Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Snark Across America - Baltimore Edition

Alternate Title: Goat Poop and Turtle Sex

After the success of SnarkStock last November in New Jersey, we've all been looking for opportunities to gather again for a night (day) of friends and fun. The large gathering didn't pan out this year but that hasn't stopped smaller tweet-ups: Holly and Jan in Houston, Aaron and Mel and AJ in Minneapolis, Tony, Myrna, and Mike in Philly as they're secret life partners and co-founders of the 'I Heart Gerald Webb' fan club and others I've probably forgotten. And here we are, not too far from most folks but still mostly homebound, gazing sadly at our tiny screens while the family room implodes under the onslaught of Legos and Monster High dolls in various stages of undress until Mandie, brilliant, beautiful Mandie, invited us to Scarlett's birthday party. They live less than a half an hour from us, she loves booze, we take the kids to the same places, how perfect is that? (I also nominate her as head bartender/booze sourcer because holy god was that beer good.)

That would have been enough for me but a few weeks later, who should come to town but Geri, Ken and their boys? My two met two of theirs last year and still talk about them fondly. They had never been in the Baltimore/Washington area and we had an open weekend so Bam! we had our own event at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and they joined us for dinner where I had to double check that their youngest hadn't smuggled Jinx out of the house; so enamored of her was he. A beautiful day, the kids got along famously, Ken and Dylan bonded over movies (Hot Tub Time Machine, holla!), we witnessed goats pooping and turtles sexing, and I didn't burn dinner! This goes down as an unqualified success in my book.

Also, we introduced them to the delicious little secret known around these parts as 'Bergers Cookies'. I so know what I'm sending them for Christmas.

This goes down in history as officially the second best August ever. Okay September, let's see what you've got.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Endings and Beginnings and I Feel Fine

This week is finally (Finally!) here - big kid birthday, school starting, moving into our favorite time of the year (the end of the week with its stupid 90 degree weather not withstanding)...I've been waiting for this all year. Yeah, I know, don't wish your life away but I'd be lying if I said my heart wasn't a thousand times lighter and my wallet a thousand times heavier today.

So. Birthdays. This is a big one. Noah is 5. Yup. Finally. The side-eye we would get when we told people he was four was getting old. Now his size looks more reasonable. It's just a number but people have different expectations of 5 versus 4. (Welcome to the real world honey, isn't it wonderful?) He went to bed being 4 and woke up being 5. Literally as he was born at 1:30 in the morning. My uterus sincerely believes that the middle of the night is the perfect time to give birth. I was a little misty eyed, kissing my four year old goodnight for the last time because four has been incredible. It's like the universe gets its shit together and the personality and skills - verbal, emotional, physical - combine into an explosion of awesomeness. This has seriously been my favorite year with him - so much growth! Having conversations, playing pretend games (though I will not be sad to retire 'Evil Brain'), being called out on skipping words when reading. I'm really digging this little boy of mine. So it's hard to let that go. But! Five man. This is the big time. It all gets real now.

It certainly is.
But with that transition to Kindergarten comes the ending of our time with Celebree Learning Centers. We've been part of the Celebree family for seven and a half years, since Noelle was an infant. Walking out of that door for the final time on Thursday is going to be hard; they have done wonderfully by our kids and it's because of them that we decided to send Noah to Kindergarten this year when we could have easily waited until he turned 6. They've been so patient with him and he adores his teachers and now he's ready. As sad as that will be (because I'm a sentimental softy who hates change), it's time and hoo boy is my wallet ready. Saving upwards of a grand a month? Yeah, that offsets the sadness, well, a lot. He gets to ride the bus in the mornings and go to PlayKeepers in the afternoons with his second favorite person in the world, Ms. Sharon. He'll take gym and art and music and best of all, take books out of the library. He'll do more reading and counting and sets. They'll do science and learn dances. He'll get to participate in Play Day and make friends who actually live near us. And he won't look so abnormally huge, surrounded by kids up to age 10. And best of all? I can send him with a peanut butter sandwich for lunch every. damned. day.

Kindergarten rocks in so many ways.
Summer is for all intents and purposes over. The angle of the sun is changing, and the light is trending more gold than yellow. The fantasy football draft is soon and apples will be ready to be picked. Soccer and Girl Scouts and Dance are on the agenda and structure, blessed, blessed structure returns to our lives. We made it. It was a tough eight months but we did it. We survived. We're here. And I feel fine.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Awesome Science Mix

This is the hardest damn post to start; the temptation to wax poetic about the vagaries of life is overwhelming but does nothing to advance or introduce my point of today which is that my kids are awesome. Huh, that worked out better than I thought. Anyways, some cool things happened last week that I thought were pretty, uh, cool, that were totally the kids and not me and therefore much more interesting. And awesome. Ahem.

Unpacking Noah's book bag last Wednesday, I came upon a worksheet. His preschool/camp program has spent August getting the rising kindergartners back into the school swing by having them unpack their own lunchboxes, practice writing their letters and numbers and, most important (to me) work on their handwriting in general. Lines are still a quasi-foreign concept to him and keeping letters in a line and not 3/4 of the page in size has been a work in progress. But lo, what hath August wrought? It hath wrought worksheets with the vowel sound correctly identified and names - FULL NAMES. FIRST AND LAST - written completely and correctly and on a line! The boy can write a lowercase 'g'! This is cause for celebration! And balloons! And confetti!

The pride wellethed up and spilled over into my wineglass. It was delicious.

Later that night at dinner, we were talking about our days. Noelle has asked questions about my job before so she knows that I taste a lot of chemicals. No, really. That's what I do. Best diet plan ever and as a bonus I now glow in the dark. Anyways, she changed up the question on me this time: where do the chemicals you use come from? Well, there are companies that manufacture the chemicals we buy and.... No, I mean where do they get the chemicals from? How are they made? And with that, right there at the table they say, Mommy's science-loving heart grew three sizes that day. Thus began a good 15-minute conversation on how chemicals are made and how natural and artificial differ. Well the natural piece called to her and from there we went on to how different plants are harvested for different products and how even different parts of the same plant can yield different chemicals and from there the conversation turned to Big Agriculture. It was one of the best dinner conversations I've ever had and I couldn't be more proud that my kid makes those connections between what I do and what must come before.

Pretty good day, amirite? Well last evening was the Piece of Resistance. One of the steps for putting Noah to bed is to go over the behavioral rules he has to follow followed by 5 questions. I was digging the bottom of the barrel for these as unless the question is about his favorite color (blue) or game (football) the answer is usually 'My brain isn't thinking' which as you can imagine is not at all annoying when trying to hold up your end of the bargain. So I asked him, what would you like for your birthday? (A leading question as I already have his gifts.) (Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I'd go out and get what he really wanted.) It was...the Lego Movie motorcycle and cop car chase scene set. AND I ALREADY HAD IT.  I win at life.

I hope that the awesome flows on to you because SCIENCE. And confetti.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Big girl panties are comfortable after all. Who knew?

I'm not really a 'people person'.  More specifically, I'm not an in-person people person. Through a screen I like people just fine but in face to face situations I clam up and nod and smile a lot. A lot probably has to do with me not trusting what I hear to actually be what was said so to play it safe, I don't allow myself to be put into scenarios where a response is actually required of me. (Yes, hearing aids, blah blah blah and they help a bit BUT they also boost the sound of EVERYTHING, not just what you are trying to concentrate on so not a panacea.) Around family and friends it's different and I can play the 'Okay, here is what I heard you say' bit for laughs. So most of my communication I prefer doing through the screen. Sometimes, however, that's just not an option. You know, for things like career planning and asking for big, giant, HUGE favors from your boss who is not always the most approachable of people. Or so you've heard because you've been hiding in a corner for several years now.

I fully admit that some of what colors my perception of my boss is hearing about the difficult time a friend of mine has had in working with him. I tend to think that it's simply incompatible personalities and they seem to have declared 'detente' recently but the thought of having to have an in-depth discussion with him over anything was giving me major anxiety so I kept putting it off. Then three things happened at once: two weeks after returning from vacation I was going to need to be out of the office for the majority of next week; the realization that at 40 years old and with nearly 17 years at my company, I should probably make some sort of career plan seeing as my original plan was torpedoed by a different manager after returning from maternity leave from Noelle's birth 7.5 years ago (I'm not bitter.) (Okay, maybe I'm still a little bitter. And a procrastinator.), and hey, school starts in two weeks so I really need to get permission to change my schedule finalized.

But this was a scary proposition for me as the last time I had asked for anything from my company, it was agreed to then rescinded the day after I returned from maternity leave with Noah. (And that my friends is why we stopped at two kids; who knows what would have happened when I returned from maternity leave from a third.) Coupled with that, my boss believes firmly that employees have sole responsibility for their career development and that meant introspection and planning and GAH. So learning from those who went before me, I made an agenda, focused my topics with 'this is what I've researched to date' , and girded my loins for battle. It went like this:

1. Coverage for next week during training
2. Career development
3. Alternate schedule during school year

And it was easily the best meeting/discussion I've had with him in his tenure. He doesn't want open-ended things; present an issue, give a potential solution and be prepared to talk through it. I did that for each point on my list and the two that I was most worried about -  career development and work-life balance - were both received favorably and we made a plan on how to get the training that was recommended for me to move to the next position together. Dylan and I will be able to save additional money by not having to put the kids in before and after school care; they'll ride the bus in the mornings now. I came out of the meeting feeling buoyed and energized and relieved and, dare I say it, happy.

Wow, so this is what it's like when adults act like adults; it's such a powerful feeling. I'm no longer alone; because I was willing to do the background work and present options rather than a complaint list, he was more receptive to what I had to say and I feel much more aligned with my boss and his goals and he with me and mine. Now if you'll excuse me, I hear there are some Internet trolls who could use a beatdown.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Dance of the Laptop

In our house we have 2 smartphones, one cheap-ass tablet (my 15th work anniversary gift. Whee.), one netbook and one (ancient) laptop. Oh, and a prehistoric desktop but we don't like to talk about that much. Plenty of apparatuses for all things online except that only one works well enough for things like 'writing show recaps' and 'webcam appearances on radio shows' and that would be the laptop. Usually things work out just fine; Dyl's shows are on Wednesdays or Fridays (Comic Book Haul) and Sunday afternoons (Dylan Knows). My writing obligations are Sunday night (The Strain) and Thursday night (Defiance).  Little overlap unless one of us is called to pinch hit on Snarkalec Radio on Thursday night. And that's exactly what's happening this week.

So here's the dilemma: Defiance airs on SyFy at 8 pm. Kiddie bedtime is 8 - 8:30 so we DVR it and watch from 9 - 10, after which I stay up writing the first draft of the recap  and listening to Snarkalec Radio until 11:30/12:00. Snarkalec Radio goes on about 9:15ish and runs til between 10:30 and 10:45. (It's a lot of fun; you should really check it out.)

So, a long night but not insurmountable. However, Dyl's been asked to appear on tonight's episode of Snarkalec Radio which he really enjoys so that means that 1) no recording and watching later after kiddie bedtime as I take notes real time then craft the story around it and B) I won't have access to the only piece of equipment that I can actually write on until 10:30 at the earliest (I'm looking at YOU, Netbook, and your premature posting problem.)

The plan therefore goes something like this: I watch live and take notes, he puts the kids to bed, I log off from Google Plus so he can log in, he plugs in his headphones and prays there are no technical difficulties (Ha. Haaaaaa.), hilarity ensues for the next 90 minutes, he logs off, I log back on and pound jelly beans and Diet Coke like it's my job while trying to remember what I actually meant by the notation 'M weevil' and if I've reached the 'butthurt' mention limit yet.

Sure, we could avoid the whole thing by getting another laptop or an actually working tablet but that costs money we don't have and besides, where's the fun in that? There can be only one and I know where the jelly beans are hidden.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Silver Linings and Lemonade in a Red Solo Cup

So. Back from vacation. The one thing you look forward to for 51 weeks is over like *that* and in the midst of unpacking and still finding sand in the damnedest places, it's easy to sink into a real funk. The days of sipping cold beers in a beach chair by the water, trying to be heard over the roar of fighter-jet engines, and telling yourself that it's really okay to let the kids eat ice cream for dinner mean it's that much harder to return to reality and when you do, everything look bigger and worse than ever. Even my sunny self is not immune to it. So I'm trying something different this year: finding the silver lining in the stuff that's getting me down.

1. Vacation being over.
Silver lining - Got to dance to 'Red Solo Cup' and 'Handlebars' with my family at my cousin's 10th anniversary party. Also, I do the 'C' of the 'YMCA' backwards. Who knew?

2.  Back to work where things went 'kablooey'.
Silver lining - Okay, this took more thought but at the very least, my job is secure for years to come as no one wants anything to do with it. Also, I have another year before this clusterfuck happens again.

3.  The kindergarten teacher I was hoping Noah would get isn't in the school anymore.
Silver lining - She took a job at a different local school so I'm happy for her. And it's not like I won't see her; two of her kids are at Franklin, one in the same grade as Noelle. Even better, no more day care payments! Ever! And we've made a date to meet at the local ice cream stand The Cow. So really, it's still a mostly-win.

4.  Noelle didn't get the teacher she wanted either.
Silver lining - The same thing happened last year and she ended up loving her teacher. I just hope that some of her close friends are in her class this year.

5.  Jinx is not consistently peeing in the litter box. Poop, yes, but not pee.
Silver lining - Well, we found an awesome pet sitter for her. And as she prefers to pee on piled up papers and plastic bags, it's forcing us to keep the clutter down. Her secret peeing spot is somewhere in the basement where the carpet was already ruined by my old cats so it looks like we're moving up our timetable of replacing that carpet too. Oh darn, that means we need to organize and THROW STUFF OUT.

6.  Friends are fighting and things are changing.
Silver lining - This was the hardest one as I think the world of everyone I *think* is involved but I need to let it go and not obsess about it. It just means I need to alter the ways I check feeds and has nothing to do with me. On the bright side, I get to *meet* with two twitter friends face to face this month which I'm so excited about. One to give her daughter some coveted dolls and the other to share our city with her family.

Change is hard yo but on the bright side, NO MORE DAY CARE! EVER! HUZZAH!

(Did I mention no more day care? Because that makes me happy.)

(Also wine. Really, anything in a red Solo Cup. But that was a given.)