Tuesday, February 28, 2012


What a weekend!

We took the kids to see a stage production of The Lion King on Saturday. We didn't think to bring coats and wound up standing outside, waiting for the theater to open, for a good half hour. Then we got inside to discover that the seats were apparently built by and for midgets. Seriously -- I'm only 5'4" and my knees were pressed hard against the seat in front of me. Poor Matt was miserable -- and I can't even imagine how the poor guy a few rows in front of us felt, because he had to be at least 6'4".

Unfortunately, due to 6'4" Dude, I wound up sitting with my spine in an S-curve for the whole first act -- the lady behind him had to lean sideways to see around him, so I had to lean even further to see around her. I couldn't lean the other way, because that was the space Matt was using to squash his body into so as to avoid becoming intimate with the very nice older couple on his other side.

(I didn't take this - no cameras allowed - but it's almost exactly accurate. I couldn't find a good pic online of my favorite costume, the big 2-man elephant.)
It improved somewhat after the intermission, though. Matt moved to sit between the two kids, so he could spread his legs out sideways without inconveniencing anyone, and I took over the seat next to the older couple, behind a child and some adults who were of more normal height, so I could actually see what was happening. That left Alex to sit in the chair behind 6'4" Dude and Leaning Lady, but that was just a technicality -- he sat on my lap for the whole second act, and we both enjoyed the show much more.

As for the show itself -- amazing. I mean, I've seen the movie about six thousand times, between the two kids, but that turned out to be a benefit, because it meant I could mostly ignore the plot and the action and instead focus on the clever sets and props and puppets and the fantastic costumes. The costumes, oh my lord. Brilliant.


That night, we went over to Braz and Adin's for a D&D game with them and Jenn and Brian. After much discussion, we agreed to give 4th Edition a try -- Matt's been using it in his other monthly game and likes it, and he has an account with the online character-builder that takes all the guesswork out of figuring out to stack up your bonuses and stuff. So we gave it a try, and I think I actually quite like it. I'm not wild about the way it compartmentalizes the classes into, essentially, video-game raid roles (different names, but: tank, buffs, healer, and DPS.) But on the other hand, I might be reconciled to it -- those roles were always there, and this is just codifying the mechanic.

I definitely like the "powers" mechanic, and I think it does a fantastic job of balancing the classes as far as overall usefulness. It used to be that a low-level mage was a one-trick pony, and once they'd done it, they were useless for the rest of the day. It also used to be that a high-level fighter was more or less pointless next to a mage of the same level, and I think this will balance that, as well.

But in the truest test of a game, for me... the character is starting to move into my head and tell me about her background. So I'm looking forward to more of this game. And, apparently, I'm going to have an origin story to write soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Auld Acquaintance

Matt has a few friends that he's known since they were all in preschool, which I think is awesome.

The furthest back I can go (not counting a couple of Facebook acquaintances that don't even say hi once in a while) would be Jenn (forever enshrined in my brain as "Jennie B."), who I met when we were in the 7th grade. Our friendship has been very on-and-off -- she moved away when she was in the 9th grade, and aside from sporadic letters and a couple of summer visits (this was before email), I didn't really hear from her again until a bit before her wedding, when she called out of the blue to ask me to be a bridesmaid.

(It was a fall wedding, about a week before my birthday. Jenn and her stepmom hand-sewed all the bridesmaid's dresses out of antique gold silk. I still have mine; it may well be one of the most beautiful dresses I've ever worn. It's also the only bridesmaid dress that I ever got a second use out of, since the gold made it a lovely Christmas dress.)

The next year, she came to my wedding and, though I didn't have any bridesmaids, she stood up at the reception and gave what would have been the maid of honor's speech. (It also happened to be her birthday. I didn't do that on purpose. What's funny is that I'd never, never been able to correctly remember her birthday; for some reason my brain insisted that it was the 19th, no matter how many times she corrected me. Well, now I can remember.)

We fell out of touch again for a while after that, but she popped back up when Penny was born, and now we're in semi-regular contact, and I see her once a month or so.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. (Shades of Alice's Restaurant, there.)

After Jenn, the friend I've known longest is Mila. Mila and I met in the 8th grade, and we were the very closest of friends all the way through high school. She's older than me by a mere ten days, but was always years more mature. She introduced me to science fiction and fantasy and graphic novels. I tutored her through math. We would get on the phone nearly every night (this was before texting) and talk until we had to go to bed, though when I say "talk" I don't necessarily mean talk so much as tuck the phones under our ears and read books together, occasionally speaking up to read particularly good bits aloud. I spent as many nights at her house as I could possibly get away with, and I called her mother "Mommy" and I bummed rides from her older brother (who was hot, but I would never have admitted it under torture, because Mila was my friend).

We went to different colleges, and kept up over breaks, but eventually drifted apart. Every few years, I'd run into her while she was in town visiting her mom, or I'd run into her mom in a store, and we'd spend an hour or two catching up and talking about everything under the sun, and then promise to stay in touch and then it wouldn't happen.

She popped up on Facebook, but doesn't use it much, but that's all right, because neither do I. Every few days I'll log in and send her a poke, and every few days she logs in and pokes me back. We don't chat, but it gives me a warm feeling when I log in and there's a fresh "Mila poked you!" message up in the corner. It's a reminder of the days when we were in Latin or Geometry or History class together and she'd pass me a folded-up note under the desk and I'd unfold it and right at the top would be "pokepokepoke" and I would try to stifle my giggle and I'd write "Aaaargh! pokepokepokepoke!" next to her pokes and fold it up and pass it back to her. (We thought we were flying under the radar and avoiding disruption. From an adult perspective, all I can do is marvel at the patience of our teachers, because we never once got in serious trouble over this chronic note-passing.)

Tuesday night, I checked my email while Matt was taking out the trash, and was surprised to see a message from Mila.

The funny thing that came out of that message was the complete coincidence that her cell phone number is mine, plus one. Take the last digit of my cell number, add one, and that's her cell number. She doesn't even live in the same state as me, anymore. Her area code matches because she got the phone through her mom's plan, years ago. Completely out of the blue and random and bizarrely coincidental. And completely typical for us.

The unfunny thing that came out of the message was that she's just learned she has cancer.

When Matt came in from taking out the trash, I told him, and he looked into my stunned eyes and said, "Call her."

So I did. We talked for forty-five minutes or so, and I learned that she doesn't really know anything about the cancer -- they'd only just discovered it on Friday and she was waiting on further test results. And then we talked about our families (her brother had a heart attack last fall, which is much more in line with her family's medical history, and she joked that obviously she got cancer just so she could upstage him) and our jobs and our vacation plans. And then she promised to keep me updated, and we hung up.

I was rocked, but holding it together, mostly. And then yesterday she sent me a text message that the tests show the cancer has spread, so there will be chemo in addition to the surgery that was already in the planning stages. And I thought about her losing her hair, and how jealous I was all through high school that she could grow her hair so much longer than mine, and I lost it, a little bit.

"Just tell me before you fly out there," Matt said, Tuesday night.

Mila and I are not the closest of friends anymore, like we were in high school. I can only think of one situation that would put me on a plane, now. I can't say the words. Even the Mutant Worrybrain won't touch it, because the Mutant Worrybrain specializes in things that are all but impossible. I can only pray that it won't happen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


In a crappy mood this morning. I really shouldn't be. I had a long weekend. I had a fun time over my long weekend. I ate out a lot, cooked some great food in, visited with my parents, hung out with friends, saw snow, did some shopping, spent a lot of time reading and a little time writing, went to the movies, and generally had a pretty good time.

But I've had one of those mornings where nothing quite seems to work. My weight is up, my hair is sticking out in the wrong places, my skin is itchy no matter how much lotion I put on it, my allergies are coming back, I bumped my head on the car door frame, my office is cold... blah blah blah. (For a switch, the kids have been fantastic this morning and not irritated me at all. Which is good, because I probably would've bitten their little heads right off their shoulders.)

It's going to get better, though. Right? Right. Off we go...

Friday, February 17, 2012


The fine folks over at ThinkGeek have a monthly haiku contest, the results of which are published in their monthly newsletter. Usually, I just read the winning entry and chuckle, but this month's newsletter hit my inbox right after Valentine's Day. So the next morning, I was watching Alex play with the nesting robots he got for Valentine's Day, with Matt's new plush Portal turret in the background, and I thought, I should totally get him to pose for a customer action shot and send it in.

And then I thought... No. I should totally write a haiku about my preschooler with his robot army and send that in.

So I did.

Robots on standby!
Says the preschool overlord.
After nap, we strike.

I'll be sure to let you know if we win. ;-)

(And yeah, I may still take that picture this weekend, if I can get him to cooperate. Because Alex does the very best Evil Overlord face in the entire universe.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Yesterday was the kind of day where I spent a lot of time scrambling to catch up with others' poor time management (or downright lack of consideration). I don't want to detail every instance, but it's not my favorite way to work. (On the other hand, I did compose several haiku for ThinkGeek's ongoing contest during my lunch break. I just have to decide which one I like best before I send it in.)

And then I lost a chip out of my favorite ring, and thanks to stacked meetings for both Matt and I, had to scramble to get dinner. Thank goodness for Matt, who cheerfully and uncomplainingly unloaded and re-loaded the dishwasher while I made lunches.

Still, I was so exhausted by the time the kids were in bed that I thought briefly about just sticking a fork in the day and going to bed early. (No, early. Like 8:45.)

But I'd skipped writing on Sunday, too, so I made a cup of coffee and told myself that I didn't have to write a lot, I just had to push forward until I'd finished the coffee. Just enough, I promised myself, to have a snippet for the writing blog. The story was 80% done, and I knew I didn't have the energy to write a sex scene, but I thought I could push it to right at the beginning of the sex scene, and then I could polish that off later.

An hour and a half later, I'd only written 500 words, but the more I looked at them, the more I thought that this story might not end with a sex scene anyway. It would, in fact, have been counterproductive. Which means, I think, that I might be done with the draft. So I'm going to let it rest for a day or two and then go back and re-write about two thirds of it (no, really, it's kind of rough and needs a lot of polish) and then it might be worth throwing over a wall.

So it wasn't the best-ever day, but it could definitely have been worse. (Which puts me in mind of Neil Gaiman's words of wisdom about writing:
When writing a novel that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: "House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day." "Got call this morning to say I'd got Nobel Prize for literature. Wrote less than 300 words (285) probably unusable, so lousy day."
Yes. That's it, exactly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Happy Valentine's Day!

Yep, I know a lot of people don't like the holiday, either because they feel they don't have someone special to spend it with, or because they think if you have someone special, you shouldn't need a particular day to celebrate your love.

To the first, I say: phooey. The holiday is slanted toward romance, true, but there's no rule that says it has to be about eros. One of the most touching Valentine traditions I've ever heard of was a man I worked with for a while who took his mother out to dinner every Valentine's Day. (And before you get all cynical on me, let me assure you that he did, in fact, have a healthy romantic life.) Celebrate philia and enjoy your family, or storge and appreciate your friends, or go even broader and celebrate agape by doing something for your fellow man. If you don't have any of those kinds of love to celebrate... then you have worse problems than a few sour grapes about a lack of romance in your life.

And to the second group, I have this to say: what's wrong with you?! Don't you like presents?!


Monday, February 13, 2012


I should have settled in to write last night after the kids were in bed, but I was just too ridiculously exhausted.

And by "ridiculously exhausted" I mean that it was sort of ridiculous that I was exhausted, because I'd slept in Sunday morning and then not done much of anything all day except for help Penny make cupcake buttons with her Easy Bake Oven and then fail to make meatloaf in time for dinner.

And yet, by the time I got out of the shower, the idea of even putting on my pajamas was tiring, so I didn't write. I sat on the couch (yes, I did manage to put on the pajamas, wiseass) and played Pocket Frogs and sort of half-watched the Grammys.

It was a good weekend, though. We hung out with friends and ate delicious food and went shopping and relaxed. The Keurig that Braz and Adin gave me when they got a nice new one got a clogged water line, so I had to spend a couple of days drinking instant, but then Braz showed me how to clear it out, so that crisis was averted.

It snowed Saturday afternoon/evening while we were at Braz and Adin's -- the first (and quite probably the only) snow of the season. The kids, predictably, lost their minds with excitement and insisted on going outside while it was still falling. I lamented having not brought my camera with me, but of course Braz had his, so all was not lost.

Penny had a "Valentine's Party" on Sunday that she invited everyone to about an hour and a half before she planned for it to start, and much to my surprise, three of her four invited guests actually showed up. (Though that's partly because I told her she couldn't invite guests who lived more than ten minutes away, so she stuck to our next-door neighbor, a couple of friends who live nearby, and the Hegemony.) It wasn't so much a party as a largish play-date, though. Ripley got a little offended (I believe) that Penny was spending more time with her school friend and called the party "boring", and then Ray (I think) got overwhelmed by all the girls and left early with the same excuse. I don't know if Penny learned a lesson about advance planning (or at least advance inviting), but she seemed to have a good time.

On second thought, maybe I do know why I was so tired Sunday evening!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jury's Out

Just as I was pulling into a parking space at work this morning, the man in the office down the hall came out of the building. I got out of the car as he pulled level with me, and he said, "There's no coffee in the building. I'm going over to Starbuck's -- want anything?"

I do not function at work without my morning coffee, so I hopped back in the car and followed the guy over to the nearby Starbuck's, where I discovered that sometime in the last few months (I don't go to Starbuck's often) they've completely remodeled, and also that they've introduced a new, mild blonde roast, which matches most other companies' medium roast and completely unhinges my complaint that Starbuck's coffee always tastes burnt (for no purpose, even, as a quick search will confirm that a longer, darker roast does not increase the amount of caffeine the bean releases).

I considered caving to the temptation of the pastry display, but the longer I stood in front of it waiting for my turn to pay, the less appetizing they looked, so in the end, I just got the cup of coffee. So I guess that's a win.

I did cave to the temptation of the Free App of the Week (which is something else that I didn't really know about, wherein you can snag a code each week to get a free app from the iTunes store) because the app this week happens to be Bejeweled, which is a great game that's easy enough for the kids to play. Which, combined with this blonde roast (which I'm sipping as I type this and is actually quite yummy) may result in  making a weekly Starbuck's run just to check out the week's offering.

So I'm not entirely certain if this counts as a good start to the day or a worrisome one. Whichever, I expect it'll be interesting.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Merry Christmas

I finished cleaning up the kitchen after dinner last night, and went to sit on the couch relax with a little Pocket Frogs. Alex was finishing up the last ten minutes or so of Sesame Street, Matt was surfing his RSS feeds and/or playing Kingdom Rush, and Penny was playing upstairs.

Suddenly, she came down to lean over to railing. "Mom! Mom! Can you hear it?"

My allergies have been acting up and the TV is running, so no, I can't hear much of anything. "What is it, sweetie?"

"Can't you hear? My music!"

"Oh, are you listening to your CD player?"

She nodded excitedly, eyes bright.

"That's awesome, hon. What are you listening to?"

She says the name like she's name-dropping at the door of the most exclusive club in New York, casual, and yet with an undertone of Yeah, check me out! "We Own the Night."

"Is that your Selena Gomez CD?"

"Yeah." So, so casual and cool.

"Awesome, sweetie. Glad you're enjoying your music."

She disappears back upstairs. Alex's show ends and we turn off the TV, and then I can hear it, the music pulsing down the stairs. And more than that, I could hear her belting out the chorus in true Rock Band style.

A minute later, she's back, looking even more excited. "Mom!!"

"What, honey?"

She holds up her Kids Rock CD. "I love these songs! These are my favorites!" Well, that's why Matt and I Santa got it for her.

"Great! I'm so glad you like them!"

I went upstairs a few minutes later to peek in on her and found her sitting on the bed, reading through the lyric book from the Selena Gomez CD, the player cranked up to about eight. Alex, who'd accompanied me up the stairs, said, "It's too loud! I'm going back downstairs!" I'm not sure Penny even noticed his presence.

Sometimes, it takes her a little while to warm up to things. But when she does, she goes all out.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Kid Stories

Another Alex anecdote:

"Daddy, I'm locking my car door so no one can get in."

"Okay, but we're moving, so I think we're pretty safe."

"Ninjas are sneaky."

He's right, you know. You can't start teaching your kids too early about the dangers of ninjas.

And lest you think that was merely one of those moments when Alex did a conversational 360 (as he is, admittedly, wont to do), this morning on the way to daycare he said, "Mom, I'm locking my door so no ninjas can get in."


Report cards came out last week, and Penny got straight As for the second quarter! Matt and I are so proud of her, we could just bust.

On top of that, her class had a writing exercise in which they had to write about traveling with their favorite of the four explorers (Columbus, de Leon, Cartier, and Newport) they're just finishing up a unit on. Penny was fascinated to learn that Christopher Newport had begun his career as a privateer, so she wrote a story about pirating about with him that was so good, she was asked to read it aloud to one of the other third grade classes. (As far as we know, none of the other students had this honor.) And best still, the other class received her story very well. According to Penny, the "went wild" for it, clapping and cheering for her.

You can darned well believe that I'll share it as soon as it makes its way home.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Holy smokes, am I ready for this weekend.

I don't even really know why, because this week hasn't been particularly difficult. But there it is. I want to sleep in and not do much of anything for a couple of days. Catch up on my reading, perhaps. Matt's monthly D&D game is Saturday night, so maybe I'll get in a little writing.

I hit the store yesterday to get a new lamp for my office at work. While I was there, I got some stuff for the kids for Valentine's Day. Probably more than I should have, but not as much as I wanted to get. I love buying stuff for the kids. Though it is still true that Penny is worlds easier to shop for than Alex. I have a very solid grasp of what she's into right now. Him, not so much.

...That's about all I've got. What about you guys? What're you doing this weekend? Talk amongst yourselves.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I completely forgot to mention the new hair!

Saturday morning, I packed up the kids and took them to the hair salon where they were shockingly well-behaved (with the aid of a couple of the stylists and some very nice random guy with two kids of his own who helped redirect Alex a couple of times while I was in the chair). They both got haircuts and treats.

And I got new hair. New cut, new color.

I haven't tried coloring my hair... pretty much ever. I've had highlights done, but they were so subtle it was barely noticeable. This is all-over color. Dark auburn. Like mahogany. It looks like dark brown until you get it under bright light, and then you can see the red -- which is just perfect, really.

Alex was highly amused by the process. Or at least, he was highly amused by the sight of me sitting there with dye on my eyebrows (yes, I did the eyebrows along with). "Mommy!" he squealed, several times, "your eyebrows are red!"

And then I got it cut. Short. Too short to put in a ponytail any more, but long enough to cover my ears. I haven't had hair this short since the 8th or 9th grade -- and back then, my stylist refused to acknowledge my cowlick, so it looked... lopsided. This cut accepts the cowlick's tendencies and works with them. And, much to my surprise, it looked good even after I'd washed out the careful blowdrying and styling product. I do have to be careful to shape it a bit while it's wet and not touch it while it dries, or I end up with 70's wings over my ears. But I've already played with it a bit, and I can make it sleek or shaggy or even out-and-out wild if I'm willing to put a little gel in it.

People keep asking me, "What prompted the change?" and I keep having to answer, "It was just time." Or else they say, "Do you like it?" which makes me wonder if they don't. But I don't much care if they don't, because, well... I do.