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Sunday, June 28, 2015

41 Months

This month we finally got a visit from Karen. Hooray! (No really, total Kermit flail!) Athena was beyond overjoyed. I think she might be enticed to come back sooner as this time all thoughts of "No, Mommy do it." were left behind in favor of "No, I want to brush teeth with Meme." and "No, I want to make coffee with Meme." and the greeting of  "Meme! Meme! Meme! Meme!" for about an hour when she first arrived. Athena skipped school in favor of trips to the park and the library and the junior museum and generally having a completely delightful time.

We went to Vasona Park for the first time to try the train and the carousel, which were both great.
"Meme carry me please."

Carousel in the trees

Mommy and Daddy sat on the bench
Saturday night we took advantage of the free babysitting and hit the Mountain Winery for George Thorogood and Brian Setzer. Brian Setzer was as awesome as I expected, and the Mountain Winery is definitely not the right place to see him. We found one wide space to dance a bit, but otherwise, it's tiny little seats with barely any legroom and no place to dance. I initially turned it down, and Erik said he wanted to go without me. That bummed me out, so I decided to go too. I would cheerfully go to any Brian Setzer show again almost anywhere else, but yeesh, when the best dancing is on flagstone paved corner no where near our seats, that's just wrong. But when you're the only couple dancing, a lot of people notice. Erik bumped into Ryan Shen-Knotts in the bathroom, and, and a Stanford colleague emailed me on Monday to say hi and say, "I told my husband he'd never dance with me like that." He said, "Nope."

We all headed to Santa Cruz for Father's Day, which seemed to be an idea lots of other folks had too. Athena loves the rides so very much.
On my trusty steed!


More carousel!
Athena is very clear on the letter A all of the sudden. She has been pointing out As all over the place, because A is for Athena. She also knows O. Other letters are still a bit more fuzzy, but she's got her numbers, can count to about 30 pretty successfully (and farther with a nudge here and there, so she gets the mechanic clearly), and delights in counting everything.

Also, we are all silly Billies. A lot.

Athena delights in making a mistake. I can only assume this comes from school because she says it with such joy. As in, "Oh! I made a mistake!" So far, no particular negative connotations there, so that's pretty cool.

And last week, her favorite phrase became, "Well, except..." She uses it in much the same way that a lot of folks use, "Um" but it sounds more adult and more contrarian. She's also all about "the plan." I'm pretty sure that one is my fault. I'm always briefing her on the plan because life goes soooooo much better if she knows what the plan is, especially if we can get her used to a big, out of the ordinary plan for a few days before it happens. Then big things can happen, and she knew it was the plan, so she's way less upset. Turns out, her needs are not unlike any adult. She likes to know what's going on, and sometimes she likes to decide what's going to happen. She'll say, "Well, here's the plan. We'll make coffee, then get dressed, then go to the park." And I say, "Oh, ok. That's a good plan." She'll say, "That's a really good plan. Let's do it." And off we go.

Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese. Like she would eat it twice a day every day if we let her.

Meanwhile, at work, things are pretty busy for me, but at least I've got a couple of interns doing the pile-on, no way it was gonna happen work. Erik is just finishing his quarter and the summer quarter starts Monday. This seems crazy on many levels, not the least of which is that grades for the prior quarter aren't posted til Wednesday so there's no telling if you passed the prerequisite, but it's how they roll at De Anza. He'll have a month off in August/September so that will be nice. (I never get a month off! Or an end of the quarter sense of completion. Harumph.)

Friday, May 29, 2015

40 Months for Athena. 41 years for me.

Since last we left our heroes, both Erik and Ammy have enjoyed birthdays. That brings me up to 41 (which sounds oddly older than 40, like, "I'm in my forties." instead of "I'm forty." Weird.) But, since there's been a large gap since our last update, I'm going to sum up a bit more than normal.

Athena now makes me coffee. Our daily routine involves her scooping coffee into the filter, adding water, and closing the lid. Then she presses the button and we wait for the beep. We pour coffee, then milk, and she pours in the sweetener.

I put the lid on because the day she tried that it splashed a bit on her, so now she doesn't want to, because hot is bad. Net result: my kid makes pretty good coffee! Also, the one thing I really wanted for my birthday was a conical burr coffee grinder to improve my coffee experience. My mom got it for me, so now I can up my coffee snob street cred a bit. 

We're working with a grad student in Stanford's Learning, Design, and Technology program (the Master's degree I'd get if I didn't have to have a job for a year) who is working on a thesis called "Nomster Chef," using a custom app to have picky eaters make meals step by step with their parents. The first week we made a quesadilla with beans and spinach. At first, Athena was her usual self and said, "I don't like that." Then as we all sat down to dinner, she decided to try it. Win!!! She explained that she likes the cheese and the leaves, but not the beans. I said that was okay. We've had two more quesadillas since then. This week we made a pizza with mozzarella, spinach, sliced tomatoes, and basil. She didn't like to eat the tomatoes, but she loved slicing them in half with the knives Ashley brought. This time Athena asked if she could eat some of the shredded cheese. I scooped some extra into the measuring cup and she proceed to mow through about a 1/3 of a cup of mozzarella. That was new. So, our girl is still hopelessly picky, always preferring a granola bar and a pouch of banana apple fruit over almost anything else, but we just keep chipping away at this challenge and someday she'll be eating curry and sushi and gyros and with us like a champ.

We went to KublaCon this past weekend. The hotel remains my least favorite of the local gaming con circuit due to it's lack of parking, lack of access to food and shopping, slow and broken elevators, and indifferent staff. Athena has the bug though. We told her we were going to a hotel and she was super excited. She likes hotels for a lot of reasons. It usually means we're spending time with friends she likes and it means we sleep in the same room with her. She gets to sleep on her little cot, which she also likes. She only got to stay one night this time because she was off to Clem's house for a sleepover on Saturday morning. This meant Erik and I actually got to play in a game together. Yay! Then we helped run the Night at the Mouseum game on Saturday night (Disneyland meets Night at the Museum - shenanigans ensue!). 

On Sunday we headed to Rich and Louise's wedding. It was the first time in ever that I was able to go to a wedding without even getting on the freeway. That was awesome. It also meant that when Athena was still pulling down an epic nap at 3:30, I headed off to the ceremony and Erik stayed home with the girl. It was a charming wedding for two folks who seem terribly well-suited for one another. For years, I knew Louise was super awesome, but never quit fit perfectly in the dancer/Fezzi milieu. She found Legion and it was like a sigh of relief - yes, these are your people, including this cute guy you get to marry. Yay! Meanwhile, Athena thought the party was cool, especially when she got to play with the rainbow disco light thingy and the horn helmet for the picture booth. (She was a tricertops, you see.)

Cupcake with sprinkles. 

Peter blowing bubbles for Athena

 On May 14th, we took Erik to the airport for a conference in San Diego. While he enjoyed a few child-free evenings with colleagues, I took Athena to visit her grandma in Sacramento (and her great-grandparents). We booked a ride on the railway and spent an hour on a train. Athena was rapt. 

Then we headed into the Railroad Museum and she played with all of the train tables for the next hour while mom and I sat and chatted. Then we headed to my grandparents house, collecting pizza en route. Our entertainment for the afternoon was a belated egg hunt. My mom had Easter things for Athena (including that purple dress above) and we enjoyed a half dozen times of us hiding eggs for her, and her hiding eggs for us. 

Athena had her first official dentist's visit. To be fair, she went when she was less than a year old, but that was perfunctory. This time she'd been with us to our dental visits for the last three trips. After we went to Dr. K's office, she started telling me she wants to be a dentist when she grows up. She'd reach in my mouth and have a look with some regularity. She was super excited to go to her dentist. She showed them how she brushes her teeth, how she rinses and spits, and then let them do a full exam and a cleaning. She was such a champ. 
The office had an amazing space shuttle toy Athena gravitated to.

We arrived back at school just in time for circle time, so Athena said, "Bye mommy!" then dashed in and plopped down next to Miss Kym.

Miss Kym is going to be out for 8 weeks getting a hip replacement. We miss her so much, but I still get shades of Miss Kym because she pops out of Athena's mouth all the time. Athena may be the most polite child I've ever met, and for anyone who knows me, you know that's her school being awesome rather than us doing an amazing job. Mama has the mouth of a sailor. Meanwhile, Miss Kym routinely enforces pleases and thank yous and addresses the kids as "my friend" when asking them to do things. Last weekend, Athena was asking me to do something and she said, "Could I have that for a snack, my friend." At Trader Joe's this week, she asked if she could have stickers saying, "Please may I have stickers?" And I said, "Yes you may." And she said, "Oh thank you. Thank you mommy." I can't wait til Miss Kym is back! 

Our fence didn't make it through the last rainstorm of the season, so we met up with the neighbors and got bids for a new fence just before the annual Santa Clara cleanup. They tore out the fence and the ivy, and replaced it with a lovely new fence and a gate with a latch that doesn't require insane tugging and trouble. In the process, we found out that our neighbor's daughter now was starting to babysit. She'd taken the Red Cross CPR and babysitting training and was  available for $3 an hour. I just about choked on the spot. That's about 1/5 the cost of babysitting normally. (Heck we've paid as much as $22 an hour when desperate.) And she'd have her mom next door as backup, and really, she's a kid. On Monday we told Athena that Maddie was coming over to play. We got her all set up then said we were going to go out for a bit and she said, "Okay bye mommy." This is not her normal reaction to my leaving. Ever. But hey, there was another kid to play with. A big kid. And painting. They painted, and drew and painted toenails and played outside and watched the Tinkerbell movie. We got home to find Athena napping. She woke up unbelievably cheerful. It was idyllic. Meanwhile, we hit Sushi Confidential in Campbell, then saw Tomorrowland at Camera 7. It turns out one of the main characters is named Athena. In a few years, we'll introduce it to our Athena and see what she thinks.

At work we've done 3 sessions of Elite Technician training. It was great to get back to the training world for a visit. We had 14 different speakers over 3 days and 20-24 techs per session. Now every service center has at least one expert who will review cases before they're escalated to Service Engineering, which is going to be huge because certain things are happening that are going to make things much busier, as if introducing the new dual-motor vehicles wasn't adding enough extra load already.

I also taught two sessions of Mastering Your iOS Device for Stanford Continuing Studies this quarter. It was a blast again! Exhausting, but fun. My "teach people cool stuff" itch has been well scratched over the past quarter, which it appears makes me a happier employee overall, so that's good (and good to know).

During one of those classes, I was demonstrating Find My Friends and I brought it up, and then tried to figure out what the heck was going on with folks. None of it made any sense. Kevin was in the park where Erik and Athena were going earlier, and Christyn was at our house and it was all just so very weird. So I'm driving home and I say, "So, why was Christyn at our house? Erik says, "Long story, I can tell you when you get home." I say, "Yeah, okay, but did Kev go to the park with you?" And he sighs and says, "Want to hear it now?" And, well, yes, I'd love to hear a good story as I drive home from Palo Alto. Turns out, Erik met up with Ben and Miriam in the park for lunch and toddler play time. The city workers decided to turn on the water features in Las Palmas park. (Because it's this awesome tiki-themed park.) It turns out that a pipe had broken, and Erik fell into the invisible quicksand that was forming and was up to his waist almost instantly. He let the workers know and they turned off the water, but then Erik realized he's lost his wedding ring. It could be in the water pit, or it could've flown when he fell, but it was gone. Meanwhile, it was almost toddler naptime, So, he rallies the troops, and begs for help. Christyn heads to our house to sit while Athena naps. Kev goes to Home Depot and gets a bucket and some mesh for a sieve. Erik and Kev head to the park and with shovels and tools in hand, stride back to the pit. Another person says, "Oh hey, be careful, there's a deep pit." He says, "Yeah, we know. I'm the one that found it. I'm just going back to find my wedding ring." And the guy says, "You lost a ring? Is it silver and blue? My daughter just found one." He calls to his daughter to bring it over. It is indeed Erik's lost ring. He thanks them profusely and says, "Sorry, what did you say your daughter's name was?" It's Athena. Erik just stands there dumbfounded, then explains. He offers a reward to Athena and her father insists no reward is needed. So Kev and Erik return the supplies to Home Depot and go back to the rest of their day only slightly disappointed that they didn't get to have an adventure with shovels and sieves and buckets.

I'm out of time, so here's a few more pictures of my cutie girl to wrap up this post. 

Trying on a seersucker suit at Target.
Being patient while toes dry.
Two tattoos! Elsa AND Anna!
Picture by Miss Joanna at school.
Life is good. Busy. There's rarely time for anything more than the minimum requirements - work, eat, sleep, take care of tiny human - but we're doing okay. And she's one heck of a cute tiny human, so it works out. 

Monday, April 06, 2015

DunDraCon 2015

In my last post, I left out one really big weekend: DunDraCon. This year was extra special because we flew Scott out to join us. We figured that a newly divorced guy should be somewhere fun that had low levels of schmoop on his first single Valentine's day in ages, and we guessed right. Scott had a blast, falling into the world of gaming and being reluctant to get back on the plane to go home on Monday.

Our President's Day weekend began with Erik picking up Scott at the airport on Friday and heading to the San Ramon Marriott. I picked up Athena after work and joined them there. We arrive around 8 p.m., well after most people had already settled in for con. The staff at the Marriott were once again amazing, beginning with the valet who said, "Oh, and since you probably don't want to have to walk too far with her, it's okay if you go around the back and park back there tonight. We keep it blocked off for vendors during the week, but they're all done now and won't be back til you check out, so feel free to park there. I thanked him profusely and felt that special peace of knowing you're somewhere where other people are looking out for you, partly because it's their job, and partly because they're really nice people. The San Ramon Marriott and Disneyland are the two places I can count on this. For this I am extremely grateful.

I got Athena up to our room and got us unpacked, changed Athena into her jammies, then headed down to say hi to the gents. They were playing an L5R game down in Salon B. Athena actually remembers and likes this hotel. She grabbed her balance bike and rode it into the elevator and into the game. Now, neither of us had a camera handy, so you'll have to picture Athena in Frozen jammies with Anna and Elsa on the shirt, plus her pink Minnie Mouse bike helmet, rolling in on her red balance bike. If cute could kill, this would have done it. So there we are in a room full of gamers who are having very serious militaristic conversations that suddenly switch into higher pitches squealing, "Oh my god she's so cute!" She rolls up to someone she knows and says, "I'm looking for my daddy." Erik is hunched over a map looking at troop movements, being officious when his body language changes and he melts back into daddy for hugs and kisses.

The next day is my day for games, doing T & Danielle's game in the morning and Aaron's game in the evening. Scott joined me in both games and had an absolutely fabulous time in T & Danielle's game, being the accountant just wanting to get it all done. Erik took Athena over to the farmer's market, where she insisted that they buy flowers for me and bring them back. Apparently she wanted to carry them behind her back the whole way back so that I would have a surprise. He convinced her that she could hold them in front til we got upstairs. Returning the favor of the night before, Erik and Athena came in and Athena presented me with flowers and I melted from powerful diplomat to mommy. They headed out to go swimming and have a nap.

After that game, we headed out to Baja Fresh with another player who was visiting from New York. He's a Googler, so he plans his trips to Mountain View with an eye to spending the preceding weekend at the game con. In a moment of extreme serendipity, he was looking for someone to hand off the running of a con in Connecticut. Scott and Max exchanged contact info and I really hope Scott is going to be able to help him out this coming year, and maybe take over after that.

On Sunday, Erik did the morning game with Team Volare and Scott joined him. I took Athena across the bay to Clementine's house so that we could all run a game together on Sunday night. I got back in time to have a little time to myself, shopping toddler free for once. I actually tried on clothes! Still, didn't buy much. We grabbed a bite of dinner at Little Madfish (with the super-yummy Boston roll) and did final game prep. We had the craziest list of players with an absolutely ridiculous overflow list. Erik realized he'd wildly misjudged gender balance and was going to have to do some quick switch ups to accommodate all the women signed up. Then Scott, who had never played a LARP before Friday, found himself helping to run our game, and he did great! As our one game review said,"Nepotism works!"

On Monday, we had our annual bacon-fest with the Schluntzes. This is one of my favorite traditions. This year, Sean topped himself making homemade croissants from scratch. So buttery and flakey! Nom! Erik took Scott back to the airport for his 1 p.m. flight and I went to pick up Athena. They were in the park next to Clem's condo and were living the life.
Let's fly away!
With enormous thanks to Kelly and Nicole, I packed up my girl who barely made it home before collapsing in a nap. I unpacked the car and started laundry and got ready for the next week. Scott flew home to mountains of snow. Poor guy. California was being unkind with it's taunting weather. It was 68-72 degrees and sunny all weekend. In February. While Boston was being buried by 10 ft. of snow. Scott said, "All of your friends are really nice." He fell in and found his people instantly and it felt cruel to put him back on that plane. He swears he'll be back next year. We're hoping that works out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Being 3

Athena has graduated to the Dandi room at school (short for Dandelion) and she LOVES it. She immediately took to it like it was made for her. They have capes! Every morning for the first two weeks, she was happy to let me leave so long as she got one of the long purple capes. (Since there weren't always enough, I actually ordered a few spares on Etsy.)She's learning like a sponge too and has transitioned from counting til she gets bored (which could be many more or less than the objects she was "counting") to counting the actual number of items. She's also really recognizing individual numbers and letters now, not with 100% consistency, but it's getting there. And she's fascinated by it. She has certain knowledge that it means something. I get a lot of "tell me what that says" nowadays. They practice tracing letters and do a lot of painting and a lot of running around like crazy at school.

Cutting with scissors

Painting watercolors

Tracing her numbers in paint

Cupcakes for Libby's birthday!
Coloring with markers

Circle time with Miss Kym

Lately, after school she has just wanted more running. Last night, DST had won so I grabbed burritos on the way home. I pulled in and saw Erik and Athena weren't there so I checked Find My Friends and saw they were at the park. I texted and said I'd walk down. I grabbed some water and headed over. Erik was having races to the light post and back as it got darker in the first day after the transition. We sat on the bench, offering Athena burrito, but she wasn't convinced even if it did have meat like carnivores eat. I got to eat most of a half of a burrito, and was then talked into more racing and slides and climbing. Athena will hang from the bars and say, "Look what my body can do!" No clue where she picked up that phrasing, but it's cute. She also says it when she bends over.

Most nights we're treated to a twirling show before getting into jammies. There's the twirl, followed by kneeling on one knee, followed by a big bow with one arm forward. This, like so many things, has become completely ritualized. Take for example her Magic Timer we use to encourage brushing teeth. At the finish of each session, we have to go to the Frozen book, look at the picture of Anna, Sven, Kristoff, and Olaf and I say, "That's my favorite." Then she goes to the girls rolling a ball of snow and I say, "Do you wanna build a snowman?" Then she opens the picture of Elsa and Anna in front of the ice castle and says, "Let's go back to their home." And then she exits out of the book, out to the main screen and turns off my phone. If I interrupt or deviate, it will likely end in tears. Rituals are everything right now.

We went to Lorelei's birthday party at Pump It Up a week ago, and getting jostled around by the other kids was still a little much for her, but she enjoyed some of the slightly less rambunctious activities.
Driving around saying, "Hi Mommy!"

All the kids

Picking out a party favor 

The slide was really fast and a little too scary
Last weekend we headed to Libby's birthday party. I see a lot of kids parties in our future.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Before turning 3

Disneyland was a blast. Utterly fabulous. It was a very different trip as Jeff and Wendy aren't big rides and coasters folks, so instead, we took more time for Fantasyland and stuff knowing we wouldn't be rushing off to grab a ride on Space Mountain or Big Thunder. Also, Disneyland is fabulous during the holidays. Just absolutely delightful. It's decorated, but it's not cloying. They somehow balance it perfectly. Things are not unnecessarily replaced. Each choice is carefully made. Small World is improved. The Jungle Cruise becomes the Jingle Cruise and is completely delightful.

We arrived Thursday evening and found ourselves slightly stuck in traffic on Disneyland Drive, delaying our meetup with the Los a bit, partially because Athena finally passed out for a nap while we waited in traffic. We arrived and I unloaded while Erik continued grading. In a whirlwind, everything was unpacked and we were ready to roll just as Athena stirred. We met up with the Los for chicken dinner at the hub, but they were finishing and getting restless. Athena was also none too thrilled about the first ride being the dinner ride. Was she hungry? No! She wanted to go on the carousel. I proposed the maybe Athena could show Connor the carousel or the flying elephants. SHe headed off with them, leading them into Fantasyland. We ate quickly and caught up in line for Dumbo. After flying elephants and carousel, Connor wanted to go on the Storybook Canals, so we hit that, much to Athena's delight. Initially she was a little scared of the "whale tunnel" but that was completely washed away after seeing Arrendelle and Elsa's palace. A new favorite was forged. We called it a night early and headed back to the hotel, ready to take on the day tomorrow.

We started the next morning with Athena decked out in her favorite Minnie Mouse dress and headed to Toontown. Here I had a moment of near-perfect parenting. She saw some toys in the Toontown shop and said, "I want that!" to several items. Fearing a weekend of saying no to one toy after another, I instead said, "Well, we can only take home one present from Disneyland, and we'll get it later. Is this the one you really want?" She made her choice from several things there, settling on a pack of six toy cars from the Cars movie. Throughout the rest of the weekend as she pointed at various things, I  said, "Do you want that more than the cars?" She'd think and then say, "No, I want the cars more." Okay! As we got ready to leave on Sunday, she asked if we could go buy her present now. I said yes and confirmed she still wanted the cars. We got it and I said, "You can't open it til we get buckled into the car to go home." She agreed and said, "Let's go!" Departure difficulty level: zero. She then played with the toys in the seat til she fell asleep 3 hours later. Then she played with them more when she woke up. It was magical. She's played with her cars dozens of times since. I don't know where I pulled that inspiration from, but it was pure genius.

After that, we tried Gadget's Go Coaster, which wasn't fun for her yet. Too fast and loud. We headed to Minnie's house for a fairly short wait to get photos with Minnie. Minnie absolutely adored her outfit and especially her shoes.
Minnie showing off their matching shoes.

The rest of the weekend was a whirl of favorite rides, favorite foods, and favorite breaks. Athena loves churros, but who doesn't, right? And did you know that if you ask at Main Street Station, they'll show you the locomotive while they load the passengers? They even open the firebox. It's powered by bio-diesel nowadays, but the Fred Gurley has run a lot fuels since it went into service in 1897.

Kids running around Tom Sawyer's Island is one of life's great joys. I remember running across the bridge when I was a kid and Athena loves it just as much as I did.

We spent Athena's naptime both days at Carthay Circle Lounge, Erik and Wendy sipping Manhattans and me sipping a Double Pear martini. There is nothing sweeter than sitting in the nicest bar you can imagine with your sleeping child wheeled up next to you. For this alone, DCA will always have a special place in my heart.

We learned the difference between Connor and Athena as night fell. At 9 p.m., Connor passed out in his stroller and would not be roused for Fantasmic or fireworks. Athena said the fireworks were too loud and could we go on the whale tunnel again now? We bid farewell to the Los on Saturday night after fireworks and headed back to Fantasyland. Erik said, "Maybe I'll duck out and hit AstroBlasters?" But then Athena started dancing and playing and giggling and both of us were thinking, "Nope. I'm good right here." It was late, it was cold, and our kid was still the most cheerful person in the queue. So we did whale tunnel, Dumbo, carousel, and finally talked her into taking the "sky train" (monorail) back to the hotel. The band in Tomorrowland was doing a cover of  AC/DC "You Shook Me All Night Long" and Athena was rocking out right til the train came.

We asked if we could ride in the nose and they said, "Sure!" so we got to watch Disneyland recede away with our 270 degree view.
We returned back to normal life on Monday the 5th.The rest of the month was good, with a brunch at our place the following weekend, dropping into the Fezziwig's cast party where Athena enjoyed playing with Vicki so very much, having Clementine for an overnight, planning a game with Erik Dahl for Kublacon, and getting out to Friday Night Waltz for Movie Night, including my getting to learn the Laendler, which was a hoot. Erik got out for Gent's night last week on Monday and I went out for Girls Gaming Night on Tuesday. But Disneyland really was the highlight. Athena is just so much fun at Disneyland. We'll be sad to have our passes expire on the 21st of March, but now that she's turned 3 and is no longer free, we expect we're going to wait til she's 40 inches tall and can go on Radiator Springs Racers before we head back again. I suspect that if she realized what she was missing, she'd be inconsolable. Meanwhile, she's got six cars from Cars that she picked out as her special present from Disneyland and they make her incredibly happy.