of all those freaking binders. (33 binders, total. It took 3 boxes to pack it all up.)

At 7:30 last night, we finally decided that it wasn't perfect but there wasn't time to fix the remaining errors, and we shoved it in the boxes (with the CD of the electronic files and the various official submission letters) and taped them shut (with the company name and contract number written in black marker on at least two sides of each box) and packed it into a co-worker's car so she could drive up to DC, spend the night, and turn up in the appropriate government office this morning at 7. (This is probably why almost every even moderately-sized corporation in the country has at least one office somewhere near DC -- otherwise you have to do all these lightning turn-arounds and leave in a buffer for FedEx. And occasionally the issuing office gets snippy and doesn't want to wait for FedEx's by-10 delivery; they want it by 8 or 9 in the morning on the day of. Bureaucracy is an amazing thing.)

So, yeah. It's Tuesday morning and I've already got 18 hours on the books for the week. I'd take a day off, except that tomorrow is the kindergarten assessment for Penny's school, and next week (which is the same pay period) is the meet-the-teacher thingumy, so I suspect I'll be taking a fair amount of time off for those. If any is left over, I might try to slip out early next Friday. We'll see.

At least I won't be having to burn vacation time for it.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I bet you were expecting a post about Penny's birthday party this morning, with oodles of pictures, weren't you?


Saturday was oodles of crazy for me. Pretty much as soon as we were all awake, I left Matt with the kids and went down to Sam's Club for some staple supplies, and then after I got those all home and put away, I went to the grocery store to get stuff for the party.

And then I got home and scarfed my lunch down so I could make sure everything was packed and ready to go and we loaded up the car and loaded up the kids and headed over to Jumping Joey's for Penny's party. I put up the decorations and set out the cupcakes and the water and... realized that although I'd carefully remembered to buy a veggie tray because all my friends are on diets, I'd left the damn thing in the fridge at home.

After some select cursing and glaring at the clock willing there to be enough time to send Matt back for it (the clock did not oblige), I decided that since the plan was for everyone to reconvene over at our house after the party anyway, I'd just bring it out then. No sweat.

So then Dylan and Jess showed up, and Penny was thrilled to pieces to see them, and they ran around like the crazy little girls that they are. Emma and Sarah showed up a bit later, and they were slightly less crazy, but I think everyone had fun.

(Many super thanks to Elizabeth, whose gift to Penny was a baggie full of quarters so the girls could ride the electronic gizmo machines, which I had completely forgotten about.)

Once the kids had completely exhausted themselves running and jumping and sliding, we adjourned to the party room for presents and cake and snacks, and Penny begged us to let Dylan come over to our house after the party. She and Dylan have been trying to have an at-home playdate for months now, so Dylan's dad agreed to join the post-party party.

But then everyone else bowed out, so it wasn't really much of a post-party. Dylan's dad turned out to be hideously allergic to the cat, so they only stayed for about twenty minutes. I don't know why everyone else evaporated, since I spent the party trying to take pictures or wrangle Alex and only got to exchange about four words with any of the adults. Oh, well. Guess I'll bring the veggie tray to work or something.

At least Alex was good -- he needed lots of attention, but he didn't break down screaming, despite the fact that he was in dire need of a nap after about the first forty-five minutes. I even got him to play happily in the baby/toddler area for a little while.

And then Sunday morning, I got up and came downstairs and opened my computer so it would download mail, then went into the kitchen to take my meds and eat breakfast and the usual weekend morning rigamarole, and when I got back to my computer, the screen was dark. Not a big deal, since I'd certainly been gone long enough for the energy-saver thingy to kick in.

Except that when I touched the touchpad, it didn't come back up. Or when I hit the spacebar. I grumbled and held the power button until it turned off, and then turned it back on. Startup chime and... nothing. I waited a few minutes. Nothing.

I did this about half a dozen times, to no avail.

At one point, Matt told me he could see my computer from the house network, and could access my Public directory and everything, so it was obviously booting up -- the screen just refused to turn on.

I tried plugging it into the external monitor from the guest computer, and that didn't pick up a signal either, which makes me think the graphics card has gone kaflooey.

And I had to go in to work anyway, so I didn't have much time to fiddle with it.

So I called Apple's customer service after the kids were in bed, and they're sending me a box so I can ship the computer back to them and they can fix it, so I'll be more or less offline in the evenings for about a week. Not completely offline, because there's the guest computer and there's always the iPhone, but I'm not going to be logging into Warcraft from either machine. Bah.

And I'll try to get pictures onto Flickr from work, but things are actually kind of busy at work this week, and it's so much easier to upload from home, so it'll probably just be a few especially nice ones. (I took most of the party pics with my "real" camera, because the lighting in the Jumping Joey's was not very good for iPhone pictures.)

Anyway, Penny went with me in to work (because I figured Matt might appreciate not having to wrangle both kids for however long. Given her gregarious nature and the fact that I was here for five and a half hours, she did amazingly well. I was proud of her. (Alex had done somewhat less well at home, apparently, which makes me glad I'd kept Penny with me.)

And now the crazy stuff at work begins again, so I must post and run.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Day

So yes, I made the cupcakes for Penny's party last night. (The cake part. They are not yet iced.) Penny "helped" in that I let her have one finger of batter off the beaters, and she held onto the tin as I was putting it into the oven until she had to let go because her arms are shorter than the oven door is wide, and then she proudly danced off to tell Matt, "I helped!" (Also, when the first batch of cupcakes was done, I dumped them onto the cooling rack and let her turn them all right side up.)

I was sort of proud of myself for managing to actually make exactly 24 cupcakes, which is what the box says you should get out of the batter. I usually end up with something weird, like 22, or 25. They are not all exactly the same size, but they're probably close enough for various diet estimations. (Seventeen grams of carbs per cupcake, give or take, sans icing. Yes, Weight-Watchers people, I will bring along the cal/fat/fiber data so you can figure points.)

Tonight, I'll ice them and let Penny help by putting sprinkles on the tops.

And I'll put goodie bags together while Matt and I are watching our movie tonight, so that will be all ready to go. And then tomorrow I'll just need to run to the grocery store for a veggie tray, some bottled water, and some chips.

After I dropped the kids off at daycare this morning, it occurred to me that I didn't have any grits in my desk at work, and I'd need to stop somewhere and pick up some breakfast. (Or skip breakfast, but that's just setting myself up to have three or four candy bars before lunch.)

A bagel would be nice, I thought. Maybe I'll swing by Panera. It's not that far out of my way.

So I did.

As I was standing in line, I thought, Hey, I should get a dozen and share with the office. I know it always brightens my day when I wander into the kitchen for coffee and find unexpected treats.

So I did.

And it was good, and many people thanked me, and I am feeling pretty good today, despite knowing I'm going to be here at the office again on Sunday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Penny had another box to open yesterday - a package from Matt's sister and her husband. (Clothes and a Superman toy, continuing the back-to-school and superhero themes...)

I need to remember to have her sit down and "write" thank-you notes soon.

Matt took Penny to the daycare's back-to-school carnival last night, and she had a blast. She came home with her face painted like a cat's; we made sure to take pictures before washing it off for bed. (I haven't uploaded them yet, though. Sorry.)

I stayed home with Alex -- he went to bed shortly after they left, and I had almost two hours of just sitting around and basking in the quiet and calm. It was nice.

After Penny went to bed, I did a couple pages of scrapbooking. All in all, it was a lovely, calm evening for me.

And Alex was good enough to sleep until 5:45 this morning, and he was in reasonably good spirits for most of the morning. Yay, cute babies!

Not much else is happening right now. I'm trying to decide if my knee is up to a walk this morning -- I think I pushed it a little too hard on Tuesday, but I remembered my wrap today, and the weather is too beautiful not to take advantage of it. Maybe if I just walk and don't try to run at all...

Lunch with Matt today, though he's stuck in a more or less all-day meeting, so it'll need to be someplace near him and relatively quick. Not that that's a problem, in New Town.

Nothing really on the schedule for tonight - baths for the kids, hot dogs for dinner, and I might try to make the cupcakes for Penny's party. That way they'll have a day to cool so that we can frost them tomorrow, and they'll have a day to set before the party on Saturday. (I don't know about anyone else, but I actually prefer cupcakes where the frosting is just barely dried on the outside so there's a thin crust you bite through before getting to the creamy part. It's textural.)

But if I don't get to the cakes tonight, it won't be a disaster; it just means I'll ice them Friday night after the kids are in bed. Penny won't be able to help then, but she'll survive.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So yeah.

If you've got me on your RSS feed, you may have already seen this; I'm not sure how backdated posts work with the RSS thing.

But I'm beginning to move all my old posts over here. From the very first post, back in January 1999. I've got about the first month's worth posted, and it's a slow and laborious process, because I have to hand-copy them all in here. I'm not sure what to do about posts with pictures in them, yet, either. I'm hoping to get about a month's posts moved every day or so, but even at that pace, it'll take me several months to finish the project. I've been journaling for almost ten years now.

(I'll have to think of something special to mark my 10-year anniversary. I can't think of a single project I've stuck with that long. I don't even have very many relationships more than ten years old, outside of the ones I was born with.)

Once I get them all posted, the plan is to go back through and put tags in, so I can search through them easier. (That will take much longer, because I'll need to actually read them.)

At any rate, if this is showing up on RSS feeds, I'm sorry if it feels like I'm spamming you. Feel free to hit that Mark All As Read button and ignore them; or skip through them and see where I was, back then. Wait for the "Why I Don't Want Children" post and chuckle knowingly. If you're not on the RSS feed, then you shouldn't see much difference, except when I forget to change the posting date and things show up as current, and the archive section of the sidebar will grow, little by little.

Either way - thanks for stopping by.


"Mom," Penny said in the car this morning. "Do you think maybe on Friday we could have no-school-no-work? As a treat?"

She only just recently realized that sometimes we have three-day weekends. She fully endorses the concept, and hardly a weekend goes by without her wistfully asking whether it will be three days or two.

"No, hon. We need to go to school and work on Friday. But pretty soon, in a couple of weeks, we'll have a holiday on Monday."

Lord knows I'm looking forward to it myself.

Penny had a good birthday. They had cupcakes at school, and Penny got to be at the front of the class lines all day (an important birthday privilege!) and after we got home, she opened the rest of her birthday presents from Matt's folks.

That was hysterical, because she insisted on a bit of clean floor to open each gift, but wouldn't move anything (even paper) after she'd opened it, so it wasn't long before the whole floor was covered with birthday detritus.

Everyone seems to have converged on Spider-Man as the gift theme -- Ray-Ray, Jill, and Matt's dad and stepmom all sent her Spider-Man gifts! (Matt's brother and his wife sent Batman and Justice League DVDs, so we could expand to the larger theme of "superheros.") And both grandparents sent some clothes for school, and Jill sent some school supplies, as well. (The clothes Matt's dad sent are definitely too big -- size 6, and Penny's only barely fitting into the 5's -- and I'm still trying to decide if we should just keep them for next year, or try to exchange them. I already know my mom is planning to take her shopping for school clothes as well, so maybe I'll wait and see how much Mom gets.)

I let Penny pick our vegetable for dinner last night (carrots, raw) and after dinner, of course, there was cake and candles and singing.

I don't think she actually went to sleep until after 10.

Today she's going on a field trip with her class at school -- a park with a swimming pool that they've been to several times this summer already. It sounds like they'll be heading over immediately after lunch, and won't come back until almost snacktime. (Why she was begging to stay home from school this morning, I have no idea!)

And then this evening, her school is throwing a carnival/back-to-school party, just for the pre-K and school-age kids. They've promised games and snacks and fun, and Penny is eager to go. Maybe I'll get dinner on the table early so she can go.

(After all this excitement, tomorrow and Friday are going to be terribly boring for her!)

But hey, one of her friends from school called last night to RSVP for her party, so she'll have at least two friends there -- her two favorite girlfriends, in fact, so even if no one else can make it (there's still four or five kids who haven't responded yet) they'll have fun.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


So yeah, I left work a wee bit early yesterday and took Penny to the CHKD Back-to-School carnival. We got stuck in some traffic, so the drive down to the "local" CHKD complex took us a full hour, but Penny was still excited when we got there.

We checked in, and I collected the paperwork that was the whole reason for us being there in the first place. They gave us some freebie glucotabs, and some tickets for a drawing, and a ticket for a snack. And then we continued on to the carnival. They had a wide variety of "throw the X at/into/around the Y" carnie games (only not carnie-rigged, so they actually were winnable) and Penny tried her hand at four or five of them, winning a wide assortment of cheap plastic toys. Her absolute favorite was a squishy/sticky ball in the shape of... well, I called it a beaver because of its prominent front teeth, but the tail was shaped like a worm, so maybe it was meant to be a 'possum. At any rate, she carried it around with her for the rest of the evening like it was the cutest, fuzziest little kitten in the world. It was quite disgusting, in a funny sort of way.

Then we went back inside to the craft tables, where Penny made herself a crown and a door hanger. (While inside, she was excited to spot someone else with a diabetes bag that exactly matched hers. When I explained about the carnival being just for diabetic kids and their families, she was first bemused, and then thrilled.)

And then they called us back outside for the Cheeto Throw. All the kids got paper cups full of cheapy cheese puffs, and then two nurses (covered in rain capes and shower caps and goggles) were liberally coated with shaving cream, and on the count of three, all the kids threw the cheese puffs at the nurses so the little orange balls stuck to the shaving foam.

And when all the cheese balls were used up, the other nurses and doctors (who had been creeping around behind the bulk of the throwers) suddenly unleashed about eight cans of silly string at us all. Penny was a little startled and frightened, but she calmed down quickly and had fun helping me pick all the silly string out of my hair.

We stuck around for a prize drawing after that -- they were giving away some very impressive kid-oriented gift baskets (though one high school girl got called, and since she was too old for most of the gift baskets, they offered her a $50 gift card to Best Buy instead). We did not win, but we had fun cheering the winners.

We stopped at the snack table on our way out. We'd seen it on our way in, but they were all packages of chips or crackers in the 15g of carbs range, which meant they were shot snacks, and Penny had been unable to decide anyway, so I'd suggested we pick something on our way out and she could eat it with her dinner.

Then I took Penny to dinner. It went like this: "Penny, where do you want to go for dinner?"

"Why don't you pick, Mommy. Whatever you want!"

"That's very sweet of you. How about Chik-fil-A?"

"No, Mom, whatever you want!"

"You don't want Chik-fil-A?"


"Hm. What about... hamburgers?"

"No, I don't like hamburgers. How about you pick what you want?"

"But I want hamburgers. What do you want?"

"I like fruit."

"You want to go to Chik-fil-A and get a fruit cup?"

"I like fruit from home."

"You want to go home for dinner?"




"What, hon?"

"I was just kidding about the hamburgers."

"So you want a hamburger?"

"Yeah. And fruit."

"Okay." I headed for the Wendy's.

As I was pulling into the left turn lane to enter the Wendy's parking lot, Penny said, "Mom?"

"What, sweetie?"

"I was just kidding about Chik-fil-A." She pointed out the window at the Chik-fil-A on the other side of the street.


"Can we go to Chik-fil-A? Please?"

"...Fine." So I turned the car around and we went to Chik-fil-A.

So we ate dinner, and I did her shot, and we got in the car to head home.

Halfway home, Penny was suddenly struck with the possibility that maybe Matt had forgotten to pick Alex up from school. I reassured her that Daddy most certainly would not have forgotten about her brother.

We pulled up to the stoplight where we'd usually turn to go home, and Penny said, "Oh, Mom! We forgot the cupcakes!"

"Good memory, Penny! But I didn't forget. We're going to the grocery store to get them now."

It had occurred to me that fourteen five-year-olds would probably not care about whether the cake and icing actually tasted good, as long as there was an abundance of sugar to consume, and so I didn't need to drive the extra ten or fifteen minutes around town to get to the Ukrop's for actual good-tasting cupcakes. So I went to the Food Lion by our house and let Penny pick out the cupcakes.

As a side note, through the entire evening, from the carnival to dinner to the grocery store, Penny's social mode was stuck in the "ON" position. It was actually almost frustrating -- every single person she saw, she had to tell them that her birthday was tomorrow and she was four but tomorrow she was going to be five and she's diabetic because she needs shots and she got a SQUISHY STICKY BEAVER and she was at the carnival and the crown was because she was a princess and watch what kind of jump she can do! Like that. The other kids at the carnival. The adults working the carnie booths. The people in line at the Chik-fil-A. The old guy who wandered the Chik-fil-A giving people mints and wipes and placemats. The two guys outside the Food Lion who were talking smack to each other while they waited for their ride. The lady at the bakery counter. The guy in line in front of us. The cashier. Everyone. I've been hoping she would get a little more gregarious as she got older, but this might have been just a little too much...

And then we went home, and gently chivvied her into bed, and I took a shower, and then Matt and I spent an hour struggling to put her bike together. The box promised, "Five easy steps!" The instructions inside were broken down into six sections -- and all but one of the sections had five or six steps. Though I have to admit, my favorite was the last step, where either the instruction-writers had gotten tired, or perhaps realized they were running out of space, because the full text of the instruction for attaching the training wheels was as follows: "Refer to the illustration above to attach training wheels." We were further frustrated by the fact that we were missing a piece needed to keep the front wheel attached to the frame. Yes, rather important.

We assembled the rest of the bike anyway, to make sure that was the only missing piece. And discovered that we didn't have a way to inflate the tires. Oops.

Oh, well, we got it put together, at least (at last), and Penny was quite thrilled with it this morning.

(Matt is going to call for the missing piece today, and sometime in the next day or so, one of us will dash over to Target or Bike Beat for a pump, and hopefully she'll be able to give her bike a try this weekend.)

Let the festivities, er, continue!

See A Penny...

My daughter is five years old today.

My daughter is five years old today.

I grew up simply assuming I would one day be a mother. In college, the more I thought about it, the more the idea frightened and disgusted me by turns, and I decided I wouldn't make a very good mother, that I never wanted kids. When Matt and I married, we didn't want kids. I don't really know what changed our minds, and I do occasionally miss the simplicity of the childless life, but I wouldn't trade Penny for anything. I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her cloudy baby eyes and that soft cap of dark baby hair.


My daughter is five years old today.

Early in my pregnancy, I was convinced I was having a boy. Matt was convinced I was having a boy. KT was convinced I was having a boy. So when we went to our second ultrasound in April, I was stunned by the tech's cheerful chirp: "It's a little princess!"

Well, fine, okay. Girl. Girls are cute! But we didn't want Penny to feel bound by her gender, or pressured into gender roles. We painted her room blue, and happily dressed her in gender-neutral and even "boy" clothes. Everyone who mattered knew she was a girl, and to heck with everyone else.

So naturally, it didn't take long for her to decide that her favorite color was pink and that she prefers dresses to pants.

1 year old

My daughter is five years old today.

Babies are cute, but it's around 18 months or 2 years old that kids really start to be fun for me. They're walking and talking and absorbing everything around them like a sponge. They can play games and communicate their desires and act independently.

2 years old

And every year has only increased my appreciation and awe. I never expected her to be so... unique. She copies the people around her, but then merges all the different things she copies into a whole that is only... Penny.

3 years old

She's girly -- she loves pink and jewelery and dresses and flowers and sparkles.

She's a tomboy -- she loves comic book superheroes and splashing in puddles and wrestling.

She's a brat when she's mad, stamping her feet and glaring and clenching her fists in fury, slamming doors and throwing toys. "I'm not going to be your daughter any more!" she growls.

She's love personified when the mood takes her, flinging herself into our arms, tickling her brother's chin to make him laugh, or writing love notes for her family and friends. "LOV MOMMY" says the note on my monitor at work.

4 years old

My daughter is five years old today.

Happy Birthday, Penny. I love you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Birthday Week!

Here we go; another week. But not just any week. This is Penny's birthday week. She turns five, in fact, tomorrow.

(Or more precisely, tonight, at 12:35. Which is technically tomorrow, but I have trouble counting anything before about 4am as the next day.) Five years ago right now, as I type this, I was sitting in a room in the maternity ward (of a hospital building that is no longer even standing) signing paperwork and getting an IV started for my pitocin drip.


The festivities started yesterday, in fact -- Ray can't come to Penny's birthday party (alas... as none of her classmates have RSVP'ed yet, either, it may turn out to be a very small party) -- they had us come over yesterday so Penny could open her birthday present from him early.

The card talks -- when you open it, Spider-Man says, "Happy birthday, superhero!" and there's the sound of a cheering crowd. Penny was entranced. And Ray gave her a Spider-Man toy (with a suction-cup web!) and some Play-Doh.

Ray had never played with Play-Doh before (Melissa has carpet in her dining room, so I can't blame her) so we had Ray come over to our house so Penny could show him what it was all about. They played with the Play-Doh for all of about ten minutes, and then ran off to make other messes. (Though to be fair, they did a pretty good job cleaning up the Play-Doh when they were done.)

Tonight is the CHKD Back-To-School Carnival here on the Peninsula. We have to attend one of four sessions to pick up her medical paperwork for school (a parent has to sign it, so you have to pick it up in person), and this one sounded both the most convenient and the most fun. And conveniently timed right before Penny's birthday. I'll pick her up a little early from school (leaving Alex for Matt to collect at the usual time) and take her down to the carnival. After we pick up her paperwork, the flyer promised activities and games with prizes, and I told Penny I'd take her to her favorite restaurant (Chik-fil-A) for dinner.

And on our way home, I'll stop at the Ukrops and let her help me pick out cupcakes for her to take to school tomorrow for her class. (Stupid school regulations require store-made cupcakes rather than homemade.)

And after she's in bed, I'll get the bike out of the trunk of my car and Matt and I will see if it's really "easy to assemble!" like the box promises. And we'll decide where to stash it for the unveiling tomorrow morning.

(Why yes, today is going to be pretty darned busy.)

Then Thursday or Friday evening, I'll let her help me make the cupcakes for her official party -- she picked out the cake and icing and sprinkles at the grocery store yesterday.

And Saturday is the party itself. Penny only wanted to invite six people, and two of them have already had to decline, so I'm really hoping the other four can make it.

Alex is still not "officially" crawling, which trounces my predictions that he'd be crawling in time for Penny's birthday. But he's nearly as mobile as a crawling baby with his little Army-man belly-crawl. And since I've caught him several times in the baby equivalent of Downward-Facing Dog, I'm beginning to wonder if he might be one of those kids who skips crawling and goes straight for walking. (Though that's still a long ways off. He can't keep his balance standing, even if he's holding on to something.)

He did figure out how to clap this weekend, though. He loves banging toys together (is this where I insert the "typical boy" joke?) and suddenly seemed to realize that he could bang his empty hands together, as well. He doesn't get much noise out of it, and I think it's still about 75% accidental, but we're cheering him on anyway.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sweet Headache

I noticed a few days ago that my lips and the inside of my mouth felt tingly and slightly swollen, as if I'd eaten something extremely acidic or maybe something I was mildly allergic to. I considered the meal I'd just eaten and didn't see anything there I haven't had before. Maybe it was a stress reaction... the sensation faded after an hour or so, and I went about my way.

Later that evening, it came back. I hadn't eaten anything since dinner, though, except for the diet soda I have most nights. I checked the label, and discovered that the soda was sweetened with aspartame. (Much to my surprise -- I thought most soda was sweetened with Splenda these days.) I re-considered my dinner, and there was nothing artificially sweetened about it -- but I'd had a "juice drink" earlier that afternoon with aspartame in it.

Huhn. Well, okay, I decided I'd cut aspartame out of my diet for a week or so, and if the tingling didn't come back, I could try another diet soda at the end of it and if that provoked a reaction, well, I'd have my culprit. I went out and found myself a soda without aspartame to drink, and stopped sharing Penny's Crystal Light, and since I use Splenda for all my other fake-sugar needs, that's that, right?

Except I was at lunch just now with some people from work, and my lips started tingling. I was surprised, because I'd used saccharin in my iced tea (they didn't have Splenda). I even uncrumpled the package to make sure that Equal hadn't suddenly changed colors on me... Nope, saccharin. WTF?

And then it hit me: I'd had some chewing gum before lunch to stave off the snackies. When I got back to work, I checked the gum wrapper, and sure enough: aspartame.

Guess I've got my culprit.

Grocery shopping will be a hoot -- Penny needs to avoid real sugar if it can be helped, Matt has a fairly severe reaction to Splenda, and now I need to avoid aspartame. Whee! (Also, if anyone knows of a Splenda-based replacement for Crystal Light, let me know. I looked through three different stores and couldn't find one.)



I'm feeling kind of weird today. Like my seams are unraveling and my stuffing is starting to fray through the cracks. Like there's a series of mild earthquakes happening in my ribcage. Like I've got the parking brake on but the gas floored. Like at any moment I might burst into tears, or go on a screaming rage -- but I don't know about what.

Maybe it's PMS -- it's exactly one month since the last time I nursed Alex, so I'm pretty well due for my cycles to start back up.

Maybe I'm just hungry, and I'll be fine once I've had breakfast.

Maybe I'm just tired, and I'll be better when I've had some coffee.

Maybe it's that extra energy that they promise exercising gives you, and I need to go exercise some more to work it out.

Maybe it's legitimate frustration combined with stress and anxiety over things beyond my control.

Maybe it's a little of all those things.

Or maybe I'm just crazy, and the next time you hear from me will be on the evening news.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Working Out

So I didn't get to have lunch with Matt, because the repair guy didn't show up until almost 11:30. He fixed the leaky faucet, but couldn't find anything wrong with our GFCI outlets that had popped and turned off like three times in a row a couple of weeks ago. (I'm not surprised, because they haven't done it since then.)

As long as he was there (and as long as I was having to pay for a minimum of 2 hours of labor anyway) I had him install some shelves that Matt had given me for my birthday that we hadn't gotten around to putting up because I didn't have a level to line them up and make sure they were straight.

But I got a fair amount of work done (working from home can actually be very productive, for certain tasks -- fewer interruptions). I really should take advantage of that ability more often -- at least once or twice a month. And when my afternoon conference call finally ended (of course it ran late, those things always do) I went down to the Y.

I didn't feel like going through the rigamarole of swimming, so I thought I'd give the stationary bikes a try. I set up my iPhone with a Firefly episode and managed 7.5 miles in 30 minutes. Which isn't very fast, but I had the bike on its lowest difficulty setting, which was almost no resistance at all. I was maintaining a pretty steady 80rpm, which isn't bad. But by about 25 minutes, my behind was killing me -- even the superwide padded seats are just murder. Next time I'll check out one of the recumbent bikes instead.

But my favorite part of being there was the guy who came in about the same time as me -- on the tall side, shaved head, muscular and fit, with a tough and gorgeous dragon tattoo that covered most of his leg -- who climbed onto the stair-master in front of my bike and then turned its TV on to... the Cartoon Network. It would only have been more precious if CN had been running Strawberry Shortcake instead of Spongebob Squarepants. Now there's a man has nothing to prove.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rules For Working At Home

I'm working from home today, because we've got a repair guy coming to take care of a few little jobs around the house, but the window they gave me for him to show up was "10-2" and rather than take potentially half a day off from work and get absolutely nothing accomplished, I decided I'd just work from home.

All the advice ever given on working from home is aimed at, more or less, avoiding the temptation to treat it as a day off just because you're not where your boss can see you. And I'm following it, more or less.

I'm wearing clothes that I would wear to the office. I even put on jewelry and my heeled sandals.

I set my work computer up in the dining room, where I can't see my personal computer or the TV.

I've got a solid plan for the work I want to get done today.

My cell phone is charged, and I remembered to forward my office phone to it when I left yesterday.

I started the morning with some e-mails (which documents that I started work on time) and agreed to a late-afternoon conference call (which documents that I'm not knocking off early).

Very industrious of me, I know.

Which, as long as I finish the work I want to get done today, leaves a bit of wiggle room in the schedule for running an errand or two and having lunch with Matt (maybe, if the repair guy is here and gone by lunchtime), and logging out right after that conference call to go to the gym.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Burn, Baby, Burn

I know I've been eating my vacation time in dribs and drabs, mostly thanks to various doctor appointments (mine or the kids'), so out of curiosity, I pulled up my spreadsheet with this year's timecard entries on it.

I started counting in March, because I didn't come back to work until February, and then I spent a lot of time out for the rest of that month trying to get daycare up to speed on Penny's care and doing those postnatal doctor visits that I won't have to worry about anymore.

So starting in March and going through the end of July -- that's just 1 day short of 22 weeks -- I clocked 27 hours of vacation time. That doesn't include the two full days I took off (I logged both of those as floating holidays, which is a different charge number). It doesn't include things like my chiropractor visits, which I schedule during lunch.

(It also, oddly enough, doesn't include any full or even half-days spent to staying home with sick kids. For a baby in daycare, Alex is almost shockingly healthy. KNOCK ON WOOD. And Penny's had an ear infection, but nothing to keep her home from school.)

It does include the half-day I took to get my iPhone, though. So if I subtract that out, that's almost precisely one hour every week. (It's an average, naturally. There were some weeks I took 3 or 4 hours, and a few -- very few -- that I didn't take any.)

One hour a week of vacation time, burned (mostly) sitting in doctor's offices. It doesn't sound like all that much, but if you spread it out over the year, that's 52 hours of "vacation" a year. That's well over a third of the vacation they give me. (No, my company doesn't have separate vacation and sick pools. I get 17 days of vacation a year -- 136 hours -- and if I use it all up going to the doctor, then tough.)

I was thinking about it because my mom reminded me the other day that we need to start firming up our plans for Christmas and make our reservations and let everyone know when we're traveling so they can make their plans. (Why yes, I do believe my parents are planning their Christmas around When The Grandkids Will Be Available. And why not?) And I noticed that Penny has a checkup scheduled with her endocrinologist the Monday before Christmas, which means we can't use that weekend to travel, and I was trying to decide how to arrange our trip to maximize time spent with family while minimizing time off from work because I know I've had this slow bleed of vacation time, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder just how bad the bleed was, and maybe I should just work it into my mental budget.

There's 22 weeks (ish) left in this year. If I assume, then, that I will spend 22 hours (or so) on various doctor visits, then I can log into the HR website and have a much clearer estimate of how much vacation time I've got to spend.

Which doesn't stop my stressing over it or obsessing about it, but at least I have concrete number to worry with.

I See You!

I had an appointment yesterday with my ophthalmologist and optometrist to update my glasses prescription and get new glasses. I do not go to a one-hour glasses place, so it'll be a week or so before I get my new glasses, but I'm feeling good about them. I'd narrowed it down to two frames while I was looking around before my appointment. The optometrist tried to nudge me toward the octagonal blue frames -- and if my insurance would pay for two pairs of glasses, I certainly would have gotten them both -- but the chunky black and white frames were what really appealed to me. They just had that "fabulous geek" appeal, you know?

I looked at some invisible frames, too -- no rims at all on the lenses, with interchangeable bridges and temples, and some of them were really adorable -- but my eyes just looked wrong without frames. Possibly because of all the bags under them. Yike.

And then, of course, because they'd dilated my eyes, they gave me those stylish shades to wear. It's a good thing I was going straight home, 'cause otherwise I'd have been beating the men off with a stick!


Okay, maybe not. But my new glasses really are super, and I can't wait until they come in.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Rest of the Weekend

So, having waxed ecstatic about the results of my Day Of Cleaning, the rest of the weekend:

Friday evening, the whole family went to Matt's office's annual picnic. Penny has one of two reactions to large crowds of people: She shrinks back and tries to hide behind my leg and refuses to talk to anyone who she hasn't known for at least half her life; or she embraces the strangeness and is immediate best friends with everyone she sees and eager to be the center of attention.

This time, it was Door #2. She was excited to be there, she was thrilled to pet a dog, she was overjoyed to see I'd put strawberries on her dinner plate, she was excited to get her face painted, she was giddy to get to play in the pool, and she was desperate to participate in karaoke. (Her first choice: Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry", which she knows in slightly edited form from daycare. Matt nixxed it, though, and suggested she sing "Happy Birthday," which she did with enormous enthusiasm.)

(More pics over on flickr.)

I missed the swimming and karaoke, though -- Alex, while remarkably good, still started to get pretty cranky around 6:30. Luckily, we'd anticipated this, so I took him home, gave him a bottle, and put him to bed. It was nice that I got an hour or so to relax, but I'm sorry I missed the karaoke; it sounds like it was a hoot, and not just for Penny's performance.

Saturday morning, Penny and I got our hair cut again, and then went over to the store to pick up some school supplies, since it was Tax-Free weekend. (Alas, I didn't have the list of things required for Penny's school class, but they'd posted a few other schools' lists, and I picked up the things that seemed to be on most of them, and a few other things that, even if she doesn't need them for school, are still probably a good idea to have around the house.)

Sunday, my parents came over after lunch to babysit, and Matt and I drove over to campus to see The Complete History of America, Abridged. It was side-splittingly funny, and makes me even sadder that I missed The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged (by the same author) last year or the year before.

So, all in all, a very nice and surprisingly relaxing weekend. (Which is good, because after the Toy Purging Initiative on Friday, my back and legs were killing me!)

Clean Machine

I took Friday off from work. I stayed home, and I cleaned the house.

I take that back. "Cleaned" implies things like dusting and vacuuming and washing, and I did none of that. (Well, very little.) What I did was sort through all the kids' toys and other assorted crap, and purge it.

I know I'm prone to hyperbole, but this is plain fact: I got rid of twelve trash bags full of crap. Five bags full (and I mean full) of stuff got taken to the CHKD Thrift Store. Another seven bags went into the trash. (The trash bin's lid does not close all the way. I had to rearrange the bin a couple of times to make sure nothing showed from outside that Penny might recognize and flip out over.)

I removed almost all the toys from our bedroom. (I think I left a couple of stuffies for Alex to play with while we're getting dressed in the morning and for Penny to use as "squeezies" when she's getting her bedtime shot.) I cleared a bunch of crap out of Alex's closet that's been in there since before Penny could walk. (There is still more crap that should be cleaned out of both kids' closets, but our house has a dearth of closet space, and I only had so much time on Friday.)

I purged the toys in Penny's bedroom, and straightened up the ones that escaped the purge. I purged the toys in the ex-garage/playroom, and straightened up and organized the ones that escaped the purge. I moved almost all the toys from the living room into the playroom (except one basket of toys for Alex), straightened the kids' book shelves (turned spines toward the room and right-side-up, moved all the cloth and board books down to the very bottom shelf for Alex, etc.), and disconnected the kiddie karaoke see-yourself-on-TV machine that Penny never uses.

(While I was at it, I did a purge on my end-table -- that was probably most of a trash bag, right there.)

I cleared off the dining table of all the assorted crap that doesn't belong on it, and moved all the toys in the dining room back into the playroom. Then I completely emptied Penny's craft cabinet, threw a whole bunch of stuff away, got out the DustBuster to clean up the detritus (the sole extent of vacuuming I did), and organized the stuff that had escaped the purge.

Then I tackled the downstairs bathroom. I reclaimed a dozen or so Tupperware bowls that Penny had usurped as toys, threw away a few toys that had never meant to be played with in the sink and were subsequently ruined, moved a few more back to the playroom, and left a reasonable few in a bucket on the counter.

I picked up the few toys that were on the kitchen floor and moved them to the side (Alex's toys -- like his sister at that age, he seems to need a change of scenery every so often. Unlike his sister, he is usually willing to play by himself while Matt or I get chores done.)

In between doing all of that, I left the house to:
- take a fresh vial of test strips up to daycare for Penny (oops, forgot to check the kit before school).
- take bags of stuff to the thrift store.
- pick up invitations for Penny's birthday party, which is in two weeks.
- pick up some prescription refills from the drugstore.
- swing by my office to submit my timecard and approve my underling's.

It was a lot of work, but by the time I was done, even though I hadn't really cleaned much of anything (except the inside of the craft cabinet drawers, and one toy which was so disgustingly coated with dust that I gave it a spray-down in the kitchen sink) the house looked so much better that I wanted to weep.

And because the house looked so much better, and because Saturday we started a brand new chore chart for Penny, I decided we'd go ahead and put into place her new chore that I'd been planning to start when she turned 5: At about 7:15 every night, it becomes clean-up time. Penny has to pick up all her toys that she got out during the day, while Matt and I pick up our stuff (and Alex's, of course -- we can't really start training him to pick up his things just yet). As a rule, this should only take about 10 minutes or so. (Saturday, we were done in less than 10; last night took almost 20 minutes because Penny had dumped ALL her letter magnets on the dining table, and insisted on carrying them back to the fridge one at a time.)

Penny does not organize her things when she puts them away -- but honestly, I don't care, as long as they're in the various shelves and bins and not on tables and floors. And as a result, there were only three toys on the floor this morning when we got ready to leave (all Alex's) so it was really simple to pick them up, chuck them back into the basket I'd set out for the purpose, and to start the Roomba as we were heading out the door.

You know, the Roomba I got a year ago on the theory that I could run it every couple of days to control the random crumbs, cat litter, and dirt, and actually run only about four times? Yeah, that Roomba.

And since I have to wash dishes on a daily basis for Alex's bottles anyway, I've been making it a point to try to actually load the dishwasher every night and wipe the splatters and crumbs off the counters and stove so the kitchen looks moderately clean.

...I could get used to this whole "neat house" thing.

Friday, August 1, 2008


So my doctor's appointment yesterday ended up with not quite enough time for me to go to the gym before going to pick up the kids, and I didn't really want to pick them up early. So I stopped to kill some time at the Pepperidge Farm Outlet.

(I went in with the idea of picking up some individual-serving packs of goldfish crackers for Penny's birthday party. Does anyone think that's all I bought? Heh.)

Anyway, while I was in there, another woman came in. She was older but not old -- in her 50s or early 60s, maybe -- and well-dressed. I'd give good odds that she was from Kingsmill or Fords Colony or one of the other local high-on-the-hog golf communities. Moderately wealthy, is what I'm trying to communicate, here.

She stopped, just through the door, and stared in disbelief at the shelf with the Godiva selections. "Where are the regular boxes?"

"We're all out," said the shop clerk apologetically. "We'll probably get some more in a month or so, when they release their Christmas line."

"But I wanted to get a gift," the older woman complained. She picked up one of the four-chocolate gift boxes. "What's this mark?"

"We have to put that mark on all the marked down items, ma'am," said the clerk.

"I can't give a gift with this on it!" huffed the older woman. Well, no, probably not -- it's a fairly large X, done in black magic marker. It'd be pretty obvious you were picking up your gifts from the outlet store if you tried to give it to someone.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," said the clerk patiently. "They all have it."

"You never used to. Did you get a new manager?"

The clerk, apparently being a better person than I, just kept apologizing calmly and reiterating that it was policy to mark the discount boxes, and that no, they really didn't have any of the larger boxes. (I would have offered to direct her to a retail store with Godiva boxes, with a heavy subtext of, " cheap wench.")

The more I listened to the older woman, the more it occurred to me that the conversation belonged in Warcraft:

Ritchbich: WTB [Box of Chocolates]!
Saleslady: That item is out of stock.
Ritchbich: OMG WTF I NEED [Box of Chocolates] 4 MY ALT!
Saleslady: That item is Bind on Pickup.
Ritchbich: HOW DO I SND [Small Box of Chocolates] 2 MY ALT!
Saleslady: That item is Bind on Pickup.
Ritchbich: OMG WTF HAX0R!

Or maybe that's just me.