Sunday, April 30, 2017

The week in review, the week in view: Week ended 30 April 2017

This week just didn't go accordingly to plan, but we got to the other side, so there's that. The big disappointment for me was the last-minute cancellation of the Science for Science Fiction Writers conference I was going to attend today - it was postponed due to lack of numbers, and this made me sad.

I also didn't make it to personal training due to a medical test (on my heart) that required me not to do strenuous exercise while being monitored, and I was amazed to find that *I actually missed it a little bit*. I am the least athletic person imaginable and I never would have thought the day would come when I'd think even remotely fondly of exercise. How the mighty have fallen...

Work deadlines trapped me, and I ended up having to postpone lunch with my friend on Thursday, which was not great either.

We skipped jujitsu for the eldest on Friday night - she'd been doing school athletics all day and was pooped, and I had a king-sized headache so was glad to miss the driving.

And to top off the parade of minor woes and niggles - I have a cold, or, as you'd hear it if I was standing next to you: I hab a caud :-( Not surprising as autumn sets in, but still unwelcome.

The week ahead is looking pretty busy, but it does have one bright spot in it, which I just hope I'm not jinxing by listing it here! Tomorrow is also my Mum's birthday, and while I won't see her on the day, I'll definitely be making a point of calling her for a nice chat.

- Mummy and Kid day with youngest (Mon) - This was actually really good fun :-)
- ANZAC Day public holiday (I worked, but husband and kids had day off) - Tues
- 4 days billable work performed (Tues-Fri) - 1 day client site (Weds)
- Heart monitor test for me (Thurs-Fri)
- Gymnastics (youngest) - Weds, chess (middle) - Sat, ice skating (middle) - Sun
- Friend's birthday dinner (middle kid) - Sat

- 3.5 days billable work booked (Mon, Tues am, Weds, Fri): 2 days client sites - Weds with Client A, Fri with Client B
- Parent-teacher interviews for the two high-schoolers - Mon & Weds nights (yes, both!! I couldn't quite squeeze them all onto Monday)
- Second inter-school debate - eldest (Weds night)
- Gymnastics (youngest) - Weds, jujitsu (eldest) - Fri, chess (middle) - Sat, ice skating (middle) - Sun
- Personal training
- Cat's next vet appointment
- Eldest's orthodontist appointment to see if she can stop wearing her retainers in the daytime
- Mental health day off on Thursday, incorporating lunch in the city with an old friend :-)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The week in review, the week in view: Week ended 23 April 2017

This week was the first week of school term 2, albeit a short week (with Monday being Easter Monday). It ended up being a fairly uneventful week in terms of extra or unusual activities (except for Monday itself, when I spent 7 hours with the kids at the Cool for Summer event).

As it turned out, Saturday ended up being atypically and blessedly free, as chess club for middle kid was on a bye week, and the pool that the youngest does swimming lessons in has been closed due to a crytosporidium outbreak. This actually prompted me to do something I had been toying with for a while - I have cancelled the swim lessons for the next two terms, as the 8 year old has been getting harder and harder to motivate, is actually swimming quite well, and last year she missed more weeks that she attended between May and September due to a combination of illness and other commitments. She'll go back to classes in the September holidays (we're thinking of putting her in a week-long swim school intensive instead of weekly lessons) and may swim weekly again in term 4.

Having a free day on Saturday was really nice. We got a fair few house chores done, had some rest and rec time, and I got a jump on the week's work, which was really positive. 60% of us did not get out of our pjs all day :-)

The week coming up is a bit of a hodgepodge, with a curriculum day for the youngest on Monday, ANZAC Day on Tuesday, and my very-much-anticipated writerly day out next Sunday (I am going to the Science for Science Fiction Writers Conference in the city). I also have a reasonably intense workload this week. I am going to try to schedule a mental health day for the week after if I can squeeze one in (my last one was at the end of February, and I'm feeling like I need one).

- Took elder kids and their friend to Cool for Summer show (Monday)
- 3 days work billed ( no client site visits) - Tues, Thurs, and Fri
- Brunch with husband (Weds)
- Personal training
- Gymnastics (youngest) - Weds, jujitsu (eldest) - Fri, ice skating (*middle kid's first week of lessons!) - Sun
- Booked next medical appointments for all providers (vet, dentist, orthodontist, GP, physio) and did tax (boring, but good to get done!)
- Visited the Home Show for bathroom renovation ideas (today)

- Mummy and Kid day with youngest (Mon) - She has a curriculum day and the big girls don't, and I promised!
- ANZAC Day public holiday (I will work it, but husband and kids have day off) - Tues
- 4 days billable work (Tues-Fri) - 1 day client site (Weds)
- Personal training
- Lunch with friend, Thurs
- Gymnastics (youngest) - Weds, jujitsu (eldest) - Fri, chess (middle) - Sat, ice skating (*middle kid's first week of lessons!) - Sun
- Science for Science Fiction Writers Conference (All day - Sun - Me)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A sevenling for the autumn

Three things signal the turning of the page:
the crunch of flame-bright leaves; frost in the morning;
the cat sleeping, croissant-bent, in the warm small of a child's back.

Three things are coming:
the sweetness of stone fruits;
the prickling drizzling ice-rains;
leaving home in the swallowing black.

Soon enough, autumn slips into the fold, and we are for the dark.

- Kathy, 19/04/17

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The week in review, the week in view: Week ending 16 April (Easter Sunday)

This has been a bit of a ragtag week, with the kids still on school holidays and me back to working (although in an odd configuration - I did my hours as three 12-hour days instead of spreading it more evenly, including working Good Friday). My partner has had the week off, which has been nice, and very helpful with the kids.

Tomorrow is Easter Monday, then the kids are back to school, and my partner back to work, on Tuesday. I feel like I will miss them being around and simultaneously revel in the silence :-) The week coming up is not an especially overbooked week, as weeks go - I have about 25-30 hours of work to get through, and all regular extracurricular activities are back in play, but there's no unusual commitments or highly pressing deadlines. A week of steady-as-she-goes will be good to kick off the new term.

- 3 days work completed (Mon, Weds, Fri) (0.5 day client site)
- Day in city with eldest  (Tues)
- Bounce trampolining (partner and kids, while I worked)
- Personal training (Thurs)
- Completed travel bookings for September Sydney trip
- Day with friends - BBQ at the park (Thurs)
- Easter eggs and Easter church (today)
- Brother and sister in law's combined family birthday lunch (today)

- Take elder kids and their friend to Cool for Summer show (Monday)
- 3 days billable work ( no client site visits at this stage) - Tues, Thurs, and half-days Weds & Fri
- Personal training
- Gymnastics (youngest) - Weds, jujitsu (eldest) - Fri, swimming (youngest) - Sat, chess (middle) - Sat, ice skating (*middle kid's first week of lessons!) - Sun
- Progress passport applications to next stage
- Book next medical appointments for all providers (vet, dentist, orthodontist, GP, physio)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Anxiety in the sky

I don't like flying. AT. ALL.

It's not that I fear that the plane will crash or fall from the sky. I white-knuckle it a bit during take-off but not more than the average bear, and I am positively mellow on landing. I don't faint at every little bump and joggle. I don't find turbulence too scary (unless it's really intense).

No, the part of flying that makes me almost paralysed with anxiety - and sometimes brings on full-blown panic attacks - is the lack of control part. From the minute I hand over my luggage and turn up at the security checkpoint, everything that is going to happen is basically out of my hands. I can't know if the plane's going to leave on time, or indeed at all. I can't know if I'm going to have to undergo a panic-inducing enhanced search by security.

Once I actually get into the plane and they shut those doors, I am stuck inside a tin can with a bunch of strangers for the length of the flight and nothing, NOTHING, I do will make a blind bit of difference to that. (I'm also claustrophobic, so this adds a wonderful soupcon of terror to the whole business). I can't know if there is going to be a drunken fool sitting next to me, or a leg-squashing recliner in front of me. Given my stomach, I can't know for sure that I'm not going to be sick. Apparently, I can also now not know if I am going to be required to leave the seat I have paid for (possibly forcibly) to suit the convenience of the airline. It's an excruciating thought.

Like many people with anxiety disorders, control is super important to me, and the less control I have in any given situation, the more stressed and anxious I become. In a flight situation, this miserably feeds itself, as you must lid your reactions if you don't want to risk being taken off the plane. (Lidding anxiety can be done extremely temporarily by a massive effort, but it doesn't take long for the cracks to start showing, and the break-out is usually intense).

My flying anxiety has gotten worse - much worse - as I've gotten older and flown less, and my General Anxiety Disorder has come to the fore. I never *loved* flying, but I could accept it as an unpleasant necessity to travel when I was in my teens and twenties. And I flew often enough that the edges got rubbed off it a bit - it was no longer so strange, and thus less scary. (It's also worth noting that security was less overwhelming 20-25 years ago - yes, I know all the reasons why it's changed, but it does not help people for whom flying is not a friendly experience).

But now, flying is an acute anxiety-making event for me, to the point that I dread it intensely. I last flew in July 2014 with my family, to Cairns (for our Port Douglas holiday) and that trip went absolutely smoothly, but I still hated the flights so very very much. The only thing that got me through was having to be the parent for my girls, who were flying for the first time and needed my shit to be together. (Quite typically, I found the flight home easier than the flight there. Coming home has a magic to it, I find).

It's to the point now where I have to use a bunch of ritualistic techniques to get my arse on the plane, and I'm concerned that my "acceptable conditions to fly" is becoming ever narrower.

For instance, I have to be seated in the aisle and as close to the rear of the plane as possible, preferably in the very back row. This is a row that most people hate because you can't recline your seat and it's right next to the toilets, so at least I rarely have competition for it, but it's still a pretty rigid condition.

Secondly, I need to board last, or at least in the last batch of passengers.

Thirdly, I will only fly certain airlines and won't even consider flying to particular destinations that my internal Panic Button has deemed TOO DANGEROUS. At the moment, I am booking family flights for our Sydney holiday in September, and I am only really looking at Virgin flight options - my most recent three flying trips (2012, 2014 x 2) were all taken on Virgin and so I can kid myself into seeing that as a "safe" option. At a pinch I'd take Qantas but I won't even consider Jetstar or Tiger. And as for destinations, the mere thought of flying to any US destination at the moment brings on heart palpitations. I'd also be unlikely to fly to anywhere in Eastern Europe or the Middle East.

We are planning our family trip to Japan for 2018 at present (Japan, luckily, does NOT trigger my DANGER DANGER RUN AWAY response!) and I have already decided that we will be flying either Virgin or Singapore and that is all there is to it. I also feel I may need pharmaceutical support for such a long flight, and am going to be talking to my doctor about the V option.

If anyone has any super tips for me, I'm open to anything short of drinking myself into oblivion ... Also airline experience stories welcome. (Hint: United is OFF THE LIST).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

City day with the eldest

Today I took a day off work (a massive ONE DAY after returning from my week off - it's a hard life etc) to fulfill a promise to my eldest daughter and spend a day in the city with her.

My eldest is 13.5 years old - prime Early Teen, if you will - but has yet to cease wanting to spend time with me, which is kind of nice. (She's a bit lukewarm these days on family outings, although she can usually be persuaded if nice food is involved).

Following on from her sister's ice-skating expedition on day one in the holidays, I had asked her if there was anything specific she wanted to do this break. She asked for a day in the holidays to go to the city with me, just the two of us.

Her key agenda was:
1. Go to Starbucks (why are all my kids obsessed with Starbucks I don't know it's weird)
2. Go to the State Library to do some research on ancient Egyptian mythology
3. Have a nice lunch somewhere
4. Hit at least one nerd shop

My partner has this week off work, and I structured my work week to shoehorn my tasks onto three long days (Mon, Weds and Fri), which left Tuesday (today) for city trekking with my eldest, and leaves Thursday for personal training and a catch-up with friends.

It's not a perfect solution (by long days I mean 12-hour days ... I sent my last work email just after 9pm last night) but needs must when you are balancing multiple commitments.

So today, we set off a little after peak hour on a pleasantly uncrowded train to spend a day in the city.

We ended up having a great day. Starting off with a stop at Mind Games (Nerd Shop #1, TICK), we purchased some birthday presents for my secondborn's coming birthday.

Then onwards and upwards to Starbuck's, for average coffee (me) and a frappacino and cheesecake (her).

The State Library was next up - she thrashed me at outdoor chess as a taster, then we spent a happy 90 minutes doing research and reading in the Redmond Barry Reading Room. The 13 year old took copious notes on her phone and wants to go back better equipped (with laptop) for more research. I read magazines that I normally get no time to look at and enjoyed the soft hum of the space.

In an unexpected and lovely surprise, I was hailed while reading a copy of New Scientist by a longtime blogging / writing friend who I haven't seen in years, the wonderful Karen Andrews. We had a nice little natter and I have been reminded that I must procure myself a copy of her new book, On the Many Shapes Bodies Will Take.

After our revel in books, we headed down to Fed Square to late lunch at the paradise that is Chocolate Buddha. I have never, ever been glutened by this fantastic restaurant, and the meal is always superlative. Today was no exception - we rolled happily out at 2:15, but somehow found a spare corner for chocolates at Ganache (because really, who doesn't reserve a corner for deluxe chocolate??)

We then proceeded to Minotaur (Nerd Shop #2). I was interested to see what my 13 year old would make of it, given that she has never been there before. I well remember my own reaction the first time I went in there, many moons and suns ago now.

She did not disappoint - her eyes went wide and she raced around from sci fi books to manga to Doctor Who and Star Trek merch to Pokemon, overwhelmed by choice and nerd happiness. I told her she could select one item for herself, which was perhaps unduly challenging in the context of SO. MUCH. NERD. MERCH. but the process of selection was itself enjoyable (I think!)

I ended up buying two novels for myself - N.K Jemisin's The Fifth Season, of which I have heard many good things, and Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed, which is one of the few novels of hers I didn't already own (and I haven't read it since I borrowed it from the Monash University fiction library in 1994, so it's well due a re-read!)

The 13 year old eventually selected Pokemon cards for herself after much deliberation, and I bought another thing to put aside for the almost-12 year old's birthday (indeed, after today, I am basically sorted for that birthday - woo hoo!)

After that, it was a tram ride to Melbourne Central for frozen yoghurt and a stop at the bewildering yet mesmerising Kit Kat Chocolatery. (Yes, they have Hot Cross Bun flavoured Kit Kats. No joke, really!) The 13 year old selected two flavours after much consideration, and those that can eat them (ie not the Coeliacs) have pronounced them good.

A crowded peak hour train ride later, we arrived rather footsore but very pleased with ourselves at our home station, to be collected by the rest of the family.

It was a really good day - not just because of what we did, but for the chance it gave us to talk and spend some quality time together. We have compatible interests in the main, so the day was genuinely fun for
me as well as for her (game shop, library, delicious food, Minotaur nerdvana - what's not to like!)

I can't see myself ever not relishing these opportunities to spend time with each of my kids. My youngest's turn next!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The week in review, the week in view: Week ended 9 April 2017

This week just gone has been the first week of the term one school holidays. I took the week off work, and although I did answer a few emails and tested a system access, I stuck to not doing any substantive work.

I am back to work tomorrow and my partner is taking the week off work to be primary kid patroller, but I am planning to work three days only this week - Tuesday I am fulfilling a promise to my eldest to take her into town for the day, just the two of us; and Thursday we are catching up with friends and I don't want to miss that.

- Middlekid 3-night trip to grandparents
- Shopping, haircuts and manicures with eldest and youngest
- Friends over for lunch (Tues)
- Family trip to movies to see The Lego Batman Movie (very snigger-worthy)
- Middlekid day horse riding camp (Thurs)
- Errands: Dog and cat rego completed, dental xrays done, winter school uniforms purchased, pet supplies procured, basic clothing replacement items bought
- Trip to movies and Timezone arcade (younger two kids and I saw The Boss Baby, eldest saw Beauty and the Beast)
- Attended Jewish wedding blessing within weekly synagogue service for friends (yesterday)
- Health sporadic for all family members with an assortment of mild to moderate ailments. Fatigue crashes increasing for me.
- Attended wedding at Heide (today - full day)

- 3 days booked work (Mon, Weds, Fri) (0.5 day client site)
- Day in city with eldest  (Tues)
- Personal training
- Complete travel bookings for September Sydney trip
- Day with friends (Thurs)
- Easter eggs and Easter church (Sunday)
- Brother and sister in law's combined family birthday lunch (Sunday)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Doing what you love vs Doing what you're good at vs Doing what pays the bills

There's a piece over at my favourite workplace advice blog, Ask a Manager, at the moment which addresses the question of a letter-writer who frequently finds themselves bored and moving on from jobs after relatively short periods, because the jobs are unfulfilling / dull in some way.

Alison Green, as usual, gives sensible advice, but what's even more interesting is the discussion in the comments triggered by this para in Alison's response:
To me, it sounds like you’re looking to work to provide a type of fulfillment that you probably shouldn’t be expecting. It’s great if you’re lucky enough to find work that’s deeply fulfilling long-term, but an awful lot of people — probably the vast majority — work in jobs that are sometimes interesting, sometimes not, and primarily (if not entirely) a way to make money.
This resonated deeply with many people, judging by the myriad of responses, and it certainly struck a chord with me. I'm currently on a week's break from work (I would say "leave", but as I am self-employed, that term would mislead on two fronts - I neither had to seek permission, nor am I being paid, for this week of repose!) So, having a little time, I thought I'd unpick what struck me about this letter and responses, and how it relates to my thoughts about work and life.

Firstly, I should say that I am firmly in the camp of those who posit that "there is no such thing as the perfect job." There are certainly better and worse jobs - jobs that fit your life, convictions and skills more closely than others, jobs with better pay and conditions, jobs with better management and organisational culture. However, I do not think a job exists that is 100% exactly what you want it to be in every respect all the time. All jobs will have up and down sides (and up and down days!) In my life I have had jobs that I would class as "very good", "good", "adequate for the short term", "dull but not evil", "mixed bag" and "awful", but I have never described, or been tempted to describe, a job as "perfect".

Secondly, I would say that every job, no matter how exciting it sounds, has boring or undesirable elements. Unless you are phenomenally successful and can employ assistants to do all the scutwork for you, and sometimes even then, everyone ends up spending a percentage of their work time filling out paperwork and doing mechanical yet irritating tasks. I don't care if you're a scientist researching cancer cures or a speculative fiction author or a pro basketballer - you'll still have moments of boredom, frustration and ennui. Loading pipettes for 12 hours or wrestling with galley proofs or doing 100 squats just isn't fun for anyone, but it's part of the job, part that has to be done to allow you to do the better and bigger parts. Even the sexy jobs are usually 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, after all.

I also think that, as several of the commenters identify on the Ask a Manager post, that it behooves people to think hard about whether they feel like work has to provide them with a sense of meaning and overarching purpose, and if they do feel that, why they do. Certainly, no-one should try to reconcile themselves to being miserable at work. But you can be (billions are) content with a work situation where you are well-treated, well or at least adequately remunerated, and find some interest in your day to day activities, without feeling like your whole soul is wrapped up in your work.

This is something I talk to my teenager and preteen about a lot. We talk about the fact that "pursuing a remunerative career" and "pursuing your dreams" do NOT have to coalesce into one perfect package - that in fact, you can do the two things in parallel, and may even benefit from the exercise. Indeed, for many whose dreams are creative, the relief of financial stress and need to monetise art is incredibly energising and liberating. My girls see this in my life - my passion / dream is to write poetry, but my job is to write and develop organisational governance documentation, and being good at / earning money from the latter has freed me to experience my poetic practice as pure delight. I am a better poet because I don't have to think about markets for my poems.

So overall, when thinking about work, I try to think of it as a nexus - what am I good at, what do I enjoy, and what pays well. I have engineered my freelance business to focus on skills that I have which are in demand and well-compensated, and in areas that interest me and provide some challenge. This means that while I still get the frustrations, scutwork and irritations, I don't dislike what I do day to day; I find it reasonably engaging, and quite satisfying, especially when I deliver results that my clients want.

One thing I do not think about in evaluating if a job situation is a good fit is this - is this work my passion? The answer is no, of course it isn't. No one pays me or is ever likely to pay me a living wage for pursuing my passion (poetry), and - this is important - even if they did, I am 100% sure that poetry would also develop boring, irritating elements if I did it day in, day out as the way to put bread on the table.

Work is the thing you do because you can't opt not to and still meet your obligations and material aspirations (whatever they may be). Some people are lucky enough to find a larger purpose in their work, and good for them, but they are the clear minority. I really think, for most people, finding work that plays to your strengths, provides some challenges and interest, and pays you enough to live your life as you wish to, is as good as it gets - and that, at the end of the day, is more than good enough.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The week in review, the week in view: Week ended 2 April 2017

It's been another big week - work-heavy and life-heavy. I haven't pulled up magnificently in terms of energy, so I will need to assess what's realistic for the coming month in light of the reaction my body is having to the overloaded March I just had.

That said, I am still functional, don't appear to be actually sick, and am reasonably positive about things despite the fatigue crash, so three cheers for that!

- School swimming for youngest Mon - Thurs (me on helper duty Tues)
- School camp for middle kid (Weds - Fri)
- 5 days of billable work completed, including Sunday (0.5 day client site)
- Personal training
- Cat to vet for check-up and shots
- Gymnastics (youngest), singing (middle) and jujitsu (eldest). (No chess as school holidays start; we wagged swimming for youngest, as she was tired out from 2 weeks of school swim program)
- End of term and early dismissal (Fri)
- Day at Docklands for ice skating, lunch and shopping with middle kid and her friends (Sat)
- Visit to MIL (husband and kids) and departure for sleepover with other grandparents (middle kid) (Sun)

IN VIEW (*I am on leave from work this week and kids are on school holidays)
- City day with eldest and youngest: State Library, ACMI, Mind Games, lunch, fun
- Friends stopping by for lunch (Tues)
- Family outing to see The Lego Batman Movie
- Collect middle kid from her grandparents
- Middle kid: Day horse-riding camp (Thurs)
- Errands and tasks: dental xrays for eldest, purchasing in-cupboard storage systems, visit to uniform shop to purchase winter uniforms, haircuts, purchase flights for Sydney trip, progress passport applications, register cat with council etc,
- Aufruf (Jewish service) wedding for friends during shul service - me only (Sat)
- Wedding and reception at Heide

We haven't assigned days to things except where a booking is required - eg the horse camp - or the timetable is external - eg the wedding! Other than that, we're just going to see which things fit best on which days.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Docklands Day

School holidays started with a bang today, with me enlisted to take my middle daughter (almost 12) and her two besties to the Docklands for ice skating, lunch, shopping and Starbucks.

My middle kid has had her heart set on ice skating for a while now, primarily triggered by her love for an anime series called Yuri!!! on Ice. She's also been so keen to consolidate her friendships with her two high school best friends, and was promised at least one holiday catch up.

As luck would have it, her two friends' availability and ours only had minimal overlap, one of which was the very first day of the break. I was dubious - we normally try to go super quiet on the first weekend of the hols - but she was so keen that I decided to go with it.

So, on what probably should've been a work and housework day for me, instead middlekid and I left the house at 9:30 to go collect her two friends and hit the Icehouse at Docklands.

Skating was a huge success - she absolutely loved it, and after 2.5 hours on the ice and the encouragement of her friend who is a good skater, she was already improved enough that she could skate the perimeter steadily without holding on.

Her greatest excitement, I think, was when I agreed to sign her up for weekly skating lessons next term on Sunday mornings. She's stopped playing netball and has given up singing lessons for next term, so she only had piano - which she learns at school - and chess in her extracurricular basket.

We've always said we'll pay happily for 1 sport, 1 music and 1 other extracurricular for each kid, so she was delighted to realise that skating could slot in as her sport.

To my pleasant surprise, it turns out that a term of skating lessons is considerably less expensive than a term of singing, so we seem to have made a good trade financially too. My eldest is currently doing clarinet (through school), jujitsu and interschool debating, while the youngest has gymnastics, after-school club and swimming. I really feel that's enough, to be honest.

After skating, we wandered over the Docklands shops for lunch at The Groove Train, and then browsed around the shops, especially EB Games (aka nerdvana). The girls all noted the entrance to the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel and expressed some collective interest in going - I made a semi commitment to take them all on another occasion if we can find a mutually suitable day. (I suspect it won't be this holidays!).

We then hoofed it to the Spencer Street Centre (1.5 km mostly up hill thankyouverymuch) because they had their hearts set on going to Starbucks. (I tried in vain to persuade them that Starbucks wasn't all that - it's too deeply embedded in pop culture for them to listen!) I guess I can't complain, as the walk got me over my steps goal for the day and got the blood pumping. (The coffee was pretty average, but then, I am not a Starbucks fangirl - the kids liked their iced fancy drinks :-)

We ended up home just after 6 after we dropped both the friends to their houses, footsore, tired, but (in the almost-12 year old's case) replete with the exact day she wanted, with the exact people she wanted to spend it with. I enjoyed myself too - her friends are nice kids, and it was fun seeing them all have fun (plus my lunch was delicious!)