Friday, February 27, 2009

It Rains, It Pours

I spoke too soon. I was about ten feet from the YMCA's front door yesterday when my cell phone rang. It was daycare, giving me a courtesy call to let me know that Alex had had two rounds of diarrhea, and if he had a third, they'd need to send him home.

I told them that I was about to walk into a building that had no cell reception, so if it happened, to call Matt. Because I forgot that Matt was in an all-day meeting, away from his phone.

I remembered it while I was on the elliptical, so when I finished my workout, I called daycare back, just to check in. (The Y is on the same side of town as daycare, so I would've felt pretty dumb going back to the office and then having to drive all the way back out there.) Sure enough, he'd had a third, so I went and got him.

He's home today, too, which is something of a problem: Matt's office is getting ready for a build to go live this weekend and they really need him to work, but I really have to be in the office this morning for an interview for my security clearance. So I'm working this morning, and Matt will go in once I get home. To further complicate matters, I need to get my allergy shot today, Penny's school is having a half-day, and the cat's annual checkup is this afternoon.

Oy. So my current plan, if the interview guy shows up on time, is to leave work as soon as the interview is done at 11:30 and go get my allergy shot, and then pick Penny up from school. Of course, that's shaving the timing pretty close, so it depends on the security interview really ending no later than 11:30. If it runs later than that, I'll have to drag Penny and Alex with me to the allergy office.

As for the cat, I'll call my parents at some point and ask if they can come help out for an hour or so and watch Alex while I take Ziggy to the vet. Penny can either come with me or stay home with my folks; that's up to her, but there's no way I'm hauling 20 pounds of baby on top of 20 pounds of cat. It's just not happening.

And in the meantime, I've got a document to review, two more to check into CM, and timecards to approve.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back At The Helm

Alex slept all morning for Matt, so naturally he was the No Sleep Baby for me. I tried putting him down for a nap a couple of different times, and both times he was still awake and talking after half an hour, so I ended up getting him up again. He never threw up on us, and by the time dinner rolled around, the fever was gone and he'd recovered much of his appetite.

So we sent him back to school today, and I'm at work. Whoo, I guess.

I'm trying to decide whether today should be a gym day or an allergy day. The original plan was for it to be allergy day. And since I wasn't in the mood to pack anything for my lunch this morning, I have to go out for lunch (or at least go out to get lunch), which also would fit into my schedule better if it was allergy day. But on the other hand, Penny has a half-day at school tomorrow, and if I'm doing that pickup, then it makes more sense for me to haul her along while I get my allergy shot than to drag her with me to the gym.

That, and I missed going to the gym yesterday. I'd meant to go after dinner, and then Matt reminded me that it was Book Club night. Which for some reason, I had set in my mind was next week. Oops. So I guess it's the gym for me today, and I'll have to figure out something to grab for lunch on my way back to the office.

Book Club was fun, though. I hadn't read the book yet (my order got delayed, so it hasn't arrived yet) but listening to the others talk about it increased my desire to read it, so I'm eagerly anticipating its arrival.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

I went to my OB/GYN yesterday for my annual physical.

He was VERY complimentary about the weight loss and increased exercise. He said he'd like to see me get below 200, but even if I got to 199 and stalled out, that would be some significant improvements in my health down the road. I appreciated the enthusiasm, and I also appreciate -- more than I can express -- that he was very deftly encouraging me to keep it up without trying to set goals that were so far away that they were more discouraging than inspiring.

He told me to schedule a mammogram -- he usually orders one every other year between 30 and 40, then every year after 40. I got out of it last year by virtue of having a nursing baby; pregnant and nursing moms get to postpone. I think the technical reason for that is that pregnancy and nursing changes make the x-rays difficult to interpret, but I'm glad for the policy because the boob-squashing machine is uncomfortable enough without adding hormone and milk soreness to the equation.

I also complained to him about the sort of extreme PMS depression I've been getting since Alex was weaned. He said it was a possible side effect of the brand of IUD he gave me, though rare (he's only had one other patient complain about it in the last five years), or it might be an actual hormonal shift in my body as the result of aging and/or completion of the pregnancy/nursing stage. Given the timing of things, he can't really be sure which it is, and the only way to find out for sure would be to remove the IUD.

So he had two options for me to try before we pull the IUD and see whether that's the cause. The first is a homeopathic vitamin supplement that's slanted directly at controlling PMS symptoms. It's supposed to have about an 80-85% success rate; the reviews I found for it online back that up. So I'll order a bottle of that and give it a try for a few months. If that doesn't work, he'll write me a prescription for Prozac to take only on those down days. And if that doesn't work, we'll look into pulling the IUD and/or getting into hormone therapy. Everyone think happy thoughts about the vitamins for me, 'kay?

Anyway, I'd barely made it back to the office and was muttering under my breath in anticipation of the 3-hour meeting on my schedule when Alex's daycare called to tell us that he had a low-grade fever and was throwing up all over the place, and could we please come get him?

Matt went and picked him up. As advertised, low-grade fever. Alex didn't actually throw up while Matt had him, but he had zero appetite. Also, diarrhea and he was yanking viciously on his right ear (thank goodness; Alex actually responds to discomfort in his ears, so we can catch ear infections before they spread into his sinus cavity). So Matt took him to the doctor. The pediatrician ran various tests (completely infuriating Alex by taking various samples) and declared that Alex didn't have an ear infection and he didn't have the flu, so it's probably just some random GI virus that we'll have to wait out. Matt got the usual vomiting/diarrhea dehydration prevention lecture, and a prescription for an antibiotic in case Alex is still yanking on his ear once the fever recedes, and a recommendation for an over the counter decongestant if we thought he needed it.

(The good news with the bug is that it seems to be knocking Alex right out; he's slept probably 18 of the last 24 hours. And one of the hours he was awake was because I went into his room after dinner last night and woke him up so he could get some liquids into his system. He was in a pretty good mood -- toddled around happily for a while and watched Penny play bowling on the Wii -- but eventually just wanted to be held, and not long after that, started drifting off again.)

So Matt's home with Alex this morning (I had to come in to work for a software delivery) and I'll go home around 12 or 12:30 and take over so Matt can go to work this afternoon. I called my parents earlier, and one of them will come up to pick Penny up from school. Tomorrow, Matt has an all-day meeting at work that he really shouldn't miss, so I'll be staying home. Which means I need to remember to bring my work computer home with me so I can try to get at least some work done while Alex is napping.

You know, I'd been pondering trying to take a few days off in March or April -- one to do some spring-cleaning, and a couple to just relax. Guess we'll see what this does to my vacation bank.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Quiet Weekend

It was a nice, calm weekend.

We thought about visiting my folks on Saturday, but Matt reminded me that Dad was on a camping trip, and Mom was out (or at least didn't pick up the phone) when I tried to call.

The de-cluttering project of the weekend was to gather up the assorted boxes of stuff for goodwill that were stashed all over the house and take them down to the thrift store. Except when I got there, they told me about a new federal regulation (new as in, just went into effect last week) that prohibits the re-sale of clothing, toys, and assorted other goods intended for the use of children under age 13. (More precisely, these things can't be resold unless they're first tested for lead buildup, and as 99.9% of secondhand stores aren't equipped/can't afford to do this testing, they're just rejecting the items.) Which seems completely and utterly ridiculous to me -- how many people actually rely on secondhand stores to clothe their kids? And the economy like it is, and now these people are going to be forced to go retail? Absurd. I had four boxes of kids' clothes in my car, most of which was in really good condition (some of the baby clothes were brand new or only worn once, even). Plus a boppy gym, a baby bath tub, and a brand new toy stroller.

It's enough to make me weep. Guess I'll be getting back on the Freecycle list; there's nothing in the law that prohibits giving stuff away. In the meantime, I stashed all the boxes and junk in our storage unit just so they weren't still cluttering up the house.

We went out for Mexican Saturday evening, and that worked out really well -- Alex was happy to sit in the high chair and eat french fries, and Penny actually ate her chicken nuggets before starting in on the fries, and my fajitas were awesome, even if I had no idea how to add it up for the diet.

Sunday we slugged around the house and ran a few errands. Matt spent half the day trying to convince the TiVO that it really did want to play nicely with his iTunes-purchased music. I took Penny to Target with me to pick up some pajamas for Alex, and while we were there I just happened to swing by the electronics department, and lo and behold! they had Wii Fits in stock. So I snapped one up, and a console.

After that, I ran over to the other side of town and finally bought a new pair of black shoes -- my old ones were so stretched out they were practically falling off my feet with every step and giving me cramps in my arches if I had to walk any distance in them.

And about the time we got home, it started... snowing. Even though it was 45 outside. Great big fat flakes, in a thick flurry. Penny and Ray put on their coats and ran around in it, crazy with joy, even though it wasn't sticking anywhere. I brought Alex outside for a few minutes, too, even though he didn't want to be put down. The snow shower only lasted for about an hour, but it was fun.

After we got the kids into bed, Matt hooked up the Wii for me, and I spent about half an hour trying out the various exercises and "games" on the Fit. I'm still trying to figure out how it'll fit into my schedule, but my goal is to try to get 20-30 minutes of Wii play in every day that I don't make it to the gym. It's nowhere near as intense a workout, but it's a "something is better than nothing" strategy, and I have some vague idea that I might eventually coax Penny onto it.

So, all in all, an especially satisfying and relaxed weekend. Now, let's hope for a similarly calm week.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stuff stuff stuff stuff.

Really enjoying both of the email games I'm in, lately. Though I could wish they moved faster. It always takes me by surprise to look back at the archives and realize how long they've been running -- the Meadehall/Scum game for nearly a year and a half, and the 7th Sea game for over 5 years!

I'm ready for this weekend, though. Nothing in particular on the schedule for a couple of days sounds really good. We'll gather up the boxes of stuff for charity that we've been gathering and finally get around to taking them over to the thrift store, and possibly we'll pick a room and start working on the decluttering and moving of stuff to storage and/or the thrift store and/or the trash.

We might take the kids down to my parents' for a change of scenery at some point. Who knows? Not me.

I've reached the point of the winter where I'm seriously considering shaving my head. The static is making me crazy, and the dry air is making my scalp tight and itchy no matter how much moisturizing shampoo/conditioner I use (which has the charming side effect of making my hair lank and oily -- but not oily enough to resist static, ARGH).

If I shaved my head, then static-floaty hair would stop sticking to my face, and I could use real moisturizer on my scalp. Plus I'd have an excuse to wear awesome hats.

What could go wrong?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


No idea what that was. None at all. I opened the window and started to assemble my thoughts from the last day and figure out what I wanted to write about, and when I looked up, I had written, "This is me, this is my world, this is my life." I hadn't even noticed my fingers moving over the keys.

But obviously, it meant something. I decided to just go with it. See where it led me.

I'm still not sure. It was interesting to write, though.


This is me, this is my world, this is my life.

This is pain, this is joy. This is love, this is indifference.

This is perfection, this is disaster. This is wonder, this is horror.

This is me.

This is ambition, this is apathy. This is hunger, this is satisfaction.

This is my world.

This is rage, this is jubilation. This is laughter, this is sorrow.

This is my life.

This is tedium, this is frenzy. This is exhaustion, this is insomnia. This is confidence, this is worry. This is delight, this is frustration.

This is now, this is yesterday, this is tomorrow.

This is me, this is my world, this is my life.

This is me, this is you.

This is living.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Some days, my kids are so sweet, I could just eat them up.

Matt started putting his coat on to head out, and Alex, who was sitting on my lap, started waving bye-bye. Pattern recognition, whoo! Matt came over and leaned down to give me a kiss, and as soon as he'd straightened up, Alex looked at me and then leaned his head closer -- his own 14-month-old way of asking for a kiss. Awww.

Shortly after, it was time to head out for school. "Penny," I said, "did we put a snack in your backpack?"

"Let me check!" She opened up the front pouch. "Yep! I have lots of snacks!"

"...You do?"


"...Huhn. How did that happen?" I chivvied her out the door in front of me and we headed for the car.

"Crackers and candy!" she enthused.


"Valentines candy!"

Ah. Much was made clear. Though how her Valentine candy ended up in her backpack... well, that should be pretty clear, too. "Penny, I don't want you to eat the candy for your snack. Eat the crackers for your snack. You need to ask Daddy or I before you have candy, okay?"

"Okay. But I want to count it!"

"That's fine. Just don't eat any."

"But I should put my seatbelt on first!"

"Yes. Very good thinking, Penny. Good girl."

She got her seatbelt on while I was settling Alex, then hauled her backpack onto her lap to begin her inventory. Four or five lollipops, a gummy heart, and a packet of conversation hearts later, she said, "Do you like candy, Mama?"

"Yes, I do."

"I will share my candy with you!"

"Oh, honey, that's very nice, but you don't have to."

"But I like to! What kind of candy do you want to have?"

"Um... You pick."

"No, you!"

After much discussion, she gave me a Dum Dum, along with the suggestion that I should eat it at work and tell her when I got home whether the candy inside the wrapper was yellow or green.

"I like to share my candy with you!"

"That's really sweet, Penny. Thank you."

I don't think I ever voluntarily shared my candy with anyone as a kid. We must be doing something right.

"Mommy? You know how much I love you?"

"How much?"

"This much!" She held up two heart-shaped lollipops of different sizes. "Big and little!"

"That's a lot," I said. "I love you big, little, and in-between."

Some days, being a mom is pretty damn cool.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


When I was in college and for a few years after, I used to wonder why people bitched so much about tax season.

It really wasn't that hard. The paperwork arrived, you filled in the numbers where it told you to, you plugged everything into a calculator, you double-checked it, and you either wrote a check or you anticipated one. Even if you went slow, it only took a couple of hours. Not fun, by any stretch, but hardly worthy of a collective, nationwide whine.

Then we acquired a house, and suddenly it became useful to itemize our deductions, since the interest we paid on our mortgage, by itself, was more than the standard deduction. That added a surprising amount of work to the process.

Then Matt got some stock options from work, and exercised them, and that paperwork nearly made us crazy. (It didn't help that the company's brokerage firm sent us, in their wisdom, non-standard reporting forms.) Luckily, that only happened twice.

Then we acquired kids, which got us additional exemptions, but added yet another form to the stack if we wanted to claim credit for what we paid in daycare. (There's a cap on this credit. We hit the cap every year. Every year, it seems to me that somewhere about five steps earlier on the form, it could just say, "Okay, you hit the cap, write this number down at the bottom and forget the rest.")

This year, we thought it might be worthwhile trying to see if we could claim any medical deductions. If you don't itemize your deductions, then medical claims work like this: If the amount you've paid for medical services and goods in the year is more than 7.5% of your take-home pay, then you get to claim everything over that 7.5% as a deduction. If you have a job and insurance and more or less normal medical needs, you're probably not going to get there -- up until this year, I never even bothered adding it up. I just wrote -0- on that line and moved on.

But this past year, we paid for my hospital stay for Alex's birth (the stay was in '07 but the bill hit in '08) and we paid for Penny's hospital stay for her diabetes diagnosis (including an emergency room visit, ambulance transport, and a night in ICU, none of which come cheap, even with insurance), and we paid for a year's worth of insulin and test strips and other diabetes supplies, and I went through allergy testing, which had a big fat co-pay, so it seemed to me that it just might be useful to add up our medical costs for the year to see if we could claim that deduction.

I spent about an hour organizing the receipts and bill stubs, and I gave up trying to use a calculator because I kept losing track of whether I'd hit the '+' key and I'd hit it twice (which on my calculator adds the previously-entered amount again) and... blah. I put it in a spreadsheet. Eventually, I finished adding up the total of the medical expenses I could prove, which came up to... about half of what we'd need to claim the deduction. I'm sure some doctor's visits and prescription refills got missed, but my total included all that big stuff I just listed, so anything I'd left out had no chance of doubling the amount I already hit. (If I'd come up within a few hundred of the goal, I would've scrounged around in my checkbook register and credit card statements to try to dig something up -- but there's no way I was going to find another couple thousand dollars in expenses.)

So there was an evening lost to the taxes, for no benefit whatsoever. And I understand a little better, now, the annual collective kvetching.

Monday, February 16, 2009


So my uncle came out of his surgery okay -- thanks to everyone who sent happy thoughts our way for him -- and my parents came home Friday night, full of anticipation for babysitting on Saturday.

It was a pretty happy Valentine's Day for everyone; Penny got toys and clothes and candy, and Alex got toys and clothes, and my parents got to spend time with the grandkids, and Matt and I got to go to the movies.

We went to see Coraline. Which was quite good, though Matt and I agreed that we're not sure adding Wybie to the story was really necessary. The reason I've heard they added him was to give Coraline someone to talk to, rather than thinking to herself the whole time -- but she still spent a lot of time in the movie thinking to herself, and they handled those bits just fine.

In fact, I think Wybie un-spooked the story a bit. At least, reading the book always gives me the cold shivers, and the movie was merely mildly creepy. He made her less of a loner, less of a parallel to the cat, and less alone -- her rejections of his friendship notwithstanding -- which shifted the story somewhat down the fear axis.

But we did enjoy it enormously anyway, and it was fantastic to have some time to ourselves for a few hours. We even had treats -- I'd budgeted my points to allow for popcorn, and much to Matt's delight, it looks like the AMC has finally clued in and begun to carry Junior Mints.

We got home to the happy news that Alex hadn't even been exceptionally fussy for my parents, which makes me think having them come to our house was a good idea. And hopefully now my mom will stop making noises about him rejecting her.

As usual, Matt completely blew me out of the water with my Valentine's Day present -- he got me a Flip Mino HD video recorder. It's a teeny tiny little video camera -- narrower than my iPhone but a skosh thicker -- that records up to 60 minutes (4 GB) of high-resolution (1280x720) video. It's got a USB plug built right into it, so there's no cables or chargers to keep track of, and the software that it came with allows for editing and capturing still images out of movies. All of which very handily answers my question of what I'll do for movies when I eventually get myself an SLR camera!

I took a bunch of movies over the weekend, of course, but I haven't uploaded any of them to flickr, yet. (The drawback to the movies being high resolution is that they're pretty large files. I'll need to remember to start my uploads before I go to bed or something.)

Matt and Penny have the day off today, for President's Day. I know Matt was looking forward to it as a chance to get to spend some time with Penny, one-on-one. She's a really good sport about Alex pushing his way to the center of the spotlight, but it feels good when we're able to give her our undivided attention.

Of course, the morning didn't get off to the best start, because we couldn't find Penny's library book. But the more I think about it, the more I think she may have not had a library book last week, and the one we're remembering was from the week before. In any case, I called home to say so and to recommend we postpone the book search until we can call the school and find out for sure. No sense ruining the day over it, at least, since they won't be going to the library this week anyway, right?

I'm stuck at work, but since I got her early, I have some vague hope I'll get to leave early as well. We'll see -- anything could happen!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day

Penny finished up her class valentines last night. They're having an ice cream party in her class today, to go along with the exchanging of the valentines. Her teacher sent home a note asking if we wanted to send in some sugar-free ice cream for Penny, but the thing is, even sugar-free ice cream comes with enough carbs to require a shot (and some of them actually have more carbs than regular ice cream -- label-reading is a must!) so we told the teacher that, since a pre-party stick and post-party shot was going to have to happen anyway, she might as well be allowed to eat the same stuff the other kids were having.

Penny spent the whole morning vibrating with excitement. An ice cream party! And it's Friday, so she's having pizza for lunch! (I expect her sugars are going to run high tonight.)

And she doesn't know it yet, but I bought valentine gifts for her and Alex. Toys and clothes and -- oh, yes -- some candy.

Hopefully, that will assuage her frustration that the cookie bouquet I sent Matt (that arrived yesterday, despite my checking the "Do Not Deliver Early" box when I ordered them) is not for her consumption.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Big Johnny

My dad called last night at 9:30.

My parents never, ever make phone calls after 9:00, not unless it's an emergency, so it was with a great deal of trepidation that I took the phone.

When we were kids, my brother was Little Johnny, because our uncle was Big Johnny. We called him "Uncle Johnny," usually, but at family gatherings, the adults all used "Big" and "Little" to distinguish between them.

It's not quite accurate to say my brother had been named for my uncle, because my uncle -- John Thames -- had been named for our grandfather, his father -- John Blanchard -- who was still alive at the time. So it's probably more accurate to say merely that my brother -- John Evans -- had been given the family name. (Along with, apparently, the family tradition of goofy-ass middle names. This is why I stopped whining about "Elizabeth Carol" when I was about ten.)

My dad called last night to tell me that Uncle Johnny went to see his doctor yesterday for a routine exam, and wound up in the hospital to be prepped for an emergency triple bypass surgery sometime today. Dad wanted me to know, and also to let me know that he and Mom would be driving down to be with him and my Aunt Laura and the rest of the family, so they wouldn't be able to pick Penny up from school today and whether they could babysit for us this weekend as we'd been planning was entirely up in the air.

Uncle Johnny is my mom's older brother, which makes him not quite seventy, but pushing it. (I had to do that math twice, because the number surprised me so much... That puts my own parents perilously close to 70, as well, and suddenly it's not so shocking that they've been considering moving into a retirement community.)

I told Dad that of course they should go provide support, I could certainly pick Penny up from school and we can re-schedule our movie if need be.

Matt told me that he was ready to support if I wanted to go down to North Carolina as well... I'm holding off on that decision until I hear how the surgery goes today. Either way, we may consider making a trip down for a visit this summer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


When all else, fails, do something completely random: Here is a list of crap I have on my desk, right now. Without cleaning up first. By zone, moving generally front to back...

On the left edge:
- A tupperware bowl that I use for breakfast and afternoon snacks like soup or popcorn (I hate eating popcorn out of the bag). It usually contains my spoon and fork, but since I just finished breakfast a few minutes ago, I haven't cleaned up yet.
- A box of kleenex.
- A 4-tier letter tray. The top tier has some long-term projects in it; the second one down has a couple of folders that I use for some of my secondary work functions; the third one has a few notepads and copies of my security application paperwork; and the bottom has some more notepads, notes for various story ideas that never went anywhere, a broken watch, and an old class schedule for the YMCA.
- On the far left corner that I can't reach without standing up, an outbox, currently filled to overflowing with folders that I really ought to take back to the filing room and file.

In the middle - left side:
- Some hair bidgies that I keep around for when I go to the gym.
- My iPhone.
- A fork.
- A couple of stickynote pads.
- Two paper towels that I got at breakfast and which will sit there until I use them to wipe my fingers after I have my oranges for afternoon snack.
- A mostly empty pack of gum.
- A roll of correction tape.
- A red pen and an orange highlighter, both of which I use on a near-daily basis.
- A hair clip and a barrette which I keep around for those days when my hair is making me batshit crazy and I need it out of my face.
- My laptop, in its dock.
- A desk lamp that only gets turned on when Penny is here.
- My badly-designed "binary" clock.

In the middle -- middle area:
- My mug of tea.
- A pad of normal-sized notepaper.
- A printout of instructions for the 200 sit-up challenge.
- A listing of open bugs from our database. It's been marked up (with red pen and orange highlighter) so I know who to bug about the ones that really shouldn't be open anymore.
- Some stickers from gmail.
- A loose kleenex (I hate when you have a new or old box and multiples pull out at once.)
- Two miniature pirate ships. (The "La Manila" and the "Persian Victory," if it matters.)
- My computer monitor. Taped to the bottom of the monitor are two hearts. One was cut out by Penny and is colored in with purple highlighter. The other was from a pad of heart-shaped paper, but Penny wrote "LOV MOMMY" on it.
- A mug that I inherited from the person who had my job before me that is filled with an assortment of pens, pencils, and highlighters of various colors. I use the highlighters fairly regularly; the other items, almost never.

In the middle - right side:
- Some more sticky notes of various sizes.
- A black ink pen that was a freebie from my chiropractor's office. My office does actually supply black ink pens, but they're really crappy quality by comparison.
- A spoon.
- My iPod. It's plugged into some speakers, and one end of its charge cable is on top of it.
- A printout of an email from our test lead that I'm supposed to mark up and stick into a folder somewhere for future reference.
- A small stack of documents that represent a long-term project.
- My phone. It's not easy to reach if I have the keyboard tray pulled out of my desk, and I used to have it in a more convenient spot, but it turned out I needed easy access to the printer more often than the phone. I have to push the keyboard tray back under the desk to answer the phone, but as I'm not on the phone a lot (except for conference calls, for which I close the door and use the speakerphone), it's not that big a deal.
- I think there's a couple of power bricks behind the phone, but I can't see them without standing up and going around to look.

On the right edge:
- My printer. Taped to the printer are some pictures Penny drew and cut out for me (our family -- me, her, Alex, Matt, and Ziggy), a medical appointment reminder card, a business card for my favorite massage therapist, and a couple of pieces of paper with the home/cell numbers of people I sometimes need to reach.
- The speakers for my iPod. I hate wearing earbuds, and am very grateful to have a private office.
- The inbox for my CM paperwork. Currently there are two folders in there that I ought to get to eventually.
- A power strip that I brought from home because my office only has two reachable wall outlets, and one of them is on the far side of the room. The other end of the iPod charger is plugged into this, as well as various other office equipment.

...Man, I have a lot of crap.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It is a really beautiful day, outside. A little chilly just now, but promising a perfect crisp spring afternoon.

Unfortunately, the inside of my head is all whiny and boring.

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to change into my gym clothes. I'm going to go to my doctor appointment, and then I'm going to go to the gym. By the time I get back to work, it'll be nearly lunchtime, and hopefully by then I'll be in a more positive state of mind.

If I am, maybe I'll come up with something to write about then. Otherwise, I'll just say: What are you doing, reading blogs, when you could be outside enjoying the weather?

Monday, February 9, 2009


It was a busier weekend than I was expecting it to be.

Since I'd spent some time Friday asking her about the Wii Fit she's borrowing from another friend, KT invited us to come down on Saturday and give it a try. Matt wasn't really interested, but I was, so I left Matt with Alex and took Penny down with me.

It worked out really well. KT did a demo for me so I could see what it looked like, then they registered me on the machine and I got to try out a few exercises and games. Some of the games were extremely dorky, but they were still kind of fun. I did better than I'd expected to, which lends credence to the idea that it's more of a supplemental gadget, rather than something to set up as the core of my workout. Though I skipped the strength-building exercises completely, which looked a bit more challenging.

KT and I chatted while half-watching Kevin go through his routine, which gave me a more in-depth and advanced look at what's available (since KT hadn't really done a whole routine, just popped around a little by way of demo). And it was nice to sit and chat, too.

Penny declined to try the Wii, but she and Jess had a grand time together. They watched us on the Wii for a while -- Jess in particular was a great cheerleader. "Yay, you got a star!" After they got bored with that, they pretended they were dragons having a tea party (complete with growly voices and blowing fire all over us). Eventually, they disappeared into Jess's room, where they managed to play quietly enough (for a change) that we didn't fear for the building's stability, but not so quietly that we feared mischief. It was quite lovely, actually.

All in all, I'm pretty well sold on the Wii Fit -- now I just need to get one.

"I thought about getting it for you for Valentine's Day," Matt confessed later, "since you seemed so interested in it. But then I thought that's the kind of gift that could really send the wrong message."

I laughed. "Especially for Valentine's Day," I agreed. "'Happy Valentine's Day, honey! I love you! Now can you do something about your fat ass?'"

Sunday started out as the usual chore day, but while I was at the grocery store with Matt, he sent a beep that Jennie had called and would be dropping by.

Once I got home and got the groceries unloaded, I called her back: Jennie and her husband, pondering what to do with their day, had rather spontaneously decided to come down for a visit. Yay!

Jennie and I have one of those friendships that seems like it was destined and designed. We first met in the 7th grade: it was Jennie who decided that "Elizabeth" was entirely too cumbersome and didn't really suit me and that I should be "Liz". We were best friends for two and a half years, when her mother packed up and moved the family to South Carolina.

We stayed in touch, sporadically, through high school, then lost touch for college. Jennie found me again, out of the blue, shortly after I'd finished grad school, to ask me to be her bridesmaid. A couple of years later, she came to my wedding to deliver a toast...

...and stuck around long enough to help us move into our house.

We fell out of touch again for a while, though she turned up again just in time to celebrate Penny's birth.

Once again, we've been out of touch for a few years. Once in a while, Matt and I would try to contact them, but Jennie's email address had died. We spontaneously received a Christmas card from them this year, though, so I guess we're back in an "on" phase of our on-and-off relationship.

But every time we get back together, there's no catching up to do. Or at least, we fill in on what's happened, but we always seem to immediately understand who we are. Even when we've changed enormously over the intervening span. (Well, there are some gaps... Jennie is at least three inches taller than me, but she is forever frozen in my mind as the shorter of us, as she was when she moved away in 9th grade. It always surprises me slightly when I see her in person that she's the taller of us.)

She and Brian turned up yesterday and once again, we fell into chattering as if we'd seen each other only last week. She gushed over Alex and Penny (and Penny was immediately entranced) and we watched the video of the girl they're hoping to adopt, and we went out for lunch and had a wonderful time. I was hoping they'd stay for dinner as well, but they realized after lunch that they had to get home to let the dog out.

So, all in all, it was a simply marvelous weekend.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I am so looking forward to this weekend.

We don't have any particular plans. We'll probably run a few errands, maybe swing by to visit my parents if there's time.

But this week has been so hectic and crazy, I'll be quite excited to do nothing for a couple of days.

I did my hair up in pigtails this morning. I got the idea from one of the blogs I read, where she was talking about needing to get her hair out of her face. My hair's been driving me so completely berserk lately that I've come this close to just shaving it all off. I hate winter and static. And a ponytail is annoying because then I can't sit comfortably in the car. But I thought I'd give the pigtails a try today. So far, so good. I still have a dry, itchy scalp (that runs from October until April, as a rule, and no amount of moisturizing conditioner helps) but at least I don't have staticky strands gluing themselves to my face and giving me a shock every time I turn around.

Plus, they look kind of cute. Maybe. It's hard to tell.

This is even less of a blog entry than I had yesterday, I know. Sorry. I'm so exhausted that I'm literally about to fall asleep at my desk, here. I might have to chase my morning tea with a mug of coffee just to get me through the day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I've developed a bit of a cough again over the last few days. I don't know if it's the bronchitis coming back, or just a perfectly normal cold as a result of the weather being warm-cold-warm-cold-warm-cold for the last couple of weeks.

In any case -- uncomfortable cough, congestion, etc. Tired of it. So this morning, I downed a dose of Tussionex before I headed off for the day.

...Narcotics-based meds may not have been my very best choice, in retrospect. I'm not coughing and sniffling, as a plus, but I keep getting distracted. No, I mean really distracted. Like, I was trying to write an email earlier, but it took me fifteen minutes to write two lines because I was pondering the serifs on the font. Yeah. Seriously distracted.

(You would not believe how long it's taking me to write this, either.)

So instead of an actual blog post, I'm going to recycle a meme thing that's been floating around on Facebook. (Yes, I'm on Facebook. If you want to friend me, by all means. If you're not sure I'll recognize your name, add a note to the friends request to say "blog reader". But be aware that I actually only check Facebook about every three days.)

Where was I...? Oh, right. Recycled meme. This one is: Twenty-Five Random Things About Me. I wrote this about a week ago, so I don't remember everything I said, exactly, and I apologize if some of it doesn't make sense. Or if you're a Facebook friend of mine and already read it.

1. When I first saw this meme in someone else's notes, I was disappointed that I hadn't been tagged, because I love doing this kind of thing.

2. I'm finding Alex's baby- and toddler-hood much less frustrating than Penny's, but I can't tell if he's actually a less demanding kid, or if it's just that I have a better idea of what to expect.

3. A few years ago, when our office carpets were being replaced, one of the contractors left a note on my desk with his phone number, asking me out for dinner. Even if I wasn't happily married to Matt, I would have turned him down (NASCAR paper, and egregious spelling mistakes -- probably a nice guy, but definitely Not My Type). ...But I still have that note, and it still makes me smile to look at it.

4. Penny has type 1 diabetes. Not only would I take that from her, if I could, but I would even take it alongside her, just so she wouldn't have to feel alone.

5. I have weird trust issues about people who are thinner than me. Even the ones whose love I'd never question. It sends me into a spiraling panic when friends or family members go on diets.

6. I spend a lot of time thinking about quitting my job and becoming a high school math teacher instead. It would probably double my job satisfaction -- but it would halve my salary.

7. My favorite color has been a vibrant, rich shade of blue since I was about ten years old, but just in the last year or so, I'm finding I actually prefer green. And sometimes even red.

8. I'm not a Christian, but I do believe in God and the soul.

9. One of my fondest ambitions is to become a published (paid) author. In the last five years or so, I think my writing has gotten good enough that I might actually have a chance at it, some day.

10. They say it takes 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that the stomach is full. In my case, it takes even longer -- closer to 45 minutes. If I eat a "normal" meal, I invariably end up feeling even hungrier than when I started.

11. I'm excited for Penny to get older and become a woman, but I wish I could freeze Alex before he gets to 18 months. I wish I could figure out if that's because of their relative ages, or their genders.

12. Songs that unfailingly bring tears to my eyes: "Light As the Breeze", "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

13. I will probably always wonder -- because it's impossible to prove a negative -- whether my inability to breastfeed Penny as a baby contributed to her diabetes.

14. I found my first grey hair about seven years ago, and was secretly thrilled. I think I'll look fantastic with about 25% grey.

15. I have an M.S. degree in Theoretical Mathematics. I initially decided to major in math because it was as far away from my mom's chosen subject -- history -- as I could get. I spent my first year of graduate school terrified that I was going to be exposed as a fraud.

16. My driver's license says my eyes are blue, but they're actually a sort of bluish steel-grey. I've had more compliments about my eyes than any other part of my body, combined -- some of them from random strangers. They're easily my most attractive feature, and have been since even before I got fat.

17. When I've been writing or role-playing from a predominately male point of view for too long, my face starts to itch like I've got a beard growing in.

18. I love role-playing games. I wish I could participate in a tabletop game again, but I suspect I may have to give that up as a lost hope.

19. I am, in all honesty, a really terrible manager. It's a good thing that the people who report to me are good at self-management.

20. If it was entirely in my hands, I would throw out or give away about 80% of the stuff in our house and completely redecorate it.

21. I am slightly jealous of stay-at-home moms sometimes. But then I think about how frazzled I am after a long weekend, and I'm glad I'm not one.

22. The time my mom asked me if my high-school boyfriend was any good in bed was even more embarrassing than the time his mom walked in on us.

23. I don't wear makeup on a regular basis because I can't get it to look like I'm NOT wearing makeup, which is, in my opinion, what a good makeup job should look like. Sometimes I think about paying someone to teach me how to do this.

24. I'm an incurable romantic.

25. Expert acclaim or not, "Empire Strikes Back" is still my least favorite of the three original Star Wars movies. Because I prefer movies with happy endings.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Out of Breath

There were two software deliveries last week, and it would have been three except that one of the managers let us push his delivery to this week instead. That's a total of six separate software applications, nine documents (version descriptions and user manuals and the like) that had to be written/updated, edited, and reviewed, four sets of change request paperwork, and since one of those deliveries was for an initial release, one full-blown configuration audit to perform. In the space of five days.

The good news is that -- for a change -- three of the software apps were already done and tested when we started working on the deliveries, and most of the documents were pretty straightforward (and the ones that weren't, had actually been in-work for a month beforehand).

But it was still a huge pile of stuff to do and an incredible amount of work and I'd been looking forward to today as a slower-paced breather after the incredible sprint of the last few days.

But then yesterday our document specialist's husband wound up in ICU, and it looks like he's going to be there for a while. She's working from home some, between trips to the hospital, but while she's definitely the kind of person who would rather have something to work on than just sit and idly worry, there's a limit to how much we can really ask her to do.

Which means the normal, "breather" pace, currently calling for three documents to be ready to deliver tomorrow and two more on Friday, is going to get tight again, because I'm going to end up doing probably half of them myself, and the ones she's doing, I'm going to have to go over more closely than usual since (entirely understandably!) I doubt she's going to be able to focus as well as usual.

Plus my paperwork inbox is literally overflowing with all the administrative crap that has to be done after deliveries. Whee. At least I won't have to worry about being bored at work for the rest of the week.

And if you can, spare a thought or a prayer for the doc specialist, her husband, and their son.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


William and Mary, being a good liberal arts school, had rules, when I was there, which tried to make sure all students got a "rounded" education. (I assume it still has rules along those lines, but I've heard they've changed since my day.)

At the time, they lumped all subjects into three categories -- Arts and Languages, Social Sciences, and Hard Sciences, to be generic about it. Along with various other requirements (Writing 101, at least 4 semesters of a language, at least one lab science, etc.) each student had to take a certain number of classes (well, credit hours) in each of the three categories. Your major, obviously, filled in most of the necessary hours for one of the categories, though they required at least two different subjects in each of the categories -- well-roundedness, and all. I used Computer Science to fill in my off-subject Hard Science classes, because my one Chemistry class convinced me I wasn't interested in pursuing that any longer.

Then they required you to take what they called a "concentration" in one of the other categories. It was about two classes shy of the credit hour requirements for a minor degree. And in the third category, you only had to take a handful of classes.

When I moved into my dorm room, my intention was to major in math (that had been my intention from somewhere around the first quarter of my senior year of high school, when I literally had my mind blown by my calculus teacher, and it was a drug I desperately wanted more of) and to take my "concentration" studies in English literature, to indulge my love of reading.

My throw-away category was to be the social sciences, which I had never really cared for, and learned to despise when I was in high school -- I am not good at rote memorization, and my history-major mother was forever disappointed in my barely-adequate grades. A perusal of the course catalog led me to Anthropology, which was at least new. Anthropology 101: Archaeology, and Anthropology 201: Cultural Anthropology, and Psych 101 for my "roundedness", and then I could focus on my math and my reading. An excellent plan.

So I showed up to sign up for my first semester of classes and found I had to stand in line for hours before even seeing the inside of the building. By the time I got to the Anthropology table, all the seats in both sections of Anth101 had been filled.

The person sitting at the table (a grad student, perhaps? I never knew, and now I don't even remember if it was a man or a woman) must have seen the disappointment on my face, and said, "Can I make a recommendation?"


"Try this course. Four-seventeen." They pointed to a line in the book: "Anth 417: African Experiences in the New World."

"But... I'm a freshman. I haven't had 101 or 201 yet!"

Shrug. "There's no prerequisite for it. And it's a visiting professor, and she's really great." I hesitated: 400-level classes were, at least in theory, for seniors. Could I handle that level of difficulty? "If you don't like it, you can always transfer out. Some spaces are bound to open up in 101 after the first couple of days."

So that's what I did.

Except I never did transfer out. It turned out to be a tiny class -- seven students (three of us white, two of us freshmen, and all of us female) and the professor, whose name I've long since forgotten, even though she completely changed my life.

It was not my first experience with education, distinct from memorization, but it was far more intense than anything I'd ever done before. We read five books, and they fascinated me so thoroughly that I'd devoured them before the first month of school was done. We studied culture, and the adaptation of culture. We walked into Colonial Williamsburg for a specialized version of the "Slave Life" tour. We wrote papers -- analyses of the books we'd read, and a free-study paper that I researched harder than I'd ever had to research anything in my life before (mine was on a comparison of voudoun and winti, tracing elements of each back to their parent religions in Africa). The black students in the class encouraged questions from the white students in the class about their own lives. We listened to music. At the culmination of the course, the professor had us all over to her apartment for a meal of authentic foods.

I fell in love with cultural anthropology that semester. I loved its elegance -- the way all the pieces fit together. It was exactly as mind-blowing as that moment in calculus had been, but meatier, more real. It made me understand how a person's surroundings affects their culture in a visceral way that seemed obvious, once it had been pointed out to me, and it made me look at my own culture with new eyes. It forever affected my writing, too, since I can no longer consider individuals as distinct from their cultural surroundings, and I feel the need to understand the cultural imperatives of each person or society before I can write about them -- and that has, I believe, given my characters a depth they never had before.

And these are the kinds of things that I think about when I don't have a talkative five-year-old in the car with me on the way to work, when I actually am allowed to have my own thoughts for half an hour or so, and when the radio plays "What A Wonderful World," which was analyzed by the other freshman in that class for her big paper, and which will always remind me that rhythm and spirit count for a lot more than people give them credit for... at least in our culture.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Anger Management

It started off as a good morning.

I'd had a fun dream that stretched most of the night and was like watching an action/adventure sci-fi movie. The kids managed to sleep in a bit, so I got to smack the snooze a few times and didn't get up until almost 6:30 -- and didn't feel like I was running late, either, since Matt's taking the week off and agreed to take Penny to school so I could go to work straight from dropping off Alex.

And then things started rolling downhill.

Penny whined at me about not wanting to go to school. Then we couldn't find her school library book, and today's library day. We turned the house upside down, and in the process, I got angrier and angrier about all the random flotsam and pieces of paper and junk that she'd just thrown on shelves with no eye at all to actually keeping things organized or finding it later. I actually indulged in a long-suppressed urge to just sweep all the crap off one surface with one big shove. It was every bit as satisfying as I'd imagined it would be.

But I hate myself when I get angry with Penny for this kind of thing. Deep down, it's not her fault. Matt and I are both slobs -- we don't leave food lying around, but we're very bad at organizing our stuff. We don't put things away, we don't clean up regularly. Our bookshelves are horrifying and our couch-side tables are a vomit of chaos. How is she supposed to learn how to be neat and organized, with us for role-models? All very well for us to institute a nightly clean-up policy, but since we've slacked off on picking up after Alex, and we've never picked up after ourselves as part of that policy, how is she supposed to see how it works? We haven't helped her with the organization part, either -- it's been, "get the stuff off the floor, get the stuff off the tables." And since it's a bedtime routine, we haven't had much patience for it, either.

So when I left the house, it was later than I'd been planning to leave, I was still angry with Penny (the book remains AWOL) and even more furious with myself (and seething at Matt, just for good measure). So I tried to respond cheerfully to Alex's chirps and babbles, but mostly I couldn't manage it and I just concentrated on trying not to drive angry.

And then we got to daycare and I took Alex back to his class, and his teacher had changed her hair and he didn't recognize her, so I had to walk away with him screaming and crying. Which did not help my mood any.

Nor did the realization, halfway to work, that I'd forgotten to write the check for daycare.

I thought about going to the gym instead of to work, to get on the elliptical and run off some of this anger and frustration, but then my knee started to twinge and throb even though I wasn't using it for anything. And I forgot to take my allergy meds this morning, which means I shouldn't get my allergy shots today.

I want to scream until my throat is so hoarse it's bloody. I want to scratch and bite something that will writhe and shriek in pain, I want to shake something until it breaks. I spent the last three miles of my drive to work talking myself down from tears because the iris scanner doesn't work so well if I'm crying. (I cry when I'm angry. Which only irritates me further, because it's so stupid.)

I'd think about taking the day off, except that there's nowhere for me to go.

There hasn't been anywhere for me to go for a long time, now.