Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Before I get into it -- pictures from the trip are posted at flickr, along with moderately exhaustive commentary. They're all slightly grainy, unfortunately, because the iPhone does not have a flash.

(Really must start researching SLRs so I can take pictures in low-light situations.)

But really, I wanted to talk about my resolutions.

It's about that time of year, after all. All the other blogs are doing retrospectives, but I just got back from vacation and there's a huge pile of crap work on my desk, and I don't have the time it takes to troll my archives and pull out the significant stuff -- much less provide all the links and import all the pictures for a really good review. Sorry. But if you actually want a retrospective, you could just go read it yourself, right?

(What I'd really like to do is a retrospective for five years ago. Maybe next year, I'll do a 10-year retrospective, since I started Reflections in January '99. That would be fun.)

So instead of looking back, I'm looking forward.

Category: Health

My health is improving -- I started exercising regularly over the summer, and I joined the YMCA and have been going three times a week (well, most weeks) for the last few months, and I've been making progress. My bum knee and my feet are a major problem ("Walk!" they all say, but walking more than a hundred yards or so is intensely painful, not just during the walk but for several days afterward) but I'm slowly finding ways around it. I managed our trek through the airports on our vacation without nearly as much pain and suffering as usual, though I'm still a little stiff and sore today.

So my health resolution is to keep moving forward with the exercising. Gym three times a week continues, with continuing lengthening of the sessions. Last month I switched from 30 minutes on the stationary bike to 20 minutes on the bike plus 20 minutes on the elliptical. I was a little nervous about the elliptical, but its effect on my feet and knee is not too bad.

Of course, as my sessions get longer, I'm going to need to find new ways to fit them into my schedule -- 40 minutes of exercise (plus 30-40 minutes travel time) is really pushing my "lunch hour." But starting in January, we're going to be taking Penny to the Y on Saturdays for swim lessons (if she doesn't get into the actual swim lessons that she's currently waitlisted for, she and Matt will be playing in the Family Swim area, just to acclimate her to being in the water some), so I may be dropping Alex off in the babysitter room and doing my exercise at the same time, which would lend itself to, say, two shortish sessions during the week and a longer session on Saturdays.

I should also pick up some short exercises on days I'm not going to the gym. I picked up a cheap resistance band to keep at work, and downloaded the 100 Pushup Challenge schedule, and somewhere I've got a DVD of 15-minute exercise segments that I intend to rip and put on my iPhone so I can use them more or less anywhere/anytime. I'm not sure exactly how everything will fit in, but I'd like to see at least 5 days a week with some level of exercise.

Of course, this will all be much easier to schedule when I'm down to getting my allergy shots only once a week instead of twice. (I can't exercise within about 8 hours on either side of getting an allergy shot, I've found -- if I do, the site gets inflamed and itchy and generally miserable.)

Category: Family

I think I do okay with spending enough time on the kids, if only because they demand attention when they want it. But between the gym and the allergy shots eating into my lunch hours, it's a real effort to manage to spend any one-on-one time with Matt.

Obviously, this will get easier when the frequency of allergy shots decreases, but my intention, my resolution is to try to meet Matt for lunch at least twice a month.

Category: Personal

I was so horribly stressed about the clutter in my life (of many kinds -- physical, emotional, and schedule clutter) that I wound up in therapy. I've worked out a lot of the kinks since then, and I'm no longer hyperventilating every time I turn onto my street on the way home from work and fantasizing about turning the car around and running away. So that's progress. I'm still occasionally overwhelmed by the sheer impossibility of fitting in everything that I want to do around all the things that I have to do, and the resulting need to pare things down and put things on hold. That's what I'll be working on this year, I think.

I do think I'm starting to get a good handle on scheduling and managing my commitments, especially for work. Home-management needs some work, though. I took a hiatus from Warcraft for most of the month of December, and that was incredibly useful. It was also very eye-opening, because I did not spend a single evening sitting around twiddling my thumbs and wondering what to do. I don't want to give up Warcraft entirely (it's almost my only contact with too many of my friends), but I think I need to scale it back to only once or twice a week, which will make time for things like scrapbooking and reading and other personal projects.

It will also open up some time for me to work on the physical de-cluttering of the house -- Matt and I decided last year that the compromise between my wanting to get rid of all the Stuff, and his wanting to keep all the Stuff, would be to give up and rent a storage unit. But the organization and packing of the unit is more or less my job (since I'm the one that wants the Stuff out of the house), and I don't want to start paying for the storage unit until I've actually got the Stuff ready to put in it. I bought a bunch of boxes a couple of months ago, but still haven't gotten around to filling them. I need to get on with that project. My goal is to get at least 10 boxes into storage before summer. And to get rid of all the baby stuff that Alex has outgrown, ASAP.

My mental and emotional clutter is harder to manage, because it's literally all in my head, so I've got a serious "can't see the forest for the trees" thing going. I do think I'm sometimes a little too self-centered -- possibly in reaction to having my introverted Self pulled so far, in so many directions, by so many different people -- and I'm going to consider some ways to counteract that... but I want to make sure that I'm not giving up the self-consideration that I really need.

And all that is... quite a list. There are more things I'd like to tackle -- I'd like to buy an SLR camera and get back into photography; I'd like to start writing again; I'd like to work on my self-esteem and various other emotional baggage. But I think I've put enough on my plate for this year.

Now, let's hope I don't choke on it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Trip, Briefly

I just flew home from Chicago, and boy, are my arms tired!

No, really. Had to carry either Alex or our luggage all the way through two airports (including parking lots). The luggage weighed somewhat more than the baby, but did not squirm, so I'm thinking that was pretty much a draw. Also, Alex insisted on only Mommy holding him on the plane, so he fell asleep on my lap and cut off circulation to my left arm for about half an hour.

We had a nice trip, no major disasters, and only the small annoyances and embarrassments that are bound to happen when sharing living space with someone else whose habits differ significantly from one's own. And one emergency call to Penny's endocrinologist when we realized we'd completely forgotten her bedtime shot of 24-hour insulin.

Issues aside, the kids had a great time (snow! presents! dogs! more presents! junk food! still more presents!), Alex was a better traveler than I'd feared he would be, and I think I managed to rein in the stress and boredom eating enough to keep the weight gain to less than five pounds. (At least, I still fit in my jeans. I haven't had the nerve to actually do something as rash as step on the scale.) Alex had a nice birthday (and despite the fact that he wouldn't have noticed, almost everyone gave him separate birthday and Christmas gifts) and the rest of us had a fairly merry Christmas.

But boy is it good to be home...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


One year ago today, just around lunchtime, Alex was born.


The whole time I was pregnant, I fretted about being able to cope with the sibling rivalry. My brother and I fought, tooth and nail (sometimes literally) until I moved out of the house to go to college. Seriously. You know those cute stories where the siblings bicker and argue, but when some other kid comes around to pick on the younger kid, the older one suddenly intervenes and defends him? Yeah, that wasn't us. Any kids came around to make John's life miserable, I was cheering them on the whole way.

"Don't worry about it," well-meaning friends told me. Even the ones with multiple kids said, "The biggest problem I have is keeping [Older Child] from loving [The Baby] too much!" I ignored them. Obviously, these people had never seen John and I together. I continued to fret and ponder strategies for getting both kids to the age where I could legally kick them out of the house.

So, of course, my biggest problem is when Penny loves Alex too much -- when she wants to give him hugs and kisses while he's eating, or wants to pick him up and carry him, or wants to be a bridge for him to crawl under, over, or around.

Penny walked early and talked late, and she never really cared to put things in her mouth unless she honestly meant to eat them. She insisted on being held most of the time, and she wasn't much of an explorer; she mostly wanted Matt and I to play with her toys for her, so she could watch us. Alex isn't walking yet (though he's managed a few staggering steps, so I don't think he'll be a late walker), is extremely verbal, and is often perfectly content to play by himself. He explores his surroundings thoroughly, handling objects and turning them over and over and poking his tiny fingers into every crevice and crack. He puts everything -- everything -- in his mouth.

He sleeps like a champ, taking naps with nary a fuss and sleeping through the night since he was three and a half months old. But he's more than a bit of a drama queen, and will thrust The Lip out in a pout on an instant's provocation. Alex is a baby of extremes; he is either HAPPY!!! or SAD!!! and does not spend much time on the ground between.


"Mommy," Penny said, "are you sad that I'm growing up?" She was remembering her preschool graduation, and the teary eyes of the parents and teachers. But it doesn't make me sad. I'm watching a beautiful young woman slowly emerge from the petal-soft child, just as I saw that loving and precious child bloom out of the promising seeds of her infancy, and stronger than any wistful nostalgia is my pride, and my excitement. My eagerness to meet that young woman vastly outweighs any urge to cuddle close the baby she once was.

Alex is still a baby. Not walking, not talking. It's hard for me to even imagine him as a toddler, yet. But he's grown so much this year, learned so much, done so much. I enjoy looking back over the year, but more than anything, I'm thrilled to be approaching the boy he will become.

Happy Birthday, Alex. May you enjoy a hundred more.

Saturday, December 20, 2008



Alex popped a fever around 2. Matt picked him up, and then picked Penny up, and then took Alex to the local Urgent Care clinic, since the pediatrician's office was booked solid and the best they could give me was that maybe, if I called back in the morning, the on-call physician would be willing to see him. Rrrrright. Doc-in-a-box it is, then!

Doc-in-the-box diagnosed Alex and Matt with bronchitis. Gave them a stack of antibiotics and some narcotic cough syrup (for Matt) and sent them home to rest and recover.


I've been hacking like a three-pack-a-day tuberculosis patient with asthma ever since, oh, about Thanksgiving. My allergist had looked at it back at the beginning of December and called it a mild cold, so I'd been steadfastly bulling through it ever since.


So this morning, I went to the doc-in-a-box myself and -- hey, whaddya know! -- bronchitis! You've never seen such a horrified look in your life as the one the doctor gave me when I told her that we were getting on a plane in two days. She wrote me prescriptions for the same antibiotics and cough syrup that Matt got, told me to get as much rest as I could, try to eat lots of fruit and vegetables, possibly get a humidifier or a Vicks vapor thingamajig to help loosen the gunk in my chest, and to avoid exercise.

And here I was feeling all proud of myself for going to the gym three days a week anyway, despite the persistent and annoying cough, thinking that the exercise would surely keep my body healthy and get my blood moving, keeping a fresh rotation of white blood cells to rout out those nasty germs.


Heh heh.

Heh heh he-*cough cough cough wheeze cough cough hack...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fevered Anticipation

Alex was fine when he got home last night.

About fifteen minutes later, I was playing with him, and I noted it was a little weird for him to actually lay back in my arms for so long.

Five minutes after that, I wondered if he might not be getting a little... warm. And he was getting fussy and clingy.

Five minutes after that, I was positive he was feeling hot, and Matt confirmed it. We gave him a snort of Tylenol.

Fifteen minutes later, he had perked up a bit and was playing happily with Matt. He continued the evening in excellent spirits, and ate with great enthusiasm at dinner. (Seriously. He ate half my grapes. Exactly, because I was biting them in half, eating the half I bit off, and giving him the other half. Every. Single. One.)

I tiptoed into his room before I went to bed, but the little stinker was squashed up against the wall, almost too far for me to reach over the crib rails. I touched the back of his neck, and it seemed warm-ish, but I couldn't tell if it was "fever" warm, or "sleeping baby" warm.

This morning, he was in a good mood. The top of his head and his temples were a bit warm, but his cheeks were cool. I frowned and muttered about the implications until Matt reminded me that we do actually have a thermometer for him.

Oh. Yeah.

The thermometer said he was running at about 99 (after adjustment). So a tiny smidge warm, but not enough to actually be concerned about. Especially since he was in such a good mood. If he'd been clingy and tired, I might've been more inclined to think he was feeling sick. But he wasn't. He let me put him down while I fixed his breakfast, tolerated me walking away from the table while he was still eating, and crawled all over the living room after he was done.

So we gave him a snort of Tylenol (just to be on the safe side) and sent him to school. And I'm kind of hovering by the phone, half-expecting a call.

Just in time for holiday travel.

Penny had a low last night. A pretty bad one; when I checked her at 10:15, her blood sugar was at 47. So I called for Matt to bring up some juice, and woke her up to drink it.

Matt brought the juice in the bottle, and Penny sucked on it so hard that she sucked her upper lip into the bottle and bruised it. It was still there this morning, dark pink and speckled with tiny blood blisters.

From across the room, it looks like she has a tiny little Adolf mustache, and it quite at odds with her adorable little black-and-white outfit and shiny new black patent leather shoes.

Just in time for holiday pictures.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


In the car this morning:

"When I was four, I didn't run fast. I run really fast now, but when I was four, I was slower. And Dylan held her arms out like this so I couldn't get past her. That's really annoying. She was annoying me and she wouldn't let me get past and Ms. Kathy told her to stop."

"Well, I'm glad she let you get past her eventually."

"You know what William did? He stole the dice!"

"He did?"

"Yes! He put them in his pocket, and Mrs. Duffey asked where the dice were and he didn't say anything! He really did stole them!"


"He steal them!"

"No, no... He stole them, but he did steal them."

"William is really annoying. He stole the dice! That's not nice."

"No, it's not. Did he give them back?"

"No! ...We don't sing in class. That's annoying."

"Is it?"

"Yes! And you know what Liam did? He was annoying me! He was being really annoying!"

"Who says 'annoying' in your class a lot, Penny?"


"Never mind. You know what else is annoying?"


"Only talking about annoying things. Tell me some things your friends do that make you happy."

"Liam painted a picture for me!"

"That's great, sweetie!"

"Yeah, he's my buddy."

"It sounds like it."

"But sometimes he's annoying."

Hole in the Bucket

I got in the car yesterday morning to take the kids to school, and we were only halfway down our street when I noticed what seemed to be a strand of tinsel stuck to my windshield. Except that it wasn't moving.

Stress-crack. I have a four-inch-long stress-crack in the windshield. Well, crap. Well, they can last months without changing. No need to panic.

Except that in the drive from our house to Alex's daycare, it had grown by at least half an inch. And another quarter of an inch on the drive back to Penny's school. When I went out to the car at lunchtime to go to the gym, it had stretched another inch or more.

Every time I came back to my car, the crack had noticeably grown.

It continued over night, though slowed -- between last night and this morning, it had only grown by an inch.

So I guess as soon as we're back from Chicago, I'll need to get my windshield replaced. Whee.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

To Do

Work Stuff:
  • Software Delivery (whenever testing is complete, probably tomorrow)

    • Component 1 Software sign-off
    • Component 1 version description document update
    • Component 2 Software sign-off
    • Component 2 version description document update
    • Component 3 Software sign-off
    • Component 3 version description document update
    • Write/update delivery letter
    • Label code in versioning tool
    • Burn CDs
    • Arrange for FedEx pickup
    • Delivery processing for SW and documents
  • Semi-monthly status report (this week)
  • Document delivery processing for 2 documents (this week)
  • Conference call from 11-12 (today)
  • Review/process submitted bugs (this week)
  • Performance review writeups for 3 people (this week)
Personal Stuff:
  • Go to the gym (today and Friday at minimum)
  • Pick up a gift for next-door neighbor (TODAY)
  • Pick up a gift for mother-in-law (this week)
  • Pick up gifts for Matt's siblings and their spouses (this week)
  • Gift exchange with next-door neighbors (today or tomorrow)
  • Wrap gifts for Mom and Dad and Grandmom (this week)
  • Allergy shot (tomorrow)
  • Buy new socks, since all mine suddenly started sprouting holes (this week)
  • Pick Penny up from school (tomorrow)
  • Poll parents and John/Sam to find out if they want to do Alex's birthday party before or after Christmas. (asap)
  • Get scrapbook caught up (as possible)
  • Watch Netflix (as possible)
I am very certain I'm forgetting something moderately important.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gang Aft Agley

I had an email from my mother-in-law this morning assuring me that it was absolutely fine if we mailed packages to her house so we didn't have to travel with everyone's Christmas presents... oh, and one package was mistakenly delivered to her neighbor's house, and the neighbor opened it before giving it to her, and she thought the beautiful vase was a birthday present, hope she didn't mess up any plans!


So now we have to get her another Christmas present.

At least it wasn't the gift we'd intended for Matt's stepmom...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Moon Cookie Weekend

The office party went very well on Friday; I got lots of thank-yous and compliments, which was gratifying.

Saturday morning I took Penny to the Yankee Candle store to pick up candles for the kids' teachers and so she could pick out a reward toy for having completed another chore chart. (She talked all the way into the store about getting a kitten, and then wound up facing the wall of stuffed animals and choosing... another dog.)

They had a Santa there, too, so Penny sat with him. I tried to get a couple of pictures, but they made me move behind the line, and by the time I'd ducked under the rope, I didn't have a lot of time. But Penny had fun, so that's the important thing.

That afternoon, of course, was the moon cookie party.

The Hickses came, and John, and Elizabeth. Dave was supposed to come, but completely forgot. Oh, well, more cookies for the rest of us! Penny and Jess had a great time playing together, and it was good to sit around and chat.

Sunday was calmer, the usual hanging around the house and doing chores.

In the meantime, my persistent chest cold and cough is moving upward into my head, meaning I'm coughing a little less, but I have a constant headache and sore throat. So of course, I've got 13 documents and 3 software packages due for delivery this week, and my primary doc specialist is on vacation. And we're traveling in a week! Whee!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Making Merry

I do not make merry myself at Christmas, and I cannot afford to make idle people merry.
-- Ebenezer Scrooge

My office holiday party is today.

The command came down from Corporate: Office holiday parties this year were to be held as a luncheon during office hours (no evening events), and include employees only (no spouses or children). The per-head budget was slashed to about half what it was last year. They made this announcement in mid-November, mind you. It's a good thing we hadn't pre-booked the same space we'd used last year for our party.

The usual coordinator guy was out of the office, so the boss asked me to look into it. Call around to some catering places, get some menus and prices, set it up. So I called around, and consulted with the boss to get a feel for what he wanted (#1 on his list: "Support local businesses. No chain places.") and eventually chose Doraldo's, a local Italian restaurant that we've worked with before.

The season's been slow for the caterers, too. Despite my doing all this work only a week before the luncheon, everyone had the day open. The guy at Doraldo's was grateful for the business: he knocked off the delivery charge, threw in the sodas for free, and rounded the remaining cost down by a chunk. Then, "You like wine?" he asked.

"It's an office function, no alcohol allowed," I said.

"No, for you. To take home," he pressed.

Apparently I'm getting a kickback, now. Unfortunately, I don't drink wine. But I told him okay -- I can always re-gift it, or save it for the book club meeting at our house in January.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Busy Busy

So last night was the book club's holiday meeting. The book exchange was lively (several books were in high demand and changed hands more than once) and the food was good, and Dawn brought a pot of homemade >rumtopf to liven the festivities.

Saturday is already promising to be busy. I realized that if I'm going to pick up gifts for Penny's teachers, then this is the weekend to do it, as it's the last weekend before school is out for the holidays. And since Penny just finished filling in a chore chart, she's due a reward toy, so I'll probably take her to Yankee Candle and kill two birds with one stone, there. ("...Why can't we go tonight?" she whined, last night. Life can never happen fast enough for little kids.)

And we're having the moon cookie party that afternoon at our house. (Which means I need to not only completely clear off the dining table, but also most of the kitchen counter, for cooling racks... Oy. Well, at least it's a temporary thing, and I can just lug stuff upstairs and dump it in our room until we're done.)

I'm looking forward to it, though. If anything can manage to revive my guttering spark of holiday spirit, it'll be moon cookies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Picta Picta

Well, I did promise (or, depending on your view, threaten) pictures, once I figured out how to get them off Braz's camera. (Simple USB transfer with iPhoto, as it turns out. Good thing I have a spare USB cable hanging around.)

I'm having fun the camera. Of course, I'm completely obsessed with perfecting this shot of our Christmas lights. I'm not sure why, but what the heck, right? I read somewhere that one of the best ways to improve one's photography skills was to choose one thing that you love and take as many pictures of it as possible, in as many different ways as you can. I guess that's sort of what I'm doing here...

Of course, lights aren't the only things I've been taking pictures of.

Lesson Learned #1: The light in our living room, especially in the evenings, is very, very yellow. That shot of Alex has actually been doctored to bring it closer to true, believe it or not. The picture of Penny was taken with natural daylight, and is much better.

Lesson Learned #2: As much as I've yearned for true manual focus over the last ten years or so of owning digital cameras... Turn the freaking autofocus back on (or even switch it over to full automatic mode) when I'm taking pictures of the kids. They move way too much to be fidgeting with the dials and buttons every time I want to snap a shot of them doing something cute. I've had to delete about thirty pictures that I thought were priceless and adorable because, once I got them downloaded, I realized they were badly out of focus.

I'll keep playing. The moon cookie party is this weekend, and that should make for some fun photography.

Tonight is book club. (I sat down last night to decide what I was going to do with my evening, and realized that -- hey -- maybe I should read the book. Luckily, it's a short, 2-act play, and it only took me about an hour to read.) I'm looking forward to it immensely; we're doing our annual Christmas exchange. Should I bring the camera along for that? I might. Some of the tussles over particularly coveted books can be funny.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Parents Are Dumb

"Mom, why does Santa roll the presents?"

"He what?"

"Roll! Why does Santa roll that way?"

"I... have no idea what you're talking about."

"Yes you do!"

"I really don't."

"You said!"

"I don't remember that, honey."

"Yes you do!!!"

"Why are you yelling at me?"

"I'm mad because you don't remember!"

"You're right, I don't. But yelling at me is not going to make me remember."

"Yes it is!"

Monday, December 8, 2008


My mom has decided that she is Not Doing Christmas this year.

I knew she was feeling a little burned out when, a few months ago, she threatened to just write everyone a check for their Christmas present, and leave it at that.

Then last week, at brunch at my brother's, she sort of pushed along the concept that, instead of drawing names, even, we just wouldn't do presents for the adults this year. I agreed, sort of on the assumption that she was trying to make things a bit easier on us all, economically.

But then I found out that she's not even planning to decorate for Christmas this year. No tree, nothing. "We're not going to be here for Christmas, and it'll just be the one day that y'all are here after Christmas," she said. "It's a lot of work for just one day."

...Because she can't enjoy the decorations without us being there?

I haven't dared to ask her if she's planning anything for the family Christmas dinner (which will be on New Year's Day), for fear that she'll just shrug and suggest steak and baked potatoes, which is what my parents always serve at family dinners. It's good -- I love me some steak and potatoes -- but it's not festive.

I understand about feeling burned out. I get that she's had to host my high-maintenance grandmother every freaking year for the last four years, and I sympathize.

But I also feel kind of let down.

It's not about the presents. Well, a little of it is about the presents, but not in the gifts themselves, but it's about the enjoyment of giving gifts. I'm not really going to miss the stuff, I'm going to miss the anticipation and the opening rituals. I'll miss the dozen candles on the mantle, I'll miss the tree, I'll miss the little decorations all over the house, even though I'm only going to be there the one day.

When I was little, Mom was the Christmas advocate. She loved everything about the holiday -- decorating and music and making cookies and... everything. And this year, it's going to slip by, almost entirely unnoticed.

We're not putting up a tree this year -- Alex is not quite old enough that I can train him to keep his hands off. (He still beelines for the cat's food dish whenever he gets the chance, for petesake.) But when I realized my parents weren't decorating, it became suddenly very important for me to decorate. I put up my usual collection of lights, but it doesn't feel like enough. I want to go to the store and get wreaths for all the windows, stand-up displays for the yard, light-up candy canes to line the driveway... I want to get the ladder out and deck our porch eaves and the roof. I want color and light and Christmas.

I don't know if I'll do all that. But by the gods, I'm getting Christmas presents for everyone. Whether they want them or not.


Wow, what a busy weekend.

Saturday morning, I took Penny shopping. We picked up some Christmas presents for Jess and Ray (alas, she could not find the gifts for them that she wanted, so we had to pick something else) and Alex, and a birthday present for Alex. We also got her Christmas dress (black velvet and silver, very elegant!) and some patent leather shoes to go with it.

I wanted to get a Christmas outfit for Alex, but all Target had for boys were miniature suits -- not even in very Christmas-y colors. I know people think babies look cute when dressed up like little adults, but it's not really my thing. I was looking for something more along the lines of a onesie with candy canes on it, or a bodysuit printed to look like a Santa outfit. So I'm going to have to go somewhere else to get him something. Or else fall back on his solid green onesie paired with red sweatpants.

(In digging through my scrapbook table today, I found the hats he'd been given in the hospital -- Santa-style, red with a white ball, and white with a red ball. I put one on him this morning, just to see if I could. It did go on his head and stay there, but it was so small and stretched so far that it looked more like a yarmulke than a stocking cap.)

I also dragged Penny to the bank with me, and she was so good for all the shopping and errands that after lunch, we packed up the whole family and went to New Town to see Santa.

Penny was excited to sit on Santa's lap, and she went through her entire little wish-list booklet with him. (It's a good thing there wasn't a line behind us.) Of course I took pictures, but I haven't uploaded them yet.

We tried to put Alex on Santa's lap, too, but he started crying the instant I let go of him. I took one picture, and then picked him back up. Maybe next year. Or the year after. Whatever.

And while we were in New Town anyway, we stopped at Barnes and Noble so I could pick up a book for my Book Club's Christmas exchange, and some gift cards for other people. And then we took Penny on a horse-drawn carriage ride, which really flipped her lid.

That evening, we had Braz over to eat takeout Chinese with us for dinner, and he brought me his fancy-pants SLR camera for me to borrow for a week or so, so I can decide if I really want one of my own.

Sunday was the usual chores, and then after lunch I took Alex down to my parents' for a visit while Matt took Penny to the library. While I was at my folks', I picked up her moon cookie molds, since this year's moon cookie party will be at our house.

After we got back from that, I put up our outdoor Christmas lights (I have two long icicle light strands, each of which is nonfunctional for the last four feet. WTF?) Penny was napping, and a little disappointed that she didn't get to help me, but I promised she could help me put up bows and ornaments later this week.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

WoW Therapy

I resisted the MMORPG scene for a long time. KT and Kevin tried to talk us into playing Everquest, and then when they switched to World of Warcraft, they tried to talk us into that.

I resisted. It seemed to eat up a lot of time, and I didn't have all that much spare time in my schedule. I had even less spare time when Penny was born (though to be scrupulously fair, I got a fair chunk of time back when the Meadehall stopped running).

Two and a half years ago, I went on vacation to Cancun. I was gone for just a bit over a week, and Matt was left home with Penny, who had just turned 3. And when I got home, Matt had started playing WoW.

I watched over his shoulder for about a week before I agreed to get a trial account and, well, try it.

I signed up less than 24 hours later. It was completely engrossing, and I was hooked.

Since then, I've played nearly every week, and very nearly every day. Lately, I mostly only play in the evenings, after the kids are in bed -- and since I've lost my ability to function on less than six hours of sleep, I need to log out by 10 or 10:30 so I can be in bed by 11. Which means that I get, at most, two hours of consecutive play-time.

It's affected the way I play. It's not really possible to do most of the game's instances in only two hours, so I don't run instances, and I certainly don't raid. I don't have the reflexes for PvP play. All of which sort of cuts me out of the end-game content. So I'm working on leveling a couple of alts, and now that WotLK is out, I'm slowly working my original character through the new content.

But it's been bothering me, lately, that I'm sinking so much time into something that isn't useful or productive. At the end of each week, I've spent about 10 hours playing WoW, and I have nothing to show for it. I used to make scrapbooks (physical and digital), read books, take photos, write, go on crocheting or knitting binges...

I took a mini-break from WoW this week. I hadn't really intended to. I took Wednesday off to get caught up on some scrapbooking. I didn't log in Thursday because I was doing some Christmas preparations. Friday was Matt's and my usual movie night.

So when I sat down to play one of my alts Saturday night, I was expecting something of a rush from it -- the addict's heightened response to a drug too long neglected.

But instead, I felt overcome with ennui. I had done all this before.

I thought about switching over to my first character to do new stuff, but even the stuff I hadn't done before... I had done before. Kill fifteen of those. Collect twenty of these. Go talk to that guy. Burn down that building. Pick that flower. Make this recipe. The new stuff looks cool and different, but it's not really new.

The game is still fun, but it's not engrossing. It's fun the way Minesweeper and Solitaire are fun; comfortably entertaining, but not challenging or even interesting.

WoW isn't even social for me, any more.

Some of that is my fault -- I don't have too many friends on the servers where my alts are, and most of them don't log in very often. But some of it is just the nature of the game. Even when I'm where friends are, we're not talking that much. They're raiding, or questing, and dealing with combat, and don't really have time to chat. When we do talk online, we mostly talk about the game.

(Before I played, we'd get together with WoW friends and I wouldn't have any idea what they were talking about. Then I started playing, and we'd get together with WoW friends and I'd know what we were talking about. But now that so many of them are raiding, we're back to getting together with WoW friends and I don't have any idea what they're talking about...)

It's not a criticism of my friends. They're having fun.

It's not a criticism of the game. It's a fantastic game.

I'm just not sure that it's for me, anymore. I loved Diablo II, too -- but by the time I'd finished it once and then played around with a couple of other classes, it had lost its shine for me... and I wasn't paying an extra $15 a month to play.

So I'm going to take a longer break -- probably for the rest of the month. I've got scrapbooking to catch up on, Christmas gifts to wrap (and one or two left to shop for), holiday activities to plan, at least three major household projects that I could work on, a digital SLR camera I've been loaned to play with, books to read, and Netflix movies to watch. Hell, I could probably come up with a different activity to do every night between now and when we leave for Chicago, without even breaking a sweat.

I'm going to go do stuff. Productive stuff, or at least alternate entertainment stuff. I'll probably tell you about it as I go.

And then sometime around New Year's, I'll let you know whether I've missed WoW enough to come back, or if I'm going to put my account on hold for an indefinite period. (No, I'm probably not quitting entirely. I know people who have gone on hiatus for as long as six months before coming back.)

Friday, December 5, 2008


In the car this morining:

"We're going to go shopping this weekend, Penny, so you can help me pick out Christmas presents for Jess and Ray and Alex."

"I'm going to get Alex another hippo!" (One of Alex's two favorite toys is a squashy green hippo.)


"Do you think Jess would like a dinosaur?"

"I think Jess would love a dinosaur."

"And I'm going to get Ray a big soft dinosaur for Ray-Ray, too. So he can sleep with it."




"Why are there no dinosaurs anymore?"

"Um... Well, something happened that made the world colder, kind of like it was winter all the time, and the dinosaurs really needed warmer weather, so they died."

"...What happened to the baby dinosaurs?"

Oh shit how do I cover this? "Um, I don't think there were any. I mean, all the babies grew up to big dinosaurs, but it was so cold that they just didn't have any more babies." Right? Didn't I read somewhere about lizards not laying eggs if the weather is screwed up? Or the eggs not hatching, or something?

"That's sad."

"Yeah, it's kinda sad."

"I'm crying." I flipped the rearview mirror down, and sure enough, she had laid sideways onto the seat and there were fat tears rolling down her face.

"I'm sorry, sweetie. It is very sad."

Baby's first existential crisis?

By the time we'd dropped Alex off at daycare, though, she was recovering. "I'm going to make dinosaurs!"

"That's great, sweetie. You do that."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Raining and Pouring

Did scrapbooking last night, and got to about halfway through June, including Penny's pre-K graduation. Which seems much longer ago than just six months.

I've got Father's Day left to go, and some silly pictures of my brother and Alex, and then a two-page spread for the Summer Bash, and then I'll be out of pictures and it'll be time to put an order together.

It felt really nice to sit down and do something constructive and productive, for a change. WoW is fun, but too much other stuff just gets shoved to the background when I'm playing all the time. I need to go back to having a No-WoW night every week so I can spend time on things that matter a little more to me in the long run.

Also, I got a Christmas card from my old friend Jenn, who kind of fell out of touch two or three years ago. She mentioned in the card that she'd stumbled across Matt's twitter and flickr pages, but didn't give me her email address, so I googled her name and parts of the address from the envelope, and eventually found her Amazon.Com profile, and shot her an email. Which she answered this morning, so I'm excited to be back in touch with her.

Though it wasn't a day of pure win.

The school nurse called yesterday morning to tell me that Penny's blood sugar was over 350, and I wibbled on about the cough she's got and blood sugar spikes that go along with fighting off illness, and then realized about an hour later that I'd completely forgotten her breakfast insulin shot.

Penny spilled some milk on some school papers, and thinking that they were from last week or the week before (she's more of a pack rat than Matt or I ever were, and that's saying something!) I threw them out. It turned out that they were this week's homework. As in, the homework she has to turn in on Friday. Parent of the year, here I come!

KT's computer is just about gone, limping by on life support, and when I tried to talk her through a problem she was having, I think I only succeeded in confusing and frustrating her to the point where she was about ready to pull the plug.

I sent a scolding email to my office, and despite doing what I thought was sufficient mitigation to make it sound less like a scolding and more like a reminder, I managed to completely piss off someone by inadvertently making them come across as a whining tattletale.

You know, I don't generally mind taking the good and the bad together... but does everything have to hit at once?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Night Off

I think tonight I will not get on WoW. My "main" is level 72, and both my alts are at 66 (though the one is this close to 67, after last night's frenzy).

But I was sitting in the green room watching the kids this weekend, and I realized that my scrapbook table has become completely buried under Penny's random drawings and other stuff, and my pages are still sitting there, somewhere, stuck back in May or something. And here we are in December.

So I'm going to take the night off from WoW and get some scrapbooking done. Even if it's just one page (after I take the time to clear all the crap off my desk), it'll hopefully give me some momentum. I don't want scrapbooking to become just another of my abandoned hobbies.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Long Weekend

It's almost a relief to be back at work today. Even Penny didn't whine about going back to school this morning.

Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy my long weekend. It was just crazy-busy, and the kids had matching cases of cabin fever as soon as it was half over.

Thanksgiving was at my parents'. John and Sam were not with us -- they were up in Richmond with her family, instead. So we had KT and Kevin and Jess over, instead. Dinner was wonderful, and we all ate too much, and generally had a pretty good time. Penny and Jess were most wroth with us when it came time to go home again.

Friday, I drove down to Chesapeake so KT and I could go see Dark Knight, which was playing at the second-run theater by them. We had a good time with that, too.

When we walked into the mall, we were almost immediately accosted by a lady handing out candy-canes and religious tracts. She pressed them on us with a bright smile, and then waved at the kiosk behind her. "Help yourself!" she said. "Great stocking stuffers! It's all free!"

KT and I looked over at the counter, more to be polite than anything else, expecting to see miniature Bibles and "Jesus Loves Me" doorhangers. And there were a few of those sorts of things... but not very many. Most of what they'd laid out was not only not overtly religious, but distinctly secular. Stuffed snowmen and reindeer; little keychain charms with holly leaves, rubber toys in various seasonal shapes... that sort of thing. Big bowls of assorted hard candy and chocolate miniatures. "Please take all you like!" the lady said cheerfully.

KT and I each took a little stuffed reindeer and a rubber toy for the girls, and thanked them warmly. My religious views are fairly firm at this point, but if I was in the market for a church or belonged to a church that I wasn't strongly attached to, these people would have certainly drawn me. Open-handed generosity with no strings attached and a minimum of "message" is a good start. As Matt said, when I told him about it later, "It's almost as if they've read the book."

On the way home, I wound up behind a Ford Expedition with new-vehicle tags that had its hazards on, even though it was going plenty fast. A mile or so later, I realized that the blinking of its lights was too irregular to be the hazards, and the driver was speeding down the interstate with one foot on the gas and the other foot on the brake, feathering the brake the whole way. I was behind the damn thing for at least thirty-five miles, and it never let up. Except in the tunnel, when the brake lights were steadily on. Even though it didn't slow down at all.

Eventually, it pulled over to the far lane and slowed down to exit, and as I passed, I saw a tiny sylph of a woman, leaning so far forward that her elbows were resting on top of the steering wheel (I guess so she could see over the hood of the vehicle?). I desperately hope it was a borrowed vehicle that she was unfamiliar with, because otherwise in about three months, she's going to need new brakes, and in six months, her mechanic is going to tell her that the monster needs a new transmission, and she isn't going to have the slightest idea why her new car is breaking down so fast.

Saturday, we went down to John and Sam's for a brunch. Sam's parents were visiting, and they were charmed and amused by Penny and Alex. We wish we could've stayed longer, but Alex got kind of cranky about things. Goofy boy.

Matt went to the movies with Braz that afternoon. Lucky for me, both kids slept through most of it, and Alex woke up in excellent spirits, so we had fun playing until Matt got home with pizza.

Sunday, I had intended to get out our Christmas lights and put them up, except that I'm pretty sure the box of decorations is in the attic, and since it was raining cats and dogs all day, I didn't push Matt to hurry up and get them out. So maybe I'll do that this weekend. At least I got out the advent calendars this morning, and I've put up my office decorations.

This week, I need to get back into the routine -- Between the stomach uck and the holiday and the having the kids in tow all the time last week, I didn't exercise at all (unless you count one slow lap of KT's mall before the movie). I need to get back to the gym this week before I lose the habit altogether. (Also, I need to upgrade my membership to include the family so I can sign Penny up for swimming lessons in January.)