Friday, March 28, 2008

Minneapolis - Day Four

Today was a pretty standard conference day. Sessions until 2pm (including lunch with Nancy Pearl), then I hit the exhibit hall. Kim Harrison (a very popular paranormal romance author) was giving away/signing books, so I got one for myself, and as a bonus, Laura Lippman was also signing at the same booth and I got her book (free again) signed as well. I also picked up an ARC (Advance Reading Copy for those not in the biz) for Chris and his coworkers... a biographical account of some nastiness in the current war. I also happened upon the Romance Writers of America booth, where ANOTHER paranormal romance writer was signing books... AND I'd never read her... so I got her first (in a series of three so far) and she signed it for me. It looks really good.

The highlight of the day was heading over to St. Paul to see a Wild/Canucks game at the Xcel Energy Center. Here's me with the legendary Herb Brooks (he's the guy who coached the Miracle on Ice team in 1980... you know... Kurt Russell):

Tomorrow is the final day of the conference, with several sessions in the morning and the closing speaker in the afternoon (Paula Poundstone). We haven't decided for sure what we'll do with our evening, but I know I will need to get gifts for the kids as I haven't quite found the right thing yet. Sarah (my roomie) also knows of a piano/polka bar which we are dying to experience, so that's on the list as well.

Sunday will allow us to sleep in, as our plane doesn't depart until 2pm. I didn't fly American or Delta, so here's hoping everything will go smoothly.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Minneapolis - Days Two and Three

Yesterday was fabulous here. My morning session was a "Book Buzz" session where I learned about lots of new stuff coming out direct from publishers. Apparently, there are opportunities to get lots of free stuff including Advanced Reading Copies in the exhibit hall, but I don't do well in crowds and I hate begging for free stuff, so I chose to hit the exhibits late enough that crowds thinned and I could actually talk to any vendors there that I actually might want to speak with. I only hit about one sixth of the room... I'll get to the rest over the remainder of the conference.

By far the unexpected highlight of the day was the keynote speech from John Wood, an ex-Microsoft executive turned philanthropist. His organization is Room to Read. Go give them all your money. Seriously. At least see what they do. It's nothing short of saintly. And I am not easily impressed.

We ended the day at The News Room... a good restaurant/bar downtown, where almost the whole contingent from my library system met up with almost the whole Durham County contingent. Unfortunately, we mostly sat with our own folk, which didn't lend to much idea sharing, but it was a nice meal, regardless. At the very least, I was able to talk to the person who approves all conference attendance for our system about going to DragonCon this year, and she reacted very favorably. YAY!

Today was when the real intense sessions began. My first session was about recommending books to teens, the second was about modern library design, and then I had lunch with Pauline and Arthur Frommer (of the famous travel guides). Well, me and about 500 of my closest friends...

By now, it was 2pm, and I tried to make it through a session on dealing with Law Enforcement requests (Patriot Act, Intellectual Freedom, and what to do when someone waves a subpeona in your face). It is stuff I really need to know, but the legal-ese and the repetition of phrases and of course the post-lunch slump did me in. I spent the rest of the day knocking out a killer headache, trolling another quarter of the exhibit hall, and coming back to the room. Once I post this, I'm off to check email.

I miss Chris and the kids terribly, and I haven't been able to talk to them much. The signal in the conference center has been touchy, and when I do call, Athena doesn't want to chat. Hopefully she misses me and will welcome me back into the house... but I imagine she's pretty much taken over for me in my absense.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Minneapolis - Day One

We arrived around 10:30am, grabbed our bags, and headed toward hotels. There were nine of us on the plane, and Leadership team rented a seven-passenger van. Despite all that room, only the five that were actually members of our "executive management" chose to take the van. Two others took a cab, and my roomie and I (a colleague from my old branch in Garner) chose the very inexpensive train option. $1.50 later we were downtown, and three blocks from there, we were in the warmth of a building (right after passing the famous statues of Mary Tyler Moore tossing up her hat).

It's actually not as cold as I imagined it would feel, and Minneapolis has been kind enough and ingenious enough to develop a skyway system (which my roomie and I affectionately call the habitrail). Our walk to the conference center equals about six blocks, but we pass through various office buildings AND Macy's mens' department on the way. It's not a bad little journey, and there is no need to go outside at all. In fact, when we head in for the day, we'll probably not even take jackets.

Today is a fairly light schedule. At 10:30, Nancy Pearl (the only celebrity librarian I know of) is speaking along with several publishers about new books coming out. That lets out at noon, and the formal opening session is at 2:30. The vendors don't even open their doors until 4pm. So we've had time to peruse the schedule of events (set to be far more hectic after today) and plan our attack, plus we've been able to relax and enjoy the city a bit.

We hit the Mall of America last night, but spent most of our time at a restaurant. The amusement park inside has recently been redone (although I have never seen it before... so it was all new to me anyway). The theme has changed from Snoopy/Peanuts to Nickelodeon. Athena would love it. We didn't have a chance to explore it, but the train goes there, so we may go back on Saturday once the sessions are finished. We'll see.

I'm going to dial into work and get through some emails now before Nancy hits the stage.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Leaving On a Jet Plane

I'm off to the frozen north tomorrow. Minneapolis. Cold. Speaking of which, I have one. A cold that is. It kicked it around Friday night, and despite my best efforts to hold it off, it has managed to creep down from my sinuses (where it is still happily dwelling) into my throat. Sort of a Manifest Destiny situation. This would be fine except... well, did I mention I'm getting on a plane tomorrow? I did. Yes, well... it bears repeating...

I'm getting on a plane WITH a freaking head cold. (I have the cold, mind you... not the plane... which would be just silly, right? Although planes do have noses...)

Hmmmm... how many Benadryl did I take?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Joy

We got to sleep in until 9:30! This was enough to make the day go well. However, Chris and I both have some sort of head cold/allergy combination that is pretty much kicking our butts.

Despite that, my morning shower energized me, and I went downstairs to make strawberry waffles. This was met by unanimous approval, including my husband saying that we should have these more often... We'll see, I say.

To make said waffles, I had to clean two nights worth of dishes first AND start the dishwasher (after emptying and refilling). One of the side effects of our budget-minded resolution to eat more meals at home results in a lot more dishes. Now I remember why I ate out all the time.

After breakfast (MORE dishes), I got to relax for about thirty minutes while we watched Barbie as Rapunzel (a movie the Easter Bunny was gracious enough to get for us... I'm guessing because it was on sale at Target for $5. Just guessing, of course. Athena played with her new Barbie horse, and Marcus played with his new Pooh phone. The books they got were largely ignored, although Athena did ask me to read hers to her once. Marcus also got a movie... 101 Dalmations (I'm guessing because the Easter Bunny had a gift certificate to Best Buy), and we haven't watched that yet.

After my 30 minutes on the couch, I started Easter dinner. Fortunately, my mother-in-law offered to make everything and bring it over... my only responsibility was the meat. So I rubbed down a big hunk of lamb (sorry to the gentler folks out there... I am a carnivore) with garlic and rosemary and popped it into the oven. Then I did some more dishes.

We were expecting company around 1pm, so I made an appetizer (Hitipi with pita chips) and set it out. Company arrived (Mom, Mom-in-law, Grandpa, Great Grandma, and Brant). Marcus was napping, but the rest of us ate around 2pm. Except Athena, who has suddenly decided she doesn't like potatoes (or peas, or lamb, or... as it turns out... dessert). I had a glass of wine, which was probably a mistake with my head cold, so after the meal, I wanted nothing but a nap.

Mom and Mom-in-law did most (but not all) of the dishes allowing Chris and me to rest and Brant kept the kids entertained (Marcus was awake by now).

The rest of the evening has been fairly low-key. Athena and Marcus are watching Dora and then Diego and then they are off to bed. I have to finish putting laundry away, do some MORE dishes, then I plan to be in bed by 9pm. I also will pack for my trip tonight. I don't leave until Tuesday, but I might as well get it done so I can enjoy my evening with the kids tomorrow.

And that was my Easter.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Glamorous Life

As a librarian, travel opportunities are rare. And when they come along, they are often as anti-glamorous as you would expect. And here's proof.

Tuesday, I leave for the PLA (Public Library Association) Conference in BEE-Utiful Minneapolis. I return the following Sunday. Over those six days, the average temp is expected to be 30 degrees F.

The F stands for F**king Cold.

Today, it was 70 degrees F here.

The F stands for Fabulous.

My F's are all "F"ed up.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I've Been Served?

Apparently, Jessey served anyone who would rise to the challenge. And here I am.

Unfortunately, the kids were in bed by the time I saw her challenge, so I am forced to either wake them and bid them to dance for me, or (so I don't get a visit from social services), I have to give you old stuff.

Enjoy. (Taken July, 2005, when Athena was one, and Marcus was brand-spanking new--all signs point to me getting pregnant sometime the week before this was taken).

It's Alive! It's Alive!

Today is a glorious day. For today, a friend came over and looked at my father-in-law's car. Not only did he look at it, but he got it running. This is step one in what I hope will be a short process to rid ourselves of said car.

Don't get me wrong... it's a great little car. But it moved into our garage almost four years ago when Chris' dad passed away, and it's been tied up in The Suck (the estate) since then. We haven't touched it, except to pile crap on it and to kick it whenever I realized that I could have lots more usable storage space if a car that isn't mine wasn't rotting away in my garage.

Fortunately, it did not rot. And I believe I have two possible homes for it once it is fixed up. It needs a good deal of general maintenance, as you can imagine, but said friend was able to drive it to the gas station and back, and fill the tires without serious ramifications.

It's now up to Chris to finalize the paperwork and get it to the mechanic in town. I will be in Minnesota next week for a conference, but I have faith that when I return, I will once again have a garage.

Let the Spring Cleaning begin! Woot!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

I'm way past my jealousy of my sister. Way past it. I mean, it doesn't bother me in the least that she once chatted with Bill Murray for about fifteen minutes before a Broadway show once, just because she actually had the nerve to approach him when she spotted him down the row from her.

And I don't even care that she talked to Elizabeth Taylor for quite some time at a Macy's event she was working.

And certainly, it doesn't faze me in the least that she just traveled to Japan on business. I mean, she did send us all some way cool kimonos.

So I am CERTAINLY not jealous that she is turning Times Square into a Buddhist Garden on Thursday as a publicity event for a Japanese Buddhist organization. A stunt that will be on all the major networks' morning shows (tune into your favorite and marvel at her skillz). And besides, who really wants to escort Mira Sorvino to an awards ceremony so she can get some recognition for her peace efforts? Really. I mean, besides my husband, who would have ulterior motives anyway. Who cares?

*uh... am I looking a bit green to you?*

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Freakin' Finally!

I've been wrestling with Windows Movie Maker for months now... ever since I got my new laptop with Vista. Bleh.

Anyway, I have all this footage I want movies of, so I decided to try a little piece of software that came with the Vaio. It doesn't give me a lot of freedom, but the end result isn't bad. Here's some stuff from our November trip to Disney. Hopefully I'll post Thanksgiving soon.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thanks, Grandma!

The hit gift of the afternoon was from grandma, and was brought all the way from Jolly Old England. Fortunately, as cute as it is, I think grandma and grandpa are willing to let it live at their house to be enjoyed during visits with them. Here's why:

No Messin' Around

That's my boy...
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He's Two! (Well, in Two Days)

Pay no attention to the frosting on this cake. Let's just say Non-Stick Aluminum Foil may be a bit of false advertising. Do pay attention to the blue drink, so colored due to the hella-cool ice cube I got in a drink at Disney. Let no one say my drinking does not benefit my kids in some way...
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This was taken after a particularly vigorous session of dress up with her buddy downtown. The blackened teeth are not poor oral hygiene, but are rather the result of eating sugar cookies with black sprinkles.
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Friday, March 14, 2008

From The Answering Machine of...

Please note that the following message is based on an actual call. Some items have been embellished or paraphrased to offer the gentle reader some context and to enhance the humor, but all-in-all, it was a pretty damn funny message on its own.

Sunday, March 9, 5:30pm
Hi, uh... Elizabeth. This is Kathryn. First, thanks for having us over on Friday evening. As always, we had a great time, and it was fun to laugh over Megan's imaginary illness. Bummer that kept us from seeing The Other Boleyn Girl together, but what can you do?
So, um... about that imaginary illness... you know... those dots that daycare thought was a rash but the doctor said were just dots? Well, as it turns out, Megan does have Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. It's pretty contagious. So, uh... sorry. *click*

And I Thought We Loved Penguins

Apparently, Louden, VA doesn't love penguins. Or at least one jerk of a superintendent doesn't.

I am apathetic about many things. This is not one of them. I apologize for being late in sharing this. I'm catching up on my professional reading.

I may buy this book this weekend for Marcus' birthday.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Potty Training Hell

We are currently in Potty Training Hell. Apparently, my worst fear is coming to fruition. I have this terrible concern that I will be unable to ever completely potty train my children. And Athena apparently believes it too.

But why do I even have this terrible paranoia? Oddly, it's my dog.

When I got Murphy, I asked the nice, pimply-faced pet store employee (yes, I bought her at a pet store, and yes, I feel guilty about that) how easy it was to housebreak a dog. I asked this because I had never had a dog and didn't have a clue about the best way to do it. He assured me, in no uncertain terms, that it was very easy. He explained crate training to me, I listened, and I obeyed.

Murphy, unfortunately, did not.

So I took her to a K-9 trainer in a sort of desperation. Murphy learned to sit, stay, lie down, and heel. She was brilliant! They recommended she enter advanced training for things like obstacle courses and frisbee catching. I said I'd enroll her as soon as she was housebroken.

What? Not housebroken? They seemed puzzled. So they offered something really special. They knew I was going to Europe for a couple of weeks that summer. So they offered to board her and housebreak her while I was gone. The cost was reasonable, and their work was guaranteed.

I went to Italy, Greece, and France, and dreamed of returning home to a really well-trained dog. And once again, Murphy crushed my dreams in her cute little paws.

I was told that despite their best efforts, they could not housebreak my dog. These were professionals. They train police dogs to sniff out drugs and take out bad guys. Yet my little princess would look them in the eyes and pee squarely in the middle of their kitchen floor.

They returned my dog to me, tore up my bill, and made me promise to never return.

I will say, this story does have more of a happy ending than you might think. When Murphy grew ill a few years ago, they began to medicate her for her liver issues. Suddenly, and without warning, Murphy ceased to have accidents in the house. She was 13. That's 91 in dog years.

Athena had three accidents at school today. She was doing beautifully last week. This week has simply fallen apart. I am at a loss. I don't have a K-9 school equivalent. And with my track record, it wouldn't matter if I did.

Let's just hope that it doesn't take medication and/or 87 more years for this to stick.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Extra Long Dry Spell

Yes, we do have a lack of rain here in good old NC, but I'm actually talking about my own dry spell. No posts for weeks? What up, yo?

Well, I certainly have a few things to post about, but my energy has been pushed completely into work lately. And if I'm emotionally drained when I get home, I don't really need to unload through writing. Consequentially, you get nothing to read. I am sorry, and I hope you all haven't given up on me. Here's a little for those of you who have been gracious enough to stick it out.

Small children lead to a constant flow of stuff changing in your house. We are constantly cycling through clothing, shoes, toys, etc. A few weeks ago, I packed up EIGHT BOXES of crap the kids can't wear anymore. I gave one box of girl things to Kathryn because it's stuff that's too small for Sophie's little girl. The other SEVEN boxes will be mailed to Sophie soon for the future Brian Jr. (Did you hear that, Sophie? Seven! Mostly boy clothes! So glad you did things in the right order!)

Then we're also cutting way back on our expenses, which hasn't really curbed the flow of crap into our house. Instead, we cut out the bulk of our eating out, as we discovered that we were spending an absurd amount of money in restaurants each week. So I still go to Target and end up with MORE clothing for the kids... namely Hello Kitty shirts for Athena, who has become obsessed. She calls it Hallo Kitty, which is so darn cute you have to buy the damn stuff. That, and we're using it to bribe her to use the potty, with surprising success. Her gift yesterday for getting 11 potty stickers was the Annie movie on DVD, which she was upset about because she was expecting Barbie. However, ten bars of "Maybe" and she was hooked.

Mom is taking me to Disney in May. We wanted to do a girl's weekend, and she knew I'd like it. Next year, she is promising to take me AND Chris to Europe... Scotland maybe. I'm stoked. She will not take the kids, however, because they are too young to go to Europe, in her opinion. I think she should tell that to all those European babies...

Athena's favorite phrase now is "butt-butt." I TRY to get her to say bum-bum as it isn't quite as crass, but that doesn't have the same ring to her. She says it all the time. Yesterday in the car on the way home from daycare, I got the butt-butt rendition of Rudolph:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Butt-Butt
Had a very shiny butt-butt
And if you ever butt-butt
You would even say it butt-butts

Amy, you SURE you don't want to have kids? They are only two for a little while.

By the way, Marcus has a full vocabulary now. He's growing up so fast. Good thing we're broke or I'd totally have another.