Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Went over to Braz and Adin's last night so the kids could exchange their Christmas gifts.

Ripley tore into her with enthusiasm, and as soon as she got the paper off, she looked at the brown shipping box I'd put her presents into and gleefully exclaimed, "A box! It's what I always wanted!"

DUDE. The girl is six, but she delivered that line with perfect nuance. If it hadn't been, you know, a brown shipping box, I might have actually thought that she'd been jonesing for something just like it. Someone has either taught her very well how to act pleased even at disappointing results, or else she's going to be a Grand Master of sarcasm and the dry retort. (...Who am I kidding? It's the sarcasm one, of course.)

(She was eventually very happy with the FurReal toys Penny had picked out for her.)

Henry did not lose his mind over the draw-your-own-puzzle kits we got him, but he seemed happy enough. I think he'll like it better when he can actually, y'know, open them up and use them. Alex was likewise happy with the Imaginext airplane set he received. (Imaginext is apparently a theme for Alex this year; he also got a dinosaur set from our next-door neighbors, and there are another couple of sets waiting under the tree.)

Penny was a little nonplussed at first to find that her package contained CDs instead of toys. She tried to hide her disappointment, but it wasn't until she showed them to Ripley and Ripley got excited that Penny realized that these were a gift worth having. And then I put a nail in disappointment's coffin by Ooohing and Aaahing over the Selena Gomez CD and saying, "Oh, this is big girl music." The two girls all but raced up for Ripley's CD player to give it a listen. (They also gave her the Muppets soundtrack and a Disney songs CD. She was a little more "meh" about them last night, but this morning was excitedly telling me what songs were on all the discs.)


Tonight: a quiet (please o merciful gods) evening at home and with any luck, an early bedtime.

Monday, December 19, 2011


I had a lovely day off on Friday. I spent the morning at Panera, writing, and then Adin joined me for lunch, and after that we went shopping and got pedicures. We all met up again at Plaza Azteca for dinner, and then we went back to Adin's place so Alex could open his birthday present from them, which turned out to be an "I Spy" bingo game. (Like regular bingo, but with objects and letters of the alphabet, with a number of variations suggested by the rules, depending on how advanced the players are.) We played a few rounds of that, and then I went to my book club party.

For the first time this year, we decided to hold it at a restaurant instead of burdening anyone with the job of cleaning up and providing snacks. That turned out to be an awesome idea. We went to Food For Thought and had a fantastic time. As a clever holiday promotion, the manager was handing out what he called "Secret Santa cards" -- little envelopes that contained a surprise gift, ranging from a free glass of wine to a complete dinner for two on Valentine's Day. The catch was that we couldn't open them ourselves; we have to bring them in sometime in January and have a manager open them. So of course we decided that we have to have our January book club there, too!

Saturday was calmer -- we ran some errands in the morning (like taking a box of stuff to the post office so we can hope it gets to his mom's before we do), and Matt went to his monthly D&D game that evening. I took the kids out to dinner, and they were surprisingly good.

Sunday was a little crazier. We had the usual chores, and we exchanged presents with our next-door neighbors, and then Matt and Penny went to see a production of the Nutcracker ballet while Alex napped. After Alex woke up, I took him down to my parents', where Matt and Penny met up with us (they'd had a good time at the ballet, though as Matt said, it was a children's dance troupe, so the performances were a little uneven) for the family birthday party for Alex. Mom made her homemade mac-and-cheese, and Sam brought a gorgeous salad, and Alex seemed quite happy with all his presents. We all had big pieces of cake (except John and Sam, who were being good and making the rest of us look bad) and HOLY CRAP MY BABY IS (nearly) FOUR.

Who let that happen?

Speaking of crazier...

My office Christmas party holiday luncheon annual morale event is today. (Catered lunch, yum!) Tonight we're swapping gifts with the Hegemony. No plans yet for Tuesday, but I expect I'll spend a chunk of it packing, because. Wednesday morning has a doctor's appointment of some sort for everyone in the house except Matt, Penny has a half-day of school (if she goes at all, depending on how long her doctor appointment goes) and that evening, the Hickses are coming up to do the Christmas thing (and also so KT can give me my thirty-one gear and we can sequester ourselves in a corner and talk writer-stuff for a bit).

And then Thursday, we're off to Chicago for the holidays.

In the meantime, one of the gifts I ordered for Matt still hasn't come in, and I have to figure out a way to wrap another one. Details that I had thought long since established (like whether Santa wraps gifts) are being called into question, and since I haven't really been thinking past the Chicago trip, I was blindsided by the need to plan the events for New Year's Eve. I feel like my head isn't screwed on quite right; I'm dropping details right and left, and my body has reacted by making me drop into a drowse every time I stop moving for more than ten minutes.

But at least I finally remembered to load my holiday music onto my iPad!


Thursday, December 15, 2011


The last few days, Penny has finished her homework and begun embarking on what she's called her "Masterpiece of the Day." That is, she gets out construction paper and scissors and tape and glue and pens and constructs a picture.

This would be merely "cute" if I hadn't actually and honestly thought some of the pieces she's made have been fantastic. (Note: links go to my "Penny's Art" album on Facebook; if you're not a FB friend, you probably will not be able to get through.)

I was particularly impressed, on this one, that she made collected snow on a few branches and at the base of the tree. I also like the use of actual perspective -- I know at her age, I just drew trees appearing at the horizon line!

This one is a little more abstract, but it put me in mind of some really great still life paintings, especially with the loaf of bread in the foreground. The thing in the middle is a mug of hot chocolate, with marshmallows. I love that the candles have little auras of light around them! The weird-shaped thing at the top is a chandelier, and (possibly my favorite item in the picture) the stair-shaped thing on the upper right? Actually some stairs, in the background.

Can I just say that I'm impressed at what the child can do with only four colors of construction paper and some safety scissors?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Busy is Relative

Compared to the previous weekend, this last one was positively indolent.

Jenn and Brian came down on Friday instead of Saturday, so we took them with us over to the Hegemony for dinner and a round of Cards Against Humanity.

I'd meant to be productive Saturday, but Matt took Penny out to run some errands while Alex was napping, and I had a headache, so I went to lay down, too. I had to get up twice to answer the phone, but I crawled right back to bed and the next thing I knew, it was 5:00 and the whole afternoon was gone. So we ordered a huge order of Chinese and took it over to the Hegemony again. This time, we played Trivial Pursuit. I've always sucked at the game, but I got a fantastic selection of really ridiculously difficult questions, so eventually I gave up even really trying, and just enjoyed watching the other three jockey for the win.

Sunday made up for my indulgence Saturday, though. After I'd gotten up and done the grocery shopping, I set about clearing the kitchen of a wide assortment of items that need to be pre-prepared: I roasted five winter squash from our CSA box that have been waiting. I seeded a pomegranate. I peeled and roasted a whole bunch of root vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, and carrots). I made a batch of apple-pumpkin soup. The kitchen got cleaned not once, but a couple of times. So I felt pretty good about all that. The only things left to do on that front are another pomegranate and a batch of peanuts to be shelled and roasted.

I also took Penny out shopping to get some new "fancy" shoes to go with her Christmas dress, and I stopped by Target to pick up a new pair of jeans and a pair of leggings, and I found a couple of new shirts while I was at it. (Kudos to Penny for suffering through all my trying things on and bemoaning re-gained weight; she just sat on the floor in the dressing room with my phone and held the room while I ran back and forth getting things in various sizes.)

After our dinner of pumpkin soup and roasted vegetables, we had to drop Matt's car off at the dealership for some routine maintenance, so as long as we were all in the car anyway, we took the kids down to drive through the Newport News Park's Celebration in Lights. I was driving, so I didn't take any pictures, but Penny had her camera, and delighted in taking both videos and snapshots. (I'll be interested to see if any of them turned out at all.)

The timing worked out pretty well -- by the time we got home, we were only slightly late for Alex's bath and bedtime.

This coming weekend ramps things back up. My book club Christmas party is Friday night. Matt's D&D game is Saturday. Sunday, Matt is taking Penny to see the Nutcracker ballet, after which we'll convene at my parents' for Alex's birthday party.

Friday, December 9, 2011


So, the Day Job's HR/benefits department is making changes to the schedule for our holidays which essentially is going to screw us out of a day of vacation next year. (Worse, they're moving it around so that we don't get our annual holiday pool until after the Christmas holidays, which completely sucks. I liked that they'd been giving it to us just before Christmas, because it ensured that we always had that time available. It's now essentially a gigantic sandpaper dildo for people who aren't good at planning a whole year in advance.) They're also changing how much vacation we're allowed to save up, but that's much less of an issue for me since I'm barely keeping my vacation balance above water right now, anyway.


Speaking of barely keeping things above water... the schedule probably could have a few more things crammed into it, but it would take a crowbar.

Penny has a half-day today, and tonight we'll probably do our usual Friday night shindig with the Hegemony. Tomorrow, Jenn and Brian are coming into town to do some shopping and then stopping to visit with us afterward. Matt has his D&D game, so he'll probably miss some of their visit, but that'll be okay. They can help me take the kids out to dinner and then we'll figure out something to do once the kids are in bed.

Sunday, so far, has no plans. I'm hoping against hope that the Christmas cards I ordered will arrive today or Saturday so that I can spend part of Sunday signing and addressing them and they can go in the mail on Monday. And I did kind of promise Penny that I'd take her out shopping to try to find some fancy shoes to go with her Christmas dress. I'm not sure when that will happen, but I'm betting on either Saturday or Sunday this weekend.

Next week, I have two doctor appointments on the books, plus I'll probably have to schedule a bloodletting so that my GP will refill my synthyroid prescription.

Then, next weekend, I've got my book club meeting/Christmas party on Friday night, and then nothing on Saturday (except probably doing Christmas cards, if they don't arrive in time to do them this weekend, and shipping those gifts that need to be shipped -- which means we should probably get a move on the last of our gift shopping -- and a box or two of stuff to Matt's mom in advance of our trip, like some presents for the gang there, and we can fill extra space in the box with some of our bulkier clothes), and then Sunday Matt's taking Penny to a local production of The Nutcracker ballet, followed by dinner at my folks' to celebrate Alex's birthday (for which I need to acquire a cake).

And the following Wednesday, Alex and I both have appointments with the ear/nose/throat doctor at the same time that Penny has her quarterly checkup with the endocrinologist, and then she has a half-day of school. We'll spend that night and Thursday morning packing stuff, and then pretty much right after lunch that Thursday, we're off to Richmond to catch our flight to Chicago. (Which should be a hoot, as the flight was already slam-packed full when I booked it in September, and I couldn't get ANY seats together. We'll be relying on the kindness of surrounding strangers to swap around so that the kids can sit with us.)

Matt has been trying to impose some level of organization on our time in Chicago, but my impression is that he's getting a lot of, "Oh, let's just wait and see" responses, so... not so much. I'm trying to stay out of it, for the most part. I'm just chalking those 9 days up to a blur of alternating running around and trying to keep the kids from getting so bored that they wreck his mom's house, and otherwise letting the chips fall as they may.

We're coming back from Chicago on the 30th (at least our seats are all together on that flight), and then on the 31st we'll "do" a mid-day Christmas with my family and end up at the Hegemony to ring in the New Year. (I've promised Penny she can try to stay up until midnight this year. We Shall See how that goes -- and whether I manage to stay awake that late, myself.)

And then I'll have the 1st and the 2nd of January to catch up on sleep, unpack our bags, try to figure out where all the new loot fits, and start un-decorating the house.

Somewhere in all that, we need to find a time to match schedules and meet up with KT and Kevin and Jess so we can give them their presents (and I can get the stuff I ordered from KT's thirty-one show). I need to get some occasional exercise, stay on top of everything at work, finish editing the story I'm working on, and gin up a couple of promotional blurbs for my publisher. I also need to do something with an assortment of vegetables and fruits in my kitchen before they start to go bad on me, and I'd really like to try out the all-edges brownie pan that Karen sent for my birthday. (Maybe Alex will get brownies in addition to cake for his birthday. Just 'cause.)

What I'm saying is -- if I miss a day or two of posting in the next couple of weeks, don't worry; I'm not dead, just insane. And between the 22nd and the 3rd, you probably shouldn't expect to hear from me at all, though I may manage a post or two via my phone. My twitter account is much more likely to see semi-regular posts, if you find yourself saddened by the silence here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I'm struggling with apathy. Again.

Christmas used to be my favorite holiday of the year. I looked forward to it all year long, dragged out the decorations as soon as Thanksgiving had arrived, and buried myself in the planning and activities with joyous enthusiasm. I loved it all.

This year... I'm not feeling it. There's no excitement to balance out the schedule crunch; there's no delight to make the petty frustrations all worthwhile; there's no thrill to offset the whining. I'm not captivated by the lights or teary-eyed at the music or warmed by the acts of charity. I just. Don't. Care.

Don't care if the house is decorated. Don't care if the presents are all wrapped and under the tree. Don't care if we've got a present for everyone on our list. Don't care if we make it to all the events. Don't care if we see all the specials, read all the books, bake all the cookies, open all the advent doors.

But it's not just Christmas. It's everything. I don't care if I get my work done on time... or at all. Don't care if the bills get paid. Don't care if I finish the story I'm writing. Don't care if I participate in the promotional stuff. Don't care if there's dinner on the table. Don't care if the kids are bathed, don't care if I get a shower.

Don't know why. Am I just tired? Burned out on stress? Midlife crisis? Lack of introvert recharge time? Late-breaking cynicism onset? I don't know. Don't much care about that, either. All I know is that everything's gone grey on me again.

I'm trying to pretend it's all in color. For the kids' sakes, and Matt's, and everyone else. I'm doing my work (mostly on time) and making dinner and taking showers and making lunches and going to the gym. I put up the decorations and I'm lighting the candles and making the treats and opening the doors and listening to the music. Doing the shopping and making the plans and wrapping the presents and playing the games. Taking the pictures and making the cards and struggling with the technical issues.

It's going to blow over, eventually, and when it does, I'll want to know that I didn't screw up anyone else's holidays too badly. So I'm making the effort. As much as I can. But it's a struggle, and I don't know if I'm going to be able to keep it up all the way through the end of the month.


(I lied. It's not all grey. Alex has been eating oddly and complaining of thirst a lot lately and so for a few days there, the grey was tinged with terror, until I finally gave in and tested his blood sugar one morning before he'd eaten. It came up at 81. He's fine. I admit that returning to the grey after that was something of a relief.)

Monday, December 5, 2011


What an insanely busy weekend! And yet, loads of fun!

Let's see. Friday night, we took the kids out to see The Muppets. It wasn't a perfect movie, but it was a fitting homage to Henson and Oz and the original Muppets. The kids enjoyed it, though Alex was about to turn into a pumpkin on us by the time it ended.

Saturday morning we got up and got dressed right away and headed into town to watch the Christmas parade. Alex found it alternately boring and too loud, but Penny loved it -- her favorite parts were the middle school and high school bands.

Waiting for the parade

When that ended at 10:30, we walked a few blocks up the street and had an early lunch at Wasabi. (They were nice enough to let us in even though they were still setting up and weren't officially open until 11. They got drinks for us and we were grateful just to sit down until they were ready for us.)

After lunch, we got Alex down for a nap and then I ran up to the store for supplies for the moon cookie party, which started around 1:30 or so. It was a smaller group than usual this year (I can't believe KT and Kevin would rather go to Disney World for a week than come to the moon cookie party!) but we had a great time making cookies and chatting. Though for the record, I seriously need to get some more cookie sheets, next year. Waiting on cookies to bake is a huge hold-up!

When that was done, we all went out to eat at La Tolteca, where Adin's sister met up with us, and then we trooped over to Braz and Adin's to put the kids to bed and have a seven-player game of Cards Against Humanity. (Adin's sister is sweet and giggly and precious, and also? has an incredibly filthy mind. I approve. A lot.)

Sunday morning, Matt threatened the kids with mayhem so that I could sleep in until almost 9. Then we got everyone dressed in their new Christmas clothes (or in Matt's and my cases, our old Christmas clothes) and we went down to New Town to visit Santa and take pictures. They had a different guy playing Santa this year, but he was nearly as good with the kids. A new thing they've got going this year is that if there isn't a line (which there wasn't, for us -- I can never quite believe it) Santa would read a story to the kids. Which was pure awesome.

Santa and Penny peruse her list
Santa reading to the kids
After our visit with Santa, we went out for lunch at Ruby Tuesday, then went home so Alex could crash into a nap. While he was out, Penny and I wrapped a bunch of Christmas presents and put them under the tree (Alex woke up in time to help with the last few) and then we all piled in the car and went to Busch Gardens to see Christmastown, which I have missed for the last few years and was determined to see this time.

I have to say, I loved it. And the weather was perfect -- brisk enough to add to the "winter wonderland" atmosphere without being so cold that it was unpleasant to be outdoors. I do sort of wish that Matt and I could go back without the kids, because it would be nice to a) sample some of the tasty treats without having to worry about the diabetic in tow, b) stay at the park later than Alex's bedtime, and c) stroll along and look at everything at our own pace, without having to deal with assorted whines about being bored/hungry/tired and wanting to go right now to the favorite show or ride.

After all that standing and walking and picture-taking, my back and hips are killing me today, but it was totally worth it. I got lots of fun pictures to use for our Christmas cards and the calendar for next year, and the kids had a great time, even if they were both getting a little tired and out of sorts by the end of it. (I can relate, as I was getting a little tired and out of sorts as well...)

I'm hoping to recover some of my aplomb this week -- there's not much happening at work until Thursday, and I've got 7 hours of what my office calls discretionary/holiday time (I'd been saving it all year for the day after Thanksgiving, but wound up working most of that day, so I still have it left over) that I have to use-or-lose by the 16th. So I'm looking at taking some extra time off -- either two half-days or one full day -- to wrap up my Christmas shopping and work on my writing and generally try to relax and recoup my holiday spirit, which has been badly frazzled by my perception of the schedule, this year.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Love Muffin

I've been aware of my not-so-slowly re-expanding waistline (and hips, and thighs) for a while, now. It's been on my "I should get around to that sometime" list. And on Monday, I actually started back up with my morning Wii Fit workouts -- it's not burning a ton of calories, but it helps my ankles and feet, and I do believe it at least helps get my metabolism moving for the day. And if I make it to the gym today, this will be the first week in I can't remember how long that I've gotten to the gym three times in a single week. I haven't started tracking food again yet, but I (mostly) put the kibosh on all the extra snacking that had crept into my day.

And according to this morning's Wii Fit weigh-in, I've lost about 2 pounds since Monday.

Go, me! Right?

Except that I put on my pair of "fat" jeans this morning. They've been slowly getting snugger over the past few months, but this morning, I actually had trouble getting them zipped, and when I looked in the mirror... Holy muffin tops, Batman! It's a good thing I'm wearing a baggy sweater, is what I'm saying.

And this weekend? Yeah. We're going to see the new Muppet movie tonight with the kids. And tomorrow is the Moon Cookie party. (And the local holiday parade, but that doesn't represent a danger to my diet.)

I am not. Not. Not going to miss out on moon cookies. So I guess I'm skipping the popcorn at the movie tonight, because this muffin? Not only is it unattractive, but it's also kind of uncomfortable. And I hate shopping for pants.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Sunday afternoon, amidst all my other errands and running around, I stopped at the storage unit and brought home the Christmas tree and a bunch of other boxes.

When I got home, I started plugging in the tree sections, to make sure they worked before I went to the effort of assembling them.

Good thing, too. Because they didn't. Well, the middle section worked okay. But neither the bottom nor the top sections lit up at all.

There were a number of paths I could have taken from there. My dad, for instance, once actually went over the entirety of a pre-lit tree, testing each and every one of over 600 bulbs, looking for the one(s) that had caused the tree to go out. Yike. My time -- and my fingertips -- are more valuable than that.

Another possible route would have been to just get some light strands and string them on the tree where the built-in lights were dead, ignoring the dead bulbs and hoping the ornaments covered them up. I'd actually done this a couple of years earlier, when one section of the tree went dead. It worked okay, mostly, as long as I kept that section turned toward the corner where it wouldn't be in high profile. But I didn't want to do that for two thirds of the entire tree -- for one thing, I get pre-lit trees for a reason, and that reason is that I hate stringing lights. For another, there would be no way to turn the section with all the dead bulbs toward the corner, and covering ornaments or not, it would've looked pretty skeezy.

So I went with the third option, which was to toss the whole thing out and plan a trip to the store for a new tree. We went looking at Target on Sunday evening, before Matt's birthday dinner, and we picked out a tree we liked -- but there was no way we were going to fit the box in the car with all four of us. I love our Priuses (Prii?) and they have a lot more trunk space than it looks like from the outside... but not that much.

I said something to Matt about possibly picking it up on my way home from work Monday, but then he wanted to do some comparison shopping elsewhere. (Why, when we'd have been ready to get the tree from Target on Sunday if not for the space issue, I'm not sure. Is it possible to have buyer's remorse before you've bought something?)

So on Tuesday, after I'd done my writing, I went over to Wal-Mart. That took a bit longer than it should have; the two trees that were roughly analogous in size and shape to the one we'd picked at Target were both -- of course -- sold out. I thought about going back to Target, but there had only been one tree left of the sort we'd picked out. The chances that it was still there were... slim. So I spent some time waffling over my remaining choices at Wal-Mart.

The box did not fit in the trunk of my car, as expected. It only barely fit in the back seat, stretched across both kids' seats -- closing the car door nudged the box pretty firmly.

But I got it home, and even managed to get it out of the box, light-tested, assembled, and fluffed before Matt and Penny got home. Penny helped me put one round of ornaments on it, and then when Alex came home later, we all put on the remaining ornaments together.

So now we have a lit, decorated tree. Christmas is a go.