Thursday, June 30, 2005

Pirate Boy Turns 5

A series of random photo postings from my little buccaneer's birthday...

Look! I'm a bunch of grapes!

Guess what Pirate Boy's favorite color is?

The best thing about the day, I think, was seeing my big 5-year-old ride a bike.

My boy so rocks. Coming soon: pictures of Punkin Baby's big day.

Treasure Island

Pirate Boy gives his birthday cake a good review. He'll divide the plunder later...

I tried and tried to get him to change this shirt for pictures, but to no avail. Sigh. I guess pirates are supposed to look scruffy.

Here's a better shot of the whole cake:

And it was tasty, too. Mmmm... triple chocolate pirate ship....

We've Got the Guts

In case you've ever wondered what the inside of a piano looks like...

Ours had a faulty keyboard cover, so Wolfman Jack took it away, promising it would be repaired in a couple days. That was 3 weeks ago. This is still what our piano looks like. Well, it plays OK anyway, and nobody's stuffed a peanut-butter sandwich into the works. Though the mysterious disappearance of Darth Vader is still unexplained...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Who Gives These People Kids??

#1 Son came home from a weekend visit to "Mommy's" this afternoon, 3 hours late and covered in bruises. When we ask how he got hurt, he says evasively, "I dunno." Sulks and complains of stomach ache. Plays rough with his little brothers.

Now, if it was the other way 'round, and he showed up at her house like that, we'd have had cops on our doorstep before we had time to blink. But we're not like that. We don't assume that people are doing evil things all the time... well, maybe we do. But we didn't do that anyway. No, we simply email and ask if she has any idea what could possibly have happened. No hysterics, no paramedics... no answers.

Sometimes I hate being the sane one.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Who Are We, Anyway?

Did anyone else see this? Thursday, was reporting that women and minorities are underrepresented in the U.S. technology industry. I'm not so sure that part was news. However, the article did contain some fascinating items.

This part was incredibly disturbing to me:

Women made up 32 percent of the tech work force in 2004, a drop from 41 percent at its peak in 1996. That's largely because of the shrinking number of administrative jobs in the tech industry, the Arlington, Virginia-based Information Technology Association of America said. [Boldface added.]
Let me be perfectly clear on this: Are we saying that women in tech jobs aren't really technical, they're administrative? So we have fewer women in IT because we've fired all the secretaries? Am I overreacting? 'Cause my pointy stiletto shoes are gettin' all fidgety over here.

Another bizarre observation by this group: "white" was one of the underrepresented racial groups cited. OK, so if Blacks, Hispanics, and Caucasians are all minorities in IT... who's left? Well.. the study mentions that Asians are overrepresented by a couple hundred percent. OK, so everybody trade in your stereotype of the round, bearded European-looking IT guy. I'm watching you!

But do we even care who does the job, as long as somebody does it? I'm kind of torn on this one. I do not want anybody competent shut out because of superficial physical characteristics. And I certainly don't want anybody incompetent running my servers and having access to my data. But beyond that, I don't much notice the demographics.

I'm pretty sure that people from India are counted under "Asian," but where does "middle eastern" fit into this survey? No, I'm not being paranoid. I'm just wondering, 'cause when I was in college, our engineering department (huge) was full of Saudi students. (Male, of course. Duh.) I imagine plenty of them are employed in this country now. But I never see that demographic listed on the questionnaires. If they're also "Asian," I can better understand the disparity.

Anybody know the answers?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Green Eggs and Grandma

We're anxiously awaiting the arrival of my parents for the July 4th weekend. Less than 2 weeks! Hooray!

This is my mom reading to the littlest boys last time she was here. I hope I age half as gracefully as she has. But if not, I hope I'm around to read to my grandchildren, if only once.

Three of a Kind

Aha! I have beaten Picasa into submission. Behold! My three sons:

For a while there, #1 Son (far right, of course) was doing the exercise thing for Cub Scouts. The other boys, being younger brothers and all into that hero-worship stuff, joined in every chance they got. It's awesome to see a toddler with a huge athletic repertoire.

This picture was taken several months ago. Just this afternoon, Punkin Baby was doing backflips off the couch; he only bobbled one landing. All that with a bad headcold! Need to find him some baby gymnastics classes... to teach! Heh.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Days of Our Lives

I've had a post in the works for a week now about my Pirate Boy's 5th birthday. It was a tremendously fun and exciting day for everyone. Donuts for breakfast, balloons to play with all over the house (green, his favorite color), decorating the cake. Now the cake gave me a little difficulty: How do you make a pirate ship out of a boxed cake mix? I had this idea to bake a circle and a square layer, then use half the circle as the hull of the boat and the square as the sail. The folly of this course became clear when I actually got out the cake pans and compared them. No, that sail would clearly topple any kind of mast I gave it, and probably sink the boat in the process. What to do, what to do...

I had sent The Man out to the store to buy LEGO pirates to man the ship and was pondering my problem (OK, I was probably reading Agatha Christie), when Aha! an idea struck me: Use the pizza pan! We have this lovely ceramic deep-dish pizza pan of just the right size to make the hull of a ship that could carry an 8-inch square sail. Then hubby came home with a treasure-trove of pirate goodies, including a Blackbeard figurine (complete with working cannon) and a bundle of gold(ish) dubloons. I was on the case. At the last minute, Pirate Boy decided he didn't want a pirate cake after all, but I told him he'd get one and like it-- and he did. (I'll post pictures later; we have to do ours the old-fashioned way: with film.) He spent the rest of the morning "dividing the plunder" with his crew (us). Totally cute and sweet. Arrrrghh.

We had him open presents at lunchtime; he got some cool stuff, but his favorite was... OK, after the money, his favorite was the LEGO Darth Vader TIE fighter. We were hoping he'd fall in love with the shiny new bike we got him instead, but there's really no competition with that blinking red lightsaber. Punkin Baby can do the voice, too. Kinda scary.

Things kind of calmed down when Punkin Boy went down for his nap. The bigger boys (dad included) scampered off to the basement, where a playroom is taking shape. While #1 Son sulked and acted bored, Pirate Boy decided to help his daddy put together the futon frame. The big, heavy oak futon frame. Which he proceeded to lift, then drop onto his poor sweet little foot. His daddy carried him upstairs so that Pirate Mama could kiss the injured tootsie. I held some ice to it, checked for breakage, and cooed to him soothingly, and within minutes, he was running off playing again. No serious damage done, apparently, though I don't know why.

In another hour or so, he was up again and off bike riding while we filled the pool. Again, I took pictures and will post eventually. The water was a bit cold for the boys, but they enjoyed splashing each other and waving the hose around while giggling hysterically. Don't ask me. In the middle of a stormy week, we had sunshine and warm weather-- right up till dinnertime. Perfect. On the menu: meatless lasagna for my veggie boy.

During the afternoon, the bike sat in our living room. A shiny gold-and-blue confection, its sleek lines reminded me of the fierce yet sporty 3-wheeler (what are they now that they aren't Big Wheels?) we gave him for his third birthday, and a pang hit me straight in the heart. My sweet, wonderful, and in all ways awesome friend Sheri had given her boy an identical 3-wheeler for his birthday that year, too. One of our very last conversations before she died was about that trike. Our boys were exactly as far apart in age as she and I were; without even knowing it, we did many of the same things during the years we'd been apart.

I found myself weeping over that beautiful new bike in my living room-- weeping for the mama who will miss her boy's fifth birthday, who even missed her daughter's first one. For all the things my wonderful friend will miss, I cried. For everything I miss about her, I cried hardest. Today is her birthday. I miss you, Sheri. I love you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The New Ed Wood

So, my darling husband and I got to go on a date today, for the first time in several months, and what did we do? Did we find a secluded booth in an intimate little Italian restaurant and stare dreamily into each other's eyes? 'Tis to laugh. No, we didn't even try sneaking into the early Batman show. We (having apparently missed the demise of the bandwagon) went to see "Revenge of the Sith."

Is it just in our town, or is it a widespread phenomenon, that this movie blasted into the theaters with 10 showings a day on each of 4 screens? How long ago was that, a month? Today, there are about 4 showings, on one screen. We were among fewer than a dozen people in the theater. After about the first 10 minutes, I didn't even notice that the noise of the spaceships and lasers and droids whistling was making my head pound. I was laughing too hard.

This has got to be the "Plan 9 from Outer Space" of its generation. George Lucas has a budget, is all. Take away the gorgeous planetary vistas and the computer-simulated space battles... no, don't. Better yet, watch this movie with the sound turned off. The dialogue isn't funny enough to be worth listening to. You'll still snort when Anakin rolls his eyes back in his head in what I guess was supposed to be a sinister glare at... nobody. What the heck was he doing? And where is the MST3K crew?

I admit I grimaced and looked away when it was time for him to massacre the kids. (You read about that in the CNN article, too, didn't you?) But even that scene had very little emotional impact because you hadn't seen the kids before in this movie. Instead of adding just a little previous contact and relationship exposition to make that act more horrifying, George Lucas decided to do things like call back to Episode IV's melodramatic sunset scene. What. Ever.

I'm not a Republican, but the insulting political comparisons got nauseating pretty quickly. "Only a Sith" indeed. And before anyone says, "Well, you're an editor, of course the lousy writing would bother you," I'll mention that once I realized how atrocious the dialogue was, I turned off my "editor's ear" (as much as I could). I wasn't anxious for any more torture than necessary. There was plenty to go around. The robot medic was more expressive and emotive than most of the live actors. So was computer-generated Yoda. (I still like Ewan McGregor, and Jimmy Smitz did a good job. Oh yes, and so did the Emperor--Ian McDermid, right?)

I have to say this, though: For my birthday, I want a giant frilled lizard that can climb cliffs and will come when I whistle.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow...

My new "boss" starts work at our office tomorrow. I don't even know what to call her, but I'm sure "boss" will do. Except that now I'll have at least 3 bosses to report to constantly, a situation that can only lead to trouble. For purposes of this blog, I'll call her boss to distinguish her (slightly) from my manager and the PHB (slogan: "I can see your house from here").

Case in point: My new intern starts tomorrow, too. It was a parting commission from my previous boss before she left: Hire a summer intern for our team. Well, I did it, and got a really great one, too. (It's kind of embarrassing to hire someone more talented and educated than yourself to be an intern, but what the heck; I got here first.) I was really proud of myself. But I didn't bring the high-muckety-muck boss of the division into the process (how should I know she wanted to interview a summer intern?), so she (PHB) called me on the carpet for it in front of ALL my colleagues in a meeting this afternoon. There's professionalism for you.

And now the PHB is stealing my intern-- that is, my team's intern. Because now that we're all "one big happy fleet," we share all our resources, right? Um-hmmm. And I'm sure that the other team's intern was helping us out all this time, too. I mean, didn't we know his time was ours to allocate? No. We have separate line items, separate budgets, even, and this intern comes out of our team's budget and we should have first dibs. (Help, help, I'm being assimilated!)

But what do I know? It's just my bad attitude talking. I admit I am a little cranky this evening, even aside from the pain and the hormones. I'd planned on having a date with my husband today-- the first one in several months-- but it fell through. Trying again tomorrow; it's our last chance for a while. Of course, my "tomorrow" is completely booked with meetings and training and mentoring and so on, but I'm going to make this date if it kills me. At least I'm better off than the new boss-- PHB has taken it upon herself to schedule every hour of the next 3 days for the poor woman. Can you say "micromanagement"? I knew you could.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Still alive...

I've officially made it to my Pirate Boy's 5th birthday. Hooray! And we've got the "big" boys into a Core Knowledge school for the fall. OK, it's an "inner city" school, but we're not much of a city, and it's nicer than the neighborhood we live in, so we're giving it a shot. Still need to get Punkin Boy (the toddler with the 12th-grade vocabulary) a "school" of his own. And somehow come up with the money for full-time daycare... second mortgage or education loan, hmmm...

Anyway, everyone's very excited about the upcoming day's festivities. Should be incredibly fun. But first, to sleep, perchance to dream...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Stress Really Is Killing Me

So, what did I do this weekend? I died. Not completely; let's call it "only mostly dead." It started with an unusually bad case of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) that woke me at about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, not long after I'd fallen asleep. Even a mild case is pretty alarming, with the heart rate suddenly elevating for no reason until it feels as if you've been exercising for half an hour. I got those every day during the early part of my last pregnancy (hence, only 3 children), but I managed to keep them controlled by getting a few hours of rest in the afternoons. (Yes, PHB, I did manage to keep working full-time and being quite productive the whole time. Nyeah.)

But this weekend, it was different. This attack was more like the kind I got when carrying Pirate Boy-- just the one, but that was enough for a lifetime. I hoped. That time, I was 7 months pregnant, our new house was almost finished, and my husband had just gotten fired from his job. I was a complete basket case and totally blamed the stress for short-circuiting my heart, although the cardiologist never bought that explanation. This time, I was sure.

At first, I tried just to wait it out, but I had to go to the bathroom, so I tried to get up... and failed. I made it to sitting, then sank back down to the pillow, thinking furiously. Middle of the night, passel of sleeping kids, tightness in chest, nearing a very ugly loss of consciousness... what to do, what to do...

At last, I poked my darling husband, who was doing his best impression of a comatose crocodile. "Honey? I've got a problem... it's my heart." Words that nightmares are made of, I'm sure. As I struggled for breath and lucidity, I croaked out instructions to my boggled and drowsy sweetheart. "Need to go to the hospital. Call Ana to take the kids..." He stumbled around and finally located the phone and phone book. By this time, it was clear to me that this wouldn't cut it. "Just call 911, sweetheart. I'm not going to make it."

Cue husbandly panic. He managed to punch in the numbers and recite our address and phone number and stutter out that something was wrong with his wife's heart. The operator quizzed him some more, while I helped as much as I could with answers. Afterward, he managed to call some dear friends of ours, whose feet we will kiss every day from now till forever for responding so lovingly at 2-freaking-thirty in the morning to our plea for help. They all got out of bed and were at our door within a minute or two after the paramedics arrived.

Ah yes, the paramedics. I had just been working on my novel that evening and had realized that I could use more realism in the chapter relating to a visit from a paramedic team. Well, hallelujah, I got what I needed. Call me blessed. (Dear God, isn't there a better way to do research for this blasted thing?) Ah well, it's not every woman who ends up with half a dozen men swarming over her bed in the middle of the night. Must keep one's sense of humor...

...because what the paramedics did to treat me that night (after determining that the self-help methods really were ineffective, as I claimed) was the same as they'd done the first time: namely, to stop my heart. Can I repeat that? 'Cause it's one of those mind-blowing, wish-it-was-once-in-a-lifetime experiences. They

Meanwhile the cardio monitor was beeping away, which was a whole new experience in terror. One minute, it's going like a telegraph: beepity beepity beepity beepity, 210 bpm. The next minute, it slows to normal: beep... beep... beep... And finally, as that "cold lead slab" feeling creeps over you, stills to nothingness: beep.............. beep.........................
beep.............................................................. (no beep, no pulse, no warmth, no light)................. And back again: beep...beep...beep... The lights come up and you can breathe again.

(Strangely enough, it's
this stuff that does the trick; it's even safe to use on extremely pregnant women, although I do not recommend it. Also strangely, my cardiologist doesn't find my SVTs to be a cause for alarm; just "one of those things." Yes, well, Doc, you can have this "thing"; it's more than just an inconvenience.)

Once normality was restored, the medics carried me out on a gurney, smashing my bedroom doorframe on the way out. They hauled me off in an ambulance, hubby close behind, leaving the kids in the capable care of our friends' teenage daughter. The ER doc looked me over, did some tests, and scratched his head. Usually, you need to have some kind of health-related vice (alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, etc.) to trigger this kind of reaction, but I turned out to be depressingly boring in that regard. My theory is that it's hormone-related (no, I am NOT pregnant again) and triggered by an abundance of stress. Doc seemed to buy it. Now if I could just get that in writing for the boss...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Does It Bug You When I Do This?

After the huge job fiasco a couple weeks ago, I took a day or two to think about things, then asked my manager (a slightly senior peer) if she'd sit down with me and discuss where I could go from here, what the career path for any of us might be, etc. Totally non-confrontational. We made an appointment for the Thursday after Memorial Day, and I went about my business. I've been working from home part of the time lately, since my back's still hurting, so I was blithely checking my email from my kitchen table late Wednesday morning when I got a meeting request from her. It was for noon that day and it involved the PH Boss AND the HR director. At this point, I started checking for flights to Aruba...

To make matters worse, The Man was out with the car and I had no idea when he'd be back. I'd told him I planned to go in to the office after lunch, but that might be too late. He was trying to clear out our storage unit of the last few items, so the kids were hanging around the house-- I couldn't just call a cab (which, knowing the cabs around here, might have come too late anyway). So I explained my situation and told my manager that I'd be there on time if at all possible. Next thing I know, there's this email with bright-red exclamation points: "You need to be here! Do whatever it takes!!" OK, OK, fine.

By this time, I was getting pretty anxious. I had no appetite even if I'd had time to eat lunch. Fortunately, The Man got home in time, and we all piled into the car and rushed me to the office with a few minutes to spare. I even took the opportunity to finish up some work before going to the meeting. My manager had told me that the PHB wanted to explain why I didn't get the job and I have to admit that I joked, "You know, I can accept the rejection. It's OK if we skip the 'Why I suck' talk."

Well, apparently it wasn't, and that comment only made things worse. Because joking about work is verboten although nobody ever said. I've heard of places where they yell at you for posting Dilbert cartoons on your door, but I'd never seriously thought I worked for one. Until that day. I mustn't point out to anyone else that a national study shows that we are all underpaid; that is "each person's responsibility to find out for themselves," according to PHB. I mustn't imply that the boss's demands for us to do more work are pushing us too hard-- or even me personally. Oh yes, and I mustn't make faces or roll my eyes in meetings. (This comic appeared the day after this conversation; no kidding.) It was bad of me to be honest in my interview, too, and bad of me to work from home, despite the fact that it's been a condition of my employment since I started here. I only do it because I'm too cheap to get childcare, she says. I did point out that Hubby Dearest IS my childcare, and he's on duty 24/7, but the truth is no defense. Oh, and I'm getting demoted for certain.

The next day I found myself interviewing a woman for the position I didn't get. She knows very little about anything we do or anything our customers do, but she's got an MBA and an assertive personality. (Again, see the 6/2 Dilbert cartoon.) Fortunately, I can be a graceful loser, and I think she'll do a fine job. The bosses keep asking me how I feel about her being hired; I don't think they believe me when I say, "I'm thrilled! She's great!" What I'm thinking is, "She has a better chance than anyone of seeing through the PHB and telling her where to get off." Not that she necessarily will, of course, but she might someday.

Meanwhile, enjoy this little ditty penned by my delightful husband himself in honor of my disastrous career situation. It cheers me right up.