Tuesday, November 24, 2009


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

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

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

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

Just in time for Thanksgiving. It's starting to become a <a href="http://wherelizlives.blogspot.com/2008/11/uck.html">family tradition</a>. I could do without this one, though.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scattered Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Up Up and Away!

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hippo Birdie To Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are definitely worse ways to start off a week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Finally Friday

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Special Helper

It's Election Day -- if you're in the U.S., have you voted?

Since our county uses schools for polling places, they give the kids the day off.  But of course we don't get the day off from work, so I've got Penny with me at work today.  (Or as I said in the weekly meeting, "my special helper".)

At least daycare is still open.  Next week for Veteran's Day, both schools are closed, so Matt's going to have to take the day off to watch them.

Penny loves to come to work with me.  I have to assume it's the novelty of it, since there really isn't anything fun to do here.  She usually sits on the far side of my desk and draws pictures on printer paper with my highlighters.  This time, I said something about bringing her homework with us so she could finish it, and she got it into her head that she needed to replicate an entire day of schoolwork, so she brought paper to write on and her notebooks and everything.  Sounds great to me!

Except of course that we got here and pulled out her notebook for her to work on her vocabulary sentences, and I realized we left the piece of paper with the words on it at home.  So we don't know what words she's supposed to be working on.  Sigh.

(I threw out a quick email to her teacher -- maybe, since they're working today, she'll get it and can send the words back to me.  If not, I'm planning to run out at lunchtime anyway to get my allergy shot, so maybe we can swing by the house on our way back and find the list.)

Right now, she is doing "writing work", which means that I give her a topic, and she writes a sentence about it.  She also brought several books to read, and I packed a worksheet I found that she hadn't finished.  If I'd thought about it, I might have brought some other workbooks we have.  Oh, well, something to remember for next time -- there's a ridiculous number of student holidays, so this is hardly the last time this year Penny will be coming to work with me.

And when doing "school" work palls, I've got some movies on my iPod... and there's always the old printer paper and highlighters standby.

(Still, I don't expect to get much work done today.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

Hallowe'en kicked butt.

There were a couple of moments when it was in doubt.  Friday afternoon, Penny went to the nurse complaining that she felt tired, and the nurse found she was running a low-grade fever.  How pissed will Penny be, I wondered, if she gets sick and can't go trick-or-treating?  But the fever was gone by Friday night, and she was fine all day Saturday.

When Alex went down for his nap after lunch on Saturday, we carved our pumpkins.  Penny even got to help scoop hers out and design the face for it.  (Maybe next year I'll buy one of those kits with the kid-safe knife and we'll let her attempt the carving part, too.)  She had fun, anyway, and I think the pumpkins turned out really well.

But as we were finishing up, it had started to rain.  Matt and I waffled, then decided it was warm enough to let the kids go trick-or-treating in the rain, but it was going to take a lot of the fun out of it.

But at 5:30, as the neighborhood kids started to assemble in the cul-de-sac in their costumes, champing at the bit with anticipation and impatience for the official 6:00 start time, the rain had stopped and the sun even occasionally broke through the sculling clouds.  The grass was wet, but it didn't dampen any enthusiasm.

Alex had been refusing to wear his costume for more than a few minutes at a time before, but once outside, he seemed to forget he was wearing it.  He charged back and forth through the grass, and when 6:00 finally arrived, he willingly took Matt's hand and gamely went next door to pick some candy from the neighbor's bucket.  He never did say (or try to say) "Trick or treat," but Matt said he did say "Bye-bye!" a few times, and even one "Thank you!"  I thought all the strange people in strange costumes would spook him, but he went to all the houses on our cul-de-sac, and might have gone further, but was distracted by one neighbor's gravel-lined driveway.  When you're not-quite-two, rocks are cooler than candy, I guess.

Penny did her trick-or-treating with Ray, whose mom graciously agreed to keep an eye on both kids so that Penny wouldn't have to be held to Alex's pace with Matt.  They didn't have the stamina to be gone the whole two hours, but they brought back respectable hauls (seriously - Penny only had two "junk" candies, and those were well offset by the full size candy bar in her bucket!), then spent the rest of the evening helping to hand out candy and playing outside with their glow-in-the-dark safety bracelets and necklaces.

We didn't have nearly as many trick-or-treaters as usual this year, and at least half of our candy went un-treated.  My theory is that with the threat of rain, a lot of parents decided to take their kids to the mall to trick-or-treat instead of letting them wander outside.

At any rate, I ate more leftover candy than I should, so this morning I packed it all up and sent it to work with Matt.  Whether he leaves it in the staff room for general consumption or keeps it in his desk for his own private use is entirely up to him!