Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I made resolutions last year. How did I do, and what are my plans for moving forward?

Health:  I don't think I did too badly on the health front. The desired five days of exercise a week didn't happen until about a month ago, when I started doing fifteen minutes of yoga/strength exercises on the Wii Fit each weekday morning, but I was pretty good about keeping up the three days a week at the YMCA -- I missed a few weeks, here and there, due to holidays or illness, but all in all, I managed to keep that up. My sessions haven't gotten much longer -- from 40 minutes I moved up to 45 minutes, and there I stayed. That's a scheduling issue more than anything else, though, so I suspect it's just going to stay there for a while.  Plus, thanks to Weight Watchers, I lost about 70 pounds in 2009, so I think that's worth some credit. Grade for 2009:  A-

This year: I want to keep up with the morning workout, and possibly expand it somewhat, though once again, I'm pretty limited in my schedule. I might be able to get it up to 20 or 25 minutes, but much beyond that is just not going to happen. My resolution for the gym is to make some alterations to my workout. For a good six months now, I've been doing 30 minutes on the elliptical, followed by 15 minutes either on (usually) the treadmill or (occasionally) the recumbent bike. It's a nice fat-burning cardio workout, but I haven't changed it (except for the resistance and incline levels) in months. And now that I'm approaching 100 total pounds lost, I'm starting to reach a point where mere weight loss isn't enough: my muscles need some serious toning, especially my bad case of flappy-grandmom-arms (which is mostly loose skin, but working on the muscles there will help.) In short, I need to step outside my comfort zone at least twice a week and trade the shorter cardio workout for some weight training. And once I get comfortable with that, I need to start adding some high-intensity intervals to my cardio.

Also, having deliberately fallen off the Weight Watchers wagon for a couple of weeks for the holidays (as much as a test to see how I'd do, as anything else) it's time to get back on it and go back to losing weight. I didn't do as badly as I could have, especially considering the nascent temptation level of the holidays, but I've got at least thirty more pounds to lose before I'll be ready to consider it done. I'd like to think I can get rid of them all this year, but we'll see -- my rate of loss has slowed considerably. I'll settle, if I must, for continuing the downward trend.

Family:  I was supposed to try to meet up with Matt twice a month for lunch, and I pretty much failed at this one, though I think it's at least partially not my fault. One of my projects at work really, really likes meetings, so I'm currently scheduled for a minimum of six of the damn things a week -- three of which snuggle right up against lunchtime (and two of which run through what normal people consider lunchtime). Combined with my three trips a week to the gym and my once-a-week allergy shot, my schedule is pretty crazy. And the day that I'm most free to go out to lunch (Thursday) is the day that Matt's office has their big meeting. And combined with that is the whole Weight Watchers thing: eating out is kind of a stress for me, because I have impulse control issues. Grade for 2009: F

In the end, though, those are pretty much just excuses. Twice a month might be too ambitious, but I think I could resolve to manage at least once a month. Especially if I build it into my mental structure so I can plan a light dinner, to take some of the stress off the eating-out thing.

Personal:  Well, I'd wanted to scale back on WoW, and I did... I gave up and quit entirely. It didn't make me very happy -- the game was about 80% of my social life -- but I'd discovered that I just wasn't capable of playing only once or twice a week. If the game was available, I'd log in, just because it was easy and right there. So I quit, and while I still spend a lot of nights just dorking around on the computer (Facebook games are evil) I've also started (slowly) to get caught up on my scrapbooking (I'm almost through August!) and I'm spending more time reading, which is, quite frankly, very nice. I was pushing along on the writing front for a while, but it seems to come and go in spurts. And I did buy that SLR camera I was talking about (my diet reward for dropping below 200 pounds) and start taking pictures again, and I'm enjoying that, still. The decluttering project is happening, albeit very slowly, but just knowing that we have the storage unit available and that I can clear stuff out and pack it away if I want to has been a big relief. Once in a while I get a wild hair and clean out a closet or a book shelf, and take a bunch of boxes over to the thrift store and another few boxes to the storage unit, and I feel much better. Matt and I took a day off in August to clean out the kids' stuff, and that did a lot of good for my level of Stuff-Stress, too. Emotional baggage is... somewhat better, I think, but could still use some work. Grade for 2009: C+

This year... it's hard to say. I want to keep up with the decluttering, and the scrapbooking, and the photography. I'd like to pick the writing back up again, but I don't know if I have the discipline. One thing that's become surprisingly high-profile in my brain is social activity. I've always been a bit of an introvert, and I do need plenty of downtime, but it's really surprised me how much, the last few months, I've really craved the company of others, and how much I've enjoyed the evenings we've managed to have friends over. So I'm thinking that's something to try to work on, as well. Matt's offered many times to let me take his place on Rock Band Nights; I think I'll start taking him up on it once in a while. And to invite friends over more often, as well.

Overall grade for 2009: C.  Some spectacular achievements, some spectacular failures, and some reasonable efforts.

Prognosis for 2009: Not too bad. I think I've made my goals fairly reasonable and attainable. They're things I want to do as much as things I ought to do, which makes a difference. Here's hoping for a good start to the decade!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Wrapup

Sorry I didn't post anything yesterday, but I spent the morning taking Penny to her quarterly diabetes checkup, so when I made it into the office, I didn't have time for a blog entry. (She's doing fine, by the by. A1C is 8.0, which is up a bit, but with all the extra treats the holidays bring, it's not too horrible. I'll expect to see her back in the 7s -- which is where her doctor wants her -- by her March checkup.)

So, Christmas, in short: excellent!

We had my parents over on Christmas Eve for dinner -- just soup and sandwiches, but it was nice to sit and talk, and the kids enjoyed their company. They left as we were getting ready to put Alex to bed, and we told Penny she wasn't allowed to wake us up until 7.

Naturally, I woke up myself at 5:30 or so and my brain immediately started up so I couldn't go back to sleep, but it was nice to snuggle in the warm bed for a while, too. Penny came in promptly at 7, so we got up and picked up Alex and headed down the stairs to see if Santa had come...

Penny was thrilled with the guitar that Santa brought her, which was nice, because we always seem to guess wrong with her bigger gifts. And of course, there were stockings. Penny and Alex dove right into those without much prompting.

And surprisingly, Santa had brought stockings for Matt and I, too! I really got Matt with that one. He'd been a little sad a few days earlier that I hadn't gotten stockings for us, and I'd told him that I hadn't realized he'd wanted stockings for the adults, too, and it was kind of late, so maybe next year... and then after work on Christmas Eve, while he and Penny were at the movies, I went out and got stockings for us, put them together, and hid them. I should've put the nails in the wall for them at the same time, but I forgot -- I ended up putting them in that evening, while Matt was taking his shower. He heard the hammering, and I really thought the jig was up, but managed to convince him he must have been hearing something from outside. The stocking contents weren't all that thrilling (there wasn't much left in the stores on Christmas Eve) but I felt pretty good at having surprised him with their existence.

After the stockings, Penny played Santa and divvied up the pile under the tree, and we started opening. Alex got overwhelmed after the first few, and it wound up taking him until the 26th to open all his gifts, but there's nothing wrong with stretching out the fun, either.

The kids got tons of clothes and toys, and everyone got at least one thing they were over the moon about, so that was great. Penny gave Matt and I a little book that she'd written and illustrated at school, complete with a CD of her reading it aloud. (It was a story about how our house was crazy messy until a Christmas elf came and cleaned it up, after which we thanked him with some cookies.)

Then we played and cleaned up a little and got dressed and played some more and ate lunch and Alex had a nap, and then we went down to my parents' house.

We opened more presents, of course, and giggled over how my mom and Samantha apparently did their shopping out of the same catalog, and admired the beautiful bracelets Sam had made for Penny and the fun toys the kids got, and the picture things I'd made for my parents.

After we'd opened all the gifts, we had dinner, of course. Mom had waffled between turkey and ham for a couple of weeks, but finally settled on the ham. (She'll serve the turkey for New Year's, she says.)

We didn't get home until quite late, but all in all, the kids were very good, and everyone had a great time. Yay, Christmas!

We wound up back at my parents' the next day for a bit, since we'd forgotten some things at their house, but otherwise had a fairly slow and quiet weekend. The kids played with their new toys and read their new books, and Matt and I did much the same.

We're back to work this week, of course, though school is still out, so Penny's at the daycare. I'm hoping/planning to take Thursday off as well as Friday, so at least it's a short week. We don't actually have any plans for New Year's Eve -- it's hard to party with little kids in tow. Or New Year's Day, either -- we were going to have dinner with my family, but that's been moved back to Sunday. I'm trying to think of something we can all do together, or that Penny and I could do, at least (since she and Matt had some special time together on Christmas Eve) but I'm pretty much coming up blank. So I expect the day will just be spent taking down the Christmas decorations and packing them away for another year.

Saturday we're having lunch with Chuck and Anita, though, so that should be fun; and Sunday Matt is taking Penny to see a basketball game, after which we're doing the family New Year's dinner, which I'm also looking forward to.

And then the holidays will be over, and we'll be back to normalcy. I am both sad and relieved that the holidays are already almost over. But more sad than relieved. It's been a really good holiday season, this year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Alex had a very good birthday. He got cupcakes again, and lots of presents.

He seemed to have figured out the whole opening-presents thing fairly well, which surprises me slightly. I think Penny was nearly three before she really got into it.

Anyway, Alex got three separate Elmo toys -- a huge one from my parents (that actually used to be Penny's, but she didn't really play with it much, so it went into the attic), a "baby" one (complete with pacifier and diaper) from Matt's dad, and a smaller regular Elmo from Matt's brother and his wife.

Alex glommed onto the little ones immediately, and doesn't want to put them down. He even tried to open the rest of his presents while keeping one of them tucked in his arm, which was adorable.

I'm at work today, but I honestly don't mind too much. There's nothing actually happening, which gives me time to clean up my desk and do paperwork and generally try to get into a good frame of mind for the coming year. And unless something surprises me by turning up, I'll be skipping out at lunchtime.

Tonight we're having my parents over for a simple Christmas Eve dinner of soup and sandwiches. (It would be the whole family, but Sam is working three separate Christmas Eve services for her church, and John opted to stay with her for dinner -- which I certainly can't blame him for.)

And tomorrow is Christmas, whoo! I'm really looking forward to it. Penny is so excited, she's already vibrating. (Note to self: remember to put her present from Santa in my trunk before I head home today!) Dinner will probably be at John and Sam's, as I'll be really surprised if the work being done at my parents' house is finished in time (those things never are -- I have no idea why my parents didn't put it off until after the holidays).

As far as I know, we don't have any particular plans for the weekend, though Matt had an email from our friend Chuck asking about when it might be a good time for us to all get together, so maybe we'll meet up with them. Other than that, my plan is: relax!

Celebrating Christmas or not, I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday weekend.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Two Years.

Alexander Quentin Brooks
12/23/07 12:51pm
8lb, 2oz

When Alex was born, they wrapped him in a blanket and laid him on my chest, and he stuck out his bottom lip at me in the world's biggest pout. "Oh, lord," I said, "this one's going to be a drama queen."

Two years later, he's so much more than a baloney loaf in a blanket. He loves books and blocks and puzzles. He doesn't like oranges, but he does like pasta and oranges and tomatoes. And he's got a sweet tooth, of course. He's very smart. His teachers tell me he speaks very clearly for a two-year-old; he loves to look at books and be read to; he already recognizes a solid half of the alphabet and is starting to associate the letters with words and sounds; he can sometimes count to fourteen (providing you're willing to start at 3, since 1 and 2 don't interest him); and we're working on colors. He adores Elmo, but doesn't zombify in front of the TV the way his sister did. He's surprisingly polite and reasonable for a two-year-old: he often says "please" and "thank you" without prompting, and is sometimes even willing to share with others; and when I tell him it's time to put his blanket or toy away and go to school, he doesn't generally fuss about it. He's a sweet, affectionate, happy little boy who loves to give hugs and kisses. The Terrible Twos are making an appearance, but aren't taking over entirely.

Happy Birthday, Alex! You're loved more than I can possibly express with mere words.

(But I totally called it on the whole "drama queen" thing.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pick Pick Pick

Yesterday was... annoying.

Nothing really disastrous happened, but the petty annoyances piled up and up and up.

Several minor health issues nagged, including running out of allergy meds (takes 2 days to get a prescription request through the system), a painful muscle spasm in my back that fires randomly, and a couple of TMI things.

Came in to work to discover that my office heater had shorted out and melted the surge protector it was plugged into. I'm lucky it didn't start a fire, actually. Without a heater, my office averages about 68 degrees, and I'd decided to wear a short sleeved shirt, of course. So I skipped going to the gym so I could buy a new heater, but couldn't find the same one again... and of course the replacement is noisy.

My light-up Christmas necklace broke so it no longer lights up.

The company's expense report system is down for end-of-year processing and won't be back up until January 4th, which means that if I submit my report the day it comes back up and stand on my boss and make him approve it that same day, I might get my expense check the day after my credit card bill comes due.  All of which means I'll need to take money out of savings to cover the office's holiday party.

Just as I was consoling myself with the fact that it's a slow week and at least I'll be able to take some time off in the afternoons, we got hit with two emergency software deliveries that have to go out this week.

Also, we've got to create some data DVDs for another project, and apparently the only working DVD burner in the office is... my laptop.

And all that stress piling on completely eroded my dieting willpower, so instead of getting back on track after the weekend of indulgence, I ate my fool face off. Which... did not do much to ease my stress. And this morning, I was so completely exhausted that I smacked my snooze until it was too late to fit in my Wii yoga routine. Maybe I'll do it tonight, and some other stuff as well, since I'm not getting to the gym again until next week.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

I wore a short-sleeved shirt to work today on the assumption that I'd be spending the whole day in my office, with my heater. I brought my gym bag with me on the assumption that I'd be going to the gym after the morning meeting.

But my office wasn't cozy and warm when I came in. My heater was up on the credenza with a note taped to it. Oh boy, I thought, a scolding from the landlord about leaving my heater running over the weekend. But no, that wasn't it. It looks like my heater shorted out, literally melting the plug and frying the surge suppressor/extension cord that it had been plugged into.

So it turns out my short-sleeved shirt was a bad idea, and instead of the gym, I'll be running up to the store for a new heater and a new surge suppressor/extension cord thingy. Yay. It's a good thing I keep a sweater in my office, even if it is three or four sizes too big, because without my heater running, my office is about 65.

I had a good weekend, though. I can tell, because I'm up two pounds from Friday morning. Whee!

The office party was a great success (except for my having inadvertently pissed off the caterer by not being able to afford to tip her -- I'd assumed it was built into the invoice and blown the rest of my budget already) and I ate so much that even though I skipped dinner entirely, I was still feeling full to the point of being ill that evening.

It snowed Friday night -- not a lot, just enough to get Penny excited.

Saturday was our Christmas party, and despite some last-minute cancellations due to illness and weather (it snowed harder in some other areas) I think it was a success.

While we were partying, it snowed some more.

And then Sunday, we had dinner with my family to celebrate Alex's 2nd birthday. When Sam set the tray of cupcakes in front of him, he made the most adorable startle ever. Like, "Oh my gosh, cake!" as if he hadn't been pestering me for a cupcake all afternoon. And then, for no apparent reason, he decided he needed to try to eat his cupcake without actually picking it up, which was hysterical.

Lots of fun! And a very great deal of food, oh my lordy.

This week will actually be somewhat calmer and simpler, I think. Work looks fairly light and quiet, as could be expected. I need to come in every day, but I'm hoping to be able to take some (or even most) of the afternoons off.

Tuesday we're having a friend over for chili, and Thursday (Christmas Eve) we're having my parents over for soup and sandwiches. Friday will be more hectic, of course, but also plenty of fun.

Friday, December 18, 2009


So after the kids were in bed last night, Matt had to go back into work to take care of an emergency fix, and I got to baking.

I made a batch of gingerbread -- not cookies. Gingerbread. It turned out pretty well, though it wasn't as dense as I was expecting -- more like cake than bread. I might drop the amount of baking soda by a smidge in the next batch and see if that helps. It tasted quite good, though personally I like a stronger ginger flavor, so the next batch might have more ginger in it, too.

And then I was still feeling pretty chipper, so I decided to go ahead and try out the recipe for cheese straws. That was a bit more time-consuming than I expected, mostly because I hadn't factored in how long it would take for me to roll out some fifty-odd little snakes of dough. But they turned out pretty tasty (butter and cheese -- how can you go wrong?!) and I think it would be a really fun recipe to make with the kids, since the dough is pretty much play-dough consistency, and it will bake into any shape you lay it out in. (My last batch, just for giggles, I made circles instead of sticks.) I'd just have to lay out some ground rules about the thickness of the shapes, and then let them go wild.

I expect you could also roll it out flat, cut it with small cookie-cutters, and make pretty tasty crackers. I might try that some other time. In any case, definitely a keeper recipe, though I'd like to experiment with whole wheat flour, butter substitutes, and/or lower-fat cheese (not all at once!) to see if I can make it a smidge healthier.

But not tonight. Tonight's mission is to make another batch of gingerbread (with less baking soda and more ginger) and cupcakes for Alex's birthday party on Sunday. And to do some initial clutter-control so we can clean up for the party tomorrow. And start assembling the party favors and stuff.

But before that! is my office's Christmas holiday party year-end event. The catering lady will be here at 10:45 to set up (the party doesn't start until 11:30, but she's got three other luncheons to set up today, apparently, and most of my order is sandwiches and other things that can sit at room-temperature). I'll get to give a lot of gift cards away as door prizes, and eat good food and -- I think -- have a really good time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


This morning has been all about delays.

At 7:23, I said, "Okay, kids, time to get ready to go!" I put my coat on, then got Alex into his coat, and Penny was... still not even in the living room. "Penny, you have until I count to three to get in here and get your coat on!"

"But Mom, I have to go potty!"


What the hell was she doing while I was getting my coat and Alex's on, then? I really don't want to know, because the answer would probably just anger me.

Got Alex to school, then took Penny to her school, and she said, "Mom, my throat feels kind of like I'm going to throw up." I took her to the nurse's office. The nurse looked at Penny's throat and took her temperature, and I said, "Boy, I hope you're not really sick, Penny, because if you are, you'll have to miss the cookie party with your class tomorrow."

When the thermometer came out of her mouth, she said, "I only feel a little sick."

Oh, good, because the bell has already rung.

Walking back to my car, I remembered that I'd run out of Splenda for my tea at work, so I detoured over to the grocery store to pick some up. In front of me in line was one of those women who has to completely disassemble her purse in order to dig exact change out of the bottom.

Finally on my way, I discovered... an accident right at the ramp I use, completely covering both lanes of oncoming traffic and the ramp itself.  So I wound up having to drive down to the next ramp. Which, because of some really stellar road planning, is about six miles down. And even then, I wound up doing a mostly-illegal u-turn to get moving in the direction I wanted to go. Possibly, it would've been faster to just wait for the damn accident to clear.

And that's what my day has been like so far. Boy, I hope it improves from here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Let's see...

Today between my 11:00 meeting and my allergy shot this afternoon, I'll go out and buy the door prizes for my office holiday party. (Why yes, I am dropping the entire $2000-ish holiday party budget on my credit card that gives me a cashback bonus.)

Matt and I worked out the remaining details on our Christmas party last night, so tonight I'll go shopping for the remaining stuff for that. (Mostly groceries, though we're also thinking of door prizes and -- since there will be kids present -- party favors.) I suspect I'll do that immediately after dinner, which leaves Matt to put the kids to bed by himself, but some of the stores I want close at 9, so waiting until 8:30 to head out is pretty much out of the question.

Tomorrow evening I'll start the party preparations. (Baking, mostly.)

Friday is the office party at work, and then that evening I'll continue the preparations for our party. (More baking, plus some cleaning/clearing and digging out my festive serving platters and such.)

(Along with all that, what started out as a relatively slow week at work turned into insanity, as I've had four  unscheduled documents and not one, not two, but three emergency software releases -- each of which requires a minimum of three documents to be created -- pop up on me.)

Saturday we'll finish the cleaning/clearing, do some last-minute decorating, and assemble all the last-minute stuff for the party. And then actually have the party, which I think will be fun. (We're looking at around 20 people, total, if we don't have a lot of last-minute cancellations. Even if you go by the rule that about a third of the guests will drop out at the last minute, that's 14 or 15 people, about a quarter of which are kids. Not bad!)

Saturday night or Sunday morning, if I didn't get to it before, I need to bake the cupcakes for Alex's birthday party, which is Sunday afternoon/evening. And, of course, Sunday is the usual grocery and laundry day.

Whew. After all that, Christmas week itself will be a snap. It's a good thing I'm starting to recover my Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Keeping Up

Well, in addition to my annual case of pre-Thanksgiving stomach uck, and my usual pre-Christmas case of a nasty cough (this year's case has yet to turn into bronchitis, but there's still time!) and my time-honored fit of wondering whether I'm the only one who cares and if I ought to just skip the whole holiday thing, I've managed to knock out my traditional saying-something-without-thinking-and-offending-someone a little early this year. Whew, good to know I can cross that off my to-do list.

Since it coincided with several other frustrations and a sneaky bout of PMS, I spent a couple of hours last night thinking (melodramatically, because that's how I roll when the hormone homies are in town) about quitting the whole blog thing entirely. But we all know I'm not going to do that, because I've been doing this journal/blog thing for over ten years now, and I'm not sure I can even function at work if I don't start my day with a post. So I settled for posting some angsty "think I'll go eat worms" messages on Twitter (Twitter! It's the new "getting drunk and calling your ex"!) and then going to bed to cry myself to sleep.

I offer sincere and extremely grateful appreciation to those who responded with concern. Since the most common effect of PMS is to rev up the Mutant Worrybrain with the whole "no one love me" refrain, then every individual message does its part to quash those maunderings.

So I'm better enough this morning to feel like an idiot, but still under the weather enough that I can't summon enthusiasm for much of anything, especially much of anything having to do with Christmas. Hope the hormones dry up in time for me to finish planning the party, or else it's going to turn out kind of half-assed. (You can probably imagine for yourself how the hormones are responding to that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Home Stretch

No major events this past weekend. We dropped in on my folks long enough to give them some cookies and visit for a few minutes. Matt took Penny out to lunch, and had his D&D game. I dashed out through the pouring rain to buy myself a new winter coat, because I've been too cold in my windbreaker and my old winter coat is the size of a small tent.

(Yay, Christmas sales -- I got a wool coat, a new pair of jeans, and two pretty Christmas fleece shirts all for about $130. The retail cost on the coat alone is almost $200, so I feel pretty good about it. Also, I feel pretty good about the jeans, which are a size 12. I actually only pulled them off the rack to see how far I had to go before I could wear them. Whee!)

This week promises a moderate level of insanity: Matt and I need to finish our party planning and move into the party preparation phase. At some point during the week, I need to go out and buy a whole stack of gift cards for my office's holiday party on Friday, which I'm in charge of organizing. I should also try to remember to have Penny take her gifts to her teachers on Friday. And figure out if we're getting gifts for the daycare teachers or not. Saturday is our Christmas party. And on Sunday is our family party for Alex's 2nd birthday, for which I've promised to make the dessert. (Penny thinks we should have cupcakes, which is fine with me. Though I may not bother attempting to stick to diet-friendly recipes and just go for the boxed cake mix and frosting. We'll see how ambitious I'm feeling.)

Which is all completely in addition to the work I need to get done at work, and at least a couple of trips to the gym.

Let the fun begin!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Open Letter: What I Want For Christmas

I seem to keep having this conversation with various friends and family, so let me lay it out in an open letter.

I'm not participating in the round-robin gift exchanges this year. You know -- the sort where everyone in a group draws a name out of a hat, and that's who you get a gift for. I know why they're popular. It's nice not to have to worry about figuring out what everyone wants, or having to shop for a lot of people, or trying to budget for it all.

But here's the thing: I'm doing most of my shopping online, and the bit that isn't, I kind of enjoy. And I'm lucky enough to have a reasonable amount of money this year, so the budget isn't a huge concern for me. And the crux of it, really? Is that I like giving people presents.

There's nothing quite like the thrill of seeing something and knowing immediately who should have it: who would most appreciate its beauty, or use it with joy, or fully understand its humor. Who would be happy to know that I thought of them. Who would, even if the gift isn't quite as perfect as I thought it was when I got it, be grateful to know that I was thinking of them with affection.

And that's what I want from you, for Christmas: that you think of me with affection, rather than obligation. I don't want anyone to think, "Oh, geez, Liz got us something for Christmas, so I guess we'd better get her something, too." If that's your primary thought, then just cross me off the list. Really. I don't want to be a burden -- financially, emotionally, or in any other way. It's the thought that counts -- but take a minute to consider what that thought really is.  Is it, "Crap, another gift to shop for and wrap and take a bite out of my wallet?" Because that's not a very good thought to be sharing. I don't want that thought.

Here are the thoughts I want from you, this year:

"I want you to do things you enjoy."

"I want you to be with people you love."

"I want you to be happy."

"I love you."
I don't care if those thoughts come attached to expensive jewelry, or Amazon gift cards, or bargain-bin DVDs, or dollar-store scrapbooking stickers, or just a warm hug. I swear, I don't. I got your gift with one of those thoughts in my mind, and you have to believe me that I'm getting at least as much happiness from giving it as you are from receiving it. If you can't give me something with just as equitable a return, then we're probably both happier if you just don't give me anything.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Last night was my book club's annual Christmas meeting. I drank a couple of peppermint drinks and ate way, way too many cookies.

So I was thinking the vaguely aches and pains I was feeling this morning were a combined sugar/alcohol hangover.

But then, around the time I was bustling the kids out the door through the rain to my car, I realized my voice had devolved to some sort of peculiar croak -- less like a sound emerging from a living being and more like the grind of shifting tectonic plates. Which makes me wonder if I've caught whatever it is that's making Alex cough and hack lately. Whee. Whatever it is, my eyeballs ache if I have to roll them more than about 45 degrees off center, and my neck is complaining about picking up the extra slack, so I expect today will be fun.

The bit where I don't want any food at all, though -- not even coffee -- that's probably from the cookies. I'll nurse a mug or two of tea and see if that helps.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I was at work for all of about an hour yesterday -- I wrote up my journal entry, did a little administrative paperwork that has to be done every Monday, talked to my staff to make sure things were in hand and that the schedule hadn't changed, and then I decided to play hooky for the rest of the day.

I went home and finished making the cookies for my book club meeting tonight; and then I gathered up my stuff and went down to visit KT. We sat and chatted for a few hours about not terribly much -- but it was so nice to just be together and relax.

I left at 3 to make sure I'd have plenty of time to pick Alex up from school, and got home with plenty of time to spare, so I packed up the cookies (now that their frosting was dry) and got dinner started.

We had a nice, quiet dinner, and then after the kids were in bed, Matt went off to Rock Band Night. I tried to write for a while -- I got a few paragraphs done, but I was practically dozing off on the couch, so I got through Penny's 10pm blood sugar check, then fed the cat and went to bed. I'm still kind of sleepy this morning, but hoping that'll wear off when I have some coffee and breakfast.

So in summary: a fairly quiet day. Just what I needed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sleepy Moon

Busybusy weekend was good.

I got pictures taken for our family Christmas card, and the card ordered, yay! I wasn't sure what to wear in the picture -- all my Christmas clothes are too big for me. But I finally solved the problem with some ingenuity: a green turtleneck and the red belt from my old maternity sweater draped around my neck like a scarf. (It looked so good that way, I may keep the belt even when I get rid of the sweater!)

KT and Kevin dropped Jess off at our place around 10:30 Saturday, and Matt and I took all three kids in to New Town to see Santa. I love the New Town Santa. They're not usually very busy, so he got to spend lots of time talking with the kids, and posing for pictures. As he came in past me, he asked me sotto voce for their names, and the looks on their faces when he called to them by name was priceless.

And then, despite the cold and rain, the girls wanted to go on the horse-drawn carriage ride. Alex had a blast with that, too, and despite the cold and rain, I'm glad we did it.

We went to Pizza Hut for lunch, and then Penny and Jess played with Ray for most of the afternoon, over at Ray's house and then at our place (after Alex was up from his nap). Three 5-6 year-olds make a lot of noise. Way more than three times the amount of noise one kid makes. It's exponential, or something. Ow.

It took a while to get the girls to sleep Saturday night, but eventually they dropped off. They woke up at 6:56 Sunday morning and even managed to restrain themselves from waking us up for the whole four minutes until 7. (Sort of. Their talking did wake me up, but they were at least trying to be quiet.)

Sunday afternoon, KT and Kevin came back, and Elizabeth came over, and we made moon cookies. Since it was a small group, I thought we'd end at one batch of cookies, but the first batch went so fast, we decided to go ahead and make some more. The second batch, we experimented with using up some whole wheat flour I'd bought for a recipe a while back. We substituted it for half the white flour.

It handled differently (it was very goopy -- but came out of the molds much easier than the all-white-flour batch did) and the cookies had a slightly different texture, but the the wheat flour made the bigger cookies softer and the smaller cookies crunchier -- which is good news for both the soft and crunchy cookie contingencies in the bunch!

After the cookies, we all went out to Peking for dinner, and had a fantastic time.

All in all, it was a great weekend. The kids were amazingly well-behaved and patient despite being in various states of not-enough-sleep, and I got to visit with friends and do fun stuff.

Friday, December 4, 2009


This weekend is going to be crazy busy. But, I hope, the fun kind of crazy.

Jess is coming up for a sleepover on Saturday. After some consultation with Kevin (who's providing her transportation), we're going to take the kids over to New Town to visit Santa. If the weather's clear enough, we'll also do a carriage ride. (The forecast says it's supposed to rain tomorrow, though, so maybe not. I thought about postponing the whole thing to next weekend, but it's supposed to rain next weekend, too. Bah.) Anyway, Santa is indoors, so that shouldn't be a problem.

If I'm lucky, I'll also manage to get some pictures for our Christmas card then, too. (But I might attempt a family group shot before we go, just to be on the safe side.)

After New Town, the plan is to go to Wasabi for lunch. Yum!

Then the girls can play all afternoon and evening. I have no idea what we're doing for dinner, but it'll probably be something fast and easy. At some point, I need to go shopping for moon cookie ingredients (as well as ingredients for the cookies I'm making for the book club meeting next week). Which means I need to check my spice cabinet and find out what I've already got.

I hope Penny and Jess get some sleep and aren't completely sick of each other by lunchtime, because Jess isn't going home until after the moon cookie party on Sunday. I'm looking forward to it a lot; we've invited some new folks this year, and I think it'll be a lot of fun.

Though after all that, I might just have to take Monday off to recover!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rocketship Go!

As I was walking Penny up to her school this morning, one of the teachers' aides who helps at the dropoff point each morning greeted us and said, "Penny, did you tell your mom that if we were on a rocketship, you'd be the one who gets to drive?"

"No," Penny said.

"You should tell her about it while you walk up to the school!" the aide enthused.

"In math facts," Penny told me, "I got up to thirteen!"

"Wow, that's great, sweetie!" Penny's class is starting to lean heavily on basic addition right now. We had, in fact, spent most of the drive to drop Alex off at daycare playing an adding game -- entirely at Penny's prompting.

On my way out, the aide asked if Penny had told me about it, and explained a little more: the station she'd been helping with was called "Fast Facts," and the object was to answer the math problem very quickly, without recourse to counting. (When I was in elementary school, we just called it memorization, or knowing your tables, but whatever.) Anyway, a "satisfactory" score required the student to get at least five of them at the chosen speed; Penny got thirteen. And additionally, she was the only one in the class to get so many so fast -- there were a couple of kids who got as high as nine, but no one else broke ten. Thus, Penny being at the very top of the rocketship.

That's my girl.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


So I ran out at lunchtime yesterday and bought presents for Penny and a Santa present for Alex and stocking stuffers for the kids. And I remembered the niece that Matt and I haven't met yet and got some things for her, too.

And I got some candy and magnets and stickers for the advent calendar. I have an advent calendar that's a series of little boxes. I bought it several years ago from Starbuck's, when it had chocolate truffles in the boxes, but now I just refill them each year. The fronts of the boxes have the numbers and little Christmas-y pictures on them, but after you open each, you turn it around to show a partial painting on the back. When it's all done, they make a pretty scene.

Of course, that's only one of my advent calendars. I sort of collect the things, when I find ones that are especially fun or pretty.

One is a wooden puzzle that eventually builds into a Christmas tree. I gave it to my mom back when I was in college -- and almost immediately regretted not buying one for myself, even though I couldn't afford it at the time. A couple of years ago, Mom gave it back to me, saying that Penny and I would enjoy it more than she would. That one and the candy one are the ones I use every single year: we put a piece on the puzzle every morning, and get a candy out of a box every evening.

I have another wooden one that I bought at a craft fair that's a tall skinny Santa with a row penny nails down his front; each day you hang a little wooden heart on the next nail. That one's not up this year because we're missing one of the hearts. It may be gone forever; I should probably just ask my dad or someone else handy to make me a new one.

I have a cloth door-hanger calendar that I keep on my door at work; it's got a series of pockets and a cloth candy cane on a ribbon that you move from pocket to pocket. In other years, I've put peppermint sticks or real candy canes in the pockets and eaten one each day, but I'm trying to be good this year, and once I start eating peppermint, it's hard to stop.

There's one with a series of tiny little books -- put together, the books form a Muppet variation on O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi." (I summarized the story for Penny the other day, as we were getting everything out of storage, and got all choked up. Maybe, if I remember, we'll catch up and make that calendar part of our evening routine.)

And there are a couple of standard paper-door advent calendars lying around, too.

Anyway I loaded up the candy calendar while I was making dinner last night, and had Penny open the first box after dinner. I'd loaded it with one piece of candy each for Penny and Alex, but it's possible that Alex is not ready for the advent calendar notion, because he pitched a wobbly when I wouldn't give him more candy or let him play with the calendar boxes. We'll see how it goes, I guess, but if he doesn't get the hang of it after a few days, then maybe Matt and I will be splitting his share of candy.

Oh, darn.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Wow, I kind of fell off the planet for a while there, didn't I? Between the kids getting sick and Matt and I getting sick and Thanksgiving and the preparing for Christmas and the insane twenty-deliverable-day I had for work yesterday, I haven't been doing my blogging.  Let's see if I can sum up, here...

The less said about various sicknesses, the better. Suffice to say, the Uck made its way around our house and gave us a rough few days, but it cleared up in time for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving itself was really quite good. We TiVo'ed the Macy's parade, so I got to watch the whole thing, without commercials, which rocked. (Yes, the nostalgia smacked me hard and I sniffled through most of it.) Alex threw a few tantrums, but that was only to be expected. Penny was fantastic, and the dinner was wonderful. We had a great time, we ate great food, and we were grateful for all the wonderful people and things in our lives.

Friday was Matt's birthday, though since we'd done our big celebration with the family at Thanksgiving, we didn't do much. In fact, he went back down to my parents' house to help my dad clean out the gutters. But I made slow-cook chili and that evening we had Braz and Emma and Sarah over for dinner, and Matt and Braz played with the Lego Star Wars video game Matt's brother had sent him, and a good time was had by all.

Saturday morning, Penny's loose tooth finally gave up the ghost and fell out! Whoo-hoo, her first loose tooth!

That afternoon, I took Penny to Target for a marathon shopping session. I picked out a couple of seasonal shirts for me, and Christmas decorations, and toys for her brother and her friends, and more Christmas decorations, and teacher gifts, and still more Christmas decorations. I spent a ridiculous amount of money, but it was fun and knocked out over half of our holiday shopping in one fell swoop.

We actually put the tree up on Sunday. Alex was fascinated with the whole process, and as many times as I had to tell him not to throw the ornaments and to put them back on the tree, I'm glad I shelled out for some cheap plastic ornaments to hang low on the tree this year. (Though now I think I'm going to have to buy another ornament storage box.).

I actually gave in to a long-standing impulse (is that a contradiction in terms?) and purchased one strand of colored lights to wind into the middle of our tree. It looks just as nice as I'd hoped, though I think a second strand would look even better. But since all the ornaments are on the tree, I'll have to wait on that until next year.

I haven't done the outdoor decorations yet -- we didn't finish the tree until after dark on Sunday -- so that's something I'll do this coming weekend, along with getting our picture for the holiday card, taking the kids to see Santa, and buying ingredients for the moon cookie party Sunday.

Today, my schedule includes a lunchtime run to get presents for Penny (and stuff to put in the advent calendar, and stocking stuffers, and a "Santa" present for Alex) and making arrangements for my office's holiday luncheon.

Christmas is in full swing -- it's a good thing I'm all about the hustle and bustle and domestic goddess-ness of it, this year!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Remember last week when Penny got sick and had to be sent home from school early?

Yeah, Alex got it on Saturday. Silly us, we thought, hey, Penny only threw up the once and then was fine, so surely Alex will get through it just as quickly. We forgot that his immune system is four years less experienced. He was sick all Saturday evening and into the night. He was fine Sunday, but then yesterday as I was getting his jacket on to head out for school, he threw up again. (Luckily, the only thing he'd had to eat so far was water.) So I got Penny to school and stayed home with him.

Today he seems mostly better -- or at least, enough better to be hungry and throw a temper tantrum over not being allowed real food for breakfast. But since he was sick yesterday afternoon, he can't go to daycare today anyway. (And Matt and I decided that since he was out Monday and Tuesday, and the place is closed Thursday and Friday, then we might as well keep him home Wednesday too, and just use our "vacation" week.)

On the other hand, Matt was feeling horrible this morning, so I don't know how long I'm at work for, today. And as I was driving to work, I started getting that thick-in-the-throat feeling that makes me think my turn is coming. (Further evidence: I forgot to bring a breakfast to work with me, but I'm not missing it. I'm not even sure I want to drink this coffee that I got myself.) Which makes me suspect that I'll be staying home tomorrow even if Matt is feeling better.

Just in time for Thanksgiving. It's starting to become a <a href="">family tradition</a>. I could do without this one, though.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


It's turning into one of those days where I kind of want to lock myself in the bathroom and not come out until midnight or so. I just can't seem to catch a break.

I can't get to the gym today because of a dentist appointment. I can't get to the gym tomorrow because of a school play. I can't go another week without getting my workouts in, or I'm going to turn into a snarling she-demon.

I can't seem to make time to write in the evenings, with make-up gym sessions and trying to get pictures sorted for scrapbooking and the godforsaken television and the endless idiot distractions on the computer.

I can't get the splinter out of my thumb.

I can't get through my 10-minute yoga routine without being interrupted half a dozen times. I can't find the time to figure out how to get the Wii Routine to give me 20 reps instead of 10. I can't keep my cool when I say it's time to go and suddenly the kids are doing everything except getting ready to go. I can't manage my temper when we're finally getting in the car and I have to drop everything to go back inside for library books.

I can't seem to keep up with all the crap piling up at work, even though the list looks like it ought to be trivial.

I can't keep up with the necessary holiday planning (and ordering) that needs to be done, already -- and I haven't even started figuring out the social events yet.

I can't maintain any enthusiasm for pointless and stupid shit. And today, it feels like 95% of my life is pointless stupid shit.

Sorry. Maybe tomorrow I'll be optimistic and energetic and perky. Today, you get the journal equivalent of shutting myself in the bathroom and sniveling in self-pity.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scattered Thoughts

The promotion and pay raise my boss has been promising me for about six months now finally got through all the corporate red tape, whoo! I honestly don't care about the promotion that much (I went from a "level 1" manager to a "level 2" manager, big whoop) but the pay raise was quite significant. (My boss ran a comparison to see what people in equivalent positions were making in this area, and came up with a median salary a solid $15,000 more than what I was making. Corporate balked at giving me the whole $15,000, but I got a significant chunk of it.) And he got the whole thing back-dated to the end of September, so in a month or six weeks, once it filters through HR, I'll get a check for the difference since then. That should help out with the Christmas bills!

Penny threw up after lunch yesterday, so they called Matt and sent her home early, and I told everyone in my office that I'd be working from home in the morning so I could stay home with her.

But when I got home, she was cheerful and perky and Matt told me that the nurse had said if she didn't throw up any more or come down with a fever, she could go back to school today. So I'm working from home, but Penny is at school. Whoo, an actually productive morning! (Despite myself, even, because I'm really not feeling it. But I've chugged through a whole stack of paperwork that piled up while I was out.)

I need to actually put it on my calendar to work from home at least once a month or so, because I really do burn through these piled-up tasks when I do.

If we let Alex watch TV in the morning before school, he throws a screaming fit when I turn it off and tell him it's time to get ready for school. If we don't let him watch TV, he pouts a little but is otherwise fine. I think it's time to pull the plug on morning TV for a while.

While Penny and I were in Atlanta, the faucet in the master bathroom tub got stuck so that you can't pull up the tab that switches it between tub and shower settings. If it had gotten stuck in "shower" mode, that would be reasonable, but of course it's stuck in "tub" mode, so Matt and I are taking our showers in the kids' bathroom until we can get it fixed. It's very annoying, so I need to remember to call someone to come and fix it. And as long as I'm getting that fixed, I might as well get some other things done -- like replacing the cracked window in the bedroom, fixing the door to the kids' bathroom so it can actually close all the way again, and having my pantry door rehung so it opens on the opposite side. Ahh, the joys of home ownership.

Apparently all the walking around I did in Atlanta balanced out all the eating I did, and I lost weight this week, which means I made my latest 10% goal. Five more pounds and I will be 1) officially "overweight" instead of "obese" and I will have lost 100 pounds, total. Those are both some really impressive milestones, so I think I'll wait until I hit that point before I pick out my goal rewards.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Super-short version: AWESOME trip, and I wish it could've been longer.

Short version:  Penny was incredibly well-behaved, for a six-year-old in a strange place, surrounded by family she doesn't remember meeting before, and having her schedule completely mucked with. She was less-than-thrilled about hanging out at the nursing home with my grandmother, but let's be honest -- so was I, really. And I have an entire childhood's worth of good memories to bolster me over the rough patches. And that was only an hour or so each day. For fun, we went to the Georgia Aquarium and to Zoo Atlanta, as well as a couple of different parks and some restaurants. I had at least as much fun as she did, and she had plenty. I definitely want to go back sometime, hopefully with the whole family.

And now I'm going to go into the longer version, with pictures.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida (I think?) were sweeping through on Thursday, and I was really afraid that our flight would be delayed or even canceled. (The good news is that school was canceled -- and canceled again on Friday -- so it turns out that Penny didn't actually miss any school for this trip.) But though it was very wet at the airport, our flight left right on time. And the winds were blowing hard enough to give us an extra push, and our flight landed a good twenty minutes early. We'd managed to squeak through without having to check any bags (yay, packing light!) so we breezed right on down and called my Aunt Sharon to come pick us up.

Sharon greeted us with balloons -- a pretty purple balloon for Penny, and a shiny "Happy Birthday" balloon for me, which was fun and sweet. Penny and Sharon took to each other right away, which made the whole visit much smoother, I'm sure.

When we got back to the house, Penny showed Sharon and my Uncle Bill the pictures I'd printed out for them (I'd ordered some prints a while back, but apparently they got lost in the mail, so I printed out a bunch on the printer at work).

After we'd unpacked and relaxed a little, we decided to go visit Grandmom for a bit before dinner. It was nearly time for Penny's snack, so we decided to pack the makings for "ants on a log" (celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins) and take it along with us. We even got Grandmom to eat one, which is good, because she's not eating much these days.

Penny wasn't too keen on the nursing home residents (and since they kept staring and touching her without permission, I can't say that I blame her too much), but she understood that Grandmom was special to me, and seemed to make an effort. She drew a picture of herself and me and Grandmom, and we left it on Grandmom's little refrigerator for her.

After our visit, we went back to Bill and Sharon's, and Penny helped Sharon make dinner, and even set the table (with a little help). Dinner was later than Penny's used to eating, but she was really patient. Being Sharon's helper gave her something to keep her occupied, at least. We didn't finish eating until fairly late, so we called Matt and talked to him a bit, then I got her tucked into bed close to 9:30.

The next day was Friday, and we decided we'd go to the aquarium in the morning. Uncle Bill, who was fighting a head cold, begged off, so Sharon and Penny and I headed over around mid-morning, close to opening time. The aquarium was fantastic. Touch tanks and gorgeous displays, lots of wonderful things to look at.

We went through most of the exhibits in about two hours or so, then paused for lunch. (The aquarium doesn't allow outside food or drinks, but their cafeteria's food was not too bad.) When that was done, we headed for the final exhibit: the ocean tank. That was simply amazing. It started with a clear tunnel that went under the tank, so you could see things swimming all around, and then emptied out into the main viewing room. The main viewing room was the size of a college lecture hall, and an entire wall -- two stories high and almost twice as wide -- was glassed over for viewing. As we came in, there were divers in the tank, even, as part of a brief show.

Aunt Sharon and I told Penny that it was up to her how long we stayed in there to watch the fish (the two of us could happily have spent the rest of the day!) but she barely budged for at least an hour. We had laminated cards to help us identify the various species, and she spent a while gleefully locating fish on it and reading their names for us. (We are sneakily educational.)

She was most excited about the whale sharks, though -- mostly, I suspect, because there was a Go, Diego, Go episode with a whale shark in it, so she remembered it from that, and was excited to be able to see a real one.  The aquarium had four of them, and they were all really magnificent.

Eventually, we headed for the gift shop, where Penny agonized over the toys. I found her a little whale shark, but somewhat to my surprise, she rejected it in favor of a little pink-and-green seahorse. I got some t-shirts for Matt and Alex, and we headed back to the house to rest a little.

Once she'd had a snack, Penny was revived and ready for more fun, so all four of us went to a little park/playground that was just a couple of streets over. The place was swarming with kids, and Penny had a great time running around and climbing on things. She even got me to play with her some.

We went over to visit Grandmom after dinner, which was a short visit, because both Grandmom and we were pretty tired.

Penny was up bright and early Saturday morning, and ready to go to the zoo! Unfortunately for her, the zoo didn't open until 9:30, so she had to wait. But we were there within minutes of it opening!

The zoo was fantastic, too. It was very clean and bright, and the animals all seemed quite healthy and content. We were a little disappointed that the male lions didn't seem to want to come out of their den, but we could hear them roaring, which was a thrilling sound, and Penny was happy to see the mother lion sunning on her rock.

I could've watched the gorillas and the orangutans for an hour, but Penny wasn't quite that patient. Still we took things nice and easy, and got to see almost everything. The pandas were adorable, even if the cubs were nearly full-grown and not nearly so cub-ish anymore. We spent lots of time in the reptile house, where Penny was thrilled by the snakes and turtles. She was slightly dubious about the petting zoo, but once she'd started, she got a lot more enthusiastic.

We breezed past the tail end of the Australia exhibit, since I'd made a late lunch date with my cousin who lives in Atlanta, and we didn't want to be late. But it was probably just as well, since Penny was showing signs of getting tired by then.

Penny and I went solo to meet my cousin and her boyfriend for lunch. I haven't seen her for years, so Penny didn't remember her, but we had a nice time and ate some really wonderful food at a little cafe just across the street from their apartment building. When we'd eaten, we went to a huge park that was across the road from both, where Penny was enthusiastic about the ducks on the lake, and then ran around like crazy on one of the playgrounds. She even talked my cousin into sitting opposite her on the see-saw.

That evening, we went with Uncle Bill and Aunt Sharon over to visit Grandmom, and decided to take her out for dinner. We wound up at Ruby Tuesdays, which wasn't very exciting, but they were patient with our slow eating.

The next day was Sunday, time to travel home. Penny watched a movie on their house theater (seriously: projector and movie screen) while I packed, and then we all headed over to Grandmom's again to have lunch and say goodbye. When she figured out we were leaving, she asked to accompany us to the airport, so we squeezed into the car so she could ride along -- and were happy to do so, because it meant she was feeling stronger and a little more alert.

It was a really wonderful trip, and there were so many wonderful things to do in Atlanta that we just didn't have time for; I really can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Up Up and Away!

Both kids are out of school today. Both schools are taking advantage of a minor holiday to have teacher workdays and staff development days. Which is kind of a pain for us, but I guess they have to do that sort of thing at some point.

So Matt's got the kids at home today. I think there's a plan in the works for him to take them down to visit KT and Jess for the morning and early afternoon, which sounds like a great plan to me, since it's rainy and "outside" is not an option.

In the meantime, I'm going to a parent-teacher conference with Penny's teacher around 9, and I need to get my allergy shot at some point today, and I also need to swing by the bank and cash/deposit a bunch of checks to get them out of my purse and so I have some cash on hand for the trip. And since that will eat up a couple of hours pretty easily, I came into work early.

Also on my plate for today: make a menu for next week and put together the shopping list; remember to bring my iPod/iPhone charger home from work so I can pack it; put gas in the car; do our packing; make up airport security-friendly lunches for us to take with us on the plane (we'll be in the air from 11 until 1, and while I'd be okay with postponing lunch until 1:30 or 2 myself, Penny will need to eat).

...Yep, still excited. Can you tell? Probably won't have time to do email posts while I'm on the road, but look for an oodle of pictures early next week!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I had a great birthday yesterday! Thanks to everyone who sent me a note or an email -- they really kept me smiling!

The post office had great timing, too; I got home yesterday to find three cards and a package from my mother-in-law!  After dinner (and the mousse dessert, which Matt and Penny decorated with candles in binary -- hee!) I sat down to open all the cards and presents, and had a blast.  Matt continued the geek-love theme with a copy of Neil Gaiman's Odd and the Frost Giants, the DVD for The Guild, and an iTunes gift card, all of which filled me with warm fuzzies.  The package from Jill turned out to be a book I've never heard of but which sounds really interesting and fun, something with math and chess, so I guess she was on board (even if unwittingly) with the whole geek theme.

And Matt's grandparents sent a check, which I'll add to the check from my parents to help fund some of the fun stuff for the trip to Atlanta.

I spent part of yesterday on the websites for the Atlanta zoo and aquarium, trying to decide. Right now, I'm waffling between getting the ticket for both, or just going to the zoo. The zoo certainly presents as cheaper and friendlier, I have to say: cheaper admission, free parking, picnic areas where you can bring in your own food... The aquarium doesn't have their ticket prices posted in one place (you have to log in to buy a ticket before they'll tell you what it costs, but there's no place that I could find that lists all the different ticket types with prices and explains the differences), and while it brags about the $1 parking discount for military folks, it doesn't say what the initial parking cost is. And there's no outside food or beverages allowed. The website was so unhelpful, it actually made me want to go to the aquarium less.

On the other hand, the zoo's FAQ helpfully says that most visitors finish their tour in 3-4 hours, which would leave us plenty of time to split a day and do both parks. And aquariums are really cool -- and lots of people have told me that this particular aquarium is worth visiting. So... I'm waffling. I might wait until we're actually there and see what else my aunt has dug up in the way of possible entertainment.

Either way, I'm really excited for this trip. I'm sure we'll have a really fantastic time, and I can't wait!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hippo Birdie To Me

Very excellent weekend. It started Friday morning when I looked at my work schedule and realized I couldn't actually take today off, but that nothing of note was happening that day, so I took Friday off instead. I ran some errands, did some for-me fun shopping (scrapbooking store, whoo!) and stopped at Cold Stone Creamery for my free birthday ice cream. (Or in my case, my free birthday frozen yogurt.)

Saturday, since Matt had an event in the evening, we went out to eat for lunch to Penny's current favorite restaurant, where she got to eat her fill of sushi and shrimp, and Alex got to play with chopsticks.

After that, Alex took a nap while Penny and I went to get our haircuts. When we were almost done, I called home and Matt woke Alex up from his nap to bring him in for a cut, too. That actually worked out in our favor: since he was still pretty logy from being woken, he didn't kick up a fuss or wiggle very much while getting his hair cut. My stylist raved about how calm and well-behaved he was. (Matt, being the wonderful, understanding guy that he is, not only brought Alex in, but he also brought me a ziploc baggie so I could save those little blonde curls for my scrapbook, and my camera so I could take good pictures.)

I spent part of Saturday afternoon and evening baking: gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I had to make some changes to the recipe so that they'd have enough ginger and spices in them, but they turned out really quite well. Though now I have a huge bag of whole wheat flour that I have no idea what to do with... Guess I'll be researching cookies that go well with whole wheat flour instead of white. (Hmm, I wonder if it would work for moon cookies. One batch of that uses 8 cups of flour; even with only a half-substitution, that'd put a big dent in my leftover flour. Might make the cookies a little less smooth, though. Well, it's a notion.)

Sunday morning, I prepped the three-color mousse that we're having for my birthday (it made twice as much as I was expecting; guess we'll be eating this for a while!) and then after lunch, I took a nap (Penny had kept me up for an hour or so with a nightmare). I woke up just as Alex was waking up from his nap, so I located Penny (who got a stern lecture about not telling us where she was going -- Matt thought she was at Ray's, but I found her at Nate and Pete's house, playing video games.) and we headed down to my parents'.

We had a really nice time chatting with my folks and John and Sam, and dinner was very tasty (mmm, steak!) and my gingerbread cupcakes were very well-received, despite being "diet" cupcakes. (The 8 of us consumed 12 normal-sized cupcakes and 16 minis, between us.)

So, all in all, a really excellent weekend. And I've already had a dozen well-wishes today (thanks to the miracle of Facebook!) which is just an excellent start to the day, even if I have to be at work. Matt gave me a copy of Wil Wheaton's Just A Geek, which he'd bought before I belatedly added it to my wishlist last week. And someone sent me a Dr. Horrible t-shirt with Captain Hammer's line, "I don't go to the gym. I'm just naturally like this." which I plan to wear, of course, to the gym.  (I'd had this on my wishlist, but it isn't actually available at the place I linked to it anymore, which makes me suspect the person who hunted it down elsewhere and got it for me would be Karen, because she's the undisputed master of tracking down weird things on the internet. And also Karen told me a few days ago that I should expect a package from her soonish. But I could be wrong, since it didn't come with a packing slip or any other information that might tell me where it came from. So Karen, or whoever you are, thank you -- I can't wait to wear it!)

There are definitely worse ways to start off a week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Finally Friday

Oh, thank goodness it's Friday. This week has felt ridiculously long, and I was ready for it to be over on Wednesday.

Not that anything particularly bad has happened, at least not to me. Mostly, it's just been kind of slow, with nothing to really hold my attention except the passage of time and wishing for the more fun/interesting/relaxing/exciting days to come.

Though I have to say, the coconut-curry chicken I made last night was awesome, and I'm definitely adding it to the regular rotation. It tasted almost exactly like my favorite Indian dish, both kids ate it (though I think most of Penny's enthusiasm was for the couscous), and it's more or less diet-friendly.

This morning got off to a bit of a rocky start, since Penny wanted to play on the Wii and there wasn't time for Alex to watch any Sesame Street before we left for school. He was pretty mad about that, fought having his jacket put on, and then was angry at me in the car for a good 3/4 of the ride. Penny jollied him out of the mood by singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" about four times in a row, but then when we got to school, he got mad again when I had the nerve to take off his jacket! What was I thinking?!

So yeah, hoping for a calm day and a good weekend, and I'm looking forward to next week a lot. Monday's my birthday, and I'm taking it off from work if I can, so there may or may not be a post before Tuesday. We'll see what happens. I make no promises!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

7 February 2000 I'm back from SheVaCon, and there are pictures! Get ready for the rundown; this is likely to be long...

Friday: Matt and I both left work early and came home around noon. We had some lunch, packed, loaded the car, double-checked all of our things, and swore a lot as I looked for the few Magic cards I'd kept because of the artwork (I wanted to take some for NeNe Thomas to sign) and Matt looked for the first book of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, which had gone missing. I found the cards, but Matt never did find the book.

Around three, we hit the road. Fortunately, I'd been planning on leaving town around three. Unfortunately, I'd only remembered one of the four errands we needed to run before leaving town. So I was somewhat grumpy by the time we'd put gas in the car, ordered some flowers for Ashby's father's funeral, stopped by the Cube for our comics, and stopped at the bank for some cash. (The one I'd remembered was the bank. No, I don't know how I'd thought I'd make it all the way to Roanoke on a quarter-tank of gas.)

But we were on our way out of town by four. I spent two years living in Blacksburg, driving back to Williamsburg to visit at least once a month, so I've done the drive to Roanoke (which is just a bit before Blacksburg if you're driving south on I-81) multiple times. I've only ever been in Roanoke three times, though, so I was a little nervous about being able to find the hotel. The directions from MapQuest were fairly clear, however, and it sounded like the hotel was immediately off Roanoke's beltway, I-581. Matt, remembering that the dome light in my car is burnt out, wisely memorized the directions before the sun went down, and helped scan the radio stations for something - anything - to listen to. (I swear, my next car will have a tape or CD deck in it!)

Luckily, the hotel was immediately off I-581. We could see it as we approached the exit. It's a good thing, too, because MapQuest's directions would've gotten us hopelessly lost. First, though they told us to take the exit onto Hershberger Road, they didn't tell us which direction. Second, they suggested that once we were on Hershberger Road, we'd turn left into the hotel's parking lot. Um. Well, we did turn left into the hotel parking lot, but only after we'd made two right turns onto the side street the hotel is actually on! This is at least the third time that I've had bad directions from internet map services. I think from now on I'll insist on personal directions for at least the last few stages of trips!

The view from our hotel room balconyI can say without reservation that the hotel was definitely the nicest hotel I've ever been to a con in. It was even one of the nicest hotels I've ever been in at all. The room was fairly standard - narrow entryway, bed, desk, annoyingly un-fitted sheets on the bed, dim lamps - but the public areas were simply lovely, and we had a real, if small, balcony which overlooked a very attractive courtyard. We got checked in and our things deposited in our room, and headed down to the convention area to check in.

Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, authors of the Liad UniverseSince the whole reason I'd wanted to attend SheVaCon in the first place was that Steve Miller and Sharon Lee would be there, I insisted that my first stop be the dealer's room, where I planned to find their's publisher's table and hope he had some idea of where they might be. Stephe Pagel, co-owner and editor for Meisha Merlin Publishing, turned out to be one of the sweetest people you'd ever want to meet. He chatted with us about his dog, and how he and his partner chose the name for their company (it's named after their two dogs), and some of the other books he's released recently, and half-a-dozen other things. While I was talking with him, Steve and Sharon came in, and I finally got to meet them.

Steve, Sharon, Leila, and LizI knew from being on their mailing list that they were friendly and personable and didn't - like so many authors do - look down on their fans as being lesser people. (In fact, I got to sit in on a panel where Steve disparaged authors with this attitude, which was fun.) I was unprepared for their memories, though. I don't post very often to the list, so I'm not one of the more prominent members of the society. But they read the name on my badge and immediately knew who I was. Steve remembered that he'd been the one to send me my copy of Carpe Diem over a year ago when I'd posted a complaint to the list that I couldn't find it anywhere. They introduced me to another list member, Leila, who'd arrived earlier.

Just one of the mighty battles we witnessedImmediate need satisfied, Matt and I gave in to the urgings of a large man with a sword, who suggested that we check out the Festival of Fools. This was a sort of medieval faire, with games, palm-readings, tarot-readings, and body-paintings. You paid for your turn at the stations with tickets bought at the door. I paid two tickets for a henna wristband, and Matt played a ball-tossing game. In the middle of the room was floorspace set aside for a series of gladatorial combats, played with foam-and-duct-tape weapons, which was very entertaining to watch. There were four or so small children who were barely taller than the weapons. Some of them weren't quite sure what was going on, and some jumped right in with admirable ferocity. And some of the older folks obviously had spent some time practicing with these weapons and were quite skilled. It made for a fun show.

Saturday: Matt and I had looked over the schedule on Friday, and each picked out several panels and workshops we were interested in attending, starting as early as 10 on Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the writer's workshop and found that there were no attendance restrictions. Allen Wold ran a wonderful workshop, and I got some very good feedback from the panel (which included Sharon Lee!) on my story.

Matt and I decided to have lunch at the hotel's restaurant. Matt, trying to stick to his diet, ordered what looked like the most healthy thing (short of a salad) on the menu - roasted chicken. The waitress warned us that it would probably take fifteen or twenty minutes to prepare, and left after our reassurance that we weren't in any hurries. A minute later, she was back, apologetically explaining that because the roasted chicken wasn't a very popular item, they didn't have the ingredients in stock! She didn't even have the guts to lie to us and say that they'd just run out! Matt and I were flabbergasted.

Liz with Peter WoodwardAfter lunch, I agonized. There were two panels I wanted to attend, one by Peter Woodward (who played Galen on the B5 spinoff, Crusade) on the future of Crusade, and one with a panel of guests called "Humor in SF." (I should say here that the writer Guest of Honor, Tad Williams, had been forced to cancel at the last minute due to a family crisis, and so the rest of the guests were working double-time to make up for the holes in panels and shows.) I thought I'd start with the Crusade discussion, and then leave half-way through to go to the humor panel. But Peter Woodward turned out to be such an interesting speaker that I stayed for his entire talk. He spoke briefly about Crusade's future - in short, no one really knows - and moved on to the future of science fiction in television in general. The audience was fairly small (it was a smallish con) and we wound up spending about forty-five minutes asking him questions that may or may not have had anything to do with the topic assigned. It turned out that he's not actually a science-fiction enthusiast himself - his passion is for historical weaponry. He talked to us for a bit about the documentary he's suggesting to the History Channel, and I hope they take it, because it sounds fascinating.

That evening, while Matt participated in a LARP, I went to see the Guest of Honor speeches (which turned into a general discussion with the audience again), Masquerade, and charity auction.

Ugly costume Phantom Menace costumesThe Masquerade was in general not terribly impressive - mostly "period" costumes of greater or lesser authenticity, a few cute kids, and a couple of embarassingly revealing costumes worn by aging and sagging women who really ought to be taken aside and gently told. There were a couple of costumes of note. To the left, we have the actually well-put-together dress made of hideously ugly metallic pink quilted material (and worn by yet another woman trying to act flirtateous and coquettish and failing miserably). To the right, the Masquerade's winning set - beautifully rendered Phantom Menace costumes made by the children's mother. (Their father, who is cut off in this picture, made a very good Qui-Gon Jin, but since it was the tiny Amidala costume which was the most impressive, that's what I'm showing you here. You can see all three of them in the photo album.)

Sunday: We left relatively early on Sunday, after picking up a few last-minute things from the dealer's room. There weren't any panels on Sunday that we particularly wanted to attend, and while I usually enjoy art auctions, we really couldn't afford to stay quite that late. So we sat in on the tail of a panel so I could say goodbye to Steve and Sharon, and were on our way by 11. The cat was glad to see us, and we even managed to get all of our laundry done before bed!

All in all, it was a very good con: small enough that we actually got to talk to the authors and artists, but not so small that it was boring. They had some really good panel topics (and some really bizarre ones - I went to one panel on "Heretics in SF" just to see what it was about only to discover when I got there that the panelists had no idea, either), good food in the con suite, and a nice variety of dealers in the dealer's room. (Buttons! I haven't seen decent button dealers at cons for years! And I bought some jewelery I can only wear to other cons, and some drape-style shirts that I hope I can get away with wearing to work once in a while. And books, of course.) There were some slow moments when I went back to our room to relax, and that was good too, because I always need to get away from people for a little while at cons. I got to meet some authors I admire, and learned about a book coming out that sounds very interesting.

And I got to swipe some Bath and Body Works shampoo from the hotel.
It's Thursday, though it feels like it ought to be Friday.

Still, the end of the week is nearly here. Saturday, Penny and I have an appointment to get our hair cut. (And Alex, too, though he'll come in separately, with Matt, so he's not running around getting into things while I'm getting my hair cut.) And I'll make the cupcakes for my birthday party Sunday.

Sunday, I'll make the frozen mousse dessert for my actual birthday, and then we'll go down to my parents' for my birthday party.

Monday is my birthday. I'm going to try to take it off from work, depending on what the delivery schedule is.

Tuesday will be a regular work day, and then Wednesday I'm going to the parent-teacher conference with Penny's teacher. (Matt and I would both go, except both kids' schools are closed, so he's staying home to keep an eye on Alex. If Alex was at daycare, he could just bring Penny in and let her play while we talked with the teacher, but Alex needs a little more supervision.)

And then next Thursday, Penny and I will be boarding a plane to go to Atlanta, whoo! I'm looking forward to this trip so much, it's a little weird.

I started my Christmas planning spreadsheet yesterday. I think it's in pretty good shape for having just gotten started -- I've already got ideas for most of the people who usually give me trouble, which is nice.  And I've started putting together the photo calendars that I suspect are going to be our traditional gifts to certain family members, at least until the kids stop being so danged cute.  I'll probably go ahead and order a bunch of the gifts as soon as I run the ideas past Matt.  No sense waiting, and that'll reduce the "OMG WILL IT SHIP IN TIME?" stress in December.

It feels a bit early to be planning, but when I look at the calendar and see everything that's coming, and everything we need to schedule (like the Moon Cookie party, and Matt wants to throw an honest-to-gosh Christmas party this year, and family events, and making sure I get some Christmas-y photos right after Thanksgiving for cards and the calendars, and...) then it's probably not too soon, after all.

I'm feeling good about the holidays this year. I want them to be magical and exciting. I want to have fun decorating the house, inside and out. I want the kids to have a fantastic time -- heck, I want everyone to have a fantastic time. Heck, I even volunteered to coordinate the office's holiday luncheon.

I haven't been this excited about Christmas in years. I don't know why -- too tired, too busy, too stressed? Whatever. I've missed this excitement, and now that it's back, I want it to stay.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Having Penny with me at work went more smoothly than I'd expected.  The hardest part was that I had two separate meetings to attend, an hour and a half each, and because they were conference calls where my mike was open the whole time (and in fact, for the second one, I was the meeting leader) she wasn't allowed to talk at all.

Anyone who knows Penny knows what an incredible challenge this was for her, and I have to say, she did a fantastic job.  I can't say she managed to stay completely silent, but she reined in the whispering as much as she could, and found ways to entertain herself that were only minimally distracting.  I was so proud of her that I packed up shortly after the second meeting and left work a bit early to take her shopping, and bought her several things by way of reward for having been so good all day.  And Matt let her get an extra toy back when he went through the nightly chore list with her.

As usual, she felt it was necessary to redecorate my office while she was here.  This time, she decided that since my office doesn't have any windows, she would create an outdoor scene for me on my door.

It's not the clearest picture ever, but if you click through to the Flickr page, I added notes to say what each picture is.  Honestly, given that she only had highlighters and a pencil to work with, I don' t think she did too badly.