Friday, May 28, 2010

Virtual tech support

“I’m going to have to put the phone down for a sec,” I sighed and said to the tech support rep. I was having trouble shouldering my phone and reinserting the dual in-line memory module into my laptop simultaneously.

I had to look up the documentation online to take it out in the first place – thankfully I had another working computer. I would’ve never guessed that this little board with its series of circuits was removable. The tech support rep assured me it was indeed an FRU.

“A what?” I’d asked her, slightly annoyed, at that point. With her guidance, I had tried all manner of magical combinations of tapping F keys, pressing the start button 20 times and then holding for 30 seconds when the battery was removed to discharge the power. After it was confirmed that I did indeed have tools “handy” (true – traipsing down to the basement is more “handy” than driving to my closest company office so someone else could perform these rituals) she suggested I remove the hard drive and blow into the slot before replacing it. Still my machine wouldn’t boot.

“Field replaceable unit,” she informed me. So, we had taken it out, and tried to restart the computer. “That’s good,” she had said when we heard a series of beeps. “Now shut the machine off, replace the memory, and try powering it back up. I’ll document all this while you do that.”

Still no dice.

Doing your own tech support is one of the biggest drawbacks of telecommuting. Another is that you can never really escape your job. However, that day, given the fact that I was going to be offline for at least 24 hours, I did enjoy a surprise escape, as I was forced to put work aside and blessed with the opportunity to just take care of the kids and house. Sure, I’d have a lot to catch up on when I was back up and running, but as my manager said when informed him of my status, “It happens to all of us at one time or another.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nothing better to do

“Don’t you have anything better to do on a Saturday morning at 8:30 than play baseball?”

“Well, not really…we were already here. My oldest has practice.” I pointed to the far field where we had arrived at 8:00.

We had been playing family baseball and had incorporated one of my middle son’s friends and his holder brother, as well as a few of the friend’s teammates who had shown up for practice early.

We were just doing some fielding drills.

When the coach arrived (and asked me if we didn’t have anything better to do), we moved to the adjacent field after a short foray into the lacrosse field while we waited for a dad and his son to finish batting practice (no one liked my idea of offering them outfield help – I don’t think they wanted to chase a bucket of balls). At that point, we just had our team of four -- my two younger sons, my middle son’s friend’s brother who plays in the majors, a division above my oldest’s, and me.

I pitched. My son has told me I’m pretty good – “for a lady.” I imagine that is a compliment. We both giggle at my rainbow pitches that arc real high before they land in the modified (no one can afford to be picky when there is no catcher and we only have two balls) strike zone.

We could all feel the love that day. My youngest got six “home runs,” all because the rest of us had so many “errors.” My middle son did not pitch a fit about anything and in fact, cheered his brother on. Our major-league friend congratulated me when I pitched successfully to him (I had never pitched to a lefty batter). I didn’t bat other than to whack balls at the three of them. Depending upon where my youngest was standing, either of the other two would back him up, because he missed just about everything I hit at him.

The funny thing was, all we had was a t-ball bat, which is really light and short. But my youngest was delighted that he could supply it. He doesn’t even play t-ball yet, but I let him get a bat while we were shopping for helmets for his older brothers.

I had a small cooler of snacks, and there was just enough to go around. My youngest split his bakery-sized chocolate chip muffin with our major-league friend. I had enough drinks and I don’t even know what else was in the small cooler but no one went without.

I couldn’t really imagine what would have been better to do than hang around at the ball field early on a Saturday morning – before it got too hot, and before the bugs came out (which it was, and they were when we returned to the field that afternoon for soccer).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The new currency

“Mom, mom, mom! Did you see my bracelet?” my middle son asked me urgently. He was packing up his things for school.

“Uhm, I think I saw it on the counter downstairs last night…”

“No, no, no—I had it when I was watching the movie last night.”

“Oh, honey, no. I don’t know where it is then.”

He looked miserable, but I knew he didn’t want to walk to school (i.e., miss the bus) so he trudged out the door to wait for the bus.

Later that day I found the twisted up gnarly little blue bracelet that had a piece of fuzz stuck to it. If I hadn’t known he was looking for it, I would have thrown it out.

I shoved it in my pocket so I’d have it when I picked him up that day. “Thanks, Mom!” His eyes lit up as he pulled it over his wrist.

“You’re welcome, honey.”

“So-and-so gave it to me. He has a whole ton of Silly Bandz. Can we get some Silly Bandz? They have them at the Exchange.”

“Uhmmm…Whoa! What’s special about it?”

He took it back off his wrist and showed me how (when it was untwisted) was the outline of a dog.

“Ohhh, yeah. Well, look at that! How much are they?”

“I think they’re only like $3.00.”

“For one!?”

“No – for a whole package!”

“Well, you have money, right?”

“Yeah. Can we go?”

“How about tomorrow after I pick you up?” We had already arrived home and it was past 6:00.


Well, the next day when we stopped at the store, they were all out of them. My son’s dramatic disappointment seemed way blown out of proportion to me (and likely the clerks who told me they were expecting a delivery of them the next day). He had a dark cloud over his head as he stomped out of the store.

After we returned home and he had time to calm down, we talked a little about what was “so important” about these bracelets. I still didn’t really get it, but apparently they had Sports Bandz and Rock Bandz and some other bandz. “All the kidz” had them. And they liked trading them with each other. Apparently this fad started sometime when I was out of town, and now a week and a half later, the bracelets have been banned from some classrooms because their popularity was causing a distraction. They kind of reminded me of the black plastic bangles of the 80s, but I don’t recall coveting those gasket-like bracelets the same way.

The next day, before we went back to the store, we discussed how we would handle our disappointment if the shipment to the Exchange was delayed. As it turned out, it was. The kids used some of their money to buy Big League Chew for the evening’s baseball games. Fortunately, I had ordered some bracelets online, just in case this very phenomenon occurred.

The owner of the Exchange told us that he was certain the bracelets would arrive the next day. Just to be sure, I checked another store and found that they had a few packages on hand (since the online bracelets wouldn’t arrive for five whole business days – I wondered if the fad would even last that long, or if what I ordered would still be “cool” by that time). However, they were not Silly Bandz brand, and thus not the right size for big-kid wrists, so we wound up back at the Exchange for the third time in three days.

This time we hit the jackpot, and The Bigs could afford one package each after the gum they had bought the day before. So, they were ready for trading with their friends. The next day after school, I got a full report of who traded for what, how many regular bracelets you had to trade for the two-tone ones, and whether the fruit-scented ones still smelled like anything.

“Mom, do you want one of my bracelets?” my oldest said to me.

“Oh…well”….I was going to say, ‘no, thanks’ but realized that it would be best to receive the gift graciously …”sure honey! Can I have a pink one?”

“Well, as long as it’s not the hippo. I had to trade a pig for it. But you can have a purple one, too…”

“Thanks, honey,” I said as I slipped the two unidentifiable animal-shaped bracelets on for a twisted and gnarly fashion statement.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The moment of silence

Recently when we were on the way to the baseball field and I had a captive audience in the car, I finally got around to asking The Bigs what the moment of silence was all about after the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

“How long does it last?”

“If you’re in charge of the announcements, how do you know when it’s over?”

“Has anyone ever offered you any guidance about what to do during the moment of silence?”

“I don’t know…”

“The office ladies tell us…”

“Why are you asking us all this stuff?”

“Well, I’ve been meaning to ask you since that day I heard you do the announcements,” I said to my oldest. To my middle son, I said, “Have you ever done the announcements?”

“Yeah, we all get a turn.”

“Well, what do you do during the moment of silence? Do you think about anything or do you just…look around?”

“Yeah, sometimes.”

"So, it’s like waiting for it to be over?"

“Yeah,” replied my middle son.

“Usually during the announcements we’re finishing up our morning work,” offered my oldest.

“What morning work!? The announcements happen right when school starts…”

I don’t know that I ever got a clear answer to that one, but what ensued was a conversational foray into the subject of multi-tasking.

“You know, doing more than one thing at the same time…like playing D.S. and watching TV or trying to do homework and watching TV. Or talking on the phone while doing dishes.”

My boys didn’t think that was any big deal. I realized that multi-tasking is probably a given, a way of life for them. So I asked them if they could think of times when it was impossible to multi-task.

“Playing baseball,” they both answered.

“Yeah, you’re right. You can’t play DS and baseball at the same time.”

“Well, you probably could if you were in the outfield...” one of them answered.

“And some people can’t multi-task when they’re reading,” my middle son commented pointedly to his older brother, who, when he gets his nose in a book, will only reply, “Wait, what?” after several attempts to get his attention, even if we mention candy, money, or the Red Sox.

“Do you think you might consider praying during the moment of silence?”

“Hmm mmm,” they both answered noncommittally.

I mentioned I was amazed that The Pledge of Allegiance is even said in school anymore.

“Why, mom?”

“Because it talks about ‘one nation under God.’ I didn’t think you were allowed to mention God in school. Maybe that’s why no one suggests what to do during the moment of silence.”

“So-and-so’s a Christian.”

“Well, you don’t have to be a Christian to believe in God. Remember, ‘one God, many ways to worship’,” I reminded them with some song lyrics.

“And anyway, our money says, ‘In God We Trust.’ ”

“Yes, it does. So, you could always pray that you have a good day in school that day.”

“I always have a good day in school anyway,” my oldest stated. My middle son, who has had several "worst days of his life" in recent memory, was silent.

“Okay, well, you could pray about a test you might have. Or you could pray for your friends.”

“Hmm mmm,” they both answered noncommittally. We had arrived at the field.

“Alright, boys! I’ll be back after I get your brother!”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Conversations with my sons this evening

“How was Imagimotion today, honey?” I asked my youngest. He takes a preschool gymnastics-dance-movement class on Tuesdays.


“Well, what did you do? What songs did you hear?”

“I dunno. I forget.”

“You don’t remember anything? Did you have class today?”

“Yeah, mom. Can’t you just read about it on your phone?” (I get email on my phone.)

“Uhmmm, well, yes, I imagine I can, but I just thought it would be nice if we talked about it together.

“Well, can you read it to me when you get it on your phone?”


“Mom, can you type my paragraph for me?” my middle son asked me as we walked out of extended day. We had just written the paragraph together this morning. We spent a full hour doing this homework which he swore up and down was only just assigned, and I had not checked his day planner as I was out of town last week.

“Well, I don’t know, honey…”

“Oh, c’mon, Mom! You’re a much better typer than me.”

“Yeah, well, what would your teacher have to say if I typed it?”

“Oh, Mrs. So-and-so says it’s okay if parents type it…”

I wondered when it was due and if I’d have time to ask Mrs. So-and-so if that was really the case.

“How are you ever going to get good at typing if you don’t practice? Don’t you think you could do it?”

“Mah-ahm, it’d take me – like – a week!”

“Yeah, and I know – I could do it in like five minutes, right? But how do you think I got so good at typing?”

He looked at me blankly.

“It’s because I’ve had years of practice.”

He picked up the ball and ran with it. “Yeah! I’m only 8, and you’re like – 15!”


My oldest asked me tonight if we could play catch during his younger brother’s Boy Scout den meeting.

“Well, honey, we’re supposed to be building rockets. Don’t you think he’d need my help?”

“Awww, Mom, you know you’re not that good at wood crafts…”


“Well, you know…you’re good at other things, though…”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, like the computer, like being a mom, and…like…baseball! So, can we play catch?”


Saturday, May 8, 2010


I was at a conference in Fabulous Las Vegas. My colleague told me her kids didn’t really want to talk to her when she had called that day. I was telling her that my kids didn’t want to talk to me that day or the day before; and that they probably didn’t even miss me at all, and as if on cue, the phone rang.

“Oh, whaddaya know? Excuse me,” I said to my colleague. It was my sons’ cell phone calling me.

“Hi honey,” I said, not knowing which of my older two would be on the other end.

“Hi Mommy.” It was my middle son.

“What’s going on?” I asked, trying to sound cheerful.

“There are 77 hours until I can see you again,” he said, with an Eeyore twang to his voice.

“Oh, sweetie, that’s not really so long…do you miss me?”

“Yeah. I forgot what you look like!”

“Oh, go on. You did not.”


“Alright then, want me to have my colleague take a picture with my phone and I’ll send it to you?”

“Okay, mom. Also, our baseball game got cancelled.”

“Yeah, I heard. I got the email from your coach and forwarded it to Dad.”

“I never get to play baseball!”

“Sure you do, honey. The season has only just begun – I am sure they’ll schedule a make up game” If I recalled correctly, he had a game the next night anyway.

I talked to my middle son a bit more about what I was doing, what he was doing, what my hotel was like and so on. I realized I better not make it sound too great. But truthfully, even though I am working long hours at a business event, this is probably the closest thing to a vacation I’ve had…since last year when I worked at the same business event.

Mainly, it was a vacation from juggling work and parenting. I had someone else doing all the cooking and cleaning and I wouldn’t have to deal with laundry until I got home. I wasn’t in charge of parenting tasks including making lunches and helping with homework or chauffering.

After a while I asked my son if I could talk to his brother.

“Okay, mom.”

To my oldest, I said, “Your brother is sad.”

“Yeah, he misses you.”

“Can you go and give him a big hug and kiss for me?”


“Alright, never mind. Just be sure you’re extra nice to him. It won’t be long before I’m home.”

Then we talked about baseball a little bit, what I was doing, what he was doing, what my hotel was like and so on. “Oh, well, you know. It’s a hotel. No, I have no idea how many stars it has. It’s a nice hotel. There are three TVs in my suite.” I figured that would be the best way for the kids to understand how nice it was. They weren’t going to care that the bathroom was far fancier than our own, with two sinks, a separate tub and shower, and a private little room for the toilet (that included one of three phone extensions), very flattering lighting, a vanity, and one of the three TVs. Or that there were two sitting areas – one of which was a large L-shaped couch with a pull out bed – and an office area in the sunken living room. Or that the bed was big enough for a family movie party with the flat-screen HDTV. Well, they probably would care about that, since we don’t have any flat screen TVs in our house, due to the unfortunate “accident” with the Jenga blocks, that ruined the flat screen TV that Santa brought just weeks after Christmas a couple of years ago.

The next night, though, it was me who was lonely. I decided I needed to get away from the hotel and its artificially perfumed air that barely covered the stench of the casino and from the 6000+ attendees at the conference, and took a long walk down Las Vegas Boulevard.

I walked out of the hotel and fell in with the masses. But all I could see in on the crowded sidewalks were families with children, which is strange, because the ratio of children to adults in Las Vegas is surely much smaller than it is in some other popular vacation destinations. It just goes to show that you see what you are thinking about (“…seek and ye shall find…” ~ Matthew 7:7)

I missed my children. I counted the hours until I would see them again. There were 36. It wouldn’t be long before I was home…

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


My oldest forgot his recorder one day last week. I could have been annoyed because he had forgotten his clarinet two days prior, but I chose not to be. I needed to drop off my youngest at preschool that day, so I figured I’d just stop in at the elementary school on my way back and use that opportunity to deliver a note about childcare arrangements while I would be out of town the following week.

I walked into the school at 9:05. Because it was before the official start to the day, the doors weren’t locked yet. I went straight to the office.

When I walked in the door, there was my oldest, along with a classmate, standing next to the vice principal’s desk.

“What are you doing here?” we both said to each other at the same time. Then we both laughed.

“I’m doing the announcements today,” he told me. I waved his recorder at him and set it down on the front desk in front of the secretary.

“Oh, can I listen?”

He looked at me blankly.

“Or would that be weird?”

Still no comment.

“I’ll go out in the hall...”

So I went and parked myself in one of the chairs in the “waiting area” in the front entrance.

The secretary popped her head out and told me that I’d be able to hear better if I stood in the doorway to the gym. While I was waiting, one of the ladies I know from the morning welcoming committee finished her shift and came over to stand with me. Together we listened to my son and his class mate tell how it was a half day, and if anyone brought a lunch or lunch money they needed to come to the office (since that meant their parents did not remember it was a half day), wish happy birthday to a couple of kids, and then say the Pledge of Allegiance and have a moment of silence. (I’ve been meaning to ask my son what they think about during the moment of silence and if their teachers had ever offered any guidance on that.)

Shortly thereafter, my son and his classmate walked out of the office and towards the classroom and I was still standing in the gym entrance with the other mom.

“Nice job!,” I said as I waved to the kids.

“Uh huh. Bye mom,” my son answered. His classmate didn’t answer at all.

I have no idea if they thought it was weird that I was there. Perhaps I’ll include that question when I remember to bring up the moment of silence. I was glad I was there, though.

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...