Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Best Boy


Nope. It's simply not possible that this sweet stocking-stuffer was born five whole years ago. Somehow, he went from this adorable little munchkin:

To this big boy -- older now, in fact, than his sister was in the previous picture!

He's shown here with one of his birthday presents -- a toy 4x4 that you put together yourself with the toy drill/screwdriver/ratchet.

Okay, it's not really a drill. But it is pretty nifty. It's battery-powered, of course, but it has a standard direction-changing switch, and it came with three tips -- flat screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, and a hex bolt ratchet. (I need to see if there are other toys you can buy that work with it, because the flat-head screwdriver wasn't needed at all for this set.) It took Alex a little while to get the hang of changing out the tips and figuring out which way to flip the direction switch, but he got it eventually.

There were a fair number of steps in the car assembly process.

First, you use the bolt/lugnut ratchet to put on the wheels. Then you switch to the Phillips head screwdriver to put the seats onto the chassis.

Then you put the main body on, locking it down with the spare tire in the back and the grill in the front.


Then you put on the hardtop, and finally, you're ready to ride! Alex decided the back of the car would be a good place to store the drill tips. Good thinking, Alex!

(And yeah, the directions do recommend putting the wheels on last, and we did actually did do it that way. My confession is that, in fact, I took these pictures while Alex was disassembling the car, in which process he left the wheels to the end.)

I admit that I was worried there were too many steps or that the use of the tool would be too complicated for him. But as I said, he caught on to the drill pretty quickly, and he figured out the vehicle assembly even faster. I helped him put it together the first time, after which he disassembled it entirely by himself, then put it back together with only one or two verbal hints from me (and help with one screw where the plastic threading is a little too tight for the tool's little motor).

And then, since Penny was watching a movie by this point and complaining about the noise, he took it into the playroom, where he completely disassembled it and reassembled it entirely without help.

And then did it again about half an hour later.

I don't know how much use he'll get out of this toy, especially once he gets his other birthday and Christmas presents, but it certainly seems to be a hit for today.

Happy birthday to my best boy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thus Begins

Haven't posted all week, have I?

That's 'cause I got sick and stayed home for a few days, and there wasn't much to talk about, really, except, you know, sick-people things, and that's not often terribly interesting. The short form: I was really, really positive it was strep, but it wasn't.

But when I got home from work today, I started the weekend. And -- you might ask -- how did I start the weekend, that prompts a late-in-the-day blog post?

Well, first I started it by turning on the house Christmas lights:

Then I opened a package that contained a new pair of shoes (the last of the things I'd ordered with my birthday money):

Then I inflicted a minor injury on myself:

It's a blood blister. Or, more precisely, a pair of them. On my pinky finger. Yes, it hurts quite a bit. I got it while putting up Penny's new curtains:

And now the boys who live across the street won't be able to watch her changing clothes any more.

And thus begins my weekend. Huzzah!

Friday, December 7, 2012

On Trees and Cheese

"Mom! I drew you a picture!"

"That's awesome, sweetie, thank you! Oh, what a really nice Christmas tree!"

"Yeah! I drew it with marker!"

"I see that. ...What's this on top?"

"It's a cheese! With a big bite out of it!"

"Um. Okay. Um. Why is there a cheese with a bite out of it on top of my Christmas tree?"

"Because I can't draw a star!"

Well, you can't argue with that.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Creepy and Cold (But In a Good Way)

I spent Thursday and Friday working from home in the hopes that Saint Nicholas-- wait, wrong hope. In the hopes that I'd get my heater/furnace replaced. But the company doing the repair had to reschedule me -- one repair scheduled before mine was running longer than expected, and they bumped up another one for a house that had no heating at all, not even emergency heat.

I suppose I can accept that. They're scheduled this time to come out tomorrow, so I probably will not be blogging.

Aside from that, I had a pretty busy weekend. I took a long lunch on Friday and went shopping, and knocked out almost all the rest of my Christmas shopping (I just have to order cards and my dad's annual calendar, and then take Penny shopping for a couple of her friends). I got some editing done, and made some Christmas gifts for the kids' teachers (except I need the kids to sign them before they're officially done, but I'll get them to do that tonight, and then I can wrap them and that's all done). I spent most of Saturday morning and a couple of hours Sunday night working on a book trailer for He Loves Me For My Brainsss, which is coming out in about a month.

Saturday afternoon, I went to KT and Kevin's for their Creepy Christmas Party. KT, being the music freak that she is, hired Jonah Knight to come and perform for her (I think it was part of a kickstarter, or some similar crowdfunded effort). I was expecting the kids present to be a problem, but aside from some in-and-out at the beginning, they were remarkably well-behaved. And the music was great, of course. I have a new favorite novelty Christmas song ("Bacon and Beer", which, alas, is not actually available for sale) and I didn't bring any cash with me to KT's party, but I will be sure to have some on hand at MarsCon. (And during the break between his two sets, Jonah agreed to let me use his zombie song as background music for my book trailer, whoo!) After Jonah finished singing, we had a Geeky Gift Exchange, in which the ring I brought was well-liked, and Greg kindly rescued me from the wacky wig I first opened so that I could go home with a fairly impressive Nerf gun. After that, all the ladies posed on the bed with Jonah (there was apparently a joke with his wife about groupies), and then we all went out to a Chinese buffet for dinner. Mm, Chinese buffet.

Pictures, you say? Why, yes, I do have pictures!




Sunday morning, I ran a bunch of errands, and then after lunch, I drove up to W&M campus to meet Elizabeth for a craft show. I'd forgotten about it being Grand Illumination night -- all of CW and campus were already swarming. It was insane. But I found a parking space over at Zable Stadium and walked from there (more or less in the break between the Old and New campuses) up to the Campus Center, where the craft show was being held. (Holy CRAP, am I out of shape... It's hard to believe that I once did that walk, and longer ones, several times a day, at top speed.)

The craft show was nice, though; I picked up a new necklace, and also stumbled across the most amazing handmade chocolate ever. It's made with, they swear, absolutely no sweeteners. At all. No sugar, no honey, no agave, no artificial sweeteners. Nothing. Just cocoa and salt. So the resulting chocolate is low in both calories and carbs. And unlike artificially sweetened chocolate, which tastes kind of like chocolate-scented wax, this stuff. Is. Amazing. And best of all: they have a physical store right here in Williamsburg. I bought some coffee spoons at the show -- I figure I'll split them between the kids' stockings (only instead of coffee, I'll give them warm milk to make chocolate milk with). Each coffee spoon is only about a third of a gram of carbs, which means Penny can pig out on all six of hers in one day if she wants!

I ended the day with some editing and some slouching about watching television, though I ended up staying up a good hour and a half later than I'd intended trying to finish the book trailer and get it uploaded.

All in all: an excellent weekend!

This coming weekend promises to be excessively busy, but it should all be loads of fun, so I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanks Given

What a very weird Thanksgiving holiday that was. Some parts were fantastic, some incredibly frustrating, and some just plain weird.

There wasn't anything much happening at work on Wednesday, so I took my day off and headed down to Jenn and Brian's around mid-morning. The plan... the plan was that Jenn was going to ride with me, and we'd follow Brian to Blacksburg.

All was ready. The dogs were loaded in the car with Brian to drop off at the kennel, Jenn and I were in my car, and I turned it on...

...and the dashboard lit up with all kinds of lights and warnings. Most notably, the "Check Engine" light, which can occasionally be merely ignored, and the "Engine Hazard" light, which... probably should not be.

Well.

After some discussion, we decided we'd just all ride up together, and Jenn and Brian would head back home a day early so I could keep my schedule. Brian, who is a Car Guy, promised to check out a diagnostic computer from their local auto repair shop when we got back on Friday so that he could read the error codes and decide whether the car was safe to drive home or if we'd need to call AAA to tow it to the local shop and try to find a rental for the weekend.

Despite being a little fretful about the car, we had a good couple of days. Jenn's Aunt Jeanne and Uncle David are great people, and I got to meet her oft-mentioned cousin, Chris. We went for a hike on Thanksgiving morning (apparently a family tradition) that was quite nice, and then came back and had a really great dinner. We broke for a nap and then came back for dessert, and then wrapped up the day with a game of Cards Against Humanity, and inaugurated a homemade question card: "Thanksgiving is incomplete without _____." It would've been perfect if we could've played "Smallpox blankets" as the answer card. I forget, now, what actually won that one, but the game itself was quite fun.

As re-planned, we came home Friday. I have to admit, the drive was much more pleasant with friends in the car to talk to.

When we pulled into Jenn and Brian's again, I figured I should check my car again before Brian headed out to get the diagnostic computer. I started the car up and... the hazard light was gone. Just the check engine light remained. Which rather underscored my suspicion that the car had been pitching a hissy about an electrical hiccup having to do with plugging my phone into the DC power adapter before turning the car on, and made me decide I could risk driving home before taking it to the shop, at least.

So I turned the car back off and went inside to use the bathroom and let them know about my decision. I promised I'd call if I had any more problems, and then went back out... and this time, when I turned the car on, not even the check engine light came on. Nothing. The dashboard stayed dark, innocent as puppy eyes.

Apparently, the gods had just REALLY wanted us to all drive up to Blacksburg together.

So I came home and picked up the kids and life continued apace.

Saturday morning I started putting up our Christmas decorations, exciting the kids to a fever pitch. And that afternoon, we went down to my parents' for my family Thanksgiving, and that was great. Not really anything to report -- it was a pretty standard family gathering. Penny and Alex were pretty fantastic, playing together most of the time so I actually got to talk to my family a bit. Alex hit Maximum Fun Quotient a few times, but being Alex, cheered up again pretty quickly afterward.

Sunday morning at breakfast, a... noise came from the heater vent. A weird, rattle-y, shuddery noise. You know in Doctor Horrible, when the Freeze Ray fails and Dr. Horrible looks around at it and says, "That's... not a good noise"? It was kind of like that. The kids looked at the vent as if it might explode, and then the heater fan stopped working. I poked at things a bit, but eventually had to turn the whole thing off because a sort of burned-plastic smell was leaking from the vents in other parts of the house.

The rest of the day was better -- we got the Christmas tree up, and Penny befriended a couple of cats wandering the neighborhood who had decided to camp on our deck. (They were obviously not actually homeless, as they were well-fed and in excellent health, but she tried to convince me to keep them anyway, as they were very friendly and happy for her to pet them.) We generally had a nice, low-key kind of day, despite the slowly dropping temperature.

I didn't post yesterday because I was at home in the morning, waiting for the repair guy to come and fix the heater. Fortunately, the problem with the fan took him all of about ten minutes to find and fix. Unfortunately, while he was at it, he noticed a pretty nasty leak in the heater's innards that suggested some ugly things, culminating in the news that I need to have an entirely new unit installed. Shouldn't have surprised me too much, really, because this unit is 14 years old, and these things typically have a life span of 10-15 years, so... yeah. He called around and got some estimates, and the price he eventually quoted me is a lot less than I was afraid it would be... but still a pretty big chunk of cash.

So that's scheduled for Thursday. In the meantime, I've only got the emergency heat setting, which works, but draws a lot more power than the usual setting, so I'm trying to keep it set as low as I can tolerate (around 65), and remembering to turn it down to about 60 when I leave for work in the morning, and being grateful that the house's insulation is actually fairly decent, and hoping that the new unit will be more efficient.

Argh. All my stuff is elderly and starting to fail.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Too Much TV

I find myself once again in the position of doing three jobs instead of my usual two. Which is seriously cutting into my blogging time.

Also, it has several weird side-effects on my brain, which are probably interrelated, and can most adequately be summarized as: I'm freaking scatterbrained. Like, even more than usual, which if you've been around here long you will know is pretty damned scatterbrained. So I apologize in advance for the random, almost Joycian, tone of this post.

***

When I go home at night and am done with work for the day, I don't want to do anything remotely intellectual, so I end up watching a lot of TV.

As of this weekend, I'm all caught up on Sherlock. Still loving it. Can't wait for more. Which is fantastic because I generally don't like mysteries. (Yeah, I know, I watch Castle, but that's all about Nathan Fillion and the characters, not the mysteries themselves.) I think possibly my very favorite thing about Sherlock is how everyone, everyone, everyone thinks Sherlock and John are lovers. In my mind, it happened over a few beers in the writers' room:

"You know the entire internet is going to be shipping these two."

"God, yes. But I don't see any way to discourage it."

"Then let's not. Let's just run with it. Make it part of the show bible that everyone just assumes they're sleeping together."

"That's horrible. And brilliant. Do it."

It fills me with utter glee every time it happens, or every time Watson mutters under his breath about people talking.

(Do I ship them? Absolutely. But in a strange way, because Sherlock is very asexual to my mind. But the fact that John can't keep a girlfriend fills me with delight.)

***

Holy shit, I think I just linked Sherlock and Collin, a little bit. Because I'm a nerd.

***

Speaking of my being a nerd, yesterday I got restless and went out shopping, and I bought Christmas decorations I probably didn't need and also I bought a pair of shoes. They are simultaneously the hippest and nerdiest thing that I currently own.

Hip, because, well. They're Converse. Not even cheap knockoffs!

And nerdy, because the reason I got them was because I'm putting together my Doctor Who cosplay costume:
(The shoes are red in that picture, but he has an apparently unlimited supply of them in various colors.) Complete with working up a Doctor-appropriate (happily excited!) patter about a somesuch field that had been bombarded with thisorthat particles that must have caused a radical rearrangement of certain physical characteristics -- tall to short, thin to fat, and, yes, male to female. And yes, I did in fact order a sonic screwdriver with some of my birthday money. I need to hit up some thrift stores for a buttondown shirt and a tie, though.

So, yeah. NERRRRRRRD.

***

I'm only just beginning season three of the new Doctor Who show, though, which makes me wonder if I'll be able to catch up before MarsCon. I love it, but I find I can't watch more than about two episodes at a time. It's heartbreaking, even when I'm laughing hysterically.

But I just finished season three of How I Met Your Mother, which is almost as heartbreaking at times, but I pop through those shows like candy. It helps that they're shorter, I suppose. And that I know everything is going to end happily for everyone, no matter how painful it is to get to.

***

And now, my dear friends, I have rambled enough. Or possibly just a bit too much. It's hard to tell. But at any rate, I'm still doing three jobs and at least two of them are pinging urgently right now, so I'd best get to it. I'd promise to try to write more regularly, but... it's probably not in the cards for this week, at least. If I don't post before then, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Best. Birthday Present. EVER.

Sometime last week, Penny asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I told her, "You know what I'd love? If you wrote a story for me, because you have such a great imagination."

I fully expected her to start writing, then forget about it and just make me a card instead. That would've been fine, really.

(And let me interject here that Alex wrote me a card. It says "I LOVE YOU MOM. TO MOM FROM ALEX" It's worth noting that a) he did not ask for ANY HELP in writing this; b) he spelled everything correctly; and c) he wrote all the letters and words in correct left-to-right, top-to-bottom order (which has been a challenge for him up to now). So that's a 100% awesome birthday card to receive from a not-yet-5-year-old.)

But Penny really did write me a story. And she made it into a little book, with pictures, and she decorated the front and back with lines that are obviously intended to make it look like it's a leather-bound book.
Real hand-drawn leatherette look!
And the story itself is beyond awesome, on many levels, for many reasons. So because I'm so ridiculously proud, I'm going to share it with you. With annotations.

Once there was a princess as beutiful as a rose and as fierce as a lion.(*) She was to be a queen. But she wanted to be a worrier(**). The king and queen kept telling her to act like a princess not a warrior. She kept sneaking out at night to practice to be a warrior. She was a complete warrior by 1202 June.(***) She was to get married in three days! What should she do!!

I know she said. I'll sneak out and "kill" my future "husband".(****) Her warrior friends took her with them on thier next adventure! They told her that they would have to take her to some friendly lion to answer a question. She loved the idia of geting to see some real live lions so she speed up to a run. She was so exited that she was there it twenty seconds.

She fell into a hole and spraned her ankle. She had hard time walking her companions helped her. Over a couple of nights they camped! In a couple days they reached the secret door that heled the riddle. It said fion - f + L and at the end s equals what? They said Lions and they could enter.(*****) They asked the question and then left.

A cheetah was waiting by the door. They could tell by the black tear marks near the eyes.(******) It purred at them to get on. So they did. It started to walk. Next it walked fast. Then it joged. Finally it ran so quick all they could hear were the leaves. They got back to the castle. She knew what awaited her.

She went inside and there wasn't what she expected. There was no prince no ring no suitors. She saw that the king and queen awaited her insted. The people gatherd in rows. She steped up to the queen and king. They awarded her to be the most brave, skilled, clever, and smartes princess there ever was. She got two swords a pet dragon and she was allowed to be a warrior.(*******)

* - Best opening line EVER. But I may be biased.
** - I've left in all her spelling and grammar mistakes, with this one exception: she spelled "warrior" as "worrier" all the way throughout, and while I knew what she meant, I've fixed it for you for the rest of this transcription, to avoid it being too distracting.
*** - I love this precision.
**** - No, I don't know what's with the quotes. Or the violence.
***** - Penny wrote a similar "clue" in the card she made me as to what my present was.
****** - This is a fact about cheetahs she read somewhere. But it's a real thing. Google "cheetah tear marks" if you don't believe me.
******* - Yeah, that's right. My girl wrote a story about a warrior princess that didn't marry a prince at the end, but instead got a pet dragon. (I admit to being a little relieved that she forgot to actually "kill" the future "husband", though.)



I can't even tell you how proud I am that my girl wrote me this story, or how pleased to have such a fantastic birthday gift.

I should also note that as soon as we got home, she started making a storybook for Alex. That one is about a puppy who is being teased by some other dogs and learns how to handle the bullies.

That's my girl.

What The-?

This is the sort of thing that happens to my brain when I check Facebook before I've had my coffee:

Perfectly reasonable thought: I will click over to my timeline to see the birthday greetings my friends have posted!

What I see:
 
Thought #1: What the hell is Mike wearing on his face in that picture?

Thought #2: Oh, it's probably a glitched image. Weird. I don't think I've seen an image bork like that before.

...

Thought #3: No, wait. It's two completely different images. HERP DERP DERP.

What I should do at this point: Shut up and pretend I'm perfectly normal.

What I actually do at this point: Grab a screen-capture and tell the universe all about how brain-dead I am before I've had my coffee.

Happy Birthday, Me!

Hey, it's my birthday! I'm now officially 40-ish.

Things actually kicked off yesterday, as Jenn took me to lunch and Caren gave me a present, which was sweet of them both.

I confess it was a little weird to wake up this morning and not have gleeful kids or presents waiting, but I had Facebook greetings from the book club and a couple of cards to open from my aunt and uncle (addressed simply to "Liz" -- I should mention in my thank-you note that I'm not planning on changing my name back). And I made myself some chocolate-and-peanut butter oatmeal for breakfast, so I'm not entirely treat-less.

I have a metric buttload of work to do today, but it should move relatively quickly, I think. I'm hoping so, at least, because I want to skip out of work an hour or so early, so I can stop by the bank and cash an editing check and then do a smidge of shopping before I go pick up the kids. Then I'll take them out to eat, because I don't want to cook or eat leftovers on my birthday. (If anyone wants to join us tonight, shoot me a text or an email!)

Tomorrow evening I have a couple of friends coming over for dinner, and then on Sunday, we're having dinner with my family. So, yay, birthday weekend!

I'd say, let the festivities begin, but first... buttload of work. Stupid work.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Political

Yesterday was writing blog day, so I didn't come over here to weigh in on the election. Everyone is sick to death of it now, but I do want to throw out a few notes, for my future self, if nothing else.

Voting: I heard of some lines -- only half an hour from me, even -- that were hours and hours long. There were polls that didn't close until two in the morning, for pity's sake.

I, on the other hand, picked exactly the right time to go, apparently, around 8:30 in the morning. The before-work voters had all either done their thing or decided they didn't have time and left, and the people who weren't working that day were mostly all still in bed, I guess. Penny and I stood in line for all of about ten minutes, and I expect the longest part of the whole process was the time it took me to read through the two proposed state referendums, which took longer than even their thick legalese would warrant because Penny kept interrupting me with questions.

When it was done, I wanted a picture of Penny and I for DFTVA, and a fellow voter, overhearing me explaining this to Penny, volunteered, with the caveat that I would then take a picture of her with her two sons, the elder of whom had just cast his very first vote ever. (I am enough of a patriot and dork that even now, two days later, typing that gives me chills and chokes me up just a little.)


Rest of the Day: I'd promised Penny that she and I could spend the rest of the day together, just the two of us, so that's what we did. We went and got pedicures, then went to the used bookstore and used up some of my massive pile of credit there. After lunch, we went to see Hotel Transylvania, which I thought was cute, if a bit twee, but Penny guffawed all the way through it, so it was totally worth the price of admission. (Also, note for the future: kid's combo snack was perfect, just about 35 carbs with a diet soda, which is a big snack but not unreasonably so, and Penny didn't have to share.) After that, we wandered New Town for a little window shopping, and I bought some gourmet mini-cupcakes to save for dessert.

Election Watching: After I got the kids to bed, I settled in to watch the results roll in. That's a slow process, though. I thought at first I'd be on a YouTube hangout with the Green brothers, but that didn't pan out. So instead, I loaded up CNN's auto-updating results page and watched a couple of Doctor Who episodes while I watched results pop up.

It was insane how close the results were. Even in states which weren't hotly contested, quite a few states came in with less than 5% difference. I intended to stay up until Virginia was called, but I didn't make it; I went to bed around 11:30, not long after the race had been declared for Obama. (The other VA races had been projected by this point, so there was nothing left to bite my nails over.)

Results: So if you know me at all, you know I'm a fiscal moderate and a social extreme liberal, so I'm ridiculously happy with the results this year. Obama's return, an increase in the numbers of women in Congress (though the ratio is still pretty horrible), multiple strides forward for gay rights. I don't have a personal stake in the recreational marijuana thing (and how crazy is it that I didn't even hear about those issues until election night?!) but I'm glad they passed, too. Puerto Rico as a state isn't going to happen any time soon, but it's kind of exciting to watch that water swirl anyway.
 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Don't Judge Me

Here's the deal: work is insane. My documentation specialist is having some personal issues that have severely limited her ability to, well, work, and so I've been doing all the documentation for the last couple of weeks, on top of my own usual work. Plus there's a proposal going on, and while I'm not directly sucked in, I'm still getting a lot of documentation-style requests, getting tables prettied up and spreadsheet formulas double-checked and stuff like that. Eventually I'll have to do a scrub on the finished product, too.

It's been a busy week or so at home, too -- we had a Hallowe'en party on the 27th, and then there was Hallowe'en itself last week, and then I had a Girls' Night party this past weekend, all of which required some level of preparation and shopping and cleaning and such. To go with that, there's all the usual life stuff going on -- school conferences and taking the cat to the vet and paying bills and "No, you're not wearing that to school, now march right back upstairs and change," and snuggling on the couch and reading with the kids and making birthday plans for this weekend. Penny wistfully told me that, since Matt and I had separated, she never gets to spend time alone with me any more, which is a fair complaint, so I'm taking off work tomorrow (when she's out of school anyway) and spending it with her.

And my second job -- the writing/editing gig -- has really taken off and exploded lately. I don't know if I'd mentioned it on this blog yet, but I'm being promoted to editor of the entire short story line for Torquere. It'll be official in January, but I'm starting to get pulled in now, learning the ropes by way of assisting the current shorts editor, helping to vet submissions, hashing out the 2013 themes and calls, etc. On top of that, I'm still proofreading, still editing for JMS Books, still the editor for an anthology that's due out right after the holidays. And still, when I can squeeze it in, writing. (I woke up early Saturday with a story idea and wrote almost 1000 words before I even got out of bed. Thank goodness I keep the iPad on my bedside table.)

I come into work in the morning, and there's always something that needs to be done immediately, if not sooner. And when I get home in the evening, it's usually the same. So when I do get an evening or a day off, I tend to spend it like I spent yesterday -- loafing on the couch watching a really unhealthy amount of television. For the record of shame: two episodes of the BBC's Sherlock (DVD/BluRays of which would not be an unwelcome birthday present, by the way), three episodes of Doctor Who (2nd new season), and... I lost count, but at least six episodes of How I Met Your Mother (because they're like popcorn or candy and everyone, everyone, everyone on that show is gorgeous and lickable, even the wacky sidekicks). But, you know, I also did the grocery shopping and several loads of laundry and made an amazing pot roast for dinner, so I wasn't utterly sloth-like. And I watched about a dozen episodes of SciShow, too, so I didn't entirely let my brain melt.

So now I'm off to work like crazy (I had three tasks waiting in my inbox when I logged in on top of the usual Monday stuff, and I took off this twenty minutes to let you all know why I haven't written in the last week -- don't you feel special?) and hopefully after this week, things will settle down a bit and I'll be able to get back on the blog.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Boy's Got Brains

On Friday, with Frankenstorm and the possibility of days of power outage looming, I printed out some worksheets for my kids, to keep them occupied for a short while.

This morning after breakfast, even though we still have power (so far), Alex pounced on his stack of worksheets with glee. There are a couple of things I'd like to share with you about that experience.

Alex and I got up just a smidge before seven; it's currently 7:40. Which means he ate breakfast and worked through his sheets in less than 45 minutes.

Before he ate breakfast, I helped him design the face for his jack-o-lantern, since I'll probably be carving it while he's at his dad's. At the bottom, I wrote "Alex's pumpkin" just so I wouldn't accidentally throw it away. He said, "What's that?" and I challenged him to sound it out. The possessive on his name didn't throw him at all. Then he looked at "pumpkin" and said, "Pum. Pump? And kin. Pump. kin. ...Pumpkin! It says 'Alex's pumpkin'!" That's right. My four-year-old is sounding out two-syllable words. With encouragement, but no actual help.

Two of the sheets involved identifying a picture and then drawing a line from it to one of three letters identifying its first letter. He needed some help figuring out what some of the pictures were -- there was a mole, which he didn't know, and a canister vacuum (he's only ever seen uprights) -- but once I'd told him what the thing was, he didn't hesitate for even a second in identifying their starting letter.

The sheet I thought he might have a hard time was in identifying not the starting sound of a word, but its vowel sound. It showed three pictures, and all the letters for the word except the vowel sound. The first one was "bat", and he filled in the A without much hesitation. The second one was "cat", and that went just as fast, because he knows about rhyming. The third one was "witch", which is a much more difficult word to read, but Alex apparently had no trouble completely ignoring the whole "tch" confusion and focusing on the actual problem of figuring out the sound. It took him a little longer than the first two, and he wasn't as certain of his answer, but it still didn't take him nearly as long as I'd expected before he looked up at me and said, "...I?"

And a final observation: After he finished his worksheets, he went straight to the computer and loaded up an educational website. While I've been writing this and helping Penny with her sheets, he's played some time-telling games, some sorting games, and some counting games.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stormy

Huh. So apparently there's a hurricane on the way.

At the end of freaking October? I know technically hurricane season runs into November, but seriously, we usually don't see anything serious past mid-September. And this one is expected to be made worse by running into some incoming winter weather systems. Seriously, WTF, world?

It's turning into one of those good news/bad news rundowns, honestly.

Good news: Current projected timing for it suggests that it won't cancel my party tomorrow. Bad news: It may well completely eff up Hallowe'en.

Good news: If I lose power for a week, it won't be swelteringly hot. Bad news: Those cold showers are going to doubleplus suck.

Well, let's end it on some good news: I have a bunch of books I've been meaning to get caught up on.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Holy Crap

Has it really been over a week since I last posted here?

Bad blogger! Bad, bad, bad!

So, um, short summary of the last ten days, then...

Let's see, that weekend, I went to Busch Gardens with the kids to see Howl-o-scream and celebrate Jess' birthday; that was mostly pretty fun, though by the time we wrapped up, I was really wishing I'd brought a sweatshirt along.

Then last week, I got to celebrate another book release -- Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire, which contains my short story "Succubus, Inc." (Also available in print!)

I had a very busy weekend -- on Friday, Elizabeth came over and we had pizza and watched the first couple episodes of the new Doctor Who. Yes, I've finally taken that plunge. I'm not hooked enough (yet?) to watch an entire season's worth of episodes in a sitting or anything, but it's definitely on my list of things to do when I have a quiet evening.

Saturday, I drove up to Jenn and Brian's for the afternoon and evening. They showed me the first episode of Sherlock (apparently my theme for the weekend was BBC shows) and I returned the favor by introducing Jenn to Vlogbrothers and Crash Course and all other things Nerdfighter. (And yes, I quite liked Sherlock, too, and I will be getting caught up on it ASAP.)

And then I was up early Sunday morning to meet Vicki in Colonial Williamsburg to take some photos of her for her burgeoning photography business. I have to say, I was quite pleased with how some of them turned out. (In exchange, she's going to do my family Christmas portraits for me so I don't have to do a lot of running back and forth with the timer on the camera.)

And then yesterday, I had the best writing/editing day EVAR. (Seriously. I'm going to be a guest at a con!)

In the meantime, I'm planning a small, all-ages Hallowe'en party for this Saturday, and an equally small, but adult-ladies-only Pure Romance party for next Saturday. (Interested? Drop me a line!) I'm going to a painting-and-social thing tomorrow night (yay, Groupon). I'm working on editing an anthology that will be coming out in January, and doing some other editing work as well, and I'm trying to squeeze in some time for actual writing from time to time, too.

Mentally/emotionally, I've been doing okay. There are ups and downs, but lately there are more ups. It helps that I've been doing and planning fun things with people I enjoy, and finding constructive ways to occupy myself when I'm alone. (Yes, like watching Crash Course videos. It is not possible to be depressed when there are cute, smart, funny guys teach me about science and history!)

So that pretty well catches us up, I think. Sorry to have flaked out on you all -- I promise to try to do better!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Weenie

I went down to KT's for dinner last night. She made stuffed shells and breadsticks, and I brought tiramisu for dessert.

It was nice. Kevin wasn't there -- he's on a short business trip -- but I got to see Jess a little, and KT and I got to talk for several hours, which is something we don't get to do much of anymore, these days. I miss being able to randomly hang out on IRC and chat, especially now that it takes about an hour and a half -- each way -- to go see each other in person.

But maybe, now that I've got weeknights where I don't have to worry about getting kids to bed on time, I'll make a date to go down there once a month or something, because it made for a nice break in the routine, and it was good not to have to figure out how to make dinner for one.

I came home with a couple of books to read and their Hunger Games DVD so I can finally watch that, having missed it in the theaters.

***

I'm giving some thought to throwing a Hallowe'en party. Nothing elaborate, just an afternoon thing (so as to be kid-friendly) with snacks and drinks and an excuse to wear costumes.

What do y'all think?

***

Of course, I'm also giving some thought to giving myself a short vacation after the holidays (or maybe over New Year's?). Nothing fancy -- a long weekend, probably, just to go somewhere I've never been before or do something I've never done before. Exactly where or what, I'm not sure. Feel free to offer up some suggestions.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Upper

Doing a bit better today. Having the kids around helps. Even when they're making me crazy, it's hard to be morose and self-pitying when Alex is discoursing on how apples grow on trees or how he plans to grow up to be a superhero; or Penny is demanding to know what my favorite Greco-Roman god is and angling for me to buy her some "real" jewels. It's hard to maintain a sense of despair when I'm busy helping Alex write love notes to his sister ("I LOVE U RPENNY FROM ALEX") or reading Harry Potter to Penny.

(Of course, it's also harder to get a decent night's sleep, between going in to check Penny's blood sugar at 10 and finding her still awake, frantically scribbling in her new diary; and Alex waking up at 5:30 with a "bad dream" about being back in Cancun and missing his friends from school.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rainy and Grey

I didn't get to the Fall Festival on Sunday, mostly because the weather turned cold and rainy, and between that and my cough still not being completely gone yet and the mood I was in, I decided to just stay home.

Mood... yeah.

By all accounts, the weekend went pretty well. I went to the thirty-one party with Elizabeth and KT on Friday, and afterward we went out to dinner at Corner Pocket. Small hiccup when we got there and realized I'd left my purse at the party, so Elizabeth and I had to leave KT sitting there by herself for fifteen or twenty minutes while we ran back to get it, but after that, we had a lovely time, and then KT and I went back to the house and sat and talked for a while longer.

Saturday, I did some more decorating in the dining room, then discovered that the Blu-Ray player would, in fact, play the MP4s of Big Bang Theory that Elizabeth had burned for me after she'd heard I hadn't seen the first couple of seasons, so I started watching those.

Then my date came over -- he made dinner for me while we watched Avengers, and after we ate, we went over to Braz's to play Cards Against Humanity with him and his new girlfriend, Megan. That went really great -- we played down the entire deck of black cards, and laughed ourselves silly.

I got up Sunday morning, went to the store, then came home and decided the weather really wasn't going to make the Fall Festival anything like enjoyable, so I put the BBT disc back in and started up a marathon.

Somewhere around lunchtime, I fell into a funk, and by mid-afternoon, it had progressed to the point where every time I wasn't actively watching something funny, I'd start crying. Immediately. Like, if I paused it to go to the bathroom.

I don't have PMS to blame it on this time, even. The funk is still with me today, and I'm only really staving off tears because work is going to be insanely busy this week, plus I just got ten stories of various lengths (from 5,000 words to over 30,000) to evaluate for inclusion in the anthology I'm editing, so I've got plenty to keep myself occupied. And even all that is only barely holding tears at bay. So... I guess the denial phase is about up, and it's time for the much less attractive (but possibly less creepy) bargaining/depression phases.

I think it's pretty clear that I'm not as ready to move on as I thought I was. So I've shut down my profile on the dating site, and sent an email breaking things off with the guy I'd dated a couple of times. I feel bad for hurting him, but I can't think of anything less fair than subjecting someone else -- especially a potential romantic interest -- to my current mercurial state of mind.

I may be scarce here on the blog for a while again, because there's only so many times I can whinge about being scared and lonely and scared of being lonely before it gets tedious for even me.

And also, as I mentioned, I'm insanely busy with boring, un-bloggable work stuff and less boring, but still mostly un-bloggable, editing stuff.

But I'll try to pop in now and then with some kid anecdotes to keep things light.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Halloweenies

Bit better today. Still a little sleepy, but Alex didn't have any troubles during the night, and both kids had a good morning, so that helps.

I quizzed Penny last night off a worksheet in preparation for a class quiz today, and she did so well that I let her postpone taking her shower for a little while so she could help me get out the Hallowe'en decorations. The kids greeted the decorations like old friends -- especially their giant squishy bat pillows that I'd bought them last year. And Alex dove immediately into the books.

This morning, they just about flipped out altogether when they learned that I'd bought a box of Count Chocula cereal. (I'd run to Target on a quick errand, and the Chocula, Booberry, and Frankenberry cereals were all right there by the register. Out of curiosity, I checked the carbs, and they're actually not much worse than Fruit Loops, and significantly less carby than the raisin nut bran cereal Penny's been favoring lately. So I grabbed a box as a treat for them.)

Then, when it was time to go, Alex, who'd apparently missed me taking decorations outside yesterday, burst out with a "Holy cow!" when he saw the yard. (...It's not much. One door hanger and five little pumpkins on stakes.)

And to make it even better, it was one of those chilly, misty fall mornings, so every time we passed a field or grassy lot with mist rising off it, Penny and Alex leaned forward in their seats and "Oooooh"ed and "Aaaaah"ed over the perfect spooky effect.

Matt has the kids this weekend, so naturally, I'm filling up my time with all kinds of things. Lots of which I couldn't do with the kids around.

Tonight, I'm going to a Thirty-One party with E and KT, and then we'll probably hang out afterward.

Tomorrow's plan is to finish the redecoration of the dining room (I finally got hangers and shelves for all the assorted items), and then I have a date in the evening. (A low-key one -- dinner and a movie and then hanging out with a couple of friends to play Cards Against Humanity. Because really, if you can't hold your own in a game of CAH, then I'm probably not the right person to be dating.)

Sunday, I'm going to the Fall Festival at Newport News Park. I need my annual fix of fresh-made kettlecorn, and they usually have some really fun and pretty handcrafted jewelry for sale, too.

And all of that will be interspersed with some extra sleep, I hope. It should be a good weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

UpDown

Yesterday could have been better.

It started out okay, but then I had a massive freak-out in the middle of the afternoon. I'm not entirely sure where it came from, but it was leading to places in my mind I thought I'd left behind me, so I'm grateful that KT was online and able to talk me down off the ledge, so to speak.

I managed to pull myself together in time to go pick up the kids, and we had a pretty nice evening.

But then I read Officer Buckle and Gloria to Alex at bedtime, and when I finished it, I looked down and Alex was in tears. "What's wrong?"

He managed to gasp out that he was sad because Officer Buckle and Gloria had been alone during their falling-out, and even though they're friends again at the end of the book, he was still sad that they'd fought and been apart.

...Uh-huh.

I tried to lead him around to it, to try to get him to tell me if that reminded him of anyone he knew, but he just shook his head and wanted to snuggle for a while before I read the second book.

And then he woke up me at 3am to tell me he'd had an accident, so I had to get up and change his sheets. That's the second accident he's had in the last week or so.

And then he got up early this morning to tell me he'd had two bad dreams in a row. And that he'd had several when he was at Matt's. I got him to tell me about them, and the running theme seems to be abandonment, specifically by parental figures.

So... yeah, I guess he's starting to actually process that Matt and I aren't together anymore, even if it's not conscious yet.

Which, on top of my own little freak-out, was pretty well precisely bad timing. So I'm sleepy and doldrum-y today, and wishing there was some way to turn back the clock, and wondering if I should cancel my date for this weekend.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Quiet

There; this morning I did not take the cough med that knocks me flat on my ass, though last night was full of weird dreams and near-hallucination sounds, so I'm not exactly what you'd call "well-rested".

After taking stock of what was going on at work, I went home early and took a nap that lasted most of the afternoon. Just as I was waking up, I got a text that Penny had left her glasses at the house, so I found them and went up to CVS to pick up a prescription refill for her, and then took everything over to Matt's.

After that, I had a nice, quiet evening. I took some time to post some pictures to my flickr account -- a hot air balloon, a picture of Penny in all her leopard-y glory, my dining room renovations, and then, of course, pictures from the wedding.

I watched Joss Whedon's commentary on The Avengers while I ate dinner (I swear, I am going to watch it again and keep count of the number of times he says "this was one of my favorite scenes!" or the equivalent). My favorite line: "What? It's a virus arrow! It could totally happen! Don't laugh at me!"

Then I flipped over to the TiVO because KT had told me that Cartoon Network has a weekly How to Train Your Dragon cartoon going, so I wanted to put that in the recording list, and while I was at it, I noted that it had recorded a few older episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I didn't start watching BBT until halfway through the second season, so there are some older episodes I've missed -- so I happily watched one of those while I was answering email and otherwise dorking around on the computer.

All in all, a nice, relaxing evening. Even if it did end with a whole spate of peculiar dreams.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Checkout

I don't know if it's the weather, or the cough meds, or a weekend of interrupted and/or restless sleep... but all I want to do is put my head down and take a nap.

So briefly, from the foggy haze of exhaustion: good weekend. Decent drive, pretty wedding, fantastic food.


Sat up way too late with KT and Kevin and Karen, playing Cards Against Humanity, then got up way too early and had breakfast with them before coming home. Got the kids, and had a great time with them, too.

This week has no big plans. The Newport News Park Fall Festival is this weekend; I might hit that. I might be going on a date Saturday. Hallowe'en decorations will probably go up, as the kids have been pestering me about them since last week. But other than that? As little as possible.

And hopefully, some naps.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Mild Suggestion

I went back to the doctor on Tuesday for my cough.

(It's been going on for so long that no fewer than four people in my office stopped by to suggest their own remedies. Zinc and echinacea, fresh juice, tea with honey, vitamin C supplements...)

My doctor said, "There comes a time when we've tried everything else, and we just give up and throw antibiotics at it."

"Good," I said, "because that's what I want."

"Let's see... I can give you Zithromax, which is fairly benign and gentle and usually gets the job done, or Biaxin, pretty much kills everything but the host. I'm thinking we go with door number two."

"Yes. By all means, let's take no chances," I agreed.

"Okay." He started tapping at his Macbook Air, sending a (wireless, electronic) prescription directly to my pharmacy.

"Can we refill the cough syrup, too? Just to keep things even until the antibiotics kick in?"

"Yes, absolutely." He tapped some more. "Now, the Biaxin, you should take with food."

"Will do."

"I'm not kidding. Don't eat dinner and then take it an hour later. Take it with the food."

"Got it."

"No fooling around. And not just a little food. A whole meal. Take the pill, and then dump the food on top of it."

"Take the pill before I eat?"

"Yes. Just before you eat." He tapped at his computer some more, recording notes. "Did I mention you should take it with food?"

"Yes, I got it."

"Really. With food."

"Okay."

He let me go, and I went down the hall, stopping at the desk to turn in my charts. I opened the door out onto the waiting room and the exit, and my doctor came around the corner. "Take it with food!" he yelled. I think he startled some of the waiting patients.

I'm beginning to think he had a message to impart, there. If only I could figure out what it was...

(I took the fourth pill this morning. [With food, yes.] I'm still coughing, but it's already smoothing out and becoming less urgent.)

By the way, no post tomorrow -- I'm taking the day off to drive up to Charlottesville for a friend's wedding and -- not incidentally -- hang out with my other friends who will be attending the wedding. I hope to have pictures and stories on my return, Monday!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Up and Up and Down

Friday was great. I met Elizabeth to go see ParaNorman -- it was really cute and fun, though probably too scary for my kids, so I'm glad I saw it without them -- and then we went to Ichiban for sushi. Mmm, sushi.

As I was leaving -- literally, as I was opening the car door to head home -- my phone rang, and it was Braz, wanting to know what I was doing and if I wanted to hang out and see what he's doing with his place. So I did, and got to meet his new girlfriend in the bargain.

Saturday morning, I put up a border in the dining room for my soon-to-be Mexican theme:


(The lovely thing about a Mexico theme is that, not only do all your colors not have to match, it's actually better if they don't.) I was going to start hanging the art pieces as well, but my stupid cough was getting in the way, and all the dust I was stirring up wasn't making things any easier, so I decided that was enough for one day.

As previously mentioned, I had a date Saturday evening. He turned out to be neither a serial killer nor a creep, and he agreed that contrary to what certain older co-workers of his had feared, I didn't seem to be a psychotic black widow murderess. either. Though, of course, I could just be biding my time. We had a nice dinner, then sat at the Barnes and Noble cafe and talked until the store closed, and then we walked over to Sweet Frog and got yogurt and sat outside and talked some more until it started raining very hard, so we waited for a lull and then called it a night.

Sunday should have been a marvelously lazy day, but instead I woke up in a bit of a funk that I couldn't seem to shake off. I decided to distract myself with a movie, but like an idiot, I put in my waiting Netflix, which was a romantic comedy, exactly the wrong thing for my mood. It's a good thing I have a strict rule against drinking when I'm alone, or the maudlin Twitter posts I made would've been oh dear lord so much worse, or even more horrific, turned into drunken maudlin emails I would have regretted immediately upon hitting Send.

I did manage to mostly pull myself together enough to go out to meet up with the GM of a local RPG I might join. He explained some of the rules of the system to me; it sounds pretty similar to most of the other games I've played, so I don't anticipate a lot of problems getting the hang of it. So I'm going to come up with a few character concepts and shoot them his way, and he's going to juggle schedules to try to get most of the players together for a character creation session sometime in the next few weeks. It sounds like getting the schedules lined up is going to be a real trick, though, so I'm not really holding my breath on this.

So, all in all, I want to say it was a pretty good weekend, but it's hard to do when it ended on a down note. For no apparent reason. Stupid brain.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sore

Whee, weather changes are fun! In addition to the cough I can't shake, I've now got a post-nasal drop sore throat from the changing weather.

I wonder if that would convince the doctor to just give me some dang antibiotics...

Probably not without a positive strep test, which doesn't seem likely. I'll give it through the weekend, and then call the doctor Monday if I'm still under the weather.

I actually gave up and went home at lunchtime yesterday, took an extra dose of cough syrup, and went to bed for a three-hour nap. I don't know if I actually felt better when I woke up, but at least that was three hours I wasn't coughing.

I foresee a lot of naps this weekend. Yay, naps!

(I'm rambling, aren't I? Sorry about that. I blame the cough syrup.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Activity!

I am, as they say, keeping busy.

I have an appointment with my therapist today. Those are sometimes painful, occasionally actually fun, and almost always draining.

Tomorrow, I'm meeting Elizabeth for a movie and sushi. There was a Groupon a little while back for a local Japanese restaurant -- $20 for $40 worth of food. Which is a great deal for a restaurant I love eating at... but there's no way I can eat $40 worth of food on my own (especially within the limits of these sorts of coupons, which generally stipulate you have to use them in one visit, and alcohol is not included). So I said something on Twitter about being willing to split it with someone, and Elizabeth took me up on it. So yay, girldate! If we can both get out of work early, we're going to see ParaNorman; if not, we're going to catch Bourne Legacy.

Saturday's project is to start redecorating the dining room. I decided a few weeks back that I was going to gather all my Cancun stuff in there and give the room a Mexico theme. I found a border sticker that's not blatantly Mexican, but has that same sort of bright color going on for it, so that's my step one -- putting that up. Then I'll work on rearranging the artwork.

Saturday night, I have a date. I'm hoping it goes well. Or at least, better than the lunch date I had on Tuesday, with a gentleman who was very nice and ridiculously smart but not a terribly good conversationalist, so there were a lot of awkward silences. (Yes, for my concerned friends, appropriate levels of caution are being taken such as meeting in public places and not giving out more personal information than necessary. And at the other end of the caution scale, yes, I've got condoms. And no, I am not going to blog about their use, or lack thereof.)

Sunday's excitement, beyond the usual chores (whoo! chores!) is a meetup to see about possibly joining a local gaming group for an Ars Magica campaign. It sounds like schedule might be an issue, though, so I'm not holding my breath.

Now, if I can just bludgeon this stupid damn cough out of existence, I'll be ready to take on the world. (Yay, Happy Fun Cough Syrup...)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Queer And Folk

I did some stuff!

I had the kids for the weekend, and on Saturday I took Penny and Alex out shopping. If you didn't see my post about how fantastic Penny was this weekend, check it out, 'cause she is one amazing kid.

Matt picked the kids up on Sunday, and I loaded up my car and headed up to Jenn and Brian's, where I picked up Jenn and we headed off into the sunset, looking for rainbows.

Well, sort of. We drove off into the mountains to attend the Roanoke GLBT Pride festival. (Actually, Jenn drove the whole way, because I spent the whole weekend doped up on Good Cough Syrup. It's kind of a miracle that I made it to her place and then back home on my own.)

We got to the festival around 3:00, and hit the food vendors pretty quickly, because we'd skipped lunch in favor of snacks on the road. I took my hamburger to the condiments table and said something like, "Ooh, I can have onions -- it's not like I'll be kissing anyone today!"

"Don't be too sure of that," said a voice behind me. I looked up, and the guy running the stand grinned at me, leaned across the counter, and puckered up.

Well, what else was I going to do? I kissed him. Laughing, Jenn asked for one, too, and got it.

We wandered around looking at stuff for a bit, but unfortunately, there were about half the vendors I remember from last year, and not nearly as much fun stuff. Jenn bought some hand-spun alpaca wool yarn, and I bought a couple of chainmail bracelets for the kids (really, that was the best I could find for them; it was sad). I looked for Jesse, but didn't spot him.

Even more unfortunately, the sheer number of smokers made the air unbreathable; Jenn's asthma roared into life, so we had to leave after only about an hour, and I did not get any really fabulous pictures of drag queens or outrageous outfits.

From there, we headed further west, to Blacksburg, where we were going to stay with Jenn's Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Dave for the night.

I'm always a little uncertain about meeting people's relatives, especially older ones. The moreso because we were descending on their house. But it turned out to be fine. Better than fine. Fantastic. Aunt Jeanne was gracious and charming and oh my lord funny. She didn't censor herself at all; immediately upon our arrival, she pulled out a bottle of wine and said, "I want to get sloshed and sit up late talking!" And we did (though I only had one glass of wine; I didn't want to have a bad reaction by mixing alcohol with the Good Cough Syrup).

Uncle Dave was quieter, but just as cool. After we'd had dinner, they brought out a Cards Against Humanity deck, and we sat up until eleven or so playing, and they were just as Wrong as anyone else I know, and a good time was had by all. Aunt Jeanne decided that I should be her second-favorite niece, and there was banter about meeting her sons.

We drove home yesterday, and I spent the evening doing the chores I'd neglected over the weekend -- the grocery shopping and the laundry and paying the bills -- and catching up on YouTube.

So all in all, it was a really great couple of days.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Loving Heart

I don't know what, specifically, has gone so right in Penny's upbringing, but there are times when she exhibits a pure, generous nature that's so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes.

Two examples:

Last night, I took Alex upstairs to get ready for bed, and ducked into my room to drop something off and discovered that Penny had made the bed, laid out my pyjamas on the covers, and left three notes, two at the bottom corners of the bed, and one on my pillow. The ones at the bottom of the bed were "coupons" for her to do the dishes and make dinner; the one on my pillow said, "I love you very much, Liz." (Using my name instead of "Mom" because last night she was pretending to be a fairy who had never heard of this "Penny" person I kept referring to.")

And if that wasn't sweet enough, when I went into Alex's room to help him change into his pyjamas, I saw she'd done the same thing for him, though his notes were lined up on his pillow. One read, "I love you very much, Alex," and the other was a coupon for "caring for you more".

How incredibly sweet is that?

And for the second example, I took her to Charming Charlie this morning to use the gift card she'd gotten for her birthday. And to give her some space to look around, I took Alex across the street to Bath and Body Works. We wandered around a while, and I didn't rush things, because Penny often has trouble making up her mind.

When we got back to Charming Charlie, we found Penny at the register, fretting over her purchases. She had, quite naturally, way overspent. She had some of her own money with her, but not enough. The saleslady told me she was up to $90, and she only had a $50 gift card.

"Sorry," I told her. "You're going to have to put some things back." I looked at the array of accessories. "...Why are you buying three watches?"

"I wanted to get one for me and one for you and one for Alex."

Oh. Well. Never mind that I don't wear watches and Alex can't even tell time. She was going to spend some of her own birthday money on presents for me and her brother. I wanted to kiss her right there in the store. I think the saleslady got a little misty.

(As it turned out, once we put the watches she'd picked for Alex and me back, she was less than $5 over her limit, well within her cash budget.)

These are the moments that offer me glimpses into the future, that make me already proud of the lovely, kind-hearted, generous woman she's going to become.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Weekender

So endeth the lesson. I mean, week.

I wound up making a comment on Facebook yesterday that led to me having dinner at Plaza Azteca last night with Vicki, which was great. We swapped stories about this and that and the other, and gossiped about some friends, and did our best to live up to the picture she'd linked on Facebook that led to the whole thing (over there on the right), and generally had a great time. Yay, being social!

This weekend, let's see. I have the kids; I'll pick them up after work. The planned menu for tonight is quesadillas, by Alex's request ("with nothing in them but cheese!").

Tomorrow's plan is to take Penny to use her Charming Charlie gift card, and while she's doing that, I'll take Alex across the street to Bath and Body Works, which he's been clamoring to go to. (...I don't know. I'm just the driver.)

Sunday, Matt will take the kids home with him after he comes over to mow the lawn, because then I'm heading up to Jenn's, and then together we're heading up to Roanoke for the Roanoke Pride festival. I went as a vendor last year, but organization of that fell through this year, so we're just going to go and have fun. (Seriously, I need to get myself a "fruit fly" or "fag hag" t-shirt to wear to these things.) I'm kind of hoping (but not really expecting) to run into the kid I met last year, the one who inspired one of the main characters in Assumption of Desire. And I'll take some bookmarks and business cards with me to hand out.

Sunday night, we're staying with Jenn's aunt, who lives up in Blacksburg, which is another hour further away than Roanoke, but it saves us the cost of a hotel room, and obviously Jenn will be along to help keep the drive home on Monday from being insanely boring, so I'm on board.

So, obviously, I won't be around on Monday, because I'll be spending half the day (or more, if we make random stops) driving home, and then recovering from the trip.

But I'm hoping that on Tuesday, I'll have some fun pictures to share from the festival!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Advisable

In the last handful of years, I've watched single friends struggling with dating, and while I was grateful not to be in that water, I've had plenty of advice (even if I mostly kept it to myself, because handing out unasked-for advice is a good way to get people to stop wanting to hang out with you).

But apparently my safe vantage point was slipperier than I thought, and now I'm treading water, myself.

Now it's time to see if I can put my money where my mouth (or at least my brain) was.

I have to take the risks. I have to be willing to take the first step and risk finding there's no solid ground. I have to be able to shake off the rejections in order to be available for the acceptances. (It's scary. It's so incredibly scary. I feel like I'm in eighth grade again. "I like you. Do you like me? Check one: [ ] Y [ ] N" How's that self esteem today? Completely squashed and lifeless? Excellent.)

I have to be willing to say no. I have to be willing to say yes. I have to use my words and communicate. I have to be clear about what I want and how I'm feeling. I have to trust that the person I'm with will do the same. (Yeah, trust is going to be a problem, because of reasons.)

The number of girl friends who've reassured me that of course I'm beautiful, that of course I'm desirable, that of course I'm going to find someone: more than I can count.  For which I'm grateful. But...
The number of guy friends who've said the same thing? Well, I don't need any fingers at all to count those.

It's terrifying. I expect to be hip-deep in self-loathing by the end of the year. But I'm going forward with it. Because not even trying is the worst kind of failure. It's the mark of a coward. And I'm done with that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This Is Why

I've had a cough for coming up on a week now. No other symptoms, mind. Just a dry cough. Nothing coming up with it. No fever. No headache. No congestion or sinus pressure. Nothing. Just a cough.
I did this a couple of years ago and figured it would just go away on its own. Two months later, I finally caved and went to the doctor and the verdict was: bronchitis! A run of antibiotics and I was fine inside of a week.

So yesterday, sitting on the realization that the cough had not improved over the weekend, despite smothering it with allergy meds and cough syrup, I should maybe just swallow my irritations and go to the damn doctor. (I don't avoid the doctor because I'm afraid of it. I avoid the doctor because unless I need antibiotics, it never does me any good, and I'm left feeling irritable that I've wasted several hours of my life for nothing.)

But! Dry cough, not going away. I went to the doctor.

The doctor peered and poked and prodded and listened and said: Probably viral. Give it a few more days and if it doesn't improve, call me back.

She did prescribe for me a cough pill. It is apparently an expectorant, not a suppressant, because today it feels like there's gunk in the back of my throat that I can't clear, but I can't stop trying.

ARGH. This. This is why I avoid going to the damn doctor.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Social-ism

My weekend: let me tell you it.

Friday, I left work at noon (god, I love working part-time -- even when it's just one day every two weeks, or a couple of half-days, it's nice to have that flexibility!). I went home and ate lunch and changed clothes, and then I stopped at the storage unit to empty out the last couple of things, and then I went down to my parents' house.

I sat and talked with my folks for a little while, and then Dad and I went up into the attic. The mess he'd recruited me to clean up was way smaller than I'd expected -- really, it took less than half an hour to clean all the spilled insulation up off the floor and put it back in the attic, and half that time was spent climbing up and down the ladder. (Er, I'm using "attic" a couple of different ways, there, aren't I? There's an unfinished room over the garage that gets used for storage; and then over that, there's the space between the ceiling and the roof that's nothing but lumber and insulation. You can probably figure out from context which one I'm referring to at any particular moment, because "room-over-the-garage" is a little too unwieldy.)

I did most of the work, but Dad helped around the edges. Which is fine, because a) like I said, it wasn't that big of a job anyway; and b) I wasn't going to let my nearly 70-year-old father climb a ladder carrying a bucket to dump spilled insulation back into the attic; and c) doing this job was the price Dad had claimed for my storing stuff in their space.

And it turned out that when he'd said "rearrange things to make room", he hadn't meant we were going to actually clean the attic/storage area. He'd just meant that the enormous ex-pingpong table they have up there had been moved away from the window so the workmen could get to the attic, and we had to put it back. Which was also not that big a job; it's just that the table is like ten feet long and it's not so much a table as it is a couple of boards loosely attached to some legs, so it can't just be pushed or it will all come crashing down (along with all the Christmas wrapping and decorations stacked on top of it). So we had to get on either end and pick the whole mess up and scoot it back over to the wall. And then re-align the legs, because they hadn't really wanted to move. Took less than five minutes, but it was not a job a single person could have done, and my mom definitely couldn't have lifted one end of the table with the arthritis in her shoulder.

So I'm glad to have helped, and as a bonus, my Christmas tree and yard reindeer have a dry, relatively spider-free place to live for the ten and a half months of the year they're not decorating my house.

Then I changed back into shorts and a t-shirt and sat talking to my parents until dinnertime, and then they invited me to stick around for pizza, and how was I going to turn that down? So I had pizza with my folks, and headed home not long after that.

***

Saturday: I paid some bills and ran some errands. The only one worth mentioning was when I went into the storage unit office to close it down: the lady behind the counter looked up the unit number, then said, "What's the name?" and I told her Matt's name, because he's the one who set it up. She looked at me and said, "Are you his mother?"

Oh, yes she did.

(To be fair... this is a college town, and school just started back up, and I am, in fact, old enough to have a kid in college who would keep his stuff in a storage unit over the summer. But still!)

We got it worked out, and she said that technically I couldn't close the account because Matt hadn't put my name on it, but the act of cleaning it out and removing the lock was sufficient to do the job anyway, so she'd make a note of it on her evening rounds and it would get closed. Which is all I wanted, really.

***

Saturday afternoon, I had a ticket to go see Jesus Christ Superstar at the community theater that's right by our house. (Really. Less than half a mile. I walked there, even in a skirt.) When I got there, I discovered my friend Caren sitting right next to me! But then we realized she'd read her tickets wrong and was in row G instead of row C. Alas. But the woman who took her place was really nice and friendly anyway, and we chatted a little before the show started. (Lookit me, bein' all social!)

The show was... well, as Caren said when we were talking afterward -- not as bad as we'd feared, not as good as we'd hoped. The guy playing Judas was really good, but their choice for Jesus was... Okay, look. Jesus should be in his 30s, and for this particular show at least, he should be world-weary and tortured. The actor they had playing him was maybe in his 20s. Maybe. And they put sparkly pink lipstick on him. Add to that his short, slightly poofy hairstyle, and he looked more like Justin Bieber than Jesus. He was a pretty decent singer (though he didn't quite bring the pathos to the music) but a mediocre actor, and... honestly, if I'd been directing, I'd have switched the actors for Jesus and Peter.

But all in all, I'm glad I went, and I'll be checking out some other plays as the season runs along. (I do need to remember that the stage is MUCH closer to the seats than the diagram on the website suggests, and to pick something a little further back next time.)

***

Saturday evening, I did something completely and astonishingly out of character for me.

I went to a meetup of board gamers. I voluntarily walked into room full of people that I had never met before. And talked to them. And played games. And joked around, and...

As if it wasn't crazy enough for me to walk into a room of strangers and swallow my fears and be social, I brought my Cards Against Humanity deck. Including the brand-new, still-in-the-cellophane second expansion. And suggested we play a hand or three. With seven strangers. At that point, we'd played a couple of other quick-spin games, but I figured... what better way to break the ice? I mean, either they'd be utterly horrified and I'd know this wasn't the group for me, or they'd love it and I'd feel more comfortable actually being, you know, me. (Or a mix. You know. Everyone's different.)

But it turned out really well! We only played three rounds, because it's a slowish game and there were a million others to try. But no one seemed actively disgusted (well, many people were actively disgusted by individual cards, but in the best kind of "oh, that's so foul it has to be the winner!" way) and everyone had fun with it.

There was a ton of food there -- stew and fruit and cookie and ice cream -- and so I ate (the stew was amazing, once I'd come down from the meeting-new-people nausea) and played... I don't remember, at least five or six different games, over about five hours. We had to vacate the clubhouse at 10, but the sponsoring guy was all about moving the party to his place and continuing. I couldn't quite bring myself to walk into a near-stranger's house at 10 at night, so I went on home at that point, but the whole thing was just amazing.

If you're not an introvert, it's probably not weird for you to just introduce yourself to people. You probably don't dump hours of energy into trying to figure out what to talk about that won't sound self-centered or potentially offensive or horribly inane. You probably don't feel like throwing up as you wonder whether people are only talking to you to be polite while wishing you'd just go away. But that's pretty much my entire social experience. If I haven't known someone for a long time -- I mean, years -- then I am pretty much always wondering if they're just tolerating me. That niggling doubt doesn't disappear until that person actively seeks out my company... and if they don't initiate contact for a while, the doubt comes back.

But my situation now is completely flopped. If I'm going to have a social life, I'm going to have to swallow the social anxiety and the nausea and get out there and meet people.

A bad first experience would have turned me off to the whole idea. So I'm relieved -- intensely relieved -- that this meetup was so good, that these people were so friendly and actively inclusive. That I wasn't an unusual person -- I wasn't the only girl, nor the oldest, nor the youngest, nor even the fattest. I fell into the middle of the group in nearly every possible classification, and that was comforting in and of itself. It not only made for a fun evening, but it will (hopefully) make it easier for me to do something like it again. Or at least, not harder.

*** 

As for Sunday... Sunday I mostly stayed home. Being social and meeting people was good and awesome and fun, but I am still an introvert, and being social is something I need to recover from, even if it's good. So I stayed in. I tried a recipe I'd been meaning to try, I read a ridiculous number of comics, I organized my closet a little, I planned some decor changes for the dining room, I  played doofy computer games, I watched Leverage. I rested and I processed.

And that was good, too.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Theraputic

Yesterday I had an appointment with my therapist. We talked, mostly, about dating, and entering the dating scene as a 40-year-old.

It was a more thoughtful conversation than you might assume.

See, I've been building lists, in my head, of things I'm looking for in a guy. Apparently, my priorities have changed some, in the last ten years or so. But then I realized there's actually two lists: There's the list for Mr. Right, which is pretty hazy and vague, and there's the list for Mr. Right Now, which is fairly specific and keeps interrupting my thoughts about Mr. Right.

I eventually came to the conclusion that, just now, I do not want a Mr. Right. I want to actively avoid commitment. I want a social life, and I want a sex life. I want to date a few guys, to go out and have fun. I want to try new stuff (both in and out of the bedroom) without it having to be a Thing. Just at this moment, at least, I don't want a life partner. I want a good time.

But I worry that I'm being irresponsible and shallow. Or that it's too soon. So I took that concern to my therapist. Who said, in essence: as long as you are clear and honest with yourself about what you want, and as long as you're clear and honest with whoever you're seeing about what you want, then there's nothing inherently wrong with just wanting some personal validation, with wanting someone to answer the question of whether I'm desirable?

(And it is a question. Aside from a pretty fantastic set of hooters, I don't have all that much going for me in the looks department. I'm fat and saggy and starting to get wrinkly. Girlfriends to whom I've expressed this concern have offered up reassurances, but I can't help but notice that they're all either young and skinny and smokin' hot, or my age and happily married, so I'm not sure their opinions count for much.)

We also talked, at least briefly, about: rules for dating around the kids (they shouldn't be exposed unless something is getting serious); personal safety #1 (first few dates in public places, etc.); personal safety #2 (condoms are a must); and meeting people (don't go to bars unless you want to date the kinds of guys who hang out in bars). I mean, I already knew those, but it was good to talk them over with someone objective. Also, she gave me some alternative ideas for how to meet people (not just guys) that didn't involve going to bars and having to compete with younger, hotter women for guys I probably wouldn't want to date anyway.

It was a good session, even if it didn't push me too hard. It bolstered my confidence, a bit. Gave me some directions for movement.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rearrange

So the kids are back to school -- I took Alex to daycare this morning, then drove back home and walked Penny to the bus stop this morning and waved at her as it drove away. And tomorrow, I expect, will be much the same. (Next year will be so much easier, because it will not involve a drive up to daycare and back. We can sleep until 7, then get up and get dressed and eat breakfast and even play a while before we all walk down to the bus stop. It'll be a lot easier on my gas bill, too.)

But that's next year. This year... runaroundrunaround. At least it's only half time, right?

And what's in store for the upcoming weekend?

Well, I spent some time last weekend emptying out the storage unit. Matt had collected all his stuff already, so the only things left in there now are the Christmas tree and my reindeer lawn decoration, neither of which will fit comfortably into my closet. I'd thought about keeping them in the storage shed under the deck, but when I went down there to check out the space, I found that not only was it fairly well spider-infested (which I'd expected), but it was also pretty damp. The last thing I need, given everyone's allergies, is to put up a mildewed Christmas tree. My attic is also out, because it's a tiny little access panel that I'm pretty sure neither the tree nor the reindeer will fit through.

So I asked my parents if they'd be willing to store them for me. They have a huge storage area over their garage -- one big open area that was originally intended as a rec-room, and two walk-in "attics". My dad said they'd be willing to store my stuff if I came over and helped him clean up the mess the workmen made when they were sealing a hole that a squirrel had gotten in through (there's insulation everywhere) and then helped him re-organize the space to make room for my things.

Sold. So after work tomorrow, I'll put on a long-sleeved shirt (whee, itchy insulation!) and find some gloves and pick up my stuff from the storage unit and head down there. Dad thinks it'll take a couple of hours; I'm guessing closer to three or four, but that's okay. Small price to pay for a dry, low-spider-count storage space. And then I'll be able to close out the account on the storage unit.

Saturday afternoon, I have a ticket to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the local playhouse. And by "local", I mean "within walking distance of my house". I hope it's good; I'd like to jump onboard for a lot more theater in the future.

No plans for Sunday yet, aside from the usual errand-running. Maybe I'll get some writing done. I have a story I'd like to write, but I can't quite get the plot to gel.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Long Weekend, Good Weekend

Yay for long weekends! Boo for being back at work! But yay for a short work week with nothing much pressing going on!

I guess that's a net win, right?

So, long weekend. The daycare was closed Friday, so I worked the morning and then picked the kids up from Matt around noon. (But between Friday noon and this morning when I logged in, I'd received only two emails, neither of which required any action on my part, so I feel entirely okay with having missed half a day of work. If I hadn't had a delivery to complete, I probably could've taken the whole day off.)

Friday evening, we met my family at the family favorite restaurant (a hibachi place more or less midpoint between my parents' and brother's houses) to celebrate my mom's and brother's birthdays.

Saturday morning, my dad came over with his pickup truck to help me take the kids shopping for back-to-school clothes and also to get a dresser for Penny's room. She's been using a large-ish nightstand as a dresser since she was four. When she was four, her non-hangable clothes all fit easily in the nightstand. For about the last year, though, it's become a bit of a problem to squeeze everything in. I'd found a dresser I liked the look of, but didn't think I could fit it into my car (and also, it's too heavy for me to lift by myself) -- thus, Dad and the truck. The clothes shopping alone would've been a minor headache without another adult along, but doable.

Dad stuck around to help me assemble the dresser -- which is good, because he figured out one doohickey I was using incorrectly, and also because there were a couple of points of construction that needed a minimum of three hands to get everything lined up correctly. It took us a good two hours to assemble; I shudder to think how long I would've been at it without his help.

(Also, I think it was good for Dad. He and Mom have been sort of flailing since Matt and I separated; I get the impression that they feel like they should be helping, but don't want to intrude on my privacy or insult my independence, and this let Dad feel like he could do something to help me and the kids out without stepping on any toes.)

Saturday afternoon, as a sort of treat for being so good at the store and (mostly) patient while Dad and I put the dresser together, I took the kids out for ice cream. (Also, I had a coupon. Save money by buying things!) And then, it being Saturday and therefore eat-out night, we went to La Tolteca for dinner.

We didn't go anywhere on Sunday, aside from the grocery store, but Jenn came down so I could help her assemble a scrapbook (part of her homework for the adoption process; since they're looking to adopt an older child, they're supposed to make an album to give the prospective adoptee to introduce them to the family and the friends they'll encounter most). I had a lot of fun helping her with the project, and it may have rekindled my desire to start up scrapbooking again, myself. We'll see if it sticks, though. I last left off in the middle of 2010, so there's a long way to go to get caught up.

After dinner on Sunday, Kris brought Emma and Sarah over to have a sleepover with Penny. All three girls were incredibly excited and happy to see each other, and immediately launched into some game that seemed to combine Harry Potter and spies and I don't even know what else. Around 9:30, they rolled out their sleeping bags on the living room floor and picked out a movie (Lady and the Tramp, as a good choice for a not-too-long, not-scary bedtime movie), and I went upstairs to read. When the movie ended (it's not even 80 minutes long) I turned the table lamp down to low and told them they could talk quietly, but that if I could hear them from up in my room, I'd put an end to it. But I never heard a thing (Sarah had already been half-asleep when I turned off the TV). Unfortunately, Penny had a persistent low blood sugar that kept me up until nearly 1am with rechecks and dragging her awake to eat something, so I still didn't get much sleep, but the girls themselves were incredibly well-behaved. They even cleaned up Monday morning when I told them to, with only minimal token whining that I simply ignored.

Alex was really fantastic all weekend -- he played by himself with his toys, or watched Batman videos on YouTube with Penny, or played Sesame Street games by himself. He was good when we went to the stores, and helped me sort through his clothes so I could pack up the ones that don't fit any more (he even put a couple of toys in the box that he doesn't want anymore -- though I waited until he wasn't looking and rescued Hippo for my "baby box"). Through it all, he was generally sunny and easy-going, mostly falling apart only when I cruelly insisted on him cleaning up his messes.

Sunday night, since we were out of his pullups, I asked him if he wanted to go with the transition pullups we'd bought a few months back (but which had turned out to be a bit too big) or if he wanted to try just underwear, since he's woken up dry every morning for the last three weeks. He tried to talk me into nothing at all under his PJ bottoms, but I don't think he's quite ready for that, so he went with underwear, and did great! I think we've finally turned that corner! (Leaving me with two boxes of pullups -- one of which hasn't even been opened -- but I can live with that!)

He did, however, NOT NAP. All four days, I put him down for his nap as usual a little while after lunch. All four days, he popped up within forty-five minutes and told me he wasn't tired. All four days, I made him go back to bed for at least another half-hour, but he never did succumb and go to sleep. Better yet, despite my misgivings, he maintained mostly excellent temper into the evening right up to bedtime. Looks like whatever mental growth spurt made him finally ready to turn the corner on night-time bladder control also made him ready to give up his nap. Unfortunately, the daycare continues to have daily naptime for preschoolers, so I can't just let him give it up entirely without screwing up his sense of routine. I may, however, turn it into "quiet time" instead, and if a nap would make my plans awkward, then it looks like I can skip it with impunity.

After Matt picked the kids up Monday afternoon, I had an hour or two to clean up the lingering clutter and mess, and then Elizabeth and Vicki came over and we all went down to Newport News for a dinner of sushi and then a second-run showing of The Avengers. (I've lost track; was that my fourth viewing, or my fifth?) Doesn't matter; I continued to love it. Can't wait to get my Blu-Ray version later this month and check out all the deleted scenes and special features! (Yup, I'm a dork.)

The kids start back to school today (well, Penny starts back to school; Alex just graduates officially to the pre-K class where he spent about half his time this summer). Matt and I are still working out the delicate details for that, but I expect we'll get it straight eventually.