Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Teacher's Report

On Veteran's Day, we had conferences with both kids' teachers, because the school mandates a conference at the end of the first quarter for all elementary school kids. (I don't know about middle school yet, but since that will be multiple teachers, I'm guessing not.)

Penny's was first. Penny actually has two teachers this year, her homeroom teacher, Mrs. H., and her math/science/social studies teacher, Mrs. F., with whom she spends slightly more than half the day.

Mrs. F. could only talk for a minute, because she had another conference at the same time, but she heard my voice as I was shooing the kids out to the playground and rushed over to tell me that Penny was an "absolute delight" in the classroom.

Before she left, I let her know that she had -- entirely unwittingly -- done the best thing possible as far as gaining Penny's trust: she had screwed up on a particular problem when grading a test, and so she'd gathered them back up, re-graded the problem she'd done incorrectly, adjusted the grades as necessary, and handed them back out. Penny had been floored that a teacher would a) make a mistake, b) admit to the mistake, and c) correct that mistake. It may well turn out to be the most valuable lesson Penny learns this year, and I talked to her about it a little when she told me the story to help it sink in, that being an adult doesn't mean you stop making mistakes; it means you take responsibility for your mistakes and do what you can to fix them. (A lesson that far too many adults have failed to learn, but if I can manage to get my kids to learn it, then I'll count my parenting as a success.) So I told Mrs. F. how flabbergasted and pleased Penny had been, and thanked her for providing us with, as they say, a "teachable moment".

Anyway, the general consensus on Penny was about what we've come to expect: she's a good student, usually quiet and well-behaved in the classroom. She's at the top of her math class (that's my girl!) and doing very well in everything else, even in subjects where her grade is not the best. The problems she has stem from the same places they've always stemmed from -- she'd rather read than do work, so she rushes through her work so she can read, risking sloppy results; she doesn't ask for help when she gets stuck; and she is utterly hopeless at organization, so sometimes things (pieces of paper, homework, notebooks...) get lost.

All of which were problems that I had at her age, as well, so I have confidence (or at least hope) that she'll grow out of them.

All in all, we were pretty well pleased with that conference, and then we went down to talk to Alex's teacher, Mrs. D.


We've known for a couple of years now that Alex was ahead of the curve of most kindergarteners, but it was certainly nice to have that confirmed.

Mrs. D. told us that they'd given all the students a preliminary test that charted reading skills against the kindergarten rubric, comparing them to where students are expected to be at both this point in the year, and where they're expected to be by the end of the year.

Alex... aced the test. As compared to the end of year numbers. Something like 50 questions, and he got two wrong. Two.

Mrs. D. tried him on some other evaluations, and tells us that as near as she can tell, his reading skills are currently about on par with a second-semester 1st grader. Alex is nearly a year and a half ahead in reading. Mrs. D. said that if they grouped students solely on reading ability (...apparently that's not a thing any more?), Alex would be the only one in his group.

And he's likewise ahead of the class in math and science, though they haven't done any testing on those yet.

Mrs. D. wondered if we might possibly consider having him tested for the gifted program?

Yes. Yes, please, as soon as possible, because I cannot bear the idea that Alex might get to second or third grade and turn into one of those kids who loses interest in school and/or becomes a classroom disruption simply because they're bored.

I'm so proud of both of my kids, I could burst.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

So Weird!

A conversation I just had with my kids:

Alex: Mom, what's that?

Me: It's a [crochet project of the moment]. When it's finished, it's going to be a Christmas present for [redacted].

Alex: But it's not even Christmas yet!

Me: No, but I'm making crochet presents for several people this year, and making things takes time. I'm starting early to make sure I can get them all done in time.

Penny: That's weird.

Me: Planning ahead is weird?

Penny: Pretty much, yeah.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


It's a chilly, rainy day, the latest in pretty near on a week of chilly, rainy days. The sort of day that people who dislike autumn point to, to illustrate their point.

Nasty weather or not, the kids were in need of some new clothes and other essentials, so we all went out to the store.

When we came back, I divided up the purchases and asked each of them to take their new clothes up to their room and put them away.

When Penny came back downstairs, she was wearing her fuzzy blue bathrobe, her fuzzy purple PJ bottoms (with cupcakes on them!), and her fuzzy, fleece-lined, cheetah-print slippers. She promptly curled up into a chair and started playing on her phone.

Damned if that doesn't look like just about the best way ever to spend a rainy autumn afternoon. I may join her.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mad (Yet Healthy) Scientist

Penny is pretty well determined that she's going to be a mad scientist when she grows up.

(Specifically, a mad one. I think -- though she has not voiced it this way -- because mad scientists don't have to follow all those pesky rules like, say, the laws of nature, and therefore it doesn't require that she pay attention in science class.)

Anyway, we were in the car over the weekend and she suddenly popped up with, apropos of nothing that I'm aware of: "Mom? Wouldn't it be cool if we had wings and could fly?"

I allowed as how that would be pretty cool.

"Dad was telling me that sometimes, when people die, we can take like their insides and stuff and put them in other people who need them."

Apparent left-turns in the conversation are pretty common around here, so I took it in stride. "Sure, if the dead person gave their permission before they died. It's called being an organ donor."

But she hadn't veered as far as I'd thought. "When I grow up, I'm going to cut some wings off of really big birds and attach them to people so they can fly."

She launched into her plan, entirely undeterred by my gentle suggestions about such realities as even my extreme layman's science knowledge could conjure up. She would test her transplants first, she assured me, by cutting the wings off of smaller birds and attaching them to mice and rats.

And once she had perfected her technique, she would offer this transformative surgery to all comers for only fifty cents.

When I exclaimed over the low cost and wondered how she would finance her mad science, she blithely reminded me that she was also going to open a restaurant that would serve only healthy, diabetes-friendly meals. The restaurant, she explained, would be open from 10 until 10 every day, and she would do her mad science in the mornings and late evenings. No problem.

I was, all at once, charmed by her generosity and proud of her fearless vision.

And maybe, just a teeny, tiny bit disturbed by the thought of her chopping the wings off hapless birds and sewing them onto poor, innocent rodents.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Busy Day

So... it looks like either Blogger changed something or my Day Job network folks did, but now when I try to start a new Blogger post from work, it gets to the loading screen and just sits there. So no more posting from work.

You can see what this has done to my ability to post (it's had a similar effect on my writing blog as well). My evenings tend to be anything but conducive to blogging, even over here.

But I figured I should make an effort to get something down for today, because today was pretty danged awesome. And busy.

1) This was not actually today, but yesterday, but... last week, I (finally, after having decided to do so a couple of months ago) bought a new cell phone. Which means that Penny inherited my old phone. I'd even bought her a case for it. When I picked her up Friday afternoon and showed her my new phone, it took a few seconds for her to realize what that meant, and then she LOST. HER. SHIT. It was adorable. (Note: It's not a phone any more. All cell functions have been turned off. It's basically just an iPod Touch with a laughably small capacity, now.)

2) We got up at pretty near the usual weekday time so that we could eat breakfast and get dressed and head out to watch Alex play soccer.

(A few weeks ago, Matt told me that Alex had been mentioning soccer a lot as something he enjoyed -- he'd never said a word to me -- and that he was going to sign him up for a kids' league. Matt also, naturally, got roped into coaching.)

I do not like sports much, and I especially don't care much for soccer, but watching teams of 4-5-year-olds play was almost but not entirely unlike soccer anyway. None of them could figure out which direction they were supposed to run. They'd kick at the ball and miss, multiple times in a row. Run up to it to kick and come to a dead halt just before doing so, so precisely it looked like something from a cartoon. Run in a little circle around the ball without ever touching it. Politely stop and wait for an opposing team member to line up his (or her) kick instead of jumping in to steal the ball. It was, in a word, hysterical.

I saw three (minor) injuries during the two games, and not one of them was inflicted by another child (even accidentally!) which I thought was really saying something. Anyway, it was a fun way to spend an hour, much to my surprise.

Then we came home and Alex changed out of his soccer gear and into street clothes so that we could eat an early lunch in preparation for...

3) Ripley's birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese! Okay, the kids' enthusiasm for this entirely outstripped my own, but I actually like CEC's pizza, the kids were mostly pretty well-behaved, and the birthday girl went ga-ga for the stuffed penguin I'd crocheted for her. (So did some of the adults. It was very gratifying.)

4) After that, we went to the mall (breaking my two-year run of successful avoidance of its parking lot) so that Penny could get her ears pierced. I'd told her that she could have it done when she turned 10 (which is when I got mine done the first time), but she'd been waffling over the possible pain until just recently, when a couple of friends from school talked her into it.

I got a bit of sticker shock -- apparently, earrings for piercing cost more than twice what they did back in the early 1990s, when I had my last piercing done. What's up with that?! But once I got over that, Penny gleefully picked out some little studs with her birthstone (peridot) in them. She decided it would be best if she distracted herself with a game on her phone, so she did that while the attendant popped her ears. She did really great, actually. She let out one moderately-loud "Ow!" with each pop, and a series of small "Ow, ow, ow, oh ow"s afterward, as the nerves ricocheted, and then it was done. When we were in the car, she told me they didn't hurt any more, and about an hour or so later, she told me she could touch her ears without them hurting. (She's spent the whole rest of the evening dancing around singing, "I got my ears piereced, I finally got my ears pierced!" in delight.)

5) From the mall, we headed over to my parents' house. This morning, while planning the day, Alex had protested the earring trip with, "What are we going to do for me?" I asked what he wanted to do, and he said, "I miss Grandma and Grandpa." So I called my folks and they enthusiastically agreed that we should come over. So we did, and the kids played happily for a while, and then my parents took us out to dinner. Mmm, Mexican.

It all made for kind of a long day, but both kids were pretty awesome, I have to say. There was some whining here and there, but by and large, they were about as patient and cheerful as anyone could have been expected to be.

'Cause my kids are awesome, that's why.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of School

What kind of mom would I be if I didn't post some pictures of the kids on the first day of school? (The non-embarrassing kind, probably. And where's the fun in that?)

(Note: I took most of these with my nice camera, but I haven't had a chance yet to do any post-processing like color balancing, contrast adjustment, or cropping. When I've done that, I'll post those pics to Flickr.)

First, a nice standing pose:

Then, one that probably captures their relative feelings about the day a little more accurately:

An anecdote worth saving: At orientation last week, as Alex and I were walking down the hall together, I said, "Are you excited to meet your teacher and see your kindergarten class?" and he said, "Mommy, I've been waiting for this my whole life!"

And then one with the pseudo-stepsiblings, which I think of the six bajillion pictures the three adults were taking, may be the only one that got all four kids a) looking generally in the direction of the camera, b) not blinking, and c) not making a goofy face:

And, of course, the obligatory bus stop picture (this one via my cell phone, because the nice camera's battery died on me):

I did, in fact, get just a little choked up as the bus pulled away -- that's my youngest off to kindergarten, and my eldest starting her very last year in elementary school. It's the end of an era.

But more than nostalgic, I'm excited and happy for them. And, also, relieved to not be paying daycare tuition for a while...

Monday, August 12, 2013


Ten years ago.


Holy heck, TEN.

From this:

to this:

How can that be right?!

One whole decade. Happy birthday, my beautiful girl.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Life Is Awesome

I've been feeling pretty damned good lately.

I talked about it over on my writing blog (because one bit is writing/editing related and just the tiniest bit spicy), so let me encourage you to go check it out, because I whine and bitch and moan enough, and sometimes, it's good to just share some happy:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dinner Deals and Empathy

As previously mentioned, I'm having the dining room and kitchen floor repaired soon. Which means I've moved all my stuff out of the dining room, and a lot of stuff out of the kitchen, so the contractor can get to the floor. "Stuff" in this case includes the dining room table and all the chairs.

So we're eating in the living room, which for the kids is the biggest treat ever.

Except that the number of meals I can make that we can eat in the living room without making an enormous mess is pretty limited. So I told them last night that we'd have some occasional fast food.

Penny wanted Chick-fil-A. Alex wanted Burger King. (Mind you, both of them were voting based on which playground they favored rather than the food they wanted.)

There was no compromise, so eventually I told them to put a sock in it, and we went to the McDonald's drive-through and brought our dinner home. I asked Penny to please not get french fries, since her blood sugar has been wobbly lately, and as a consolation, I promised to heat up some brussels sprouts for her when we got home.




You heard that correctly. My daughter is willing to accept brussels sprouts as a fair trade for french fries.

I'm pretty sure it's one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

Anyway, we got home and I started divvying up burgers and sides and microwave-steaming some brussels sprouts, and they said, "Can we watch a movie while we eat? Pleeeeeeeeease?"

I intensely dislike the TV-while-eating phenomenon (largely because I am, myself, highly susceptible to distraction) but... no dining room table anyway. Might as well. "Okay, fine. What are we watching?"

Alex picked out Despicable Me, but Penny whined. Apparently, she doesn't like the minions. I am flabbergasted and sad; the minions are awesome. But it's not like I can force her to like them. Alex then picked out Monsters Inc.

Yeah, that's good. I haven't seen it in a while. So we popped it in and settled down to our dinner. The kids enjoyed it; they laughed riotously and asked me to rewind a scene or two so they could watch again. Then we got to the almost-end, where Sully has to take Boo home and then leave her... forever.

Alex lost it. He crawled into my lap and started sobbing his heart out.

I hugged him tight and promised him that it would be okay, reminded him that at the end, Sully gets to see Boo again, and he calmed down to watch again. But he snuggled up against me instead of returning to his previous seat on the ottoman, and failed to laugh at the wacky antics until they revealed Boo's mostly-repaired door.

I admit I was a little surprised; I wasn't sure, at 5, that he actually understood what was going on, or possessed enough empathy to be sad for others' partings. But apparently I was wrong.

Huhn. We may be in for a slightly rough period, if he's going to be that sensitive to movie mawkishness.

Well, at least he likes the minions.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Checking In

So, life. Life continues apace.

The kids continue much as reported in the previous update. Penny's birthday is two weeks from today and she's been doing a countdown for over a week. I don't have any really big exciting presents for her, so I hope she's not too disappointed. Both of them have been taking advantage of summer to stay up late -- I don't make Alex go to bed until after 8:30, and Penny's been staying up until 10. I expect there to be much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I make them dial it back for school, even if it's only going to be by half an hour.

Most of my energy has been going to the house lately, quite honestly. The front porch has been repaired, and the fix on the dining room floor was supposed to start today, so I scrambled to get the painting done over the weekend... and two hours after we finished, my contractor emailed to tell me another job had been postponed due to weather and so he wouldn't be able to start my floor until next week. The forecast for this week is fairly reasonable, though, so hopefully that won't push out too much further.

I'm pretty happy with my paint, though! John and Sam came over to help me, for which I am eternally grateful. (It was supposed to be John and Dad, but earlier in the week Dad was helping John repair a broken gutter and his cheap-ass ladder crumpled under him and he fell. He got away with only a broken finger, but it sounded pretty harrowing -- Dad's brains got scrambled enough by the fall that he still doesn't remember anything between standing on the ladder and being in the emergency room a couple of hours later.) Anyway, here's some crappy cell phone pictures of the new paint:

Just those two walls are blue in the dining room; everything else is creamy white, about half a shade lighter than what was in there before. And a lot of the blue will be covered up when I can put the hutch back in the room and hang my pictures back up, so it won't look quite so overwhelming then. I'm VERY pleased with the yellow accent wall in the kitchen, though. I've got a picture to hang on it that's going to make it just sing.

I'm pondering alternate placement of my furniture and other less-intense home improvement projects (e.g., new fixtures, wall stickers) for when this is all done.

It's been just over a year since Matt moved out, so I called my lawyer last week and he's prepping the documents so we can get the ball rolling on the divorce. Not much to say there, really; it feels like a non-event, a bureaucratic ribbon on a package already purchased.

I'm editing a lot and writing a little; check the sidebar for my latest story release. Human Aspect is a little more wide-audience than most of my other stuff, being a coming-of-age fantasy story. And KT/Lynn and I are buffing up the shorts we've been writing all year so we can get them assembled into a collection and submit it. I'm really excited about that one -- it's all over the map, and was oodles of fun to do.

And I'm still crocheting, though I haven't accomplished much in the last month, partly because I've lost time to rearranging stuff and furniture to clear the dining room and kitchen for the repair/renovation, and partly because my initial idea for Yog-Sothoth turned out to be way harder to do than I anticipated, so I had to scrap it and start over:

And that's about it at the moment. I keep telling myself that I should go back to writing here every day, just so I don't lose track of the minutiae, the passing thoughts and the anecdotes. But it may be a while before I feel settled enough to make myself get back into that habit.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Status Update

Still alive!

It's been a while, and lots of stuff has happened, and some more stuff is imminent, so I figured this was as good a time as any to post a status update of sorts.

Alex: Prepping for kindergarten in the fall, of course. Very excited about it. I've got an appointment to turn in most of his paperwork next week (why I need an appointment for that, I have no idea) but it won't be finished until August, because that's the earliest the doctor's office could give him the physical and immunization booster he needs to start school. He's still planning to marry his friend Claudia from daycare. Though they "graduated" preschool a couple of weeks ago, and will be going to different elementary schools. Long distance relationships are pretty hard to maintain.

Penny: She just finished the 4th grade. She's edging into puberty (not to delve into TMI, but I expect she'll need at least a training bra before she turns 11). She alternates between being an infuriating know-it-all and breathlessly generous and loving -- which, as I am given to understand, still puts me ahead of many parents of preteens. After priming me carefully so I would not freak out when she got her first "C" (in social studies, her -- and my -- least favorite subject) she squeaked through with a B anyway and was on the honor roll again for the year. She's two months away from turning 10. Holy hell.

Work: The Day Job is a bit worrisome -- we have contracts that will keep me employed (though not anything like busy) through September (the end of the Government fiscal year) and then... not really anything. I'm fretting about it a bit and considering options, but not terrified. The worst of it will be if I do end up having to look for another job, I'm fairly likely to end up having to move to either the Norfolk or Richmond areas, which will play merry havoc with our carefully-cultivated custody schedule. My mom asked what we'd do if that was the case, and I had to admit that I had no idea whatsoever. The Dream Job is going much better, though it doesn't pay remotely well enough for me to even think about taking it full-time. (I got a 1st-quarter royalty check the other day for -- hold onto your hats -- $7!) But I've got a new story being released tomorrow (June 19th), and this one has a wider readability than most of my others -- a high fantasy story. It's got some romantic elements, and some kind of dark moments, but it's being released by Torquere's YA imprint, Prizm, so you can take that into account. :-) (I'll do a separate post to pimp it when it comes out. I'm really proud of it; it's some of my best writing ever.) And I've sold my first full-length novel (a fantasy m/m romance) to Torquere!

Personal Life:  B. and I are still dating. I suspect it's a relationship with an expiration date; we like each other pretty well, but have pretty wildly different goals and approaches to life, which occasionally leads to some friction. Sometimes that bothers me and makes me wonder why I'm wasting time on something that's most likely doomed, but most of the time I'm just ignoring it and trying to have fun. I've got enough on my plate right now anyway, right? Anyway, I'm technically still married -- though that's getting closer to changing.

I spent almost three hours sitting in my lawyer's office today. The first half-hour of that was with Matt present -- we signed our formal Separation/Property Settlement, so now I guess we're officially and legally separated. In about six weeks, when we've been living apart for a full year, I'll call the lawyer back and we'll get the divorce proceedings rolling. With a no-fault, no-contest divorce, the lawyer says it'll take about six more weeks to finalize. So I should be officially and legally divorced by the end of August or early September. I'm beginning to ponder ways to commemorate the occasion.

House: The other two hours I spent at the lawyer's office were spent signing the paperwork to refinance the house in my own name only. And then I went to the bank and had them cut me a mouth-dryingly large cashier's check to buy out Matt's share of the equity. Which is to say the house is, as of today (well, technically in three days, when the chicken-out period is done and the paperwork all gets filed) solely mine.

I've also written a couple of other mildly huge checks (oh, my aching bank account) to a contractor who is supposed to come in July and August and fix my rotten porch support posts and the rotten board in my dining room, and replace the yellowing vinyl flooring in my kitchen and dining room with tile. And as long as I'll have to empty the rooms anyway, I'm pondering paint as well.

Hobbies: I'm still crocheting a lot, though my efforts have taken a kind of weird turn... It started with this chibi Cthulhu (Cutethulhu?) pattern, because everyone needs a chibi Cthulhu, right? And then KT posted a link to this picture of a whole collection of disturbingly adorable Lovecraftian horrors:

And I was looking at it and thought... Some of those wouldn't be that hard to make, really... So far I've made -- entirely on my own, without recourse to any specific patterns -- a Hastur and a Nyarlathotep. (Nyarlathotep is a little closer to the scarier versions of him I've seen online than the one in this picture, but I'm considering it an inspiration, not a pattern, so that's okay. I'm less okay with the way his "hips" bulge out and make him look like he's an Elder God with a fondness for beer and cupcakes; if I ever do him over, I'll probably try to find a way to slim him down a little. I'm pretty pleased with how the mouth and tongue turned out, though.)

I've been calling them my Little Horrors, and yes, I'm planning to do the whole set. I'll probably do Yog-Sothoth next, now that I have a notion of how I think I want to do it.

(A few days ago, B. texted me and asked what I was up to, and I said, "trying to figure out how to crochet Nyarlathotep." He texted back and said, "Yet another reason why you're my girlfriend," and I responded, "The fact that you find this good rather than disturbing would be on the list of reasons you're my boyfriend.")

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Little Mother

6:50 AM: Penny came into the bedroom. "Mom, I did all the math for my diabetes!" She handed me a piece of paper and I pried open a bleary eye while she rattled off the list of what she'd had for breakfast. The math seemed solid, so I gave her the okay. She ran down the stairs, then came back five minutes later with a loaded syringe so I could hold the shot-blocker for her while she gave herself the insulin.

7:05 AM: Alex came into the bedroom to ask if he could borrow my scissors to cut a string off his shirt. I yanked the string off for him. (Against all logic, it is lodged in my head that if you can hand-break a loose thread, it's less likely to unravel again than if you just cut it.) Before I could put the pillow back over my head, Penny asked me about the weather for the day, so I picked up my iPad and pulled up the browser. I reassured her that it's not going to be as rainy as yesterday, and she scampered off. As long as I had the iPad open, I figured I might as well check on my dragons.

7:15 AM: Penny came back in with a folded piece of paper, which she handed to me. "Here's your newspaper!" she chirped. "Alex told me what to write for his side." One side of the paper was an essay by Penny; the other, an essay about Alex. Both essays featured some of their favorite things, and the things they like and dislike about the other members of the household.

7:30 AM: Listening to the kids making their noise downstairs, I figured I'd better get up. I dragged myself up and went into the bathroom. I was about to brush my teeth and wash my face when I heard feet on the stairs. "Surprise!" I turned around to see Penny holding a tray with toast and coffee, and Alex holding a yogurt cup and a spoon.

I blinked. "What's this for?"

"'Cause you're our mom," Penny said.

"This is amazing. Thank you, guys." I reached out to hug them.

Alex backed up a step. "Penny did it," he said. "I just carried the yogurt."

I hugged him anyway. He ran off to watch cartoons while I ate, but Penny sat on the bed with me. Ziggy came in and meowed plaintively.

"Did y'all feed him this morning?" I asked.

"I did, yeah." Penny paused to consider. "I guess I pretty much made breakfast for everyone in the house this morning." (She almost always helps Alex with his breakfast when she does hers.)

"You sure did," I agreed. "You're quite the little mother today."

"Well," she said sagely, "I'm the only other girl. And, you know, I have started puberty."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Kids Are Awesome: PROOF

Two conversations with my kids which will, individually and together, provide conclusive proof that they are wholly amazing people:

Conversation #1: Love and Rockets

Alex and I are in the car, which is where I always have the most excellent conversations with my kids. "Mom, when I grow up, I'm going to be a pilot."

"That sounds pretty cool," I say.

"Yeah. And Claudia is going to be an atsmumble."

My hearing sucks, I have difficulty filtering audiostreams, and Alex is hard to hear when he's sitting right behind me anyway. I turn off the radio. "Claudia is going to be an actress?"

"No, Mom. Claudia is going to be an astronaut."

"Oh! That's even cooler!" Claudia, for those who may not recall, is Alex's girlfriend that he's decided he's going to marry when they grow up.

"Yeah! And she's going to wave at me in my airplane from the front of her rocket when she goes up into space."

That's love, ladies and gentlemen. True. Love.

(And, to be a tiny bit political, I'm pleased that my awesome kid has so far avoided absorbing the cultural poison that dictates a man should have a more prestigious job than his wife. Alex is very proud and excited with his plan to wave to his spacefaring wife from below, and so am I.)


Conversation #2: Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be

Same car ride, after picking Penny up from Matt's. Germaine information: there was a book fair at school today; I gave Penny $10 for one book that she wanted, and she decided to take in some of her own money to buy a couple more books. (Which, by itself, is pretty awesome.)

"Mom? I gave one of my friends ten dollars -- not the ten dollars you gave me, but ten of my own dollars -- for the book fair. But we got in trouble."

Okay, I'm of mixed feelings about this, because $10 is a fair amount of money for a 9-year-old, but it is, to be fair, her own money.

She continues. "And then when they made Xavier give the stuff back--"

"Wait. You gave $10 to Xavier?"


"...Wasn't he the one who was being really mean to you, earlier this year?"

"Yes. But just because he's mean doesn't mean I have to be. I'm nice. We're supposed to treat people the way we want to be treated."




I blink back tears so I don't wreck the car and I say, "That's right, sweetie. That's absolutely right."

Every parent's wish, for every parent who's ever been worth even half a damn, is that their kid will grow up to be a better person than themselves. And I am seeing it realized before my very eyes.

And then, because positive reinforcement is really important, I make a point of saying, "I'm really proud of you, sweetheart, because not many kids your age would understand that. Really, really proud."

She goes on to confess that she also gave another friend fifty-five cents, but that friend promised to pay her back tomorrow.

I offer her my own hard-won advice on the lending of money to friends -- to wit, to assume, when giving money to friends, that it is a gift rather than a loan. That way, you do not give away money that you will actually need, and if you get the money back, it's nice... but if you don't, then you don't resent them for it.

She says, airily, "Oh, I don't care if she pays me back. Besides, there are lots of things that money can't buy. Like family and friends."

Damn, girl.

I mean, just.



Stupid pollen, getting in my eyes...

Thursday, April 4, 2013


My friend Greg posted this on Facebook last night (via Wipe Out Homophobia):

along with instructions to give yourself one point for each of the "sins" listed on the protestor's sign and post your score. You know, like the "purity tests" we played around with in college. In the lively comments discussion that followed, it was agreed that, like those college purity tests, technicalities count -- that is, if you have to wonder whether an activity counted toward committing the sin, then it counted.

It's a bit hard to read, so let me help you out with the list:

  • Fornicators
  • Homosexuals
  • Liars
  • Thieves
  • Masturbators
  • Obama Voters
  • Buddhists
  • Dirty Dancers
  • Hindus
  • Gangster Rappers
  • Muslims
  • Drunkards
  • Feminists
  • Immodest Women
  • Democrats
  • Liberals
  • Evolutionists
  • Atheists
  • Potheads
  • Sodomites
That's twenty "sins". Let's see how I do!
  • I've had sex outside of marriage, so I'm a fornicator, all right.
  • I've never had a sexual relationship with another woman, but I've kissed a couple. Also, I write and publish homoerotic fiction, so we decided I can take this one on a technicality.
  • Really, does anyone make it through childhood without at least a few lies? Or have anything like a real social life as an adult? ("Oh, wow, that's a really... original haircut. No, I love it!")
  • Yes, I've stolen. Nothing big, mind you, and I'm not proud of it, but I've done it.
  • We don't really need to go into detail on this one, do we? I mean, we've all been through puberty, right? Onanist, me. Yes.
  • I was pretty vocal about supporting Obama, so yeah, you've got me on that one, too.
  • Okay, no. I can't claim to have ever even dabbled in Buddhism, unless you want to count taking yoga classes, and I have trouble making that one fit even as a technicality.
  • I'm not good at dirty dancing, but I've done it.
  • Haven't ever played around with Hinduism, either, though I've had a few Hindi friends.
  • I'm not a good enough extemporaneous rapper to have performed gangsta rap. I've recited along with some songs I own, but I don't think they qualify as gangsta rap, just, you know, normal rap. Unless Uncle Kracker counts. ...Nah. Wannabe-gangsta, maybe, but not really there. Let's just call this one a no.
  • Nope, I've never been a Muslim. I like bacon way too much.
  • Been drunk a lot of times, though.
  • Damn straight I'm a feminist.
  • Given that I've deliberately worn clothing that would expose and even showcase my cleavage, not to mention bathing suits, then yes, I expect I count as an occasionally immodest woman.
  • I vote Democrat more than 75% of the time, so though I loathe being put in boxes... yes.
  • I'm definitely a liberal.
  • And an evolutionist.
  • I'm not currently an atheist, but I considered myself one for many years.
  • I have, in fact, smoked pot twice. I hated it both times, but technicalities count!
  • Did you know that "sodomy" includes oral sex? So, um... yeah.
That's a score of 16/20! I am 80% damned! And of the four points I didn't get, three of them are religions I haven't participated in.

How do you score?

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Daughter: Probably

"We're doing probability in math class now."

I contemplated doing a master's thesis in probability and combinatorics. Trying not to show how excited I am, I say, "How do you like it?"

Penny pulls a long face. "It's so boring." She looks at me, desperation rounding her eyes. "When will it get harder and more interesting?"

Pat's Problem: The Incident

When last we met, I briefly mentioned an Incident that left me feeling bitter and angry. With a couple of weeks' distance, now, maybe I can talk about it from a relatively calm and rational perspective.

Here's what happened: I mentioned in an email to someone I know -- for maximum obscurity, let's call them Pat and avoid gender-specific pronouns -- that I'd been on a few dates with B. (This was before we decided to make it exclusive, if that matters, though I don't think it does.)

A day later, I received an email from Pat in which they said that (rephrased in my own words) a) they thought I had been making poor choices ever since Matt and I separated (that they were, in fact, embarrassed by me) and b) they recognized they couldn't control my "lifestyle" (Pat's word!), but only their reactions to my actions, and therefore c) they were no longer following me on Facebook and would appreciate it if I didn't discuss my dating life with them any more.

Now, there was a possibility that Pat would not be too happy about my dating B., for reasons that are not mine to tell, but this email felt like something much bigger than that (and illuminated something that had happened a good month earlier) -- and it completely floored me. (I believe what I said to KT about it at the time was, and I quote, "WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?") Not least because I have no idea what bad choices these are that I'm apparently making, or what morally questionable "lifestyle" I'm living.

After thinking (okay, stewing and fretting) about it for a while, I came up with a few possibilities, but none of them really make me feel any better.
  1. Pat feels I should wait until Matt and I are legally divorced before dating at all. This, I might point out, is merely a question of semantics, as Matt and I have made the firm decision to get a divorce. I'm not resting a lot of moral weight on a bureaucratic tick-mark, or putting my life on hold for it. (Especially since I can't seem to get a danged lawyer to call me back to arrange the divorce mediation.)
  2. Pat thinks it is a mistake for me to date multiple people at a time. This seems kind of unlikely, but if this is Pat's big embarrassment, then Pat needs to take a deep breath, because dating more than one person at a time is what our grandparents did. Anyway, dating casually was a reasoned decision that I came to, with what I felt were excellent reasons behind it.
  3. Pat thinks that I am (was) being sexually promiscuous in the extreme, i.e., using "dating" as a euphemism for "sleeping with" rather than the way I actually meant it, which was "meeting in a public location for a meal and/or light entertainment and (usually awkward) conversation." I expect this one is the most likely, due to my tendency to post what I assumed everyone knew were lighthearted tease posts on Facebook like, "Got a date tonight -- don't wait up!" At any rate, if this is Pat's point of pain, there's a big misunderstanding going on, because of the six or so guys I've gone on dates with in the last six months, only two ever even got a kiss out of me. But if this is it, then I'm torn between being offended Pat would think this of me and furious that they would be so judgmental over something so superficial. (This is not a contradiction. Something can be not right for me and still okay for someone else. I am constitutionally incapable of a one-night stand, but that doesn't mean I judge others for it!)
So whatever Pat's deal is, it's going to remain a problem, because there's bloody well nothing I'm going to change about my "lifestyle". (Well I've changed the bit about dating multiple people at a time, but if B. and I split up, I'll be going back to that plan, because I still think the reasons for it were strong and valid.)

And normally, I'd just say to hell with Pat and go on with my life, but it so happens that Pat is someone with whom I interact on a fairly regular basis and whose opinion is, in fact, something I value. But since they don't even want to discuss the topic any more, I can't even figure out if it's a fundamental disagreement of opinion or a misunderstanding that could be cleared up with some plain talk. (Also, the whole thing struck me as a little passive-aggressive. But I've pulled plenty of my own passive-aggressive bullshit in my life, so bitching about that would be a case of pots and kettles.)

Now it's a couple of weeks later. I'm still just as confused as I was when I first got Pat's email, but the initial wave of anger and indignation has faded. The couple of encounters I've had with Pat since then (faithfully free of dating discussion, as requested) have been even-keeled and at least superficially cordial.

So I'm beginning to regain my balance. I'm pretty happy with my life right now, after all. I debated even mentioning it here, but this blog/journal is, above all else, my own record of my life. I've gone back looking for other Incidents and been confused to find them missing, and a little sad that I couldn't even piece together what my thoughts were at the time.

So rest assured, O Internet, that I'm not letting this affect me too much. It made me angry for a while, and it stung. And then I gave it some serious thought and decided that I feel pretty good about most of the choices I've made, and that Pat's problem, whatever it is, is only really a problem for Pat.

Stay tuned for another blog post, shorter but happier, in which my daughter is, provably, my daughter.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Girlfriend Gig

I mentioned about a month ago that I was seeing a guy but that we weren't ready to make it into anything official or exclusive.

That changed, recently. So now I'm doing the girlfriend gig again, after nearly fifteen years.

We're not in love. But that's probably a good thing. We've both been burned (me more recently; him more painfully) and neither of us is quite emotionally stable enough to sustain real love at the moment. That said, we both felt like we'd come about as far as "casual dating" could take us. Continuing to date others (or even only remaining open to dating others) was beginning to feel like a cheat, an excuse to keep each other at a distance. So this exclusive dating is, essentially, an experiment to see if something deeper and more meaningful between us is a possibility.

So, O Internet, meet B., star of Penny's latest musing. (Yes, he shall remain nameless, at least for now. When I started this blog, 14 years ago, the internet was smaller, and while privacy concerns did exist, they weren't as hot a button as they are now. And my opinions about that issue have shifted somewhat over the years. I don't have too many qualms about using my real name for myself -- it's the name I'm published under, after all -- but if I were starting this blog fresh, now, I might well go with pseudonyms or initials anyway, for the sake of family and friends.)

So yeah. Exclusive relationship. It feels... weird. I have kind of forgotten how to be a girlfriend, quite honestly, and am still trying to figure out how to safely walk the vast swathes of middle ground between the casual involvement of a friend and the deeply invested and committed role of the spouse. But other than that, not much has changed -- I hadn't had a date with anyone else for about a month, anyway, so really, I've just stopped logging into OKCupid and hoping it would finally show me someone I would actually want to message (aside from my friend Greg, whom OKC assures me at least twice a week is a very good match, but really isn't, even aside from the fact that Greg has a girlfriend already.)

I hope you're not shocked and saddened, O Internet, that you're not the first one I've told. That honor went to KT, as my best and most supportive friend, and who was, not incidentally, instrumental in getting B. and me to go out in the first place. But I haven't really told that many other people, because I'm still processing it, myself. (And also because of an Incident that happened around the same time that I'm still trying to figure out how to blog about without a) infringing on someone's privacy and b) being excessively angry and bitter. It is only tangentially related to my relationship status, but it pretty effectively punched my good mood about it in the throat.)

Let's see, then; let's address some of the FAQs (if not aloud, then almost certainly in some thoughts):

- I am, kind of weirdly, not sure whether I even want it to work out, over the long run. There is a nontrivial list of pros and cons at play, and so far, the variables in the equation are shifting too wildly and rapidly for me to solve it. (But I'm actually looking at this as a plus, in light of my desire to not judge every relationship by its long-term potential. This is good now, so I'm letting it be good for now, and not dwelling on what might or might not happen later. Well... not much. Old habits are hard to break entirely.)

- Some of the "pros" in B.'s favor: He's even more of a geek than I am (though the Venn diagram of our geekery does not form a circle, which can be both pro and con). He does not put me on any kind of pedestal, but he does treat me with a level of respect and thoughtfulness that still surprises me. (Really, it's actually shocking sometimes. If this does not work out, then he will have at least succeeded in setting the bar pretty damned high for whoever comes next.) Also, he's insanely ticklish, which more or less guarantees me the upper hand in any non-serious discussion. (That's a joke. ...Sort of.)

- Some of the "cons" involve things like schedule and distance. We live almost an hour and a half apart, we have conflicting work schedules, and we both have pretty entrenched social lives. That makes it hard to fathom how much work and compromise would be required if this becomes long-term. (Hell, they're a fair amount of frustration now.)

- No, I haven't said anything about it to the kids, largely because nothing is changing for them. The entire situation is well over Alex's head (just this weekend, he decided it was time to let me know that he was not going to marry me, after all, but his friend Claudia) and I'm not sure Penny had actually understood that I was (at least in theory) dating more than one person before, so trying to clarify it for her now would probably just confuse her. Or else lead her to believe that it's more serious than it is.

What else do you need to know? Ask, and I shall answer!

(...Within the limits of taste, obviously. FAQ though it may be, O Internet, I am not telling you anything about my sex life. Feel free to imagine whatever makes you feel happiest.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


This morning in the car, after we'd dropped Alex off at daycare I told Penny, "Just so you know, I've been dating."

Penny said, "Who is it?"

"Mostly, lately, a guy named B. You haven't met him before."

"Will we meet him?"

"Eventually, I expect. I'm not sure when, though, since he works weekends."

"That sounds yucky."

"It is, a bit."

"So... when do you go out?"

"On weeknights, usually. When y'all are with Daddy."

"Are you going to get a house together?"

"It's a little too early to tell. Probably not anytime soon."

"Do you kiss a lot?"

"Uh... Sometimes."

"Daddy and Adin kiss all the time. It's gross."

"Well, you're welcome to go into your room and not watch it."

And that was pretty much it. She moved off into a discussion of her hopes for the house Matt and Adin are planning to get together, and griping about how Matt won't let her paint her furniture, which are both old topics, at this point.

I should have remembered that sometimes she needs a little time to let topics settle into her brain.

Tonight, after dinner, as I was settling in to do some crocheting, she came into the living room. "Hey, Mom?"

"Yeah, sweetie?"

"Will you and your boyfriend get married?"


Well. That was out of the blue.


"Um. Not anytime soon."

"But! But you're dating!"

I forget, sometimes, exactly how black-and-white kids' worlds are. "Honey, we've only been dating a little while; it's too soon to even know if we'll fall in love, never mind get married. Why are you asking?"

"Because if you get married, I want to be in the wedding."

"Oh. Well, how about this: if I ever get married again, whoever it happens to be to, I promise you can be in the wedding."

"Okay." And she wandered off to watch cartoons with her brother.

It's important to maintain perspective, after all... Sometimes the motive behind a question matters far more than the question itself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


As Penny and I were in the car this morning, on the way to school, she observed that even if I'm feeling better tomorrow, I might need to reschedule my monthly lunch with her, as she's got an appointment for a Banana Splits meeting. (Banana Splits is the support group at Penny's school for kids who are coping with divorce and separation.)

"That's fine," I said. "I'll come have lunch with you on Thursday, instead. How is Banana Splits going? Does it help?"

"A little, I guess. We have to fill out these worksheets like, 'Does your dad have a girlfriend?' and 'Does your mom have a boyfriend?' Really personal stuff! Why do they have to ask such personal questions?"

"Well, some kids have a lot of trouble with that. Asking those questions helps Ms. L [the guidance counselor and group leader] know how to help you guys."

"It's still really personal!"

"That's true. You don't have to answer any questions if they make you uncomfortable. ...Does it bother you that Daddy has a girlfriend?" (Matt told the kids about that a week or so ago.)

"No, it's okay."

"Well, that's good. ...Would it bother you if I had a boyfriend?"

"I don't know." She thought for a moment. "Would you be gone all the time?"

"No, I'd only go out when you guys were with Dad. I'd be home when you're with me, just like now."

"Would your boyfriend come over, then?"


"Hm." She thought another moment. "I think I'd have to know who he was."

"That's perfectly fair."

And just as I was feeling grateful for her mature, reasoned response, she added, "I don't know if... I mean, I just don't see it happening, really."

...Thanks for the vote of confidence, kid.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Scattered Reports

Ack, have I really not posted here at all this month?

It's been an insanely busy month, so let's see if we can sum it all up...

I took the kids to a children's play. And to the dentist. I threw an adults-only Valentisn't party (which is just like Missmas, only in February instead of January) that was a lot of fun. Both kids came down with the flu, weekend before last, so I spent all week last week working from home in an effort to keep germs isolated. It totally didn't work, though, because over this past weekend I caught a cold and am back in the office with it today. (I'm keeping my office door closed, though.)

I went down to Chesapeake to have dinner with KT and Kevin just before Valentine's Day. Then the next week I went down to VA Beach with KT to meet up with a fellow local erotica writer for coffee. That was fantastic, and I'm looking forward to doing it again.

I went to the theater with Elizabeth to see her dad in "Faith Healer," which was simultaneously hysterical and heartbreaking.

I went with Jenn and Brian to a bowling social for letting hopeful adoptive parents meet prospective adoptive kids. That was mildly awkward, but still fun. We had great plans for the afternoon and evening, too, but Jenn got sick before we could put them into play, so we just sat around their place and watched movies and got takeout Chinese. Which was also still good.

Long-time reader Ami told me on Facebook that she wanted to hear more about dating... Which is a little tricky, since the guys I've dated haven't really given me permission to talk about them (I'm not even sure they know about my blog). Let's see, what can I say...? Ah! I'll re-share a few observations I've made to some girlfriends:
  • God, but I've missed kissing.
  • I can understand why, when I was a young, it was so easy to confuse this heady exhilaration with actual love.
  • Necking on the couch like teenagers is even more fun when you're not worried about your parents coming home.
  • There are things that I sort of knew when I was younger, but hadn't really absorbed yet, that seem to have finally sunk in, over the years. Like: Confidence is incredibly sexy. It's okay to make mistakes and admit to ignorance. And it's okay to say no -- and equally okay to say yes.
I did stop seeing one guy, for a variety of reasons that boiled down to -- I just wasn't feeling it. There's another that I'm pretty happy with, but neither of us is quite ready to try to make it into anything official or exclusive. I'm still logging into my online dating account from time to time and seeing what looks good.

So that's the state of my dating life. I hope that's sufficient to keep your prurient interests satisfied.

I need to get back to work and throw down another dose of cold medicine so I can recover in time for my date this week...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fly Casual

I swear, the reason I'm not writing here often is simply that I'm busy. This short story editor gig is crazy amounts of work, and it doesn't help that the January deadline was set too close and got a ton of submissions, and the February deadline was likewise set too close and got a ton of submissions.

March is an anthology month, though, so I'm hoping to use February and March to get ahead of the curve on the April stories.

I realize that didn't make much sense. I apologize. Suffice to say: stupidly busy.

But not so busy that I didn't manage to turn into a complete sloth over the weekend. Holy hell, I started watching Downton Abbey on Friday night, and finished Season One on Saturday, and probably would've gone through all of Season Two on Saturday and Sunday except that Netflix doesn't have Season Two on streaming. I also finished Season 4 of Doctor Who (including the post-season shows) and watched the first episode of Season 5, just because I wanted to get a feel for Matt Smith in the role. (Not as hot as David Tennant, granted, but also, not nearly so angsty. I like his energy.) And I finished another season of HIMYM (because that's fluffy enough to watch with divided attention, like while I'm eating or chatting online).

But I really want to ramble about dating.

I almost had a date Friday night with a guy I've seen a couple of times before, but it fell through, largely because I'm too much of a wimp to stay up late. (And then I had another bout of insomnia anyway. Stupid body. Or brain, whichever.) I did go on a lunch date on Saturday, with a new guy. It went okay, but I wasn't really wowed. Also, I have a date scheduled this week with a guy that I've been chatting (and flirting a bit) with on Facebook that should be fun.

Yes, I'm seeing multiple people at once. Yes, they're all aware of it and are okay with it. Yes, I'm being (and planning on being) safe, in all respects of the word, from avoiding stalkers and creepers to avoiding STDs. (Potential TMI, highlight to read: no, I haven't gotten that far with anyone yet. Yes, there are some possible candidates for it. Yes, "candidates" was plural on purpose.) No, none of them have met the kids yet, and I don't expect that will happen for quite some time, as the kids don't even know that I'm dating yet. Just like I decided to wait until after the new year to start dating again (after a couple of less-than-optimal attempts, anyway), I've decided that I need to keep my dating strictly casual (that is, nonexclusive and with no anticipation of building a long-term relationship) for a good while now that I am dating again.

One of my big regrets from my high school and college years is that I would only consider going out with guys that I thought had long-term potential. (That is to say, to be embarrassingly blunt, whether I would consider marrying them.) And it was pointless, because I judged every one of the relationships I did have wrongly. I'm not sure where I acquired such an antiquated attitude (even my grandfather wanted me to date around more -- I think maybe I read too many historical novels and horrible romances where no one ever had any kind of good relationship with someone who wasn't their One True Love) but I know that it cost me a lot of fun and a lot of insight and a lot of experience that I really wish I'd had.

I spent my high school and college years lurching from "serious" relationship to "serious" relationship, unable to let one go until I'd figured out who my next candidate was (and in several cases, taking steps to establish the new relationship first). I do not want to repeat that pattern. I'm not ashamed of having dated the people I dated back then, but I am ashamed of the way I went about it. I don't want that again, and I'm okay with taking the time to make sure of my feelings before I step into something serious.

I'm not seventeen any more; I no longer feel like I need a romantic relationship to justify my existence. I actually kind of like being single, in fact. I like not having to negotiate and compromise on how to decorate or arrange things. I like having days where I don't have to talk to anyone, or where I can just pick up and go do things that would otherwise require some level of coordination.

(Would I like it as much if I was alone more, if I didn't have the kids at least three days each week? No idea. But, since I do have the kids three or four days each week, it's not really relevant, either.)

When I was seventeen, it was understandable that I would conflate lust and love, and that I would confuse my desire for a particular person with my enjoyment of their desire. I was young and hormone-addled and wholly inexperienced. But it's easier to separate my feelings now. Yes, it does feel nice to be pursued. It's been a long time (longer than I knew, really) since I've actually felt like anyone wanted me, and it's a heady experience, and it's fun, and I mean to enjoy it. But that doesn't mean I owe anything to my pursuers, either in terms of sex or commitment, that I don't actually want to give them.

I don't know how long it will be before I'm ready to consider a serious commitment again. I'll get there, I imagine; I seem to be wired that way. But for now, I'm flying casual.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Con Report

You guys. You guys. MarsCon was fantastic. I don't even know where to begin.

I got to dress in costumes and wear snarky t-shirts, and I got lots of compliments on both. On Friday, I was Doctor Who. On Saturday, I wore a shirt that read, "Huge tracts of land," and that night, I put my corset on over that shirt, to emphasize, y'know... my tracts of land. Sunday, I wore my favorite writing shirt, which reads, "You're just jealous that the voices talk to me." And I got to see a lot (a lot) of other really amazing costumes and funny t-shirts and a couple of scarves that were basically works of art.

I got to listen to some great filk and otherwise geek-related music. I may need to start growing my geek-rock library, because despite not having actually heard the song played, I've had Mikey Mason's "Best Game Ever" stuck in my head for three days, and Danny Birt played a song called "Silent Letter Blues" that very nearly made me fall out of my chair entirely from laughing so hard.

I got to sit on three panels about writing and editing and talk with it as if I was a professional or something, and I participated in a writing contest against the amazing Kathryn Lively and did not win but felt pretty good about it anyway. All of which I will write more about on Wednesday, at my writing blog. I handed out a lot of business cards and post cards and bookmarks, and even sold one of my paperbacks that I'd brought with me. And I went to an Allen Wold writing workshop about plot building which spawned a new plot idea and gave me some really excellent tools for helping my plots to gel, which is always a win.

I got to watch my children blooming into nerds and geeks -- especially Penny. She sat in on a Blibbering Humdingers concert and afterwards begged me to buy one of their CDs for her. (I did. She doesn't know that yet, though.) And both of them got their faces painted, and they went with me to a pirate show and sang along and got up to participate.
Alex and Penny learning to be pirates during the
Hysterically Correct Pirate Show.
After that, Alex went with Matt to a birthday party and I got to hang with Penny. We did a craft, making people out of clothespins, and then I took her to an activity called "Playing With Your Food" in which everyone was given a big takeout box full of gummy candy and a plastic knife and encouraged to build monsters out of the candy, and when they had to clear the room we took it back to my hotel room where she continued pretending to be a mad scientist for the better part of an hour, and we had this conversation where I asked her if she wanted some chips and she said, "Not right now, Mom. I'm not done making my robot/clone army."
My girl, the mad scientist.

I got to look at some really amazing art, and I put a bid on one of my brother's ribbon trees and won it in the art auction. (I bid on a few more pieces, but didn't get them.) And I got to rejoice with him that he sold not just the piece I bought, but five of the things he'd brought with him, and we talked about how he should re-do one of the other pieces for next year. (It was a ribbon dragon he'd made like ten years ago, and he's learned a lot since then.)

I flirted a lot, mostly just in fun (but sometimes seriously), and was amused by KT's efforts on my behalf in that direction. I stopped into the gaming room a couple of times to say hi to a guy I've been on a couple of dates with, and significantly boosted his rep with the other gamers by giving him my phone number so we could meet up after the con. (He re-enacted for me later: "Dude. You've been sitting here gaming all weekend and you managed to score digits?") It's possible that I was totally aware of the effect that would have, especially since I was wearing my corset at the time, and deliberately waited until I was in there to write my number on my card for him.

But as always, the best part of the con was the people. I got to visit with old friends and acquaintances, like Elliot and Marcy and John. I got to visit with other friends I don't get to see often enough, like Greg and DJ and Ora. And also my brother and his wife, and some of their friends that I like a lot, like Melissa. I got to hang out with KT for hours and talk about writing and sex and writing about sex in a way that we almost never get to do any more. I got to hear about an engagement. I got to make new friends and chat with several of the writers and editors who were on panels with me (especially the multi-talented and snarky and totally amazing Cynical Woman, aka Helen Madden, who has the most gorgeous business cards ever). I even enjoyed striking up random conversations with strangers in the hallway or on the elevator.

I didn't get to do everything I wanted to do. Hell, I didn't even get to do half of what I'd wanted to do. My back and legs and knee were already killing me by Friday night (and I'd been dumb enough not to bring any painkillers). I went to bed around 2am both nights (and last night was still so keyed up that I couldn't get to sleep until nearly 1) and thanks to my stupid body clock, got up both mornings at 7:30 sharp (6:30, this morning, because my office is not closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day). This morning, I'm exhausted and sore and not entirely mentally present, and I fully expect the Con Crud to hit me in the next couple of days... and I already can't wait for next year.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wiped Out

One of the things that has happened since Matt and I separated is that I have become highly protective of my alone-time. I even occasionally find myself avoiding social activities on the days he has the kids, because being social cuts into my precious quiet time.

This was recently brought home to me. MarsCon is this weekend, and I was thrilled to be asked to attend as a guest this year. I'll be participating in several panels and events, and I'm very much looking forward to it. Of course, it happened to fall on a weekend that I was scheduled to have the kids -- and that just wouldn't do, not when all my panels and events are a) not kid-friendly, and b) fairly late at night. So I asked Matt to swap weekends with me, and he readily agreed.

(This is one benefit of remaining on good terms with one's ex -- they're much more likely to be agreeable to these things. Other benefits include them checking Neil Gaiman's brand-new kids' book out from the library, but letting you take it home to share it with your kids first. Alex loved the story, simple though it was, and demanded I read it to him twice in a row.)

At any rate, the swap resulted in us each having the kids for a solid week, instead of the usual two or three day bits. I picked the kids up from school last Wednesday, the 9th, and had them right up until I dropped Penny off at school yesterday morning.

Whew. I am wiped out.

They weren't even bad (or at least, not more than usual). They were just... exhausting. Alex likes to wake up at 5 or 5:30 in the morning. And while he didn't always come straight in to my room to wake me up, he doesn't really grasp (or care) that sitting in his room and singing made-up songs while he plays with his toy trucks is not exactly conducive to my rest. Especially once he's gone to the bathroom and then left the light on to shine across the hall and directly on my face.

I usually tuck Penny into bed at around 8:45, and then I have to go up and check her blood sugars at around 10. That hour-and-a-bit isn't really enough time to work on anything mentally intensive, like writing or editing, so that work piles up.

There's the mess. Even when I'm doing my best to keep it in control, they just... it doesn't occur to them, when it's time to clean up, that it makes sense to take the extra four seconds to put the toys back in the correct box so they can find it later; they just dump them in whatever box happens to be closest. So of course, they have trouble finding things. And this is all my fault, of course, because I made them clean up. It's apparently impossible for either of them to re-use a dish or cup that they'd used before. (I remember my own mother complaining about this when I was young. Now I understand. I'm sorry, Mom.) I'm beginning to think Penny has an entire warehouse full of threadbare socks so she can leave them all over the house without ever running out. Alex, on the other hand, is fairly scrupulous about putting his clothes in the laundry -- but is apparently allergic to wearing anything twice. He changes his pajamas nearly daily, and I'm pretty sure he goes through at least two shirts and four pairs of underwear a day.

And the bickering, OH MY GOD. Penny whines that Alex never leaves her alone, but when she gets right up in his face and coos like he's still four months old and he tells her he wants to be left alone, I'm the Worst Parent Ever for telling her to respect his wishes. Alex's brain runs considerably ahead of his mouth, so he often uses the wrong word for something -- and then he and Penny have to have argue about what he actually said until I go crazy and tell them both to knock it off. There were a couple of mornings, on the drive up to Alex's daycare, that I came close to telling them both they weren't allowed to talk at all for the rest of the trip. Day. Year.

I love my kids, so very much. I love reading with them, I love talking to them about what they're learning in school and what their friends are doing. I love it when they snuggle with me, I love it when they want to help me cook dinner. Sometimes they're so effortlessly generous and thoughtful that it brings tears to my eyes; sometimes they're so funny that my sides ache from laughing.

But after a while it's hard to remember all that fantastic stuff and I get mired in the mess and the bickering and whining and never-ending work. I need my breaks. I slept until the alarm went off this morning, and that felt like luxury.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Paying Attention

I have to take a moment, every now and then, and marvel at how incredibly lucky I am, in so very many ways -- but particularly how amazing my kids are.

They're ridiculously smart. Intellectually, Alex is so very ready for kindergarten. (He's there socially, too. The only place that he might be lacking is that I don't know if he has the patience for a whole school day of having to follow orders.) And the other night when I was reading to Penny, she was fidgeting with the lap-blanket and fidgeting with her toy and fidgeting and fidgeting and I finally just stopped reading, ready to wait for her to settle in, and she protested, "Mom, I was listening!" I figured there was no way she'd been paying attention, so I challenged her to tell me what had just happened... and sure enough, she recited it back to me, very nearly word-for-word.

And they're so very loving. My brother and I bickered, fought, and argued more or less constantly until we were nearly adults. Penny and Alex get pouty if they haven't given each other enough hugs lately. I'm not kidding. My big frustration with Penny lately is that she can't really recognize when Alex needs to be left alone, and so when she gets up in his face, cooing about how cute he is and how she wants a hug, she gets her feelings hurt when he tells her he wants to be left alone... and then her solution to the problem is not -- as you might reason -- to leave him alone for a while, but to try again immediately. (And much to my frustration, this tactic sometimes works.)

This isn't restricted to playtime, either. Penny will happily fetch Alex's breakfast for him. They share their candy and treats with each other, and help each other with chores. They want to have "sleepovers" in each others' rooms.

I groan when they climb into bed with me at 6:45 on a weekend morning, but once I've reconciled myself to being awake, it's the best part of my day -- maybe even my week. If I kept all the mash notes Alex has written me ("I LOVE YOU MOMMY TO MOM FROM ALEX") I'd have enough paper to start my own school. Penny is prone to spontaneously doing little household chores like making the beds, just for the fun of it. Both of them come up to me out of the blue and wrap their arms around me and ask for hugs and kisses. Alex occasionally plucks a leaf off the only household plant I've managed to keep alive and brings it to me: "Look, Mom, it's shaped like a heart. It's for you, because I love you."
I can't wait to meet the beautiful, generous, loving adults I know they're going to be. But part of me wishes I could just freeze them, the way they are right now. And in the moments that part of me reaches out for them, I try to remember to take a moment and marvel.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Caffeinated Math

Last year, around this time, Braz gave me his old Keurig, having gotten a shiny new one for Christmas.

A Keurig, if you're not a coffee drinker or have been living under a rock for the last few years, is a single-serve coffee maker. There are some knockoff variants on the market, but the Keurig is pretty well accepted as the standard.

I drink a couple of cups of coffee(1) a day at work, but it's a bad idea for me to have caffeine in the evenings. But the Keurig is great for weekends, or days that I'm working from home. And I did eventually find decaf K-cups, too, for my evenings. I don't drink as much coffee in warm weather (I never really got into iced coffee) but now that we're back to winter, I've been enjoying my Keurig a lot(2) lately. Especially for the last few weeks, because between school holidays and this cold I've had all this week, I've been working from home a fair amount.

Yesterday, I had to go to Target to restock my NyQuil(3) supply, and while I was there, I needed to refresh my stock of decaf K-cups.

But then I looked at the little filter converter doohickey. Now, I've been saying for about six months that I should get one, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I know for a fact that it's a good $5 more expensive at Target than on, say, Amazon, but I just forget about it when I'm on Amazon. So I went ahead and just bought the dang thing, and two bags of ground coffee.

Then I came home and made coffee, and it was fine. Now, just out of curiosity, let's do the math. A box of 12 of my grocery store's generic-brand K-cups costs about $7, $6 if I get a coupon, so let's say about 50 center a cup. That's not the cheapest over-the-counter cups you can get -- I bought a box of 80 cups from Sam's Club for $37, which is only 46 cents a cup, but they don't sell decaf that way, so it took me like eight months of weekends to get through them all, and I had to find a place to store them in the meantime. Poking around on Amazon does not improve that price, but I only poked for about a minute, so just to make the math easy, let's say I managed to get the cost of a K-cup down to 40 cents.

A 12-oz bag of pre-ground coffee beans, at Target, costs as little as $7, but let's say I'm going to get a more expensive variety and take it up to $10.(4) Out of curiosity, I weighed my coffee before I put it into the machine this morning, and it came up at 10 grams. The K-cup box I still have says each cup is 9.5 grams of coffee, so that's about right. Twelve ounces is 340 grams, so a bag of coffee makes 34 cups. Even if we knock off one cup's worth of coffee for measuring differential, that's 33 cups of coffee at about 30 cents each.

So it's 10-15 cents cheaper, per cup, to use the filter and pre-ground coffee. Which doesn't seem like all that much, except that there are some other, nonmonetary, benefits:
- One 12-oz bag of coffee takes up approximately the same space as a 12-count box of K-cups. I can fit 66 cups' worth of coffee in my cabinet where previously I could only fit 24, tripling the space's effectiveness.
- The filter is more environmentally friendly, since the trash generated is merely coffee grounds instead of coffee grounds and a plastic-and-foil cup.(5)
- I can buy preground decaf coffee in a wider variety of flavors. Or, I should say, a variety, since K-cup decaf is pretty much only available in one flavor: coffee.(6)

So the filter pays itself somewhere between 120-180 cups of coffee. (Less, actually, if I keep buying cheaper ground coffee.) Assuming an average of one cup a day -- not unreasonable, since I'm only using the Keurig in the evenings on weeknights, and not every weeknight, but I do sometimes have multiple cups on weekends -- then the filter pays for itself in 4-6 months. (It would've been 3-4 months if I'd bought it on Amazon.)

Will the filter's mesh hold out for a whole six months or longer? We'll see.

Whew, that was a lot of work. Now I need a cup of coffee...

(1) Terminology: Strictly speaking, a "cup" of coffee is 6 ounces, but when I say "cup of coffee", I mean "mug of coffee", and when I say "mug", I mean "one of my enormous 16-20 ounce megamugs."
(2) "A lot" is relative, mind you -- I discovered about two months ago that if I have more than two mugs of coffee in the space of about six to eight hours, I get some pretty bad heartburn. Still, I'm averaging 32-60 ounces of coffee a day, which seems like a fair amount to me.
(3) Cue about 95% of readers singing the Dennis Leary song: "We love you, you giant fucking Q!"
(4) You can go higher than this, of course, but let's face it -- the $7 bag of coffee is probably about the same quality as the K-cups I was buying, so rounding up to $10 is being generous to the K-cups.
(5) It's possible, though I think unlikely, that the bag the beans come in is approximately the same amount of plastic-and-foil as a 12-count box of K-cups, but it's certainly less than 33 K-cups.
(6) Yes, I know you can get syrups to put in plain coffee. But I'll note that adds to the cost and also note that sugar-free coffee syrup is not available in a wide variety of flavors.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Here's a funny little take-away I got from, of all places, my day job: You shouldn't have too many serious goals at one time. Our annual performance review process allows for up to – but not exceeding – five major goals for each year, and my last several supervisors (I get a new one each year, thanks to the Major Corporate Machine's constant reorganizing) have stressed that you really should try to have no more than three.

So I've spent the last few weeks thinking about my New Year's resolutions, and pondering what are the priorities I have in my life right now, and what are the few things that I really care about changing. What are the things that I'm willing to put some energy into improving? At the moment, my priority list looks like this:

Effort #1: Stop watching so much freaking TV. I've lost whole days to the tube, lately. I'm trying to get caught up on a bunch of shows, and they're great and fun, but in the meantime, I'm not doing anything productive. This, by the way, also includes watching DVDs and shows on YouTube. Basically, any time spent passively watching a screen. It does not, however, include watching movies with friends or on a date, because those are social activities.

Effort #2: Be more productive. There are a gajillion projects I want or need to do. Writing and editing. Promotion of my writing, which is a whole job unto itself. I have an embarrasingly high stack of books I've been meaning to read. Scrapbooking, a little, at least to finish out the year in which I last left off. Re-organize and redecorate the house (or at least parts of it). Some of these are open-ended tasks, some of them are huge, and some just require me to get off my ass and do them.

Effort #3: Be more social. This falls into three sub-categories:
Effort #3a: Family: I'd like to spend more time with my brother and sister-in-law, who are actually fantastic people and who only live half an hour away, which makes it completely stupid that I only see them a few times a year. I'd also like to make a point of talking to my parents (who likewise live only half an hour away) at least once a week.
Effort #3b: Friends: I'd like to spend more time with various friends. It's come to my attention lately that, due to my proper Southern upbringing, I am intensely uncomfortable with inviting myself along on events or over to friends' houses, while the truth is that most of my friends are not only open but enthusiastic about this sort of thing.
Effort #3c: Dating: I've been separated for the best part of half a year now, and I think I'm ready to look around out there again. It's been entirely too long since I've dated, so it's hard to make resolutions about this, but I want to remember not to simply settle, and not to neglect my friends in the event that someone wonderful does come along.

Effort #4: Be a better parent. I waste far too much of my time with my kids. Penny was unequivocally enthusiastic about the time I had lunch with her at school; I'd like to do that more often. I'd also like to get them excited about things and do things with them that get us all out of the house once in a while.

Note #1: I'm okay with having four goals instead of just three, because accomplishing the less-TV goal will actually make it easier to work on the others: by watching less TV, I will have more time to spend on the projects and people on which my other three goals are focused.

Note #2: I feel like working on my weight should be somewhere on that list – exercising more and/or eating better – it falls pretty low on my list of priorities. It shouldn't, but it just does. It's not like I'm going to completely forget about my health or anything, but I'm going to give myself permission not to stress over it this year. Maybe, as I get wrapped up in projects and people and spend more time doing things instead of staring at a screen and chewing my cud, some health improvement will happen organically. And if not, then that's okay, too, and I can worry about diet and exercise again next year, when all this stuff has gotten wrapped into my personal patterns and habits.

It's a lot of stuff to wrap my head around, and it's all but impossible to make rules covering everything here and expect to actually follow them all. I've been turning the whole mess around in my head for a while, as I said, and here's the ideas I've come up with to (hopefully) make it work, along with their explanations and notes:

The List: Because my schedules and deadlines are so ephemeral, there's no way to just assign myself a day-by-day task list. So each day, I will evaluate my situation, and assign myself a reasonable productivity list. That list will include not only big project stuff (e.g., edit 2 stories, spend 2 hours writing, scrapbook 2 months' worth of pictures, etc.) but also the little, routine stuff (e.g., take out the trash, write a blog entry, make lunches, etc.) that has to fit into my schedule. The list will take into account whether I happen to have the kids that day, planned activities, and my general well-being. (As I write this, for example, I've got a sinus infection or a cold or something similar, and so I give myself permission to be a little slack on the productivity front – not to skip it entirely, because I'm not that sick, but to choose tasks that suit my current mental and physical state. I can do some editing right now, for example, but I feel way too mentally blah to want to do anything creative, like writing.) They may include large tasks (e.g., clean out and re-organize the pantry) or small ones (e.g., make an appointment with the eye doctor). There will be no time limit, either minimum or maximum. The goal here is a list of things that I can look at an think, “Yes, that seems like a day that was not wasted.”

TV: Until the day's productivity goals are done, I get no more than 1 hour of TV. (Yes, I'm letting myself have some TV before I do my work. I sometimes want to watch YouTube videos in the morning while the kids are eating breakfast, or unwind with a show while I have dinner by myself.) Once the day's goals are all met, I can watch all the TV I want. (Nyah.)

Parenting: One day in the next week, one of my goals will be to make up a schedule for things to do with the kids. That schedule will include: 1 day each month that I will have lunch with each kid (2 lunches/month, not including summer break), and 1 day each month that we will do an out-of-house activity, along with a list of activity options. Once that schedule is made up, I'll load those dates and activities into my calendars so that I remember to do them. That's not saying I won't need to change some of them, but it takes less inertia to move a date than to create it.

Social Stuff: This one is trickier, because it necessarily involves other people. And unlike my children, I don't have significant control over my friends' and families' schedules. I do want to take at least two solo long-weekend type vacations this year, at least one of which will be to an author's convention (GayRomLit or somesuch, depending on how the schedules fall out) where I can meet some of the Torquere staff in person; the other will either be to visit a friend or see a new place; I'm not sure yet. I want to make a date with KT and Kevin to come down to their house every so often (once a month? Every six weeks? Eight?) during the week, on a night I'm child-free, just to hang out. And ditto for hanging out with Jenn and Brian. And my friends who live in town, too, but those are easier to arrange and don't so much need to be scheduled to remind me to do it. But I need to remind myself that it's okay to say, “Hey, what's going on; can I come over and hang out?” and that if the answer is that they're too busy, it doesn't mean I'm being rude and needy; it means THEY'RE TOO BUSY, and I should try again another time.

So there are my New Year's resolutions. I don't know if I'll stick to it. Sometimes, YouTube is just too compelling, sometimes I go through mental downs where I don't want to be social, and sometimes, my kids are infuriating and don't deserve to be taken out anywhere. Such is life.

But here's the thing about a resolution. It's not an unbreakable vow. It's resolve. You plunge into the fight and sometimes you take a hit, but resolve is squaring your shoulders and going right back in. If these annual goals and targets were easy, they wouldn't be so significant.

I grew up in a house surrounded by art inspired by Don Quixote and Man of La Mancha, after all. It would be a little crazy if I didn't want to reach for unreachable stars once in a while.