Almost there...

Monday, May 23, 2016

New Plan Report 2

I'm down six and a half pounds now and feeling fantastic. Better than I've felt in years. My brain feels less foggy. I'm less tired. That's huge. Also dresses that were feeling tight are feeling more comfortable. All good things.

Cooking is easy. Super easy. And yummy. Eating out is a little challenging, but all the attention to gluten-free means those items are often an easy spot to start on the menu. Here's last night's dinner:
Chicken, romaine, avocado, onions, cheese and chipotle ranch dressing
The thing that annoys me about food tracking is that there's so much guessing.  Is this an ounce? Or two? That salad dressing I dripped on - was that one or two tablespoons. Was that a 1/4 cup of milk in that splash I poured in my coffee at work? I have no idea. It's not like I've got measuring cups and spoons everywhere I go (and I'm not going to start carrying them. NFW.). So it's all best guess. Was the hummus I ate the kind that's 370 calories for a half cup or the kind that's 200 calories? I got it at a restaurant so there's not way to know. And then there's the process. Logging a salad typically involves 9 line items. My morning coffee involves four line items. It's a time sink, so I don't expect that to be part of my life long term. It's not sustainable.

And again, the margin of error on weight gain to gain one pound per year is 10-20 calories a day. So knowing exactly matters at some level, but trying to know is an exercise in embracing madness. It's a great tool to get started on a new way of eating. It's great to see what reasonable meals look like. It's great to review what you've done over a period of time. It's great to do here and there for stretches. But daily? Forever? Yeah, no.

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Plan Report

So last week, I stuck to it all.

I logged every food and beverage I consumed. I ate no flour, no corn, no rice, no sugar and so on. I dialed in over the week and found it easier as I went along. I logged 50-100 grams of carbs per day and it was okay. The new Poke trend is my friend. Two nights of poke bowls were a delight. I tested three tools for tracking food: My Plate, Lose It, and My Fitness Pal. My Fitness Pal has a terrible web interface so after one try I was out of there. Lose it is good, and always puts your prior items at the top of type-ahead search list, so it's quick to enter each item, but you still have to enter each item. Like one cup of coffee for me is 8 ounces of brewed coffee, 8 ounces of brewed decaf coffee, and 1/2 cup of milk. I have to type all that up every single morning. On My Plate, it has a favorite meals feature where I made Morning Coffee. Now all I have to type is Mor and it offers Morning Coffee. It also has a breakdown of each line you enter so that you can easily spot sneaky carbs and tune accordingly. This is great for salad bar choices. However, My Plate doesn't talk to Fitbit and Lose It does, thus I have done double entry for a week to decide what I think is the best way to go. Hrmmm. The weirdest food thing all week was that I went to see Rent in downtown San Jose. I figured I'd grab something on the way, but timing was way too tight. So I waited and figured I'd grab something at intermission if it got dire. But... it didn't. I went home and had a cheese stick and a pack of almonds for dinner and I was fine. Huh. Perhaps this is the food plan that works for me.

I exercised every day. I felt my Monday class a lot on Tuesday and Wednesday, but I got on the elliptical for 30 minutes both days regardless. I took the elevator once because my thighs said, "Oh god. Not stairs. We can't do stairs." after that. I went to the same class on Thursday, but the instructor was out (she'd warned me) and the gym was overrun with dudes who she normally keeps away from the equipment during her classes. The dudes were deadlifting hundreds of pounds and I was supposed to lie down near there and do some stuff. There was not enough nope in the world. On Friday, I planned to make that up, but Wendy saw me checking out the lunch trucks and said, "Hey! You're free! Want to go over the hill with us?" So off I went over the Matadero Creek trail with Dave O'Gorman, his wife, his intern, and Wendy, and all was right in the world. On Saturday, I taught all day. On Saturday night, I told Athena it was time for her to go to bed. She said, "Why?" I said, "So that I can go to bed." She said, "Why?" I said, "Them's the rules kiddo. Your dad's been on duty all day, so we've got to get you to bed, and then mommy can sleep." She accepted that. I laid down at 8:30 and was lights out at 8:45 and gone by 9. And then I slept til 7 and felt AMAZING. We headed to Cordelia's birthday at Pump it Up and I bounced and climbed and slid myself senseless. That's officially the parent I want to be, so I need to get the sleep and the weight off to do it more.

And then I weighed myself. Those five pounds? Poof. Gone. Yeah, down five pounds in a week. Well that's hugely from my body adjusting to its new intake, and they'd probably pop right back the second I eat the old way. However, if I can retain even 1/4 of that loss week over week, then I'm calling this experiment a huge win. We'll see.

Monday, May 09, 2016

New Plan

So today is the first day of the rest of my life, right? Okay, new plan.

Six months of logging 70-80,000 steps a week has done little for the bottom line. I don't feel any more fit. I haven't gained strength. I've lost sleep to log steps. Net result: up another five pounds. Harumph.

Meanwhile, a friend had a diabetes diagnosis, went on a plan for diabetics, and promptly lost 25 pounds fairly effortlessly. I eat a lot of high quality veg and meat and some fish, but I've also let carbs creep in, probably too much. So, I'm cutting the sugar, the flour, the potatoes, the corn, the pasta, the rice, the fruity cocktails, the leftover bits of Athena's waffles, the PB&J sandwiches, and the Ben & Jerry's. Today I had a banana and almonds for breakfast and a big salad (there's a new salad bar at work) for lunch full of broccoli, asparagus, carrots, romaine, spinach, and pinto beans.

On Friday, I was on the eliptical earning my steps while there was a strength and conditioning class going on. There was someone there doing it who looked about as out of shape as me, so I got brave at the end of my workout and asked the trainer if there was room in the session as it looked about my speed. There wasn't in that group, but in a group at 11:30 on Monday and 12:15 on Thursdays. I went today for the first time and got super sweaty and didn't trust my legs to go down the stairs safely for the following hour. Of course my Fitbit said I'd earned a few hundred steps and had 0 active minutes in those 45 minutes. Methinks Fitbit may not be the most effective measure of fitness. Just a hunch.

I'm going to give that a few months to play out (probably through August) and see how it goes. I don't want to be thin. I want to be medium sized and happy. I want to eat food, not too much, mostly highly nutrient dense stuff. I want 8 hours of sleep and I'm going to go back to focusing on that over necessarily logging 10k a day.

That said, I don't necessarily expect to win. The research on this is some of the most depressing I have ever read. But I'm willing to try again. I don't like being achy. I don't like feeling slow and unwieldy and made of entirely too much flesh. I don't want to prematurely age my joints. I'll try this. I'll see what happens. We'll see.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

51 Months

I freely admit that counting in months is downright silly at this point. She's 4. That said, I promise myself I'll publish once a month and if I had to come up with a real title, then that might not happen on the same somewhat regular schedule. So, 51 Months it is. (This is going to be really awkward when she's getting her driver's license some time around month 192.)

It's official! Erik got tenure at De Anza. 
The big ceremony
This month, Ammy learns there are things she's good at and things she's definitely not good at.

Things Ammy is Good At: 
I realized that Stanford Continuing Studies had made a minor transcription error in that I'm teaching two classes for them this quarter for the first time and they had my new Mastering Your Google Account scheduled for the day that the Mastering Your iOS Device class was on my calendar. I'd been thinking for months about how to prepare that class as I interacted with various different Google properties (hello Blogger!) and thought that I was getting close to being ready to start preparing the class. But I figured out the error by sending an email to my iOS class on Monday, April 11th around noontime, and someone replied saying, "Isn't that on May 14th?" There's that gut punch you get where you realized that person is almost certainly right. And you go look it all up online and confirm that they are most definitely right. And then you momentarily completely freak out as you realize you have a week and a half to write the entire class and get it printed, all while doing your day job and having a 4 year old. Yeah. That was a thing. So, I got started. I stayed at work to work on that after hours til the last shuttle left, then grabbed a terrible McChicken sandwich on the way home, ate that while driving the last 2 miles to home, and arrived just in time for tuck-ins and songs. Then once I was done there, cracked open my laptop and spent another 2 1/2 hours working on it. Then I did the same thing on Wednesday. By a few minutes after midnight on Wednesday, I felt like I could've taught it the next day in a pinch. By the end of the weekend, I was ready. I opened it one last time on Wednesday at lunchtime to make sure there weren't any stupid typos (that are freaking invisible til you haven't looked at it for at least two days) and printed it on Thursday. I taught the class on Saturday, April 23rd to a group that seemed very happy when they left, telling me what a great instructor I was and how much they loved this and hoped they would really apply it soon. The class was scheduled from 9:30-4:30, and we wrapped up at 4:20, like a boss, even though I'd never said one single word out loud in prep. I just knew how long it was going to take because sometimes experience is awesome.

Today I had to give an orientation to Toolbox to new firmware engineers. I started the prep yesterday. I had a one hour slot. I gave 30 minutes of orientation and 20 minutes of pitch to create their own articles, wrapping up in time for everyone to be out of the room for the next group. Smooooooooth.

So yeah, I'm good at that.

Things Ammy is not so good at: 
We've been working on a swing/Bollywood choreography with Anna. It's completely awesome that she's organized and led this. Sadly, I am not good at picking up choreography. Lead/follow dancing is totally my thing. There are many people who I can dance with and with the slightest lean, the tiniest hand movement, or just meeting eyes, I can follow what they're doing, even if I'm not familiar with even the basic footwork of the dance. But memorizing an independent pattern that involves moving in space, doing something specific with my feet, and doing something entirely differently specific with my arms at the same time is way beyond me. This disappoints me terribly. Not only am I letting myself down in this case, I'm letting down a dozen other people who are recording a video on Saturday to show off what we've worked on for two months. I went to rehearsal on the 16th and was introduced to the last section, hoping I'd pick it up quickly since I was necessarily missing the next meeting to teach my Google (nee iOS) class. There were several big new moves - a Charleston thing, a group arm circle thing, a section where we all moved to new positions doing one of three different moves, a swing turn, a Bollywood bounce and arm thing, and a closing group thing. I didn't feel like I got a single one. Not even the swing turn was working. I can follow any swing turn in my sleep, but there I was totally blowing it. The only times I went the right way at all was when I finally stopped trying and just closed my eyes and let people move my body for me. And I was going to miss the last rehearsal and then we were filming the following weekend. So I had a big cry about it all, feeling like a total failure. I emailed Anna to see if maybe I could just child wrangle while she took my place, since she was choreographing not dancing and I didn't want to screw up the video for everyone. But it was on a thread about dresses and shoes, and she skimmed over that part. Then I went off to class and Anna said she'd be taking Joanne's spot because she was in wedding panic. And Erik said what about my spot because I was quitting too. And then they brainstormed a plan and are getting two last minute fill-ins who have way more jazz and ballet experience than me and teaching it to them in two evenings and that's how it will work out, which Erik told me as I was going to sleep after teaching all day Saturday. And then I spent the entire night waking up multiple times feeling like a total asshole. I would never quit a dance if it meant that someone was going to have to scramble to fix it. I've danced bone-tired and injured just to make sure a four hand or an eight hand Irish can go. But I wasn't there, so I couldn't speak for myself. And I wouldn't have needed to if I could've been there at the rehearsal anyway. Net result, Erik told everyone I was a quitter, I feel like a jerk, and I'm going to try to go anyway on Saturday to help them get the video done, all the while feeling like I'd rather never show my face to the group again. So yeah, I'm not good at that.

In news of Athena, she's having a little trouble in Pre-K. She's gone from being one of the oldest, most articulate kids in the yard they share with all the 2 and 3 year olds to being the youngest in the room again, and she doesn't want to go. There's one boy who has been throwing food at her, and there's another girl who gets frustrated with her not doing things right. She takes these things personally. See the above story for background on where she gets it from. I talked to her teacher, who was really not okay with the food throwing and who also was going to chat with the other little girl. Clementine has been out a lot and also occasionally a little withdrawn as she has her own struggles with the transition, so Athena has been sad on school days. She's also taken up biting her nails all of the sudden. For that, I desperately miss Miss Kym. She was always helping them with nail polish activities so Athena never started it before now.

On the plus side, we got great school photos back.

Steve Gardner (who she met at 6 months on the Alaska cruise) used Photoshop magic to improve it.
On Thursday, April 21st, the school called about 3:30 and said Athena had thrown up after nap. Erik ran to school and got her and she threw up again before they made it home. She threw up one more time watching Octonauts. Poor ladybug.

She spent the next day feeling miserable, but bounced right back Saturday morning like nothing had happened. Erik decided to go ahead with the weekend plans, ready to pull back at any moment. This started at  dance rehearsal and went on to daytripping to the gamer campout. After rehearsal, he went up to the Portola Redwoods for the day and Athena had a blast with Lorelei. We all went back the next morning and Connor joined the adventure. We let them run and play while we played some games and we knew they were okay because they'd go running by every few minutes, collecting banana slugs, chasing each other, walking on logs, and so on. We hiked down to the ranger station at Mrs. Lendvay's suggestion to get coloring books and the girls sat and colored by the fire for the next hour. The adults got sucked into a game called CodeNames which is ostensibly about two teams competing against one another but is really about the two people giving clues bonding over how crazy their teams are with their guessing strategy.
Arriving on Daddy's shoulders with cookies from Rachel
Coloring by the fire with Lorelei
Walking on a log
A performance upon the stage
Earlier in the month we went to San Jose Fantasy Faire. Now, I'll admit I was pretty down on the fantasy faire concept originally. I mean, Ren Faire was about a certain amount of historical accuracy and trying to give people an understanding of another time, and fantasy fair was just cheating. But really, it's been a good long time since Ren Faire was about Elizabethan or Tudor England in any serious way. There's Ottomans wearing lame. There's Germans marching around England. I'm not buying historically accurate. Fantasy faire rips the band-aid off and is actually a nice alternative to the overly serious Ren Faire attitude. And Athena LOVED it. She danced on stage with the Pryanksters for Jenny Pluck Pears and Sellinger's Round and Ring Around the Rosy. She had storytime with mermaids and climbed all over a pirate ship and rode a giant unicorn.
Getting ID bands on Friday night in the rain

Sitting with the mermaids

Tickling Daddy in the stocks

Aboard the pirate ship

With her rain boots under her dress

Snuggling with Sarah

Mermaid storytime

With Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna
Dancing on stage with the Pryanksters

Pryanksters of Fantasy Faire 2016
Hugs from the fairy queen
Vlad the Unicorn

Erik got to go observe Athena's dance class this week. We love her ballet teacher. She keeps the kids on task and focused. They're really learning. I really hope this gives her skills she'll use throughout her life.

Dancer besties

Finally, our house sale closed escrow. Ten years later, my house was worth what I could've sold it for in 2006! Yay! The best part is that we were able to sell it to a friend who'd been experiencing the same market problems we'd experienced - getting outbid and watching prices rise above the ability to save. So congratulations to Susanne! I hope the house treats you as well as it treated me over the years.
And now, your moment of Zen.
Because that's the face of love when your kid decides to make faces at you while you pee.

Friday, April 08, 2016

50 months and counting

The end of March was utter madness in our household. It was:

  • finals for Erik's classes. 
  • end of quarter at Tesla and I got sucked into Model X documentation in the war room at the Factory with much of my day's work being projected on a wall as I did it. No pressure!
  • putting our old house in San Jose on the market and selling it.
  • running our neighborhood Easter Egg hunt for the first time.
  • launching Model 3. 

So, we've um, lost cohesion. We're okay. Now. Thanks. But if we seemed to fall of the edge of the planet briefly, it's because we kind of did. There was too much. Let's sum up.

The house is sold. We had multiple offers. It went to someone who really deserved to win. We're closing escrow before the end of this month.

Athena has been so completely adorable that Erik spend a lot of time staring at each other silently mouthing, "Oh my god can she be any more adorable? Seriously?"

Easter went well. It started with an Easter basket from the Foxes. Athena took us on a merry chase through the house following the fallen eggs.

Then came the local neighborhood tradition. 15 kids across a dozen or so houses, going from house to house to hunt eggs and ending in one neighbor's back yard for mimosas and snacks. We're not quite sure how we landed in such an awesome little neighborhood, but we did. The Bakers started the tradition ten years ago, but their kids are grown, so we're taking over. I learned how to do layers on a Google Map to make a map of participating houses in the neighborhood. It was a cool trick, and one I'll use in my Google class in May.

All the egg hunters
The older kids helped direct traffic
Afters at the Whites
Since Athena Lendvay's dad was in town, she hosted Easter dinner. We ate too much, then headed out to Lorelei's school to walk it off. Athena will follow Lorelei anywhere. 

Happy together
We've had two rounds of Erik's all-day Runequest game. One was on a Saturday, so Rob, T, and Danielle all came by at the end for a little unwinding. Athena sees these folks maybe six times a year, but in moments, she was showing off her trucks, climbing into Rob's lap to explain to him about the Octonauts, and goofing around with T. It's nice that she trusts our friends so deeply.
Give me your arm.
You're required to cuddle me. 
Here T, let me tell you about Captain Barnacles
The second Runequest day, Athena and I headed out to Happy Hollow and Jeff and Connor joined us there.
Sea horse sillies
Thanks for the bell Ethan!
Sharing a ladybug
Sophie was in a mood
I have touched a Model 3. It was one of the ones on stage. It was a real car. It was a very pretty little baby. And it was comfy in both the back seats and the driver's seat. I am so on the list.

Anna organized a dance rehearsal/performance group with babysitting because she wanted to dance more and because too many of us weren't doing that because of kids. So, we're learning a crazy swing/Bollywood fusion dance choreography on Saturday mornings. That should be wrapping up at the end of April. I feel hopelessly out of step and incompetent, but at least I'm moving. We'll post the video when it's all done. In our fantasy world we're this cool:

And now, your Moment of Zen:

Friday, March 04, 2016


So it's been less than a week, I know, but the odds are high I'd forget something about this week over the next 3 weeks, and there's just a bit y'all should know about.

This week Athena transitioned to Pre-K. This is her last stop at Early Horizons before Kindergarten (almost certainly at Sutter Elementary). We dropped her off in the Dandi room every day and those transitioning walked over together. It looks like this:

Self-selected gender segregation starts early.
Today we dropped her off for her first full day in Pre-K. She is so ready. One of the other kids was crying on his mom's shoulder. Athena couldn't wait to say, "Bye mommy!" My little barnacle is growing up.

She ate the very last ginger cookie from her birthday party this morning. (Her grandma made a LOT of cookies.) I opened the container and said, "Oh no! There's only one last lonely ginger cookie left. What should we do with it?" She replied, "I could eat it so that it would be in my belly with its friends." And that's how you earn a cookie for breakfast. We got to school and she hadn't eaten it yet (she chose to eat her normal breakfast first) so I told the story to her new teacher. Athena added, "It's going there right now. Nom nom nom!" and takes a big bite. There's this face people get in the presence of extreme cuteness. Her new teacher totally got that face. You could see this little battle in her head happening, where she was like, "I'm a professional. We don't comment on kids being cute or beautiful or anything. We praise them for working hard, being kind, following directions, etc." And her face is just squishing up and she whispers, "She is so cute."

The other thing I did this week was to go to a beginning square dance class in Sunnyvale. My grandparents square danced through their 80s, and I've long wanted to give it a go. An invitation arrived via NextDoor, so I thought, "You know what? Let's try it." Well, let's just say that 20+ years of vintage social dance, Irish ceili, English country dance, and Fezziwigs made this the easiest dance form I've ever tried. It's all the same stuff, with slightly different styling. And they're always calling, so as long as you're listening, it's crazy easy to follow along. The one thing that immediately stood out (beyond the question of "why don't we ever allemande right???) was some outdated gender stuff. At 41, I was easily the youngest person in the room. I also didn't bring my own partner, and I was asked about that gently - "Your husband doesn't like to dance?" When I said, "Oh Erik dances, but he's home with our daughter since he got Game of Thrones night last week." there was a little tiny flinch. Then there were the calls that said, "Return to your honey." And "Ladies _____ and Gentlemen _____" and I thought, oh yeah, we used to say that a lot in Irish too, but mostly it's all Leads and Follows nowadays. It was the whitest, most hetero-normative activity I've done in a good long time. And I'm a white, married, middle-class mom. It was just... different. And it was interesting to me that that didn't feel even remotely normal to be in a space so thoroughly hetero-normative. Anyway, I'll likely go back. It's close to home. It's kind to my knees. It's easy exercise. And it's nice to pick up a new dance form so painlessly.

Monday, February 29, 2016

49 Months

Athena had an amazing birthday. It was the birthday that just kept being a birthday. Now, a month later, we think we're mostly done with the birthday, but you never know. It may yet sneak up again with more celebrations and gifts and adventures.

At school she enjoyed cupcakes with everyone. They posted this photo:

To me, her calm and patience shines right through. There's an element of executive control that just kills me. She seems to be radiating, "Thank you for joining me today. You may sing now. I'll wait." And that's kind of who she's suddenly become. Gone are the meltdowns because tonight is just too long to wait or the weekend is too far away. Instead, when we drove to school a couple of weeks ago and was watching Octonauts on my phone for a reward for getting dressed and ready to go on time, I said, "We probably won't have time to finish the whole episode." And she replied, "That's okay, I can watch it later. After school." There are moments when I'm glad I'm not looking at her when she says these things. I just kind of blinked and stared straight ahead. Where was the upset I expected? Where was the fuss? What, no tears?  Um... yeah, no. She's four. She's got this.

For her birthday, we initially considered something like Pump It Up, but decided it was a bit too spendy. We pivoted and had a Ladybug Girl: Bug Club tea party instead. However, I didn't reconsider the invitation list. That was... a choice. Athena listed off everyone she wanted to be there, and well, we found ourselves with 13 friends coming to tea. Plus their parents. Plus her grandma. And well, suddenly it was a LOT of people and prep and not much less expensive than Pump It Up. Oops. I spent the month scouring thrift stores for tea cups and tea pots and ordering games and party favors from Oriental Trading Company and buying deco at Party City. Then I spent all of Friday night and Saturday morning cooking and prepping. But, it went swimmingly well. There were ladybugs and butterflies and bees. There was cake and tea cups and foods Athena likes (PB&J, ginger cookies, cinnamon toasts, etc.). There were mimosas and croissants for the adults.The kids played games and ran around in the yard. Erik demonstrated a disappearing spoon. It was a whirlwind! We sent everyone home with a prize bag and a tea cup.

Tea party!

When moms collapse!

Melting spoons!
And the following weekend we went to Disneyland. We had measured her on her birthday and she was still 38  3/4 inches. We measured her on Tuesday and she was... taller. Like maybe a 1/2 - 3/4 inch taller. After being stubbornly stuck at just shy of 39 inches since July. I mean really, we wanted to go to Disneyland in September. Nope. Still 39 inches. We wanted to go in December. Nope. Still 39 inches. We planned to take a trip with everyone to escape the Super Bowl and at t-minus 3 days to departure, she grew. Erik said, "You're gonna post that to Facebook right?" I didn't. It felt like I was still holding my breath til she was standing there at Disneyland with her bumping up against the 40 inch sign. 

This is where I get to confess I might be a bad person. Or at least a bad parent. Or something. See, Athena was totally 40 inches tall IN SHOES. And because we didn't want to take any chances, we let her wear her little yellow Minnie Mouse shoes. You know, the ones with the 1 inch heel? Yeah, those. She loves those shoes. And she wore them all the days we were there. She literally ran (and twirled, and spun, and jumped) through the heel. Were they worth the effort (and not otherwise somewhat destroyed) I'd have to take them to a shoe repair to get the heel replaced. As it is, I might just get her another pair, so much is the love of these shoes. So we arrived at Disneyland, marched into the park, and right up to the 40 inch sign at Star Tours. And she stood tall and pressed her head against the sign and she was declared to be 40 inches. 

And with high fives all around, we looked at the 5 minute wait for Star Tours and headed in to ride the ride with R2D2 and C3PO. This was not our best choice ever. If we hadn't been bursting with excitement, I would've remembered that she'd do better if she knew what was going to happen roughly and had some time to wait patiently in the queue and get excited about the ride. As it was, we walked through the line so fast we barely saw C3PO and R2D2 and were loaded on before we knew it. And I held her hand and told her it might be a little scary but R2D2 would keep us safe. And then suddenly we were on Jakku and being tossed around and on Coruscant being attacked by battle droids and crashing into other droids and well, it was a bit much. 

Nevertheless, she wanted to try the fast train with the dinosaur bones. So off we went to Big Thunder. What I needed to remember here again was always prep her. If I'd mentioned there would be dark parts, and mentioned there would explosions, then she would've been fine. It wasn't the speed that worried her. It was the loudness. So that wasn't so great either. 

But the next day I was ready. Radiator Springs Racers. We got fast passes that had us returning at 2:15. I told her right away that scary things might happen, like Frank the Combine might chase us, but that we'd get away. We walked over and watched how fast they went over the hills. We had breakfast at Flo's and she watched the cars go by and got excited she would get to ride one. We talked again on our way over about how it might be a little scary, but that she was big, she was four, and she could do this. We asked for the front seat so that she would be able to see. We got a green car, so it clearly wasn't Lightning McQueen. Erik and I talked about asking the name of the car. We asked the cast member at the seat belt check what our car's name was. He said, "Uh... green?" Erik said, "Did you hear that? This is Gary. Green Gary! Gary is a super fast race car. He'll keep us safe." Thankfully, Athena was sufficiently distracted by the whole process so thoroughly that she totally thought he said Gary. And Gary was a mighty race car. 

We whizzed through the story part of the ride, got chased by Frank, and found our way into Radiator Springs. We got new paint from Ramone and waited for our race to start. And waited. And waited. And... waited. The ride had broken down. Guido was bobbing back and forth ready to cheer us on the whole time. They announced we'd be moving again shortly. We got ready and off we went! Green Gary whizzed around the corners and crossed the finish line in a flash. We won! Athena was thrilled! Green Gary was the best! He was as fast as Lightning McQueen! And we rolled into the loading area and they asked if we wanted to go again since we'd been interrupted. We looked at Athena and she was happy as could be. We answered yes. And off we went again for another ride in Green Gary. This time, no pausing, but we didn't get caught by Frank and we whizzed right into the race. She said, "Did we win?" And we said yes, even though we hadn't quite won. She loved Green Gary. He was a great race car. Filled with enthusiasm and brimming with pride for Green Gary, we headed out to see our picture. At 40 inches, Athena was invisible in the center seat. She ran out the exit path, twirling on her heels and so proud of herself and how she rode the scary ride and how Green Gary saved her from Frank and it was okay because she was 4 AND she was 40 inches.

So... that went well. We rode again the next day in a purple car that didn't win the race, but it was when I remembered to take a few photos. It wasn't as awesome as Green Gary. Green Gary will live in our hearts forevermore.

She holds her skirts up like Cinderella on the stairs as she climbs them. Totes adorbs!
Oddly, I think the ride breaking down was the best thing that could've happened. It gave her a moment to pause and process it mid-ride. And then it gave her a chance to see that it was exactly the same again (we even got Ramone's paint again the second time) and that we'd always miss Frank and she could enjoy the thrill more without the fear that bad things might actually happen this time.

Beyond that, she loved many of the same rides. Small World was still a big hit, Storybook Canals, Dumbo, the carousels, and the Little Mermaid.
Whale tunnel!
It's a small, small world.

Whale on the carousel

More Storybook Canals, this time with friends!
In a moment of brilliance, I read her the story of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day in the week before we left. Suddenly, Winnie the Pooh was her favorite ride. She asked for it at least 3 times a day. Since the line is always pretty short, this was little hardship. I think I rode it fifteen times over four days. 

We mentioned at the gate that it was her birthday trip, so she got a shiny birthday badge with her name on it and thoroughly enjoyed being wished a happy birthday by everyone in the park. 

Engineer for the day!
She wore it the first two days. The second morning I asked if she'd had enough of that on day one. She said she'd like to wear it again. The third morning she said, "I don't need to wear my birthday button today."

We also finally got the see the Paint the Night parade. After dire warnings about the traffic problems, hours staking out a seat, we walked up 20 minutes before showtime, grabbed a seat near Storybook Canals with no one in front of us, and I held down the fort while Erik and Athena got one more carousel ride. Easy peasy. No fuss. And as a direct descendant of the Electric Light Parade (with the ELP leitmotif coming in occasionally), it's absolutely gorgeous and occasionally mesmerizing. Mack the Truck is just... well...

See, it's not a screen on the side of a truck. The entire interior of the truck is a bunch of programmable lights that make a ball pass around or cars drive by or whatever. So paint the night looked a lot like this:

(For the record, she ate a bunch of churro before the parade started and then just clutched it while staring for the remainder.)

Athena was more interested in meeting some of the character this time. Pixie Hollow was first on the list.

With Iridessa
Tinkerbell is her favorite.
We expected the line to see Anna and Elsa to be insane, but there was exactly one group in front of us. We went right on in. That's a huge change from a year ago.
Anna and Elsa were awesome. 

On our way out, we saw Sophia from Sophia the First.
And she let Athena touch her amulet.
  Then we got to see Lightning and Red in Radiator Springs.
Red the Firetruck

On Sunday night we found Mickey and Minnie just as they came out. It was about 10 p.m., but Athena was still ready for more!

Late in the day at DCA
 On our last morning, we passed Mary Poppins and Burt as we were headed for Small World.
Mary Poppins and Burt
She also got to dance with Mary Poppins the day before, so when we found her over by the Matterhorn, Athena wanted to go say that she liked very much dancing with her. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we were caught dancing by one of the Photopass photographers. I mean, there's always music, so dancing happens.

On our way out of the Haunted Mansion on Sunday (the ghost party ride, according to Athena), the photographer there had us get into the headstones. Athena was having none of it til he offered her a card with Minnie Mouse and a diamond (a Photopass card). She wanted that card, so this happened:
"Look scared!" he said
There are always changes afoot at Disneyland. Currently, the force is strong in this place. Tomorrowland has been transformed for Season of the Force. There are BB-8 drink cups everywhere. The Jedi Academy and Star Tours are joined by Hyperspace Mountain and the Innoventions bottom floor has become the Launchbay. The 3D theater is a nice summary of how we got here and where it's going in the "Path of the Jedi". And throughout Tomorrowland, the beautiful work of John Williams lilts through the air. One of the big surprises was the Darth Tamale at breakfast: a chile cheese stuffed blue corn tamale topped with scrambled eggs, chorizo, sour cream, and salsa. It was sooooo good. 
Seriously,  I need one right now. 
I've been on several Space Mountain overlays in recent history, and while I still have a special place in my heart for the original update with the Dick Dale track, this is the best of the overlays I've seen to date. You launch on a mission with a team of rebels in an X-Wing squadron to attack an Imperial Star Destroyer. From the front seat, it's amazing. And the blue leader is even a woman. 

(Brief aside: I never really noticed the lack of women beyond Princess Leia in Star Wars as a kid, because there was Princess Leia front and center, in the thick of it from start to finish, in charge, and taking over when the guys lacked a plan. It's a thing, but it's definitely worth noting that if you give kids one tiny gateway, they'll find it without fail.)
We reprised our rule of "pick one thing" to take home from Disneyland. This time there was far less of a clear winner, and for a bit, we thought it would be a shiny new light saber like Lorelei got. There was a mighty duel in the Launchbay. Instead we came home with a Little Mermaid figure set that included Prince Eric, three Magiclip type dresses, and two heads for Ariel. We were completely unable to convince her that parts would get lost or that it was just creepy to have a spare head rolling around. 

Because we never slow down, the following weekend was DunDraCon. It was once again totally awesome. Scott flew in on Wednesday. We finished our game prep on Thursday night. Erik and Scott headed up Friday afternoon and got us checked into an awesome pair of rooms side by side. And then Athena went to Clementine's house for the next two nights and we played like grown ups without a pre-schooler. We ran our game Saturday morning: Over My Dead Body, where Mr. Body is dead and he's left his estate in order but give the will's recipients the option to decide their own settlement. Hilarity ensues. I think it's due a revision and reprise, maybe at Kubla.

The standout game for me was really the Gamer Geekus Korean War setting game. The Saturday night GG games led by Aaron "Big Arms" Lopez are always a favorite for me, and this year was no exception. When things have gone sufficiently off the map as to have a situation where the GMs leave the room briefly to see what they should do, the players are winning.
Here is Scott totally breaking the game with the power Aaron gave him.
I actually misread my goals initially and didn't cover up my robot-ness as much as I should've, but I think it actually worked out better that way. I had a blast playing a war-bot developed to support the American cause in 15 year old Korean girl exterior who giggled inappropriately. Yeah.

Sunday I picked up Athena while Erik played the Team Volare game. We got haircuts, went swimming, and played with the Waltons and the Blacks. Then Erik took over and I played the Goudeau's haunted house game with Scott. I was the wealthy Southern socialite wife of the politician who owned the house, so I spent the evening schmoozing and making connections. 

The following weekend was Frozen On Ice courtesy of Kevin and Rachel. It was good! 
Pre-shopping photo
The seats were amazing, just a few feet of the ice. Before the show, Rachel got the girls each one present from the concession stand. Athena picked an Elsa doll to match the Anna doll Kristen Wirth had gotten her for her birthday. Now every night, we have to sing their two duets, with me playing Anna and her playing Elsa. Then she snuggles in with both, plus my bear, Daddy's bear, her bear (from Uncle Scott), and bunny. It's... getting a bit crowded in the toddler bed. 

On the way back I took the girls to the bathroom and Lorelei squeezed in with Athena and I. I have never been in such close quarters in a bathroom stall!

Meanwhile, the guys were waiting for us and were having Guys Night out at the ice capades.

It was a bit loud for Athena's tastes, so I spent the first half covering her ears. Rachel and Erik went to hunt for earplugs at intermission and the usher nearest us had a pair in his pocket. Problem solved! The wolves were terrifying - creepy motion, glowing gold eyes - but that didn't worry Athena at all. She was worried about Marshmallow being too scary, but he was a giant inflatable that moved slowly. 
Big, but not scary.
The next day was Lorelei's birthday party. Athena Lendvay had hired the most amazing animal guy for her Wild Kratt's themed party. This guy was riveting. He had a great patter and an assistant who made it all look seamless. She never said a word, but they were clearly a well-rehearsed team. He had a big tortoise, a little baby turtle, a bunny, a hamster, a rooster, a huge iguana, a guinea pig,  a scorpion, a tarantula, a little garter snake, a huge Python, some baby chicks and one grub who he said, "Say goodbye to the grub. This is his last show!" before feeding it to the rooster. He had the kids waving to every animal in a unique style. 

As you might guess, the following day was a flurry of housekeeping after two weekends of travel and a major birthday party at home. 

But there's no time to rest yet! I caught up on work on Monday night, then interviewed for a position on the Santa Clara Cultural Commission on Tuesday (and didn't get it), then watched Lorelei and Athena on Wednesday so the rest of the gang could watch Game of Thrones, then went to Athena's annual doctor visit on Thursday, and then had Michelle and Connor over for dinner while Erik went to play D&D with Matt. Then Saturday morning I got up and taught my iOS class. Sunday we grabbed dim sum with the gang and then went to Target to find some new trousers for Erik. We then showed Athena her last birthday present:

She drove it to the park and played for 90 minutes, then drove home. Meanwhile, I started making a big pot of beef barley soup to sustain us for the week. 

Sunday night, my feet sent a letter of complaint  and I generally hit the wall of tired. I snuggled with Athena on the sofa while Erik cooked me dinner: rib eye, twice-baked potato (leftover from Christmas in the freezer - Thanks Karen!), and cauliflower. Tasty.