Monday, October 26, 2009

A grand adventure

First things first: Isaac's lip did heal. He's back in the game. I was seriously freaked out, but now am better. Thank you.

Sunday I decided to blow the kids minds and take them on an adventure... an adventure in public transportation. Isaac has been talking about busses and trains for a year - CAN WE GO ON A TRAIN? WHEN? WHEN? So this weekend, Pamela was out of pocket for most of Sunday doing an insane and extravagant flower arrangement to welcome the new pastor to her church... and I got to take the kids on an adventure with dad. Sunday morning, we piled onto the 6U bus headed downtown at around 10am.

Isaac was beside himself: We're on a BUS? WOW! Bella was much cooler about this, since she's been taking the yellow school bus for a while now, but she was fascinated by the differences - the seats, the advertising, the lighting, the paybox, the transfers... many many questions. I pointed out the city as it rolled past. Once downtown, we walked to the light rail stop and hopped on the train out to the Mall of America. Both Isaac and Bella commented that the train wasn't quite what they expected - it was so QUIET! And low to the ground! They have memories of the big clunky commuter train in Palatine, and the Light Rail is a different beast entirely. Once we got onto the rails and off the street they started to appreciate it more.

We got to the Mall in good time - the total transit was about an hour, so not really the BEST for the kids, but they were well entertained. A whole gang of people coming from an Eckankar meeting got on and were laughing uproariously at two in their part (who were German), eating bananas. Laughing a lot more than the situation indicated, really, but hey, let that light shine. A woman sat with me and chatted up the kids - she had been an 8th grade schoolteacher for 40 years, and knew how to engage them.

Once at the Mall, it was wallets open for fun and full steam ahead. We went through Underwater World, which blew all of our minds: What a great aquarium! They have Sawfish! SAWFISH! I assumed those only existed in Warner Brothers Cartoons. Bella loved the turtles - even the VW Bus sized one. After a quick lunch, we went into the amusement park, and blew through $20 in "points" on a number of rides: Isaac is now tall enough to go on rides with his big sister, and his big sister is now big enough to accept the savage thrills of the kiddie rides in good grace. I got to watch them sitting together on the Big Rigs, the Blues Clues airplane dogs... Though when it came time for the Merry Go Round, Bella insisted on finding an animal that did NOT go up and down. A sturdy camel did the trick, while next to her, Isaac whooped it up on a rabbit that DID go up and down.

We stopped at a cake decorating contest and decorated a pair of cupcakes for later, and then went back through the aquarium again. This time, we spent extra time "playing" with the starfish and crabs, who really didn't have time for us - being busy all inanimate-like. Helping with the Starfish petting area was a nice lady dressed as a zombie surgeon. I mean a surgeon who is also a zombie, not a surgeon who specializes in operating on zombies. We had to clear that up.

The hour of rides home was longer than the ride there, and Isaac was clearly tired. He had a 3 minute liedown with a didda, but then went right into flirting with an early 20-something girl who looked a bit like the kind of people I was hanging out with in my early 20s - punk-lite but with a smile. She was journaling or sketching or something, and having a great time peeking at Isaac. Bella and I had our own cuddle.

It was a wonderful day - and the kids were fantastic: Isaac stayed close and listened, Bella was a great helper, and she was obviously having fun. Apart from the food and experiences, we bought nothing (though I would have totally sprung for a plush Yo Gabba Gabba set if one existed).

Back home, we all relaxed and built up our reserves for the week ahead.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Not again!

I got home safely, if a little late, and was happy to find we were having the neighbors over for a Pizza Party - good company, Jenny as a playmate for the kids, and fooooood. Not much to report on the dinner, BUT... after dinner we were having some dessert in the living room when 2 of the 3 kids burst in yelling about something silly (they wanted to put on a show), and pulling up the rear came Isaac.

Isaac had a red bloody mouth, with blood all over his shirt, and had dripped a red trail from the kitchen, and was screaming.

After the surgery this week, we were absolutely terrified: Pamela picked him up for comfort, I started getting ready for the trip to Children's Hospital... fortunately, JeMae is a triage nurse and was able to help us assess the situation, with some detective work.

As near as we can figure, all 3 decided to bolt from the kitchen at top speed to surprise us, but Isaac tripped and fell flat on the floor. His remaining front tooth gashed into his lower lip, actually breaking through the front just a little. We gave a cool cloth, some ambesol, and some tylenol, and isaac began to calm down and the blood slowed. JeMae took a look and let us know that it WASN'T the surgery site, so that's not a worry - this was a classic "bit lip" and the hole wasn't big enough for stitches, nor were any teeth loose, so we're better off just letting him rest.

So Pamela and Isaac went up to bed, and Isaac slept well. He did wake at 2:30 in pain again, and I gave more medicine...

By this morning, he was back in great spirits and insisted on going to swimming class, and then we went to Bachmann's for quiche (yes the site of the first Dental Emergency)

Around noon, he started shrieking again, and I gave him more ibuprofen and ambesol, and he's napping now.

The poor kid. It's just too sad to mention.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Why is there a "Dr Andrew Weil" brand of granola snack bars? This is not a good thing.

Why am I doomed to love TV shows that are pre-empted at the drop of a hat? Dollhouse is put on hiatus (again) into December, and Fringe is pre-empted by the AL Playoffs? These are shows that give me happiness. Let me have them.

Why did Caesar's Atlantic City run a pre-auth on my credit card for $350 when I was staying for one night, and the room rate was $130? I mean, sure I might order the Beluga Caviar service with Dom Perignon, through room service... Maybe.

Why do Video Slot Machines even exist? Without the satisfying "clunk clunk chunk" of the wheels, the whole exercise boils down to a random number generator. Yes, they have animations, and funny pictures... but what possible fun is there in hitting a button and having it say "NO" or "YES", which is what it basically boils down to?

I gotta go.

Short Ones

1) Bella has taken to putting her favorite stuffed animals into a pillowcase and goes to sleep hugging the sack of them. She explained this to Pamela the other day:

"First, this way I can cuddle them all at the same time. Second, they're warmer in there together, and I threw in a little blanket for them to share. Finally, in case of a fire, I only need to grab the pillowcase to leave, and all my favorite animals are safe".

It reminded me of my "fire preparation plan" for our house growing up: I had a 2nd floor bedroom, and outside my window was a stand of tall pine trees. My plan was simply to throw open the window and leap out and grab a pine bough. I never practiced this, and in retrospect, I think the nearest pine branch was a good 8 feet from my window, which itself was 12 feet above the ground - tracing the arc of the fall, it's most likely I'd have a handful of needles, with the pine bough not slowing my descent in the least. It would have hurt.

But those practicalities mean little to a 2nd grade "fire safety chief", as I was. I had a PLAN.

2) I was able to escape Atlantic City with sanity intact. Walking around that town, even early in the AM, was a bit depressing. The place just reeked of old sweat and cigarette smoke. It was a long day though - 50 miles to Philly, drop Mike at the Airport, then another 60 miles up to Allentown. 4 hours of solid meetings with various groups, nonstop talking and note taking, then BACK to Philly for the evening.

I stayed at the Sheraton this time: While it's geographically closer to the client site, it's certainly not more convenient: From my Marriott, I walk 1/2 block to the Metro or Trolley, and get dropped off between 6 blocks (metro) and 2 blocks (Trolley) from the client site. The Sheraton, it's 6 blocks from the client site. No metro, but no drop-off-closer option. Plus it's $40 more a night, for which I'm not sure it's worth it even if it WAS a faster internet connection....

I did eat at the nouvel mexican place, and Fake Salma Hayek was nowhere to be found. But the food was good as usual. I made an appearance at my primary client this morning (finally), and am ready to hit the air for home. Crazy week, but a good week.

Oh, and no word on Florida yet - might have a call on this next week. My main competition is a guy who has a whole website built to create the illusion that he's a big company with dozens of top quality resources, but it's actually just him. He includes several pages of his "philosophy" on projects. I don't like it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Atlantic City

Hoo boy. Not really sure where to start. The drive in was gorgeous - a turnpike lined with brightly changing trees, only flattening out at the very end, when the road literally spilled us right into the parking garage of Caesar's on the boardwalk. Wandered through the skyway to eventually find the front desk, in an absurdly large chamber with a 20 foot statue of Caesar Augustus, overshadowed only by the comically large frying pan on a fake fire (advertising some Emeril-endorsed venture) that a 5 year old kid kept leaping at, hoping to clamber up on the handle.

I was given a key to "Suite 2536", and I was struck with two thoughts: 1) Wow, high room!, and 2) the building didn't look that tall from the street. Sure enough, I got into the elevator and saw the floors: 1, 2, 3, 4, 25, 26.... Yep. My scenic vista is of the airconditioning units. Also, the floodlights that illuminate the building are a mere 4 feet from my window. Fortunately blackout shade technology is pretty advanced, and I did have a dark room to sleep in.

After a few hours of work, I met up with Mike in the lobby. Mike was my boss at the last job and helped engineer a soft landing into my current happy place. We have a tradition of having fun in big cities, and when he got a call to do a sales trip to Atlantic City, he called me up and asked if I'd join him - dinner on him. With AC being just 50 miles from Philly, plus hotels very hard to find this week in Philly anyway, I said sure!

We found a row of restaurants - all "brand extensions" of more famous restaurants - Phillip's Seafood, Continental, Buddacon, and heartbreakingly, Sonsie. Sonsie is a beautiful place in the Boston BackBay and has a lot of memories for me (and for Mike, actually). It's where Pamela and I shared breakfast on the morning we learned of Lady Diana's death, for one. Mike saw Stephen Tyler of Aerosmith at Sonsie one time, too. And now it's a "Brand". Sigh. We couldn't bring ourselves to eat there, so we enjoyed the asian-fusion flava of Buddacon, which was pretty ok. They had Talisker at the bar, and I was astonished to see how much they were pouring for $14. Easily a double, if not a triple. One would have been enough, but I had two.

Then it was off to the Casino. Happily they have smoke-free areas.

I'll leave the details out, but I'd just like to have it out there that I went in with $60, and left with $60. My numbers went up and down... but never really did anything. Mike went in with $100, and left with $1,400. That's Mike for you. He walked up to a quarter slots machine, put in a $5 bill, and won $125. He hit 3 of a kind AND a straight at the 3-card poker table. Blackjack was more of a controlled bleeding - up then down then up then down... but you do blackjack for fun, not profit.

At the end, we accidentally ventured into the smoking part of the Casino, and Mike lost $300 in rapid fire at a 3-card poker table run by a sinister man with shiny rings on his fingers... We took that as our cue to escape, and I was asleep before midnight.

This morning, I got up not feeling bad (which if you know anything about evenings out with Mike, you know they usually end with a headache), but desperate for coffee. The Starbucks I had spotted the night before in the Pier mall was blocked by a burly security guard - the mall's not open until 11. What sort of cruel world is it when there's a starbucks that is NOT OPEN at 7:30am for a guy who needs an espresso? I hit the internet and found another one, out in the "real world".

That meant I needed to find a way OUT of the Caesar's complex first. Several false starts kept me going through skyways to other Trump properties - and no signs for "Exit to Street Level". Finally I found a sign for "Bus Lobby" - I figured Busses are on the ground. And yes, it was an exit. I just had to weave through a throng of bleary eyed gamblers who were headed "home". The Starbucks wound up being 3 blocks away, in the middle of an outdoor shopping plaza, and I enjoyed a quad espresso with the entire Atlantic City police force.

It's back to Philly this morning, then straight out to Allentown. I guess some sports team in Philly did a good thing last night - so I expect a bit of mayhem.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jack o Lantern - The Day

This AM we got up early, carried a sleepy Bella over to the neighbors house (who got her off to school for us), and drove to Children's Minnetonka for Isaac's procedure. Even at 6:30am, everyone was very very nice and chipper, and boy did they have a system for making everyone feel at ease. Lots of open play space for Isaac, and everyone including the nurse, the anesthesiologist, and the Surgeon came by for a talk, and everyone checked the wristbands and verbally confirmed what was going to happen....

At 7:30 we were brought into the operating theater, and they gave Isaac a two stage gas knock out: I held him for it, and watched him smile from the laughing gas, then his eyes roll up with the knock out. They say that some kids fight the knock out and writhe and cry, but Isaac just went out with a little wiggle.

For the record: I would prefer to never be in the position of holding my child as his eyes roll back into his head again and his body goes limp. It was eerie.

The procedure went quickly - just 10 minutes later, the surgeon emerged, gave us the tooth, and told us that in all of his years, he had never seen a kid so peaceful before the procedure, and go under so uneventfully. He said that when they go down smooth, they usually wake up smooth... And 15 minutes later he was awake in the recovery room. We cuddled him for 30 minutes watching PBS kids, while he enjoyed a popsicle.

He was in good spirits coming home, and we watched a few Yo Gabba Gabbas together, while I got caught up at work. By 10, everyone was yawning, and we launched into a collective nap upstairs. An hour later I got up, and went to work on the laptop, and the rest joined me up 3 hours later (!!!). After the big nap, isaac was in a great mood and wanted to play and wrestle, so we did play and wrestle like maniacs. Then he forced me to take him to Target because he wanted "A Racecar". The evening was spent with Lightning McQueen and Big Mac, zooming around the dining room table.

Bella dragged home after 7, having done a full day of school, plus her first day of Synchronized Swimming (our little Esther Williams), and was asleep before Isaac, amazingly. But while they were up, Bella was excitedly telling Isaac "WE HAVE THE SAME MISSING TOOTH NOW!!!" and Isaac was proud of his gap tooth "It's JUST LIKE BELLA!!!"

So it's off to bed now, and I'm hitting Philly tomorrow for a short week. Now that I know Isaac is ok, I feel allright about leaving.

Northwest decided I really needed to sleep in and proactively canceled my 7am flight (on account of weather... which isn't actually coming), putting me on a 10:45 flight instead, which completely messed what I had planned for this short week. But a few deep breaths later, I discovered that all is recoverable. And there's a huge convention in Philly this week, hotel rooms are scarce, so I decided to finally bit the bullet and try out Atlantic City (a mere 40 min drive). I'll write with a full report.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jack o Lantern

ou may recall last year when my Isaac had an unfortunate rendezvous with a stair and wound up with 26 stitches. Well, this morning he went to the dentist, and we discovered that in the year since then, one of his front top teeth has "died" and is abscessed - and is probably giving him some pain. So we have an appointment for Tuesday AM for him to go to an oral surgeon to clean it all up and remove that tooth.

And so my boy will have a missing front tooth for the next 4 years until his permanent one comes in. And I know he'll be just as charming and adorable, and I think it'll help his mood not to be in pain - not that he ever lets us know about that - he's such a happy guy I think he just shrugs it off. And strangely, there's neighborhood precedent: Theo up the block had one of his top front teeth knocked out when he was very small (I think 2 1/2), he's 5 now. So gap toothed boys are getting to be a bit of the fashion in the neighborhood.

But it's emotional, and Isaac does have such a wonderful smile today. I'd be lying to say it doesn't bring a tear to my eye. We had a lot of hugs today.

It was a long week in Philly - a lot of running around: One day in Allentown, one morning and one evening in New Jersey, and a lot of time working working working. I had a big deliverable due for Friday, but by Wednesday, we had acquired sufficient new information as to some costs involved AND some change in scope of projects we would be relying upon, we decided to shelve the presentation and take ourselves off the agenda.

And some of the ways in which we are seeing our project change are going to cause some big changes in my involvement: This may wind up turning into an internal process improvement project, along with a scope increase for their electronic medical record project, both of which would be handled by default by their internal teams. I may spend 2-3 more months getting everything arranged, and then shuffle off to let them act upon it.

Which might not be a bad thing, because a requirement came down the pike for a project manager in Fort Myers Florida that I'm the only person in the company with the right credentials for. So spending 50% time in sunny Florida starting in November might not be the worst idea... and Pamela may even want to bring the kiddos on down!

As a long week, I didn't come home Thursday, but instead caught a morning flight today. And for the second time in a week, I had an evening out with a co-worker - this time one of my pals from the Jersey project. We met for drinks and food at El Vez in Center City Philly - 3 blocks from my hotel, and a cab ride for him. We had some margaritas, and good laughs. The evening ended with two barely sipped absinthe cocktails and a stumble home... but I'm alive today.

After the madness of the past many weekends, it'll be nice to have a somewhat under-scheduled weekend ahead. We had my Dad and Karen over for pizza tonight, and the kids were out of their minds - lots of showing off and wrestling. Bella was asleep by 8:30, which speaks to how zonked she was. Tomorrow is pretty open, and after the kids go to bed, I'll have my Avengers over for late night basement haunting. Because I need my boys.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fear not

Yes gentle readers, the night passed without incident, the police and fire departments were not called.

In fact, I think that the histamine reaction I had from the bites of chocolate cake so thoroughly distracted my body that it almost forgot to react to the shrimp in the predicted manner. ALMOST.

Thank you for your cards and letters. It means a lot.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Preparing to explode

I just got back from a wonderful dinner with my not-really-client John who helped me find this gig in Philly, with his wife and 18 month old son. They live in a cool converted warehouse space with one really big room, and the son sleeps behind a curtain - cool urban living, but they're already contemplating a move.

To prepare I had given John my two "watch out" foods - Sensitive to dairy, and can't do walnuts. He wrote back regretting that he won't be able to make his cheese and walnut pot pie... and all seemed to be going to plan. My spidey sense tingled however, and I loaded up on the allergy meds before heading over.

He met me at the train and took me to the swanky pad, where we were greeted by a big dog - of the "i'm allergic to it" sort. But I was friendly. I played with the boy, some sharing of crackers, some piggy back rides, some "my what a lumpy sofa" play. Then he was off to bed and dinner came out.

Shrimp Stir Fry.

Now, I rarely talk about shrimp: I don't think of it much. And it's something I don't mind eating. But shrimp has an effect on me. It gives me uproarious gas. But having already talked about allergies, I didn't think it right to say no, plus I figured I usually have an hour or two before the party begins, so I'd be back at the hotel... By this point, I didn't even blink at the flourless chocolate cake for dessert: I just ate the damn thing, and will deal with the breakout.

I'm back at the hotel now, waiting for the fireworks.

On the plus side, we had a great evening - we get along well, and we even kept the shop talk restrained and involved his wife: She is a nurse, and had great stories about the clinic she works at... as well as her time in the Dominican Republic - she did free clinic work there last year, and it made a huge impression on her.

I'm going to hit the hay early and hope I don't go into anaphylactic shock before the morning, when I need to pick up a Zipcar and drive to Allentown for a one day IT assessment. Love my work!

That's about it for now!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The lingering yuck

So I've been mostly well, but have had moments of fading in and out of wellness: For a day I thought "Sinus infection", another day "Exhaustion". Today, there was an accidental 3 hour nap. I'm up too late, but am headed up in just a few minutes.

We're on deathwatch with Pamela's iMac again: This time it's the logic board... but this is the only problem I've had since I bought 3 years ago... and we do know how the lifespan of computers is not all that long anymore. It's just a month beyond its 3 year warranty, so this one will be a good $800 to fix, so we're better off going for a new machine. But the problem is intermittent, and at least it's not data related - our songs and pictures are safe, unlike the hell I documented a few years back. (The sharp eyed will note that yes, there was a data problem with this computer last summer, but it was with an external hard drive, not the computer itself). But I'm looking at another computer purchase sometime in the next few weeks, I suppose! Sigh.

Jimmy's techno mojo continues, because the cordless phones we bought last year are all expiring too - holding a charge for around 10 minutes of talk time before abruptly disconnecting. Seriously, what am I doing wrong???

It was a good day with the kids - we bought pumpkins and had lunch at Chipotle. Bella built a lego helicopter. Isaac jumped off of things over and over again and didn't get hurt. Zinsser walked to to door and barked when he needed to go potty, and didn't have any accidents. And Pamela even got a nap in too. We're switching the decor over to fall (though based on today, maybe we should skip it and head straight into winter decor! SNOW on Oct 10?)

Allright I'm headed up. Pamela is vegging to some Food Network, and that's ok. I stayed up too late watching the Tivo of Dollhouse and Fringe, AND getting caught up on So you think you can Dance. So yeah, the only TV I care about is on Fox. CRAZY.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Happy Birthday Bella!

Today she is seven. Wow. WOW.

My cold is gone, but I'm still a bit under the weather: I've been working pretty hard this week, and late into the evenings, so I think that "sick" is just replaced by "exhausted".

So instead of staying up blogging tonight, I will go to bed. NOW.

(But if you're dying for some good Jimmy Stories, click on the Tales from the Nineties link to the right. I got stories)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Fully Better

I'm back, baby. BACK. Just in time to head back to Philly. Sigh.

The weekend was fifteen kinds of crazy, thanks to Pamela being out of town (in Chicago participating in Senior Year homecoming activities for Bailey and Ty, the twins I've known since they were mere months old). I couldn't go, but I did hold down the fort.

And it was a whirlwind of a weekend: I had 8 kids in the basement for much of Saturday, Isaac didn't nap at any time, and I even squeezed in an Avengers gathering. But we were all thrilled to see Pamela back today.

It's a short update - The alarm will ring in under 7 hours, so I've got to go get that head on the pillow. More updates from the hotel tomorrow. I promise.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A little better

Headed home now on an early flight, and I'm looking forward to meeting Pamela at the airport for a lunch date before she heads off to Chicago for the weekend. It will be very futuristic, and if it was in a movie it would be symbolic. But it's actually just nice.

The cold moved on from the nose and decided to visit the lungs for a while. Good rattly coughs. I should be a real pleasure on the airplane. I'm medicated.

Did I mention it's early and I'm tired?