Monday, August 31, 2009


This weekend's big event was my brother's art exhibition reception. This is his Master's thesis, and he's been working on it like a dog all summer. Not making the art -- I think the newest piece in the show was done last last year -- but finding a venue (he wound up using the hallways of the middle school where he'll be teaching this year), making invitations and researching print costs, building the catalog, and getting all his pieces framed. (I thought having everything framed was vaguely ridiculous -- oil paintings can be shown unframed, and some of the texture pieces might have been easier to examine without cases -- but it's apparently a requirement. I guess the school wants to make sure their students start off on the appropriate "starving artist" level -- John wound up having to get cases custom made from a shop in Chicago for the 3-D pieces, and he and my dad hand-built most of the other frames. Which is no mean trick, as there were over 20 pieces in the show, several of them taller than me.)

And Sam has been working nearly as hard; not knowing how many people to expect at the reception yesterday, she assumed the standard rule that about 1/3 of the people you invite to a party will show up, and so she's been planning, buying, and making food for somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 people.

John had asked me to be the "official" photographer for the event, which I was happy to do, not being able to help out much otherwise. I mostly avoided taking pictures of the art itself, since John's got it all posted on his Facebook page, but now I kind of wish I'd taken more, because it was really cool stuff.

Matt and I are buying a couple of pieces, in fact. We desperately want one more, but since it's six feet tall and twelve feet long, there's no way we could fit it into our house in any reasonable way. And at that size, none of the printers John has talked to have any way to produce smaller prints. John and I talked about my possibly getting some really quality photos of it, after the show is done, to make poster-sized prints of it. We'll see what we can manage.

All in all, John's done some wonderful things, and I hope he's as proud of himself as I am.

The reception was by invitation only, but the show's open to the public through Thursday this week -- if you're in the area and at all interested, let me know and I'll send you the location information.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Passive Aggressive

One of the managers that I work for is, in person, a really nice guy. But in email -- which is about 80% of my interaction with him -- he can be the most annoyingly passive-aggressive bullshit artist in the universe.

To whit, the following email exchange:

Him: Can you put together a list of all the procedures we've documented for this project?

Me: Here you go.

Him: Do you have any recommendations on what other procedures we need to put together?

Me: Well, the procedure for X is being written, and the one for Y is on hold pending resolution of an issue, and in a couple of months, we'll need one for Z.

Him (and this is a direct and complete quote of his entire email, sans signature block): Given what your other projects have done, no others?


Okay, seriously, I'm an adult. If you think I'm missing something, tell me. I'll either tell you why I left it out, or admit that I hadn't thought of it and add it to the list. There's no purpose at all to trying to lead me to it, like a parent prompting a child. ("And what do we say to Grandma, now?")

I'm developing a reputation at my office for being the person who will voice the ugly truth, and without trying to dress it up too much. I called this manager down earlier this week already, when he let a meeting drag on forty minutes past its scheduled quitting time. (Specifically, I said, "Hey! I've got another meeting in fifteen minutes, and I'd really like to eat lunch today." Because the scheduled quitting time had been noon, for petesake.)

The good news is that most of the managers I work with (including this one) actually appreciate this quality in me. The other good news is that I don't work for this manager; I work with him. My boss not only appreciates my bluntness, he applauds it. (Sometimes literally. When I tell him I've had to deliver a verbal smackdown to one of the managers, he high-fives me. Once or twice, he's even applauded when he's been the manager I've had to smack down. I like my boss. He does not suffer fools gladly, and he expects others to not suffer him when he's being a fool.)

So I called Passive-Aggressive Man and I said, "So it sounds like you've got something particular in mind."

And he said, "Well, I thought we could use a procedure for N."

And -- because I'm an adult -- I said, "Oh, sure. Hadn't thought of that; thanks for reminding me. Yeah, I can put something together for N."

How freaking hard was that? Sheesh.

Speaking of passive-aggressive, I can't decide whether to laugh or despair at Alex. He's working on talking so hard, I can practically see steam rising from his tow-headed curls. Practically any word we say to him, he'll take a stab at repeating. He's still really bad at it, but he's only two, and most kids under four aren't all that comprehensible. He'll get there.

He's even venturing tentatively into the land of multi-word combinations. One of his favorite things to do at dinner is point to each person's cup of milk by turns and say, "Mi'!" To which we respond with, "Yes! That's Mommy's milk! Yes! That's Daddy's milk! That's Penny's milk! That's Alex's milk!"

Last night, he pointed at my cup and said, "Mi'!" I said, "Yes, that's Mommy's milk." He said, "Mommy! Mi'!"

"Yes, Mommy's milk! Very good!"

Then he pointed to his own cup and said, entirely without prompting, "Lah-le mi'!" ("Lah-le" is how he says his own name. X is a hard letter to pronounce.) So he's starting to glom onto the notion that words can be used to modify or clarify the meanings of other words, which is pretty cool.

He's even starting to get the idea that words can be used to explain other words. He was trying to say something to me later at dinner. "Ha! Ha!" I thought he was talking about the ham he was eating. "Yes, that's ham!" Finally, he gave me a look and waved. "Bye-bye!" "Um, okay, bye-bye. Where are you going?" "Bye-bye! Ha!"

"...Oh! You mean HI!" I waved. "Hi!"

He waved back, relieved that I had finally caught on. "Ha!"

I thought it was pretty nifty that he figured out using "bye-bye" to link it to "hi" for me.

But the one thing we can not get him to do is utter any variation on the word "please." He'll repeat anything else we tell him to say, and frequently exhibit some understanding of what it is. "Alex, say 'dinosaur'!" "Di-doh! Rarr!" "Can you say 'star'?" "Tah? Up-high!" (When he sees a picture of a star, he calls it an up-high. That wire may not uncross for a while, I guess.)

"Alex, can you say 'please'?"


Nothing. Won't do it. He'll bring me a book, begging to be read to. "Book! Book!"

"Say 'please'."

"Book! Up!" He'll lift his arms, demanding to be picked up.

"Say 'please', Alex."


"Can you say 'please'?"

And then he gives up and walks away.

Every time. Sometimes he gets upset, sometimes he decides it's just not that important, but he will not say it.

Kid's gonna be a right stinker. I can tell.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Yeah, I can be awfully damned whiny sometimes, can't I?

I still hate my job. But I'm coping a little better today.

I made a modified Cobb Salad for dinner last night, and it turned out much better than I'd expected. Penny loved it -- she especially liked the avocado, which was a new food for her -- and even Alex ate most of the bits and pieces I put in his bowl! (He got the meat and cheese and egg and avocado and orange bell pepper. I knew better than to try him on broccoli, cucumber, or lettuce. I flat out forgot to put tomatoes on the salads, too, or he'd have eaten that as well.)

Anyway, it was fewer points and much more filling than I expected it to be, and Matt and Penny were both so enthusiastic that I think I'll be trying to make it more often.

After dinner I went to book club, and we had a baby shower for Becky, which was fun.

Reactions to the book (Waiter Rant) were mixed, but we enjoyed talking about it and the experiences it reminded us of, so I'm calling it a success. (Books I suggest are not always such good picks.)

They're even taking a chance on another of my recommendations (The Graveyard Book) for our October book. Though I think that hung on the fact that Heather -- who we tease for never liking the books -- said she'd already read it and loved it, and had moved on to M Is for Magic and Coraline and wanted my suggestion for other Gaiman books to try. Since Heather wasn't part of the book club yet when we did American Gods, I suggested that. (It got pretty mixed reviews from the book club, too -- it's kind of an in-joke that the books I suggest are going to be about as far as you can get from chick lit and other usual "book clubby" books, and that our opinions on them are going to vary pretty wildly.)

Today, Matt's taking Penny down to Chesapeake to have a long play date with Jess. So they took Alex to school for me, and I got to work most of an hour earlier than usual, which is nice. (It's especially nice if they end up staying down there for dinner, rather than fighting the traffic to come back, and I have to leave a bit early to pick Alex up.) Penny's been excited about this for a week, so I hope they have a fantastic time.

Next week, I'm taking a day off to take Penny to the beach, which I'd promised to do this summer. I figure I'll just take her to Yorktown beach, which is more river than ocean, but it's not all that different an experience (deep salty water, sandy beach -- the waves are smaller, but she's six, for petesake). That way, if the novelty wears off after only an hour or so, we haven't put in an hour and change to get down to the "real" beach, and we can go do something else -- go shopping, or visit my parents, or something. The key (for me, anyway) is to get in some one-on-one time with Penny, because as fantastic as she is with Alex, he does eat up a lot of attention, and I think it'll be good for her to get some time in the spotlight.

And somewhere around the middle of September, Matt's taking a week off. One of his stated goals for the week is to work on cleaning/purging the house, and then imposing some organization on what remains -- especially the kids' stuff. I'm all in favor of this plan, so I plan to take a couple of days (or a day and a couple of half-days, or whatever I can wangle, given my work schedule) to help him out. Which won't be very relaxing, but it might do a lot for my state of mind.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I'm tired.

Not sleepy, though I'm almost always happy to contemplate a return to bed. But it's not the kind of tired that I think sleep will fix.

I'm tired of my job. I'm tired of being taken for granted. I'm tired of the endless meetings and administrivia and paperwork that no one cares about. I'm tired of being a necessary evil rather than a valuable resource. I'm tired of feeling like I could dry up and blow away and no one would even notice. I'd quit in an instant if I thought I had a single skill that I could market elsewhere.

I'm tired of my body. I'm tired of the endless aches in my knee and back. I'm tired of the fuzzy hearing. I'm tired of my ugly hair and the bags under my eyes. I'm tired of the cravings for things I shouldn't have. I'm tired of the constant lack of energy (that diet and exercise were supposed to fix, dammit). I may be getting thinner, but I'm not getting any younger.

I'm tired of my house. I'm tired of the clutter that I can't get rid of. I'm tired of the mess that no amount of cleaning up seems to fix. I'm tired of the carpet, I'm tired of the walls, I'm tired of the furniture. I wish I could have six months and the budget to throw every single thing out and start over from scratch.

I'm tired of my life. I'm tired of reading the same four books to Alex over and over and over. I'm tired of trying to make sense of Penny's random questions. I'm tired of the treadmill of routine. I'm tired of participating in endless chatter but failing to be involved in a single conversation. I'm tired of being adequate at a lot of things but excelling at nothing.

I'm tired of being so whiny and pathetic.

God, I hope this is PMS.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I got to bed before 11 last night, but I'm still dragging this morning. I slept oddly; every little thing seemed to wake me up. Matt coming to bed, the cat settling himself by my ankles, the feel of my own bones under my skin... (Seriously, my hips felt bruised and achey, like I was pregnant again. Maybe now that I am less cushion-y myself, it's time to look into a softer mattress.) And when I slept, my dreams were disturbing.

Maybe I'll chalk it up to the disturbing stuff I was writing last night. Or that I just started reading The Graveyard Book (yes, I'm running quite behind).

Whatever the case, by the time our alarms started blaring at us this morning, the bed had resolved its softness issues and was warm and cozy and inviting, and the rest of the world... not so much.

It doesn't help that 6am is only barely past dawn, so it's still fairly dark and dreary-looking. Nor does it help that I'm looking at a day chock-full of hideous meetings (I am literally triple-booked for about half an hour this afternoon, in fact, and double-booked for at least two more hours across the day). I won't be getting to the gym at lunchtime, that's for sure. (Though I have to leave the building somehow, so I brought in my camera, and will go out for half an hour and take pictures of the flowers or something.)

The fact that I am here at all, writing this and marshaling my strength and resources instead of running screaming for the hills is, I think, a testament to my dedication and devotion.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What You Ask For

Well, I got the lazy weekend I'd asked for, but I hadn't accounted for the problem with having nothing (or at least not much) to do: When I don't have anything else to do, I get eat.

Which was especially a problem on Saturday, because Saturday night, we were joining Elizabeth and various other friends for a dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate her birthday. (Happy birthday, Elizabeth!) So I was trying to save up my points so I would have more options at dinner. Except I couldn't seem to stop eating all day.

I managed to control it enough that when we got to dinner, I didn't have to order the dry chicken breast and water, but I spent the whole day wrestling with myself and wondering what the hell was wrong with me. And then we got to dinner and though it was great to see everyone and it was fun to chat (when I was able)... all the other women were able to do the girl thing and not even finish their meals, while it was all I could do to not lick my plate and then start snitching bits from Alex's unfinished pasta. Again: what the hell is wrong with me?

(I know this is a gripe that more legitimately belongs over on the diet blog, except that it drove me crazy all weekend, so... sorry.)

So I was feeling like an utter pig (and sort of unsatisfied, foodwise, to boot) and when the kids and cat conspired to wake me up at 6:15 Sunday morning and keep me up, I was in the foulest of foul moods. I managed to avoid snarling at the kids, but only through intense self-awareness that my bad mood had nothing to do with them. I put off eating breakfast until nearly 10, afraid to start another day's cycle of uncontrollable eating.

Going to the grocery store, weirdly, helped. By the time I got home, I was hungry but willing to be hungry. (I'm on a diet, after all; I spend about 80% of my waking hours hungry. Most of the time, I'm able to just acknowledge it and move on.) Naturally, I guess, since there was nothing I actually wanted to reserve points for. Eventually, I had lunch, and when I felt myself getting antsy again in the afternoon, I decided it was time to get out of the house again.

So I left the kids with Matt and went to Target, ostensibly to shop for a baby shower gift, but after I'd picked out a bunch of cute outfits for the baby-to-be, I wandered through the adult clothing section. I forcibly resisted buying new shirts -- I just finished overhauling my short-sleeved wardrobe, and need to save up for my fall/winter clothes -- but did spot some pants I thought looked good, and I do need better-fitting pants. So I tried on about eight pairs, and wound up keeping three. (I still can't wear pants without elastic waists. Fitted waist pants always gap at the back and show off my undies. It's ridiculous. I can't be the only woman on the planet with a shelf in the back, can I? C'mon, designers -- three darts would take care of the problem!)

Noo ShoosAnd then I walked past the shoe section about twelve times until I decided fine, I'd go ahead and buy the high-heeled demi-boots I saw a few weeks ago. Call it retail therapy for my bad mood. I almost bought a pair of high-heeled mary janes that actually made my ankles look less puffy, but decided that I needed to restrict my unnecessary shoe purchases to one pair at a time. Especially since I haven't worn heels on anything like a regular basis since high school. (Seriously. I even wore flats to my wedding.)

I was feeling somewhat better by the time I got home -- whether it was the adorable baby clothes, or the frivolous shoes, or the outing itself, I don't know and don't much care.

So when the kids were in dire need of entertainment and Matt dug out the backyard pool, I grabbed my camera and had a blast taking pictures.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cruel Eld

My new reading glasses are going to take some getting used to.

I had thought, when I ordered them, that I'd be able to use them for being on the computer, as well, and thus about 85% of my working day. Alas, the reading glasses are useful to exactly the tips of my fingers when I reach my arm out in front of me, and my computer monitor at work is a good foot and a half or two feet further away than that, when I'm sitting back and have the keyboard tray pulled out.

So either I need to rearrange my desk to bring the monitor closer, or I'm switching back and forth rather more frequently than I'd like, or I'm just sucking it up and using my "normal activity" glasses for reading at work. I'm still playing around with it; I'll figure it out eventually.

They worked fairly well at the gym (I read while I'm working out) though I had to take them off whenever I was actually walking anywhere or risk bumping into things. Walking back to the car, carrying my book, iPhone, headphones, glasses, and keys in my tired and sweaty hands, I dropped the phone twice and began to consider the notion that I need a small bag to carry my workout gear around with me.

After I'd showered and changed, though, I thought I'd take a stab at writing for an hour or so, so I pulled my laptop onto my lap and then put on the reading glasses, and ZWOM! the screen was suddenly enormous and I could see the actual pixels making up the letters on the screen. No, seriously, the screen was magnified by at least 5%, which doesn't sound like much but was actually quite shocking.

I observed as much to my twitter feed, then realized that being excited about reading glasses is quite likely the oldest thing I've ever done.

And the fact that I'm hoping to spend a significant portion of the weekend sleeping and reading is not helping my case any, I suspect.

Ah, well. If I actually worried about getting old, I'd be a lot older already.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Delivery Day


Software delivery today. Three pieces of software, actually. I'm still waiting on the final test report that will let me sign off on the software. (For that matter, I'm still waiting on the software signoff folders.) I'm still waiting on the three version description documents to review and sign.

In the meantime, I've got a 200-page training course for that software that hasn't been updated in almost a year, despite three modification releases in that time, that's on the schedule to go out tomorrow -- and the guy who's supposed to be updating all the text and screen captures only just started looking at it yesterday afternoon. I've got three user manuals for another system that have to go out in the next two weeks before that contract closes, and I've got four fairly significant startup documents that are due to go out on Monday for another contract. There are also about four or five little documents that have to go out in the next few days -- status reports, trip reports, that kind of thing. All these documents have to undergo technical edit by me before they can be delivered.

I also have to write a status report for my boss, though I'm missing input from one of my team members; I need to comb through some archived emails so I can restore some files to our versioning/CM software that got lost in a backup mishap a month or so ago; and I need to stand on various people's heads about tasks they haven't finished yet (which is difficult, because none of these people actually answer to me in any capacity, so all I can do is nag).

My eye doctor called yesterday to tell me my new glasses are back from the lab -- in record time! -- so I need to wedge out about half an hour or so to go pick those up.

And I still haven't forgotten that I promised Penny back at the beginning of the summer that I'd take a day off and take her to an actual beach this summer. (I haven't forgotten, though it's possible that she has. But I'll still feel guilty if I don't do it. Two weeks left until the end of summer!)

If I make it through to the other side, I'll see you there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wild Blue Yonder

I had something in mind to talk about this morning, but it seems to have disappeared from my head completely.

In the meantime, work is crazy, the kids are silly, my schedule is cram-packed, and supernovas are very, very bright. (That was an in-joke, if you were wondering from where the hell out in left field that came.)

So anyway, here's a picture to celebrate (or at least indicate) my busy-bee-ness, and if I ever remember what it was I'd meant to talk about, I'll come back and write it up.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

At Your Age

I remember a conversation I had with my mother -- I think I was in my early teens -- where she was talking about her doctor, and how the one phrase she hated hearing more than any other was, "At your age..."

The first time I heard it myself was when Matt and I decided we were ready to start a family. I went to my doctor for a physical and to ask if there was any particular advice we should follow in order to make it easier for us to conceive. He loaded me up with some good advice, told me to start taking prenatal vitamins immediately, and then said, "Of course, at your age, you're already past your ideal fertility period, so if you're not pregnant in six months, come back to see me."

Hahaha. Fertility turned out to be one health issue that is not on my plate; both Penny and Alex were conceived on the "first try".

I heard it again about a year or so ago, when I went to an orthopedist about my bum knee. This time, it was, "At our age, things don't heal as quickly or as well as they did when we were twenty. It's not likely this will ever get back to 100%, but we might get it to 80." At least the orthopedist being close to my own age took some of the sting out of it.

But last week, I went to the eye doctor for a routine exam. I'd thought about skipping it for a year -- my stupid vision insurance will cover new lenses every year, but new frames only every other year, and how am I supposed to see for two weeks while my frames are being refitted? But thanks to last year's bungle, I actually have two pairs of glasses, so I could get my favorites updated and wear the other pair in the meantime. (I've enjoyed having two pairs of glasses, actually. I'll miss it.) And what clinched it for me was realizing that I was squinting slightly to read the reminder card they'd sent me. So off I went.

Only that neat little plan went straight down the tubes when the doctor had mostly finished the exam. "Most glasses correct for distance vision," he said. "You need these for driving, but probably not for normal, everyday activities." Well, that's true. I've been known to forget to put my glasses on after my shower and not realize it for quite some time. "But for reading, now... Well, see, focusing up close requires the fine control of particular muscles, and usually somewhere right around your age, those muscles start to deteriorate..."

I need bifocals.

Or, since I spend a solid 12 hours a day looking at computer screens and another 2-3 hours reading on paper, and I've been told by multiple people that using bifocals with a computer is a massive pain in the neck, I need two pairs of glasses: one for driving, and one for reading. (When I'm not doing either, the doctor says I won't make my vision any worse by going without, or by wearing whichever glasses I'm most comfortable with.) Of course, I sit fairly far back from my computer screen at work, so I'll be interested to see which pair of glasses works better there.

And of course, my stupid vision insurance only covers one pair of lenses each year. So even though I'd taken in my favorite frames to get them refitted with the new prescription, I'm still having to pay for one whole pair of glasses completely out of my own pocket. And let's not pretend that the covered lenses are completely covered, or that the anti-glare treatment is covered, either. Grr.

On the plus side, a co-worker reminded me that I could submit the bill to my Flexible Spending Account, which I'd completely forgotten about. I don't usually put much into my FSA, because it's a use-it-or-lose-it account. Last year, I got the entirety of my FSA back to cover my allergy testing and a couple of months' worth of shots. So at least I'll get that back. And next year, since it looks like I'm going to have to be maintaining two pairs of glasses each year, I'll bump up the amount in my FSA.

So I should (should -- I trust nothing, after last year's six-week fiasco) be trying to figure out how to juggle two pairs of glasses in a couple of weeks, here, when they come back from the lab. Whee.

And as if that didn't have me feeling old enough, the kitchen stool tried to kill me yesterday. I got up on it to get to something on the top shelf of a cabinet, and on my way back down, I failed to put my foot solidly on the floor. I caught my instep on the side of the stool, which rolled my foot over and made me lose my balance so that I ended up dropping my full weight on damn near the top of my foot. Which doesn't work so well, so I staggered and fell sideways, barely catching myself on the edge of the sink. Which dropped at least two-thirds of my weight on my bad shoulder.

I just hung there for a moment, gasping in pain and seriously wondering if I'd just broken my ankle and whether I was going to be able to hold on to the side of the sink until Matt got home with the kids. But after a bit, my vision cleared (I hadn't realized it had gone all spotty until I could see again) and I gingerly pulled myself upright (I'm very surprised I don't have an enormous bruise along my ribs, where the edge of the sink gouged me). Matt and the kids got home just at that moment (so I guess I would have been able to hold on, after all), but when I cautiously put my foot on the floor, it ached a little but didn't hurt, so nothing seems to be broken.

I certainly strained something. I can walk, but if I try to roll my ankle to make a circle with my foot, it protests turning outward slightly, and inward quite vehemently. I'm not sure if I should continue to try, gently, to keep it stretched, or leave it the hell alone for a few days, to let it heal.

Going to the gym today will be a real treat, I bet. If nothing else, I suspect I'm off the treadmill and back to the stationary bike for the rest of the week.

I really should be more careful, at my age.

Monday, August 17, 2009


When I left work on Friday, it was raining, very lightly. In the verbena (I found out what they're called!) in front of the office was a hummingbird, brilliantly green despite the overcast sky.

I chose to see it as a good omen for the weekend, and it turned out not altogether inaccurate.

Matt and I made it to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Friday night, and quite enjoyed it, even though my eyes still ached from my eye exam earlier (about which, more later, in another post, eventually). We pondered the rewrites and the stuff that had been cut on the way home and decided we agreed with them. My only complaint was that they stripped out the explanation, in the end, of exactly why Snape was the Half-Blood Prince, and while that's not vital to the plot, it does lend a little insight to his character in the end. And also, I expect it might have been a bit confusing to anyone watching the movie who hadn't read the book -- but then, aside from my dad, I doubt there are many of those.

We didn't get home until after 1am, though, so I was still pretty tired when Penny woke me up at 7:15 Saturday morning.

I spent most of Saturday morning getting things ready and packed for the party. Alex got cranky around 10:30, so I took a chance and put him down for an early nap, in the hopes he'd wake up in time for the party.

He didn't, of course. Matt and I talked about it, and decided that since he's even grouchier when he's been woken than when he hasn't had a nap at all, that I'd take Penny on to the party and Matt would stay home until Alex woke up, and just hope he didn't decide to do one of his occasional four-hour snoozes.

The party itself went splendidly. Only one kid didn't show up, which isn't a bad turnout, really. The kids had a fantastic time, the sandwiches and cake were a hit, and there was rejoicing all around.

When it was all over, we went back home, where Penny and Jess and Ray worked off some of the sugar up in Penny's room while Matt and I chatted with KT and Kevin.

Eventually, we got Penny's bag packed and sent her home with KT and Kevin for a sleepover with Jess, and Matt and I more or less collapsed for a bit. Our freedom was still somewhat limited, since we still had Alex, but it was surprisingly relaxing to only have one kid to keep track of, and Alex made the most of having our attention all to himself.

(I feel bad for KT, though, since apparently Penny was so keyed up that she woke up every half hour or so all night long and kept getting out of bed and waking KT up. It wasn't on purpose -- KT's a light sleeper, so she just woke up whenever Penny got up -- but still, ouch. It may be a while before Penny gets to sleep over at anyone else's house again.)

Sunday morning, after we were up and dressed and had started the laundry, I sent Matt down to pick Penny up. While he was gone, I took Alex to the grocery store with me, fed him lunch, got him down for a nap, and did a couple of loads of laundry. When they got back, Matt took Alex with him to the comic book store (and to get some ice cream, on a whim -- too bad for Penny that she opted out of going!) The rest of the evening was normal and fairly relaxed -- finishing up the laundry, making dinner (I really ought to make that maple-mustard chicken more often) and cleaning up afterward, and so forth.

I managed to get a little writing done after the kids were in bed, and then I went to bed myself a bit early.

And now I'm back to work for the week and trying to figure out what's going on besides the big software delivery on Thursday. As if that's not enough.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Zip Zoom

Making this a quick quick post, because I have three documents already on my desk waiting for review, and there's a software delivery today, which takes way longer to put together than it really seems like it should, and there are at least two more documents in the pipeline that I know about, and I haven't even thought about doing any of my administrative paperwork for the week yet, and I have an appointment with the eye doctor at 9:45.

(Why, why do they say, "Okay, your appointment is at 10; please be here fifteen minutes early so we can do paperwork and the preliminary tests"? Why not just say my appointment is at 9:45? It's not like he's not going to keep me waiting for an extra twenty minutes or so anyway.)

So. I managed to bake and decorate Penny's cake last night, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. It's not professional-grade decoration by any stretch of the imagination, but I did manage to get some fancy fillips of icing around the top, and there are roses and other sugar decorations distributed so that every slice of cake will have something extra on it, for those who like that sort of thing (and those who don't can just pick them off). And I added up the cake and icing and such and came up with estimated points and carbs, for all our various dietary restrictions and rules.

And then, even though it was nearly 10:00 by that point, I thought I'd try to write a little bit. I'd been poking at this scene, trying to capture the appropriate feeling of despair and horror. I'm not very good at writing horror, but I was cribbing from something KT had written, and she's an excellent horror writer, so that helped. Anyway, I think I finally at least touched it, and when I looked up, it was almost 11:30 and I'd written just over 700 words. Which is not too bad, really, considering how many times I'd backed up started over, or just sat there trying to summon the image I wanted... Even better considering that when I read over it, I mostly even liked it.

So I'm a little sleepy this morning, but it was totally worth it.

The Weekend of Fun begins tonight! Can't wait!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Penny had a good birthday, it seems. She was pleased with the stuffed animals and the last Magic Trixie book that she didn't have yet from Matt and I; she seemed pleased with the clothes and books and stuff that arrived from Grandpa Brooks and Aunt Rachael; and she was quite excited by the stuff that arrived from Karen (though I understand there's still one item on its way).

Karen asked me what Penny wanted for her birthday, and I told her, "She likes Batman. And pink glittery girly stuff, and (because of this Secret Garden key necklace) she'd probably love a little locking box. I dunno. It was easier when she liked Superman, honestly, because I can find Supergirl stuff, which is the Superman logo in pink. Ideally, she'd get stuff with a pink Batman logo on it, but that merchandise does not exist. So... I have no idea. Other than she likes Batman, and pink glittery girly stuff."

And damn me if Karen didn't take up the challenge and find it.

It's a cape with a pink Batman logo. (It's reversible, even -- the other side has a pink Superman logo.)

And also two pink Batman logo decals, though I don't have pictures of those because they're not normal stickers and Matt and I are going to have to help her apply them, and she's still thinking about what she wants a six-inch-long pink Batman logo attached to. (She first asked if she could stick it to herself, actually. I told her to go back to the drawing board.)

Karen also sent her a quite adorable pink glittery girly jewelry box with a diary in it. Never let it be said that Karen does not pay close attention to what she's told.

Penny's friend Ray showed up while she was opening presents, and we let him stick around for it. I think he was slightly overwhelmed by all the pink.

And I want to know what is up with clothes! Penny's size 5 shirts are starting to trend a little small and show her belly out the bottom, so we told everyone who asked that she's in a kid's size 6 now. Matt's dad dutifully sent size 6 clothes, and the shirt looks like it'll fit just great, and the dress, but the pants... letting the cuffs brush the floor, the waistline comes up to Penny's armpits. WTF??? Penny's a touch on the short side, but she's hardly tiny. And they're flared cuffs, so I don't know how much success I'll be able to have hemming them up. We'll see, I guess. She may end up spending another winter in skirts and tights.

So today: Crazy work, and also go to the gym. Tonight: Make cake, and frost it. Note to self: reserve a few points for licking the bowl.

Tomorrow: More crazy work, plus an eye exam. (When you realize you're squinting at the eye doctor's reminder postcard, that's probably a sign.) Tomorrow night: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (for which we have to go all the way down to Hampton, which is why I'm frosting the cake tonight).

Saturday morning: Finish decorating cake, assemble deli platter, hope Alex is up for either an early or a late nap. Saturday afternoon: Party from 12:30 to 2:30, then probably back to our house so Alex can nap and Penny and Jess and Ray can run off the sugar and the grownups can talk. Saturday evening: Penny goes home with Jess for a sleepover.

Sunday morning: I do the grocery shopping a bit early, then head down to Chesapeake to pick Penny up. Or, depending on how desperate KT's tweets are, I head down to Chesapeake to pick Penny up and then do the grocery shopping a bit late.

And thus end the festivities. Expect pictures on Monday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So today is Penny's sixth birthday. She's been very excited for it all week, and was so keyed up last night that I wasn't sure she'd go to sleep. (Oddly, she went to sleep even faster than usual, forgoing her near-habitual claim of a blood sugar low around 8:45.

Six. Six years. Wow.

In the car this morning, she said, "I'm six! Now I'm the same age as Tyler! and I'm older than Dylan!" And then she paused, and said, "Mom? Why am I not six and a half?"

We let her open two presents this morning (she has four from us, and one large package waiting from Aunt Rachael and Uncle Rimas), and she picked out two from us, which turned out to be the pink tiger and teddy bear she'd asked for.

I bought some iced sugar cookies for her to take to school to share with her class. She was pretty excited about that, too.

And Saturday is her party at Jumping Joey's (for the third year in a row, now). Today, while I'm out and about to get my allergy shots, I'll also swing by a local bakery and buy some icing flowers to put on her cake. Tomorrow night, I'll actually bake the cake, and Friday evening, I'll put on the frosting and flowers. (Hoping that doesn't take too long to do, because also Friday evening, Sam is coming over to be a Responsible Adult In The House so Matt and I can go to the movies.)

I've also got deli and rolls for sandwiches (because the party is right at lunchtime) and some popcorn for snacking on. I'm quite certain that I'm forgetting something, but I have not the slightest idea what it might be.

And after the party (I'm not sure exactly when, as details have not yet been discussed) she's going home with Jess for a sleepover. (Note to self: need to print out an updated instruction sheet for KT.) We (or at least one of us) will drive down to pick her up sometime on Sunday, hopefully before an excess of excitement and a shortage of sleep make them too cranky.

So we're in for a busy next few days, but it should be fun! (If I can just wade through the towering stack of stuff at work, anyway...)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So Tired

I yawned all the way through my commute this morning. No idea why, really -- I went to bed at a more or less reasonable hour last night, slept well enough, dozed a bit after the alarm and Penny told us it was time to get up... I'd been trying to stick with decaf coffee, but I might need a half-caf today.

Today could be... hectic. We've got a whole bunch of documents going out this week, and hopefully I'll see some of them to review this morning. I've got a meeting from 11-12 that frequently runs long. If it doesn't run too long, I'll dash out to the gym (that's an hour and a half) and then come back and scarf down my lunch before another meeting schedule from 2 to 3:30 (though it might be somewhat shorter).

Bleh. Maybe I should just plan on going to the gym tonight instead of at lunch. Well, we'll see how the morning goes, I guess. I might need a break by lunchtime.

And at some point, I need to wrap Penny's birthday presents so I can take them home with me tonight, so she can open them tomorrow. And swing by the grocery store and pick up some stuff I forgot to get/didn't get enough of, and possibly cupcakes or cookies or something for Penny to take to school tomorrow for her birthday.

But first... coffee.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yep, It's Monday

I got Penny and Alex all the way to daycare this morning before I thought to look in Penny's kit and make sure she had enough supplies for the day. Sure enough, there's only one test strip left. Sigh. At least this is a gym day -- I'll just leave a few minutes early and drop a new can of strips off before I go to the gym, just in time for lunch, and it'll only add maybe ten minutes to my lunch break. Plus it gives me an excuse to walk out of my 10:00 meeting if it runs past 11, since they really will need those test strips before lunchtime.

But still, not the smoothest possible start to the day.

It was a pretty good weekend, though. I met a couple of old high school friends for lunch on Saturday, and then that afternoon we took the kids to the park. I took the camera (of course) and despite continuing focus problems (I will figure this out eventually) managed to get a few really good shots.

(My pictures look so much darker on my computer at work than the one at home, despite them both being LCD screens... I'm trying to figure out which one is closer to "normal" so I know whether I need to adjust my edits. Is it a Mac/PC difference, maybe? Guess I won't know for sure which way to go until I get some prints done. Hmph.)

Sunday was a mostly quiet day -- I took the kids to the grocery store, Matt mowed the lawn, I went to Target to do the back-to-school shopping (twelve freaking glue sticks...), Matt did the laundry, I took a nap, Matt took Penny to the comic shop and bookstore... like that. Penny had a scary low at lunchtime (in the 30s -- but she didn't even notice!) and then made up for it by running high all afternoon and evening. Alex took advantage of any adult sitting down for more than three seconds to insist on having a book read to him.

I got tired of the unholy mess that is the kids' craft drawer in the dining room, so I sat down and threw out a year's worth of forgotten drawings and mostly used-up coloring books and never-read magazines and dried-out play-doh lumps and capless markers and and and... I segregated all the pencils and markers and crayons and stamps and stickers into plastic bags and warned Penny that the next time I clean out the drawers, anything that isn't in its bag is going to be thrown out, whether it's still usable or not. The room looked so much better just from that little bit of effort, I may start attacking the horror that is the playroom, even if I have to do it one shelf at a time.

After the kids went to bed, Matt and I watched the unaired Dollhouse episode (the season one DVD just accidentally fell into my cart while I was at Target!) and some of the making-of/behind-the-scenes specials. A good way to end the weekend, though it has me champing at the bit for the next season. (September 25!)

I didn't get much writing done, like I'd planned to do (a little Friday night, but not after that), but I did do some organizing of the Google Sites spot I created for the purpose. (No, the link does not take you to my writing spot. It's not currently public. If you want to see it, you can ask, but everything in there is still in flux. I'm hoping it works out, though, because unlike Google Documents, Google Sites is available to me from both home and work.)

But at least I have a spot, now, and eventually I will have a plan.

Friday, August 7, 2009


The trip to Busch Gardens was a success! Penny was a little whiny and not-wanting-to-try-new-things-can't-we-just-go-home for a bit, but then Matt hustled her onto her first-ever roller coaster, and she never looked back.

She rode the kiddie coaster at least twice, and the Big Bad Wolf once (she wanted to go again, but the line was apparently very long) and the swings and lots of other rides. They saw the "4-D" show, and the wolf show, and lots of animals. Penny got her face painted, and she picked out a little toy wolf in remembrance of the Big Bad Wolf.

There aren't any more pictures I can show you, alas. Jill had forgotten her camera at our house the night before, and then Matt forgot (in the bustle of gathering all the other stuff) to pick it up before they went to get her from the hotel. Matt had planned to buy the photo the park took of her on the kiddie coaster, but it turned out bad, and even sentimentality gets trumped at $20 for a bad photo. But Jill bought a picture of the three of them that was taken at the park entrance, and she even bought two copies of it so we could have one. So that and my pictures of Penny's face paint will have to serve for the scrapbook.

But Penny was still ecstatic about the roller coasters this morning. Matt and I are thinking of getting season's passes for him and her for next summer, so they can go on weekends or for a couple of hours, even, on weekday evenings. (I do not like roller coasters, so I expect it will be just the two of them for a few more years, until Alex is big enough to want to go, at which point we may cave and get the family pack just for the sake of convenience. Of course, by the time Alex is six, Penny will be old enough and -- I hope -- responsible enough to be turned loose on her own. I think I was twelve, the first year I had a season's pass.)

After we were all home, Penny got to open her birthday presents from Grandma. New clothes, new pyjamas, some princess gear, and a very cute little princess board game where you try to be the first to collect (and wear!) a full set of jewelry. (She played one game with Jill, and one game with Jill and I both, and she won both games. Pure serendipity, but I'm sure it cemented her enjoyment of the game.) And a pair of foam swords that I'm sure will be a huge hit (yes, pun intended; I have no shame) when Ray gets back from visiting his grandparents next week.

And the gift my parents had arrived, as well -- a T-Rex dinosaur as tall as Alex. Penny went crazy over it and insisted on sleeping with it last night, so that's a success. I tried to take pictures of her with it, but she was so excited and the room so dim that they all turned out horribly blurry.

Jill also gave Alex a present, which turned out to be some shorts (which he's forever in need of -- how one kid can run through so many clothes so fast, I have no idea) and an utterly adorable froggy shirt.

Tonight, Matt's going with Braz and another friend from work to the Dave Matthews Band concert down in VA Beach -- they're even leaving early, straight from work, to avoid traffic, so I'm picking the kids up from school tonight.

Tomorrow I'm meeting a couple of old high school friends for lunch, which should be fantastic fun.

And then I need to start getting my stuff in order for Penny's birthday celebrations next week!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Eat Your Cake

Penny has very specific requests for her birthday cake, this year. She wants strawberry cake, with chocolate icing and yellow icing roses on it.

I called half a dozen bakeries yesterday, and not one of them could give me a strawberry cake base. They couldn't even put red food coloring into a white cake base so I could pretend (since I'm pretty sure Penny would not know the difference). Which made sense for the grocery store bakeries that get their cakes pre-made elsewhere, but I was a little eye-rolly about the specialty bakery in town not being able to do it for me.

The specialty bakery will, however, sell me pre-made icing roses, for 25 and 50 cents apiece (depending on size). So I do believe I will be making Penny's birthday cake by hand again this year, and it will be strawberry cake with chocolate icing and yellow roses. (Unless, of course, she changes her mind between now and this weekend, when I go to the grocery store and buy the cake mix.)

We ended up with not just Jill, but Braz for dinner last night. I had to make some last-minute changes to my planned menu, but aside from having Matt stop at the store to pick up some more vegetables, it wasn't too disruptive.

After dinner, we sat around and talked, and put the kids to bed, then sat around and talked some more, until Jill and Braz headed out again a bit after 9. Then I took a shower and Matt and I watched Leverage. (Not their best episode, though it had some truly wonderful bits. And I think I spotted their strategy for trying to hide the fact that the actress playing Sophie is pregnant.)

When that was done, I uploaded some pictures I took on my lunch break yesterday (flowers and bugs, cropped nice and close -- one day, I'll get myself an actual macro lens, but they're expensive). I liked the bee picture best, but this morning two of my dragonfly shots had comments from people I don't know.

And then we went to bed. Zzz. Not a terribly exciting evening, but all in all, a good one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Matt Totally Called It

So Matt's mom is in town for a couple of days, doing a grand driving tour and stopping with various friends and family all over. Her plan was to arrive last night, spend today and tomorrow here in Williamsburg, and then head out again Friday morning.

She'd told us not to expect her for dinner last night, so we'd told Penny that she wouldn't see "Grandma Jill" until today, and I hadn't altered our usual Tuesday night meal from chicken nuggets (Penny's favorite) to something a little more guest-worthy.

So, naturally, Matt called me at 5:15, on his way home from picking the kids up from daycare. "Guess who's here?"

(Naturally, I'd been putting off cleaning up until last night, as well -- any earlier, and the kids would've just undone it all -- so it's a good thing yesterday was the day the cleaning service came, because I shudder to think what kind of pigsty the place was when we left in the morning. I am not a good housekeeper.)

Not that Jill's early arrival was remotely a problem. Matt just threw some extra chicken nuggets onto the pan for dinner, and Penny was absolutely beside herself with glee. I've never seen her take a bath so fast, and we had to tell her about every ten seconds to calm down and stop shouting. (It was cute. But loud.)

Jill was tired from the drive down from DC, where she'd been last weekend, and she'd taken a detour halfway to stop at Monticello for a tour, so she went back to the hotel as soon as we put the kids to bed. But then, I give it even odds that the whole reason she pushed to get to town earlier than we'd expected was so she'd have time to visit with the kids, so it was a success.

Matt's taking today and tomorrow off to spend time with her. Tomorrow, he's going to keep Penny home from daycare and the three of them will go to Busch Gardens (using the tickets we won from the daycare carnival raffle earlier in the summer, finally). We figure that will go one of two ways: Either Penny will be totally in love with everything and not want to leave, or she'll decide she doesn't like it after about half an hour and whine for three hours until they give up and go home. Odds lean slightly toward the first, since Jill will be there.

Since Matt's home, he took the kids to school for me this morning (usually I drop them off and he picks them up), so I made it to work nearly an hour early. Which is good, because the dinner I have planned involves a marinade, so the earlier I can get home and get it started soaking, the better. (I'd have made it last night, but it's one of those tricksy marinades that you're not supposed to use for any longer than 4 hours.)

Here's hoping for a nice smooth day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I'm supposed to be writing a procedure for one of the projects I work on.

I don't want to do it. Largely because there's still this large grey area in the middle where we're honestly not sure how we're going to do something, and since it's one of the core purposes of the procedure, it makes it hard to write.

I spent most of yesterday chugging through a whole raft of lesser tasks in an effort to avoid having to work on this stupid procedure.

It's amazing how much work I can get done in the name of task avoidance, really: I finished my team's mid-year performance reviews. I got a small mountain of paperwork done. I started another mountain and probably would've finished it except that the printer broke. So then I started in on the emails I'd been saving up.

When I left work yesterday, both my personal and work Inbox folders were... empty.

When I got up this morning, my personal Inbox was still empty (I don't usually get non-spam mail overnight) and when I got to work, there were only three emails waiting for me. I dealt with all three before starting this blog entry. Inbox: Zero.

It's kind of refreshing, to check my mail and not have it nagging me. I wonder if I can keep it up. It might require making some sorting subfolders (or labels, for the Gmail account) for non-urgent or can't-start-yet items, but I think I might give it a try. If I can keep it up for all of August, I might get myself a few Nerd Merit Badges. (Separate Inbox Zeros for work and personal emails, Homonyms, and Family Tech Support. I already "qualify" for Homonyms and Family Tech Support, but if I'm seriously considering it, I might as well wait and get them all at once to save on shipping, right?)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Let the Festivities Begin

Since my parents' annual timeshare in Cancun runs right across Penny's birthday, they held the family birthday party for Penny this weekend.

Their main present for her hasn't arrived yet (it's being sent to our house, so she'll get it as soon as it shows up) but of course they heaped her with smaller presents so she'd have plenty to open -- stickers and a book and a set of walkie-talkies and so forth.

And I'd mentioned to Sam that Penny enjoys those make-your-own necklace kits, so she and John got her a whole pile of stuff for making necklaces (including a box to keep it all in, thankfully). Penny can't wait to dive into that, especially the little puppy-shaped beads! (Mean Mommy that I am, I wouldn't let her open all the packages of beads at Grandma and Grandpa's last night.)

And there was cake, of course, so as far as Penny was concerned, the evening was a fantastic success.

And I got to take a lot of pictures, and even though I wound up deleting half of them as irredeemably out of focus (dim lighting is not the photographer's friend, especially the photographer of active children!) I still got plenty of wonderful shots, and I had enormous fun playing with them in the editor later. (RAW images and white balance correction are my friends. If the shot reasonably composed and in focus, almost every other fault can be fixed later.)

(As usual, more pictures over at my flickr page.)

And that wasn't even the first of Penny's birthday, because we had our D&D game with Jennie and Brian and Braz on Saturday, and Jennie brought her a book (The Secret Garden) that came with a necklace. We've been having to pry her out of the necklace for baths and bedtime since.

This week, Matt's mom will be in town for a couple of days, so I'm sure we'll do another mini-birthday party with her. (Matt's planning to take the two of them to Busch Gardens one day, which will hopefully be fun.) And then next week will be her actual birthday and (that weekend) birthday party.

Let the festivities begin!