Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Contest Winner!

Hey, it's Wednesday, which means it's usually my day to write over at the writing blog, but I wanted to stop in quickly and (finally) announce that the winner of the MyMemories software contest is Heidi, my diabetes-mom twin from D-Tales! Congrats, Heidi! I'll email you soon with the download code and instructions! :-)

For the rest of you, if you're interested in buying the software, I've got a $10 off coupon code that you can use -- check the sidebar for details!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanks-given

Thanksgiving went pretty well, despite having clogged the sink drain with vegetable peelings the night before and having to summon the emergency plumber for Thanksgiving morning to clear it out with the shop vac. But the food turned out great, and Penny had a good time helping me, and Alex was thrilled beyond measure to drink his milk out of one of my china teacups. I was only confused about the lack of drippings from the turkey -- if I'd known it was going to drop so little, I'd have poured in some chicken stock to add extra heat to the bottom and to give me something to work with when it was time to make gravy. My apple-and-chestnut stuffing turned out awesome, if I do say so myself.

I had to work Friday (and surprisingly, there was work to be done, so I didn't get to enact my plan, which was to check email every couple of hours and otherwise just relax), alas. But Friday evening we went over to Braz and Adin's, and after we got the kids to bed, we played through the entire Cards Against Humanity deck. (Best question/answer pair of the night, and possibly all time: "What do I like to think about when I'm having sex?" "Being a dinosaur.") We wrapped up the game well after 1:30 in the morning. Matt and I didn't get to bed until after 2...

And of course the cat woke me up at 6:30. And when I got up, thinking I would feed him and go back to bed, I found Alex sitting on the edge of his bed, waiting for someone to stir so he could get up. So I was up. Alas. Once we were all up, we went down to my parents' for a little while, and then after Alex's nap we went back to Braz and Adin's for Matt's birthday party. We had hot dogs and bratwurst and ice cream cake, and we played a couple of rounds of Taboo after the kids were tucked into bed, but didn't stay up nearly as late, thank goodness.

Sunday was Matt's birthday, and also something of a crazy runaround day. I got up with the kids so Matt could sleep in, and once he'd gotten up and opened his presents, I did the grocery shopping. Then I came home, put the groceries away, and got the kids started on their lunch. While they finished that up, I ran across town to pick up Matt's birthday pie. (Matt always gets pecan pie for his birthday, and the best pecan pie I've ever had comes from the Jamestown Pie Company.) On my way back from that, I stopped at the storage unit to pick up most of our Christmas boxes and the tree.

When I got back, I took advantage of the excellent weather (it was over 70 outside!) to start putting up the outdoor decorations, and then while I started to assemble the tree, I let the kids distribute the candles in the windows.

But when I tested it, it turned out that of the 3 major sections of tree, only one of them lit up. Now, my dad once actually pulled and tested every single bulb on a pre-lit tree to find out which one had gone bad. I am not that determined. I declared the tree dead (we've had it long enough to have gotten our money's worth out of it, at least) and piled its sections outside with the trash.

Matt had promised Penny he would take her to Sweet Frog for snack on Sunday, so we did that, and then we stopped at Target on the way home to look at new trees. We got one all picked out, but the box was going to be way too big to fit in the car with all of us in it, so we had to leave it there. I did pick up a new door wreath and some plastic ornaments to decorate the porch and bushes, and we got Alex his Christmas outfit. (He did not pick the one I liked best, but he picked my second-favorite. I was tempted to get him both, but he really doesn't need clothes, and the little sets are not cheap.) We still need to take Penny out to look for her Christmas dress, as well. Maybe one evening this week, we'll do that.

Once we got back home, we pretty much turned around and headed straight back out to meet my family at Outback for Matt's birthday dinner. That was fun (and delicious), and then my parents came back to our house to share in that pecan pie. (John and Sam were virtuous, and avoided the temptation.)

All in all, a really good weekend... but I didn't get nearly enough sleep.

With Christmas coming in less than four weeks, I don't expect to get caught up for a while, either.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Intervention

I had a dream last night. I was walking in the woods with some friends, and realized that Penny wasn't with us. We called, and fanned out to look for her, and I found her in a bed of leaves, unconscious. She didn't rouse, so I tested her blood sugar: 20. "I'll need the Glucagon," I said to whoever was standing behind me. "The big red box in her bag." In the dream, I was very calm. I explained to the person with me (it wasn't Matt, because he wouldn't need the explanation, having heard it before) that Penny was probably going to throw up when she woke up, and that as soon as I'd given her the shot, I would call 911 for an ambulance.

I woke up before I actually gave her the shot, much less calm than I had been in the dream. It was around 2:30 in the morning.

It was only a dream, I told myself. I got up and went into Penny's room. She stirred when I touched her arm. I didn't want to disturb her, so I kissed her cheek, then went to check on Alex (who was sleeping on his back with his hands tucked behind his head and his ankles crossed in the classic "lounging on summer grass" pose -- I had to giggle!) and then started to go back to bed. But as I sat down, I thought... it wouldn't hurt to actually check Penny's blood sugar. Just to be sure.

She'd been 138 when Matt checked her at 10:00 -- solidly in range. But except for Sunday evening and yesterday morning, when she was apparently fighting off the aftereffects of movie theater popcorn, she's been having a lot of lows lately. It was worth a check.

I had to fight her to get her hand out from under the blanket, but I finally got the drop of blood on the test strip... 54.

Crap.

I brought her a juice box, and by the time I'd got the wrapper off the straw, she was sitting up and ready for it. She sucked it down and then collapsed back into her nest of blankets.

I re-checked her fifteen minutes later, now approaching 3 am. She was at 108, a good solid number. I went back to bed, though it took me almost an hour to relax back into sleep.

This morning, when she checked her sugars before breakfast, she was at 58.

WTF, diabetes? WTF?

And what if I hadn't had that dream? Would she have bottomed out in the 50's anyway? Or continued her nosedive? Would we have woken this morning and realized Penny hadn't turned her alarm off, and had to scramble for the Glucagon for real?

It's almost enough to make me wonder if there's a higher power.

***

But lest we let diabetes take the upper hand and set the tone for the day, let me share something awesome with you instead. Penny's studying maps in school right now, and her big project, due today, was to make up her own map of a place, and write a paragraph to go with it. With help, she decided to map an island, and she filled it in, and then we thought about underwater movies we'd seen to help us add features to the surrounding ocean -- she put in caves and volcanoes and even a minefield (a la Finding Nemo). The map itself was very creative and imaginative, and I was pleased.

And then she wrote the paragraph to go with it. Matt swears she wrote this all at once, without a lot of pausing for thought (presented exactly as she wrote it, with our spelling corrections in brackets):

This Island is my secret hideout where my friends hang out. We also go on quests but of course we have to leave mine filds [fields] around our island to sink and stop our enmy's [enemies'] ships. We explore the water volcanos [volcanoes] to see what and when they explode. If our enmys [enemies] are near we hide in the caves. Also we find treasure on our island! If it's hot we run in the forest to cool off. My island is a safe place you can go. (Exept [Except] for the pirats [pirates].) And have fun!

When she read that to me, I just about fell over, I was so proud and happy and excited. How awesome is that?! The "(except for the pirates)" bit killed me! (The parentheses were her idea, even.) Volcanoes and treasure and minefields and pirates and sunken ships and forests and caves, and she managed to link it all together cohesively! Obviously, she's a born storyteller. Or possibly ready to start building her own D&D modules.

Either way... That's my girl.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wait, What?

There was a weekend, right?

I got up this morning and literally could not remember what I'd done on Saturday. At all. I wasn't sure the day had even happened until Matt jogged my memory: "You went to KT's thing."

Oh, right. KT threw a thirty-one show. And it's weird that I forgot it, because I've been looking forward to it. Because I bought way too many things at it. Because I signed up to host a show, myself, come spring (when hopefully the available patterns will be a little less... brown.)

And after that, I went over to Braz and Adin's to find my kids, and it looked for a while like I was going to leave both of them there overnight, but Penny only had 2 glucose test strips left in her kit, and Alex started whining at about 9 that he wanted to go home, so... we went home. (Good thing, too, because Penny had a persistent low blood sugar that kept me up until after midnight, and then Matt stayed up until nearly 2am trying to keep her in range.)

Sunday we met up with them again to take in Happy Feet Two, which turned out to be pretty good, though I'm distinctly disturbed that Mumble is still sporting his chick-feathers like he was at the end of the first movie. But it was funny (oh my goodness, the krill puns! I want a whole movie now that's just Bill and Will!) and the music adaptions were fun, and it kept the kids pretty well entertained.

This week promises to be nice and slow -- not too much to do at work, and I've got all my ingredients in place for the cooking/eating frenzy of Wednesday evening and Thursday. I do need to remember to put the Macy's parade on the TiVo so I can jump the commercials, and get Karen's birthday package to the post poffice. I'm technically working on Friday, but I don't think anyone else is, so I'm planning to work from home and probably just check email every so often to make sure nothing is happening.

So things will be quiet here. Some thankful contemplation, perhaps.

But hey! If you take digital pictures at all, go check out the contest I have running for free digital scrapbooking software! They're releasing the new version of the software next week, and the contest winner will get the new version, which fixes quite a few of my quibbles from the review, so for petesake enter the contest! Right now!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Memories - CONTEST!

The very kind folks at MyMemories offered me a copy of their digital scrapbooking software for review, and they offered up a second copy for some lucky winner of my contest -- I'll explain that after the review.

Reviewer's Caveats: 
Platform: The software is available for both Mac and PC, but of course my review is of the Mac software. Your mileage may vary, especially if you're on a PC.

Perspective: My previous experience with digital scrapbooking software is pretty limited, so what you're getting is my comparison of this software to: a) real scrapbooking, b) a very brief trial of the Creative Memories software several years ago, c) other software with graphic elements, and d) limited-use software, such as the iPhoto calendar maker and online card-making applications.

The Features and Functionality:
I have to admit, I'm very impressed. 

This took me less than 5 minutes
to make. Click to embiggen!
There are an impressive number of ways to share your albums: You can send pages directly to your printer, or you can export pages individually to JPG format in a variety of sizes. You can order printed and bound album books and calendars, for a price, of course (I haven't tested those options, but they're in the menu and I'm sure they're perfectly simple to do). And you can, with some additional (free) software, create slideshow movies or create an interactive DVD album.

The My Memories Suite software lets you select backgrounds, lay out photos and decorative elements, and provides lots of customization options. Elements (which is to say any photo or individual image) can be cropped in a variety of shapes, overlapped, rotated, flipped, mirrored, resized, stretched, and shadowed. You can change the opacity of elements to have some show through others. There are some basic photo manipulation options as well, like red-eye removal and some common filters and deformations, though you're probably better off doing your photo corrections and manipulations in your photo software before you import the picture into MyMemories Suite.

If you're planning on generating a slideshow or DVD album, there are some other options as well, like the inclusion of background music and the ability to add multimedia "hotspots" to include video or audio files, other files, and website links. It will also let you record your own narration. (The example below has background music, but not narration.)

video


The Ease of Use:
I thought the software was pretty easy to figure out, though I did have a few false starts and like any new software, there's a learning curve. (Worth noting is that their website has a fairly active blog and forum which includes links to demonstration videos with both basic and advanced tips and tricks.) It's got several "startup" options, including a number of automatic layouts and templates, but unless you've got a very clear idea straight from the beginning of what you want, including how many pictures you want on each page, I thought it was easier to just use a blank template and add elements as I thought of them. The software takes a little bit of time to load, but not an excessive amount. I got beachballed a few times (stuck in some sort of loop where memory locked up) but only once did I have to force-quit the application; the other times, it cleared up after a short wait. As far as speed goes, it's a huge improvement on the Creative Memories software trial, which started chewing up my system memory as soon as I had more than a handful of elements on a page.

The Quibbles:
I did have a few quibbles. Element show the standard graphic adjustment  tags on corners and side middles to resize and rotate, but if the tag you want to grab is underneath another element, you can't. There were some things that weren't intuitive (like how to crop without changing proportions -- turns out you hold the Shift key) and some things I don't think can be done at all ("snap to grid" and/or "align elements" functions would be nice). The resource gallery (essentially a mini file browser on the side of the screen that lets you easily select and place elements) doesn't refresh except on loading, so if you re-organize those folders, you have to quit and restart the MyMemories software to get it to show that. The software to make your album into a DVD or movie comes separately from the base package -- but it's free once you have a registered copy of the base package, so I'm not sure why they're not just bundled together. You can pick a different background music song for each page, if you like, but you can't choose an alternate starting point in the music files. When you generate a slideshow, every slide shows up for the same amount of time -- you can't have a page that shows for 5 seconds and then another page that shows up for 10.

The Applause:
I'm really impressed with how easy it is to use this software, catering to people who want to use existing templates to just pick pictures and get on with it, and people who want to lay their hands on every element. I'm also really pleased with the number of options for the completed project; the interactive DVD option, in particular, gave me some fun ideas!

The element files are mostly .PNG files, which makes browsing them fairly simple. And if you don't like the way those files are organized by default, you can rearrange the files in your file browser with impunity; each template and project makes a local copy of the files it uses, which could be a little problematic for hard drive space if you have a lot of very large projects, but guarantees that reorganizing won't break anything. (Another minor quibble -- it sure would be nice if the software had an in-app way to let you reorganize things.) 

Which is good, because the software comes with lots of base files to start with -- plenty of papers and decorations to make some very decent albums right from the get-go. (Very nice after the Creative Memories trial software, which admittedly was a trial version but had a very disappointing collection of starter elements.) And if that weren't enough, the MyMemories Suite software comes with a $10 credit toward purchased packages, and their website offers a fairly impressive collection of completely free download packages that gets updated, from what I can tell, at least a couple of times a week. Naturally, many of these are merely sample packs advertising the for-pay packages, but all my samples here were built with elements I downloaded for free. Items do rotate in and out of the free section, so your mileage may vary, but an occasional check of the website will have your collection built up in no time. I've been testing this software for two weeks, and in that time I've downloaded dozens of packages -- papers, pre-built frames and pages, and decorative elements -- and not even once have I given the MyMemories site my credit card number, because everything I've downloaded has either been free or "bought" on that $10 credit. (Did I mention the 99-cent discount packages?)

The Bottom Line:
Despite my minor frustrations and wishing for a few extra capabilities (which may well be addressed by the new version that's coming out next week!), it's very nice software, well worth the $40 price tag if you've been looking for a way to dump your traditional scrapbooking gear for something less cluttery, or if you've been dying to create digital, interactive scrapbooks that incorporate videos and other files that just don't fit into a traditional paper album. I'm already working on making several projects with it!


The CONTEST!
Now (finally!) for the contest! If you would like to win a complete free copy of this software, please visit the My Memories website and tell me in the comments here (or you can email me, if you'd rather not post publicly) the name of the scrapbooking kit package you're going to download first when you win! One entry per person, please! I'll give this until after Thanksgiving (mostly because up until then, I'm too busy to really mess with it) and then I'll put all the names in a hat and draw my lucky winner!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quietude

The office is a little quiet today. I'm not quite sure why. Most people taking long vacations around Thanksgiving won't leave until this weekend. Some of the local schools have a teacher workday today, so a few people could be working from home, but it shouldn't count for that many. I know a couple of the managers are on the road for work.

I guess it just all adds up. And the result is that the office is a little quiet. We don't have any deliveries to do today. There's only one delivery for next week. Things in the office are... slow.

In direct contrast, things at home are heating up for the holidays. I've got shopping to do. Thanksgiving dinner to plan. And cook. Gifts to order and wrap and ship. Decorating to do. More shopping. Cleaning (and more cleaning, and more cleaning...)

Pictures to take, cards to lay out and order. Events to plan and host and attend. Notes to write.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not unhappy. I love this stuff. I love seeing the house decorated for Christmas; I love shopping; I love visiting with friends and family and doing fun things together. I even love planning and cooking big meals like Thanksgiving (occasionally). (The cleaning, not so much, I admit.)

But it does add a big helping of crazy and stress to my days.

Which makes me appreciate these quiet days at the office that much more. I can pause. Sip my coffee. Close my eyes and take a deep breath.

And then fire up the browser and get a jump on some of that shopping.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day Off

I took my "part-time" day off yesterday.

Took Penny down to Newport News to get some blood drawn for some tests -- she was a little scared, but did great -- and then after I signed her into school, I went to the Panera, bought a coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and started writing.

Usually on my day off, I get to Panera around 8:30 and leave around lunchtime. Yesterday, I got there at 9:30 and didn't leave until after 2:30. In that time, I drank six (or maybe seven?) cups of coffee, ate a breakfast sandwich, a bowl of soup (though they ran out of black bean before I was ready for lunch, boo), and a strawberry scone, and wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 4000 words. It felt great.

Then, since my sense of smell has finally recovered from my cold, I walked over to Bath and Body Works to check out their winter scents, and lo! the small holiday night lights were on sale! So I bought... a few. Shut up, I can quit any time I want.

Then I went to the bank to deposit birthday and royalty checks, and headed home. The evening was fairly normal and relaxed, which was perfect. I didn't do any more writing, but I did make some progress on another project, and read another chapter and a half in my bedside book.

All in all, just about the most perfect day off I could've asked for.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Slept

I have too many balls juggling at the same time, I think. In no particular order:

  • Two novels to be proof-read, both due before the end of November.
  • A novella to edit and its author to herd through all the assorted steps. (This involves a number of different deadlines, but the whole thing comes to fruition in early January.)
  • Keeping my own writing projects moving, however slowly.
  • Thanksgiving dinner to plan and prepare.
  • A friend's birthday package to wrap (not a trivial task, due to <SPOILER>) and box for shipping.
  • Matt's birthday to plan for.
  • Assorted social events and plans.
  • Christmas shopping to plan and put into effect.
  • The moon cookie party to plan and prepare for.
  • Other holiday activities, such as taking photos for the Christmas card (though I snapped up today's Groupon, so that's at least partly underway!) and figuring out the best time for us to go to Christmastown at Busch Gardens.
  • Getting to the gym at least twice (and preferably three times) a week.
  • The actual work at my actual job. (I know -- crazy!)
  • A million other things that may or may not be tangentially related to the above -- for instance, the usual day-to-day household tasks and chores.
I sat down last night to do a little writing, because I let it slack far too much last week. I got all of about four hundred words out, and for once it's wasn't a lack of inspiration that stopped me, but the fact that I could not, for the life of me, keep my eyes open. After about forty-five minutes, I switched from writing to reading... and then woke up half an hour later when Matt came in on his way to check Penny's blood sugar and found me sitting up in the bed and snoring, book propped on my chest.

I'm not sure if I'm actually sleep-deprived, in which case a few early nights might set me straight, or if it's a stress reaction to the holiday ramp-up.

Either way, I'm glad one of my friends gave me some caffeinated lip balm and soap for a birthday present!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Party Time

Saturday was my birthday party. I invited my family and closest, longest-known friends (and their families) to have dinner with me at the Center Street Grill. We had a room to ourselves and a separate table for the kids, and of the 25 who'd RSVPed, I only had one adult and one kid who had to cancel at the last minute (due to illness, so I'm grateful that she kept it home). Which meant that the room looked like this:

And the kids' table looked like this:

It was a great party. I'd brought little activity bags for the kids with pencils and crayons and notepads and notebooks and play jewelry to keep them occupied, and it worked surprisingly well -- we only had to turn around to tell the kids to get back in their seats about once every five minutes instead of the usual ninety seconds.

The adults had a great time eating and talking and eating some more; I thought there would be more drinking, but I never even got around to ordering anything other than iced tea. As dinner was winding up, there were some fireworks outside that completely wowed the kids -- apparently, they thought it was, in fact, part of the party, and they all ran to the window to look. (I have no idea what they were really for -- the general consensus was that it was probably a Veteran's Day thing.)

When I stood up to do a general introduction around the table and thank everyone for coming, I found myself completely overwhelmed with gratitude that I could count so many wonderful and interesting people among my friends. I did the introductions, and then got about as far as, "Thank you all for coming. I'm really happy you could all make it, and I'm just... Just..." And then my mom chimed in with "...Forty!" and we all cracked up with laughter.

And one benefit of having guests at your party who've known you for more than twenty years is that they bring perfect gifts. I'm just sayin'. A "writer's kit" (gorgeous feathered quill, chocolate, and wine). A gorgeous new coffee mug and a Barnes and Noble gift card nestled in a reusable little book-shaped box. A board game that appears to be the evil twin of the bastard child of Candyland and D&D. And that's just a few! Plus, most of the card were hysterically funny. Do these people know what I like, or what?

The only downer was poor Henry's stomach rebelling at the combination of corn dog and chocolate milk and Sprite and ice cream, and reversing engines, so the entire Hegemony set had to pack up and head out pretty much immediately after dessert, while the rest of us stuck around for another hour, just chatting.

At one point, I saw the waitress bring in the bill folder, and I started to reach for it... but she went around to the far side of the table and handed it to my dad. "Hey," I said, "that comes to me!"

My dad took his already-run credit card out of the folder and said, "Yes, that's what they told me." And that on top of the gift they'd given me -- that I hadn't been expecting, because they'd bought me some very nice jewelry while we were in Cancun as my early birthday present!!!

And to top it all off, despite Henry's mishap, the Hegemony took Alex home with them, and when we were all done at Center Street, Matt and I took Penny over to their place as well -- they kept both our kids (along with all four of theirs!) overnight, so that Matt and I could have a child-free date night.

We'd talked about catching Cabaret at William and Mary, but the party didn't break up until after the show had started, so we just went over to the Barnes and Noble and wandered around, relishing the ability to peruse at our own pace and not having to take turns remaining confined to the children's area to keep an eye on the kids. I bought some stuff with the B&N gift card I'd just received, and we also picked up some Christmas gifts for the kids. Then we went home and watched one of our Netflix (Casanova, which I was expecting to be a sexy drama, or perhaps a dramedy, but it turned out to be completely campy and stupid, alas). But we got to sleep in a bit the next morning, and we went out to breakfast and got to bask in a meal where we didn't have to tell anyone to be quiet and sit down, argue with Penny about volume or carbiness of her selections, or cut up Alex's food for him. Ah, bliss.

It had been Alex's first sleepover anywhere, and he had a fantastic time. He was all set to do it again Sunday night -- alas, we had to shoot that down, as it was a school night. But Braz and Adin promised that both our kids had been well-behaved and wonderful (they'd only had to tell Alex and Henry to shut up and go to sleep two or three times!), so it looks like another sleepover could well happen in the future! Whoo-hoo! (And now, if we can just get Ripley comfortable with the notion of sleeping over at our place, we could trade sleepovers with them and get more frequent kid-free nights!)

So all in all: doubleplus good, awesome, amazing, fantastic weekend. As KT and Kevin told me: Obviously, I need to have 40th birthday parties more often!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekender

Huzzah, it's Friday!

The office is quiet today -- it's Veteran's Day and some folks have kids out of school, and/or a lot of our veterans are taking the day off. And of course the government is on holiday, so most of our customers are out of touch. It makes for a quiet, productive day. Huzzah for that!

Matt is home with the kids today; I'm at work for a half day, or else until today's deliveries go out, whichever takes longer. Tonight will probably be the usual hanging out with the Hegemony, putting our kids to bed at their house so we can stay up late for adult play. (Though I think Braz has his girls this weekend, so Emma will be up with us until 10, which means my new Cards Against Humanity deck will probably have to wait. It's really, really not a game for 10-year-olds.)

Tomorrow is my birthday party, and I'm looking forward to that with manic glee. Though when I talked to my parents, they were both still recovering from assorted surgeries and procedures and are feeling a bit under the weather, so I hope they're feeling better for it.

Sometime this weekend, I need to do some serious shopping. Karen's birthday is in less than two weeks, and I need to get a serious move-on if I'm going to go with the notion I had for her gifts.

And when I don't have anything else going, I'm playing with some new software! Even though it's been a long time since I talked about scrapbooking (and almost as long since I actually did any, though I keep swearing I'm going to get back to it), the folks over at My Memories contacted me with an offer: two copies of their digital software suite -- one for evaluation, and one for a giveaway! Plus a code that anyone can use to buy their software or other stuff. I'm evaluating right now (so far, it's very cool, though there are a few things I wish it could do better). Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting my review, with links and pictures and stuff, and I'll have a contest or drawing for the other software key -- so scrapbookers and photo takers, be on the lookout!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lordy, Lordy

I had, quite possibly, the best possible 40th birthday. No lie.

I couldn't take the day off from work -- too much workstuff to do, alas -- but the day before my birthday was a school holiday for Penny, so I opted to work from home, which turned out to be a great decision, as Adin and Ripley were at loose ends for the day due to a cancellation from another friend, so they came over and hung out with us. We went out to lunch at Penny's favorite restaurant (Wasabi!) and then later in the afternoon, after I'd cleared a little more workstuff, we went out and had mani/pedis. (It was going to be just pedicures, but it turned out that the shop runs a combo special on Tuesdays. How do you pass that up?!) So I had freshly painted, gorgeous nails ready to go for my birthday!
 

That afternoon, Penny and Ripley did coloring and papercrafts while I did more work (see, I do actually get work done when I work from home!) and they both made me birthday cakes! Ripley's was a flat cutout of a gorgeously-decorated tiered cake (she snipped a hole at the top and tied a string in it so I could hang it up) and Penny managed to craft a 3-D paper cake, plain and smooth, decorated tastefully with a ribbon around the middle and a small sprig of fresh blueberries on top. Penny also made me a sign to hang on my office door at work, "just in case anyone doesn't know it's your birthday!"

I got up on my birthday morning to even more hugs and kisses than usual (which is really saying something, as Alex and Penny are always both very affectionate) and presents from Matt (the OOTS Dragon Tales collection, Leverage Season 3 DVDs, and an Amazon gift card!). After I took the kids to school, I went to work, where I had promised Caren that she could decorate my office and be as evil as she wanted.

Thanks to a picky customer and a snarl of workstuff and a bored kid in tow, she hadn't had time to decorate liberally, but when she came in, she brought me a little pot of very pretty peach-colored begonias, to which were attached two enormous balloons. Well, the pirate ship is enormous. The other one was only enormous in its evil, because she'd deliberately gotten one with the wrong age on it.

Diabolical! But then she went with me to meet Matt and Adin for lunch at Plaza Azteca, where we all had margaritas and tableside guacamole. We got a couple of appetizer-type things to split, because dessert was the plan! But when we got to dessert, we just couldn't narrow it down, and we were talking about all getting different things and sharing, and Matt said, "I only want to share if I can have two," and there were only six desserts on the menu anyway, so when the waiter came back for the order, I just said, "Bring us one of each!" The look on the man's face was priceless, and we all laughed when all six desserts came out and we arrayed them on the table in the middle to sample. It was awesome.

(I should have taken a picture, but I didn't think of it. Alas.)

When I got home, Matt had a final present for me, which was the completely brand new expansion pack for Cards Against Humanity that was just released on Monday! Squee! I perused the cards, and now I can't wait to give them a whirl! (Though I may just have to order the official CAH starter deck so all the cards are the same size...)

Penny made dinner -- a "sandwich salad" recipe of her own invention -- almost completely by herself (I helped her core the lettuce and I sliced carrots, but she made the rest of our salads entirely by herself, sharp knives and all!) And then Matt and Penny had picked out a coconut cake from Martin's/Ukrop's for me -- which is one of my very favorite cakes, from one of my very favorite bakeries, so 100% WIN on that! Matt and I were still full from all the guacamole and dessert we'd had at lunch, so we didn't have much cake... but that just means more leftovers!

(You know what one of the best things is about being 40 years and 1 day old? Birthday cake for breakfast.)

My parents called to wish me a happy, and throughout the day, I got a ton of well-wishes on Facebook, too, which was incredibly sweet and nice. KT "combarded" me with snarky e-cards that made me giggle, and Karen sent another e-card later in the day containing an awesome, punny joke. (Knock-knock! Who's there? Señor! Señor, who? Señor share of birthdays, haven't you?!) (Actually, there were multiple puns, and the first one was even off-color, which goes to prove that Karen understands my taste in jokes quite well. Well, of course she does; she's played Cards Against Humanity with me!)

After we got the kids to bed, Matt and I watched all the special features on the Leverage DVDs, and after Matt went to bed early to sleep off his coconut cake, I finally finished the last level of Gemcraft: Labyrinth. A fitting and perfect end to the day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Emailed post

Work is busy today, so instead of posting this morning like usual, I spent my first hour and a half of the morning trying to untangle some scheduling issues. But now I'm stuck in a meeting to which I have to pay only minimal attention, so it seems like a good time to dash out an email post on my phone.

We had a good weekend, despite Alex's brush with the Uck Thursday night. We spent Friday at home, keeping our germs to ourselves. Saturday we hung out with Braz and Adin -- went to Coldstone for snack to cash in my birthday ice cream, and Applebee's for dinner, where we encountered our favorite gay waiter. Sunday was all about being domestic -- groceries and laundry and cooking (including a Hubbard squash, which is colored dark green and yellow like an acorn squash but in shape and size looks like a pumpkin; I had to quarter it to fit it in the oven!) When that was done, I put together a lasagna and we took it over to Braz and Adin's for dinner.

Also went shopping to Bath and Body Works on Saturday so I could check out the new seasonal scents, but I'm apparently still suffering some smell loss from my lingering cold, so the trip was a bit of a bust.

This week promises craziness, mostly good. Tuesday is Election Day, so Penny's school is closed and I'll be staying home with her, working from home. Wednesday is my birthday -- Matt and Penny are plotting a cake, there are plans for lunch out, and I promised a co-worker that she could decorate my office, so I expect that will be amusing. Thursday, Matt is WatchDOGging at Penny's school (which doesn't add to my crazy, but it does make Penny pretty excited once she spots him wearing that shirt). And then Friday is Veteran's Day, and both kids' schools are closed, so Matt and I will probably be splitting the day to stay home with them.

Whew! And then I'll have about a week and a half to recover and get my ducks lined up for Thanksgiving.

Which means I'm two weeks from having to launch Christmas decorating and planning. Everyone hold on to your hats!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Kids

"Mommy? Mom? Mom? Mom?"

It's 3:45 in the morning. Alex is standing beside my bed, his head nearly level with mine. "Mm. What is it, baby? What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I wanna snuggle." Without waiting for a response, he starts to climb up into the bed.

"No, honey. Snuggling is okay in the morning, but at night, we stay in our beds and sleep. Come on, let's get you tucked back in. When you hear my radio start playing in the morning, then you can come in and snuggle, okay?"

"Okay."

Two hours and fifteen minutes later, my alarm goes off. In the time it takes me to reach out an arm and smack it, there's a little blond boy scaling the side of the bed.

"Hey, sweetie. You like to snuggle in the morning, huh?"

"Yeah. I like to snuggle at night, too."

***

"Mom, what holidays are there in January?"

"Well, New Year's Day, of course. And there's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but that doesn't have parties or gifts, it's just a day off from school."

"A day off school is like a gift!"

I hear ya, little girl. I hear ya.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Buggy

I know I don't usually post here on Writing Wednesday, but last night was pretty rough.

Penny had a persistent low at school and was complaining of a stomachache, so Matt brought her home early. The persistent low continued to persist, and Matt was feeling a bit under the weather as well, so instead of the planned dinner, I just made a couple of frozen pizzas. Penny ate three slices, I calculated the insulin, and we went on with the evening...

Right up until I sat down to read to Penny at bedtime. I got through exactly one sentence and then she jumped up, ran into the bathroom, and proceeded to puke her little guts up.

Here's a fun quiz: when you give someone insulin, but then they throw up all the food in their stomach before it can be digested, what happens? That's right! Low blood sugar! Whoo!

(In fact, I'm thinking that might have been the cause of that persistent low of the afternoon -- if the stomach bug was already beginning, it probably drastically slowed the rate of digestion, which meant her lunch insulin was going through her much faster than her food was.)

She was well within her range at bedtime, so Matt and I went about our evening routine, but alas, she thew up again around 9, and when Matt checked her blood sugar at 10, she was under 40 -- so low that she was groggy and unable to sit up on her own when Matt woke her up to treat it. So we skipped the candy remedies (that would probably only upset her stomach anyway) and went straight for a big old spoonful of honey. Half of it smeared on her face, but she opened her mouth for me to spoon it in, so we got a good teaspoon in her and waited.

Fifteen minutes later, she was up a bit but still in the 40s, so we woke her up again. This time, at least, she came alert relatively quickly and sat up on her own to eat another spoonful of honey, and washed it down with half a bottle of Gatorade, and then she remained upright until I'd gotten a washcloth to clean her face.

Another fifteen minutes or so, and she was up over 80, so we relaxed a bit. Matt and I stayed up another half hour or so and checked her again (over 100) before we went to bed.

This morning, her blood sugar was over 300, but rather than the usual frustration that causes me, I was relieved. (And unlike the "where the hell did that come from? highs, I knew exactly where this one came from: two spoonfuls of honey and half a bottle of Gatorade, duh!) The dangers of high blood sugar are slight but cumulative; low blood sugars are much more immediately terrifying. I hate it when she's so low she has trouble waking up. We have not yet ever had to break out the emergency Glucagon injection, and I do not ever want to. I probably don't even have to tell you what the Mutant Worrybrain was whispering when I first woke up this morning, do I?

She was feeling somewhat better on the stomach front, too -- she said her stomach didn't hurt any more, but she was Not Hungry. She ate a little cup of yogurt and drank some low-carb juice (I thought she should avoid milk) and I gave her a shot to bring her back down into range. She's staying home with Matt today, so here's hoping they're both feeling better by this evening.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Run Run Run

Yesterday was, to put it mildly, full.

I juggled two software deliveries at work, then left early and went to Penny's school for the annual teacher conference, where we were told that Penny scored very well, compared to the rest of her class, on their baseline/practice SOL reading test, and that her grade so far for math is 97.7% (that's my baby!) and that she has a solid B in reading (dragged down slightly by laziness during comprehension quizzes -- she can't be bothered to actually go look back at the material to find the answers). The teacher also said she thinks she can see some improvement in Penny's performance during science and social studies, but it's only been a couple of weeks, so we'll have to wait and see what's happening there.

Then I stopped off at the ABC store for grownup treats, and went home to find Adin and kids waiting for me. We went inside and they decorated their trick-or-treat bags while I got the candles for the front yard set up. By then, Matt and Penny and Alex had arrived, and we got all the kids in their costumes, fed them some hot dogs, and got them out the door to start trick-or-treating right at 6. (The eating and changing and decorating all happened in the space of about forty-five very busy minutes.)

The weather was threatening rain, so I guess a lot of kids that usually get carpooled into our neighborhood went to the mall instead, because we had only about half the kids I'm used to seeing. But the ones we did see were danged cute; I don't think I saw any teenagers who weren't even really trying this year, which was refreshing. Alex gave up the ghost earlier than Matt expected, but once he was home, he had a fantastic time jumping up to watch whenever Matt or I opened the door, so I guess it wasn't a wasted evening for him.

Penny got a good amount of candy and then went home with Adin and kids so she could do a little trick-or-treating in their neighborhood and also to see Emma and Sarah when they came over. Adin very generously volunteered to take her and bring her back, so once we got Alex put to bed, it turned into a nice, calm evening.

And now: November!