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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.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happy Birthday Athena!

Athena had a lovely birthday yesterday. She's in the middle of transitioning to the Dandi room at school, so that meant big signs in both rooms proclaiming "Happy Birthday Athena!" At 3 p.m., she had little cupcakes with her Dolphin-room class, which she took very seriously:
It's clearly a big responsibility waiting while everyone sings for you. Fear not, she really did enjoy her cupcake with sprinkles.

I picked up Athena from school and we headed to Aqui for dinner with 18 of her friends. There was Aqui chocolate cake and presents. 
Unwrapping the "Elsa doll that doesn't sing"

More candles!

Dancing with Christy

(which gives mommy a break)

Until the Hokey Pokey!

Whereupon I hereby declare birthday celebrations as good. She has celebrated her first three birthdays at Aqui and shares a birthday with the manager's daughter. She is known by the bartenders and has a usual order. It may not be the most normal thing for a 3 year old, but she's doing a-ok. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Holidays!

A few days before Christmas, Erik said to me, "What are we getting Athena for Christmas?" Let's skip right over the implication of that "we" and how I get to handle it and tell him what we did, shall we? But "we" erred on the side of "everyone else is going to get her a ton of stuff." I got her a musical set, a couple of Magiclip dolls, and a slinky. Let's be clear though, it took her 3 days to open all of her stuff, and not because she wasn't into it or wasn't skilled at doing it. There was just way more stuff than any 2 year old really needs. Being the only grandchild and the only kid in my family or Erik's family means that Athena will never want for much. Also, Amazon wish lists are awesome because as I think of fun things throughout the year, I can stash the ideas there and folks will just find things she will really love.

On the weekend of the last Gaskell's Ball, Athena went to school for Parents Day Out, then went home to Clementine's house for a sleepover. She had a great time, and we went and worked all day at Dickens, then followed up with Gaskell's, then grabbed some breakfast and picked her up. The freedom of Dickens without a toddler is pretty nice. And Gaskells was one last hurrah at something that has been a huge part of my life for 20 years.
Bohemian National Polka

Sir Roger de Coverly

Waltzing with Dave

One of my favorite things at Dickens, aside from all the dancing, is the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah at the end of the day. I usually grab the King of Kings/Lord of Lords card and proceed to be a big ol' ham, jumping for the sopranos' high note, bending for the basses' low note, swooping for the big runs. It just makes me happy. I got to do it both at Dickens, and again at Gaskell's later that evening.

Now as if watching Athena for us Saturday night/Sunday morning wasn't enough, Kelly and Cole also watched her so that we could go to Mythbusters Live on Thursday night.
Adam hanging from an interleafed pair of phone books

Good seats!

The most powerful paintball gun ever

Athena wouldn't get it at this age, but darn I do hope they do a show like this again in another five years. We'll take her in a heartbeat, and hopefully she'll be the little girl on stage swinging the huge hammer, or something similar. Adam and Jamie were awesome, telling tales and giving me a new word: BLEVE: (bleh-vee) Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, also known as "What happens when you leave a boiling ham bone on the stove overnight and the water goes down and the bubble under the bone superheats and it all explodes at 3:30 in the morning." Because it did. All over the kitchen. So we cleaned house til 5 a.m., then I got dressed and headed to work and started my workday at 5:45, before we headed to Mythbusters later that night and learned that fabulous new word.

Enormous thanks to Kelly and Cole for watching Athena two nights in one week! Overnights aren't smooth yet. Athena said on Thursday she "Had a rough night." But the waking hours of the two of them together is adorable.

At work the following day, I wrapped up the last crazy steps to send our diagnostics database out for translation into Chinese. We got it down to 7,303 articles with over 300,000 words. Of those, only 317 were not last edited by myself, or my two interns, Zach and Eddie. Bless those young men! We moved mountains of data in two months, checking and validating every attachment, ensuring that every alert had a definition, and cleaning up a lot of duplicates and other bad data. It's an amazing amount of work.

On the final weekend of Dickens, we headed up early to Soup Night at Becky's parent's house. This is my favorite holiday event. Erik and Carolyn are the best hosts. We made a tortilla soup this year that was a big hit. That, plus split pea, butternut, and chili provided by the house, yummy bread, brownies, and more. Then folks roll in from a long day of Dickens, grab a bowl, and tell tales. It's all laughter and family. This year, Erik had his 1950s electric train set up under the tree. Athena was rapt. The other kids present milled in and out, but Athena spent almost two hours lying down on the floor with the trains. This once again serves as a preview for John and Becky, busy wrangling a mobile but mostly non-verbal 18 month old. It gets better!

We stayed the night in the (rather disappointing) Ramada arranged with the Dickens rate, allowing Erik to hit fair in time for tableau. Athena and I gathered ourselves together and had a leisurely breakfast downstairs, then went to Tanforan to hang out for a bit before fetching Karen and Rich at the airport. Being in a mall in full Dickens garb is weird. Athena didn't care. She picked out a Christmas present for Lorelei, then we headed to the play area and played for an hour, climbing and exploring.

Then we headed to the airport. This is her waiting for Meme face:
They landed?
When we caught up to them, Athena wanted to ride the airport train. So we took a grand circle tour of SFO, then headed for Dickens Fair. Karen and Rich had never seen it. My dad met us there and he squired Karen and Rich around for a bit. We stopped for tea and had a generally lovely time.
A friend of Erik's caught this amazing photo!
Erik took Karen out for four or five dances. We would've made it til closing, but they extended the hours and Athena was starting to melt. We piled into the cars and headed home.

I talked to my dad at Dickens and told him about the train and he decided to get Athena a train for Christmas. When she opened it, she wanted it assembled now. Moments later, the train was under the tree chugging along. She learned how to operate it immediately, and never managed to get her helmet off from her bike ride.

Christmas went really well. Karen and I went shopping earlier in the week and decided on a prime rib roast that was pre-prepped from Costco. It was delicious, and beautifully prepared. It was stuff full of garlic cloves. I can wait to boil the bones for stock! Add to that Karen's twice-baked potatoes, shaved brussels sprouts in sage and bacon, rolls and cheddar biscuits, fresh butternut squash soup, and green beans and it was a feast. We didn't even manage to cut into the pie for hours after dinner, opting instead for a trip through the hot tub.
Christmas in California done right.
We spent Friday hiking and going to the Tech Museum, then Greg and Kayla headed home. Saturday was dim sum, train museum, and RC cars at Vallco, then Scott headed home.

On Sunday we made a pilgrimage to the new Exploratorium. I was relieved to find so many of my favorite exhibits made the journey. I had this weird fear that it would be a cleaned up, more sterile, more polished place, but it was the same old Exploratorium, just in a glorious new space with a fabulous view of the water and the bridge. We met up with Justin, Monica, Seamus, Christyn, Brian, Brian's sister Sheri, Athena, Cyrus, and Lorelei, and fanned out through the museum with tiny humans leading the way from one exhibit to the next.

We convened in the Seaglass restaurant at noon and found a lovely meal (fresh sushi bar, salads, roast chicken, fresh mac and cheese, and poke. Yum!) and a full bar. I opted for the lemon basil cacahca drink. I love that the museum is the sort of place you can get a freshly muddled craft cocktail. Things have really improved since the days of hot dogs and cheese in a can poured over tortilla chips!
Athena watches the dry ice in the water on the bar. I'm watching the fresh basil, mint, cucumbers, limes...
Karen and Rich headed home Sunday night. Monday I got up to go to work and Athena said, "But don't go. All of my friends are leaving." I promised her I'd be back by bedtime, and that Meme would come back soon and that she got to spend all day playing with daddy. Still, she was a little sad. She really loved playing with Scott and Greg, and she always loves Karen and Rich.

Christyn and Brian were looking for company for a trip to see Kurios. We hadn't gotten tickets yet, so we dove on that grenade and went with them on Monday. Athena was supposed to be hanging with Clementine, but Clem's mom came down with the flu, complete with 6+ days of fever, so Anna and Heraldo rescued us. (Thank you!) She spent the night doing crafts and dancing.

Ballet in the living room
Aside from the obvious, "It's Christmas!" there is something else I really want to record this time and not let it slip away. Last year about this time we started getting a real preview of what 2 was going to be about. Now we're getting a good look at 3. She's suddenly changed so much. Independent play is normal. She sings to herself and makes up songs. She can have a book read to her once and will have several pages memorized the next time you read it, calling out the story before you can. It has been "No I can do it by myself!" for a couple of months now, but that just keeps escalating. She actually can do a lot by herself, so she's not wrong. This morning she got up and peed in her potty and tossed her overnight pull-up in the diaper pail, then said, "I need your help to get dressed." Erik and I looked at each other, shrugged, and said, "Okay, good job honey." The only thing that's mildly worrisome right now is "No I want to go first!" which leads to a meltdown if you go in front of her. We're trying to get across that she doesn't always get to go first. She gets it sometimes.

To sum up, it's been a good, hectic holiday season. I'm glad it's over. Next stop: January. And the ladybug has been waiting for January for a very long time. Back in October, she was saying, "I don't want to go to school. I want to go to Disneyland." So I figured out that we could go back in January. I told her and she said, "I don't want to go to school. I want to go to January." I said, "Well honey, we're going, but there's going to be a lot of stops along the way." We're almost there!

Oh, and the other thing. Our grand experiment in not modifying our linguistic style around our child has borne fruit. Athena correctly used "Dammit!" in context the other day when she dropped something she was working on while sitting on a stool at the counter. She did it again a few times over the next few days, but as it's not getting a huge rise out of us, it seems to be fading back in the lexicon again. So, yeah, she knows what that word means, and when Mommy would use that word. Now to get onto the deeper contexts like, "Um, sweetie, we don't saw that around your great grandparents, okay?" We'll see how it works out!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Grrr.... grandma went for a follow-up appointment today. Her ankle is broken after all. Apparently the doctor she saw on the Friday after Thanksgiving can't read an x-ray.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Almost 3!

Every month I say, "I'll start earlier and not be late this time." And then the 28th rolls around and I say, "Dangit!" So this is the almost 3 edition, before Christmas, since I can almost guarantee the Dec. 28th edition will slip to January as well.

First, I'd like to say that things at work are settling into a nice routine. My early concerns about this being a good fit are going away. The benefits plans are significantly improved this year, no longer catering to the single young men nearly exclusively. The food situation is so much better with the addition of the Whole Foods mini-market, plus they announced they've hired a chef to start in January, so hopefully food will be even better soon. Today I forgot my lunch for the first time in ages, but it was no problem. I grabbed some tacos from the Mad Mex truck and they were great - carne asada, baja fish, and pork cubano. Nom! I also moved desk out of the wind tunnel and that's improving the condition of my neck and shoulders significantly. Turns out, it was indeed the clenching from shivering that was doing a number on my shoulders week by week. Meanwhile, my two interns are closing in on the end of the term. We've managed to slog through so much work together. It's amazing. What seemed insurmountable is now largely tamed and we hope to ship it all off to the Chinese translators before the holiday. I've gotten in the habit of going for a 2 mile walk at lunch, often on the Matadero Creek trail behind the building. This includes climbing up to the top of the foothills and getting a view of the bay, downtown Palo Alto, Stanford, and 280 and the hills beyond. Not a bad thing to have in my day at all!

Halloween went swimmingly well. I realized I had a reasonable batch of work to do at home, so I didn't drive into Palo Alto. Sanity level: expert! We picked up Athena from school and headed over to Fox Hollow for trick or treating with Lorelei. Athena wore her Elsa dress and Athena wore her Anna dress. Three cul-de-sacs later, Athena was spent, having hauled in more treats than any 2 year old needs. We headed back for dinner and a party at the Lendvays house. My Frozen blue sangria was a hit for the Elsa drinking game - drink every time an Elsa comes to trick-or-treat.

Athena curled up in my lap in the garage movie theater to watch Addams Family. The style and imagery didn't bother her at all and honestly, it's still a great movie with good themes - family sticks together, parents love you and are in love with one another, and dancing is awesome. Heck, the dancing was how I ended up in the garage. Folks came inside to let me know it was almost time for the Mamushka. This is how I know I'm with my people.

The next day we took the girls for a trip to Lemos Farms. Clem's moms took Athena with them back in September and it was a big hit. It was our turn so that they could pack up house, and the girls were once again enchanted. The Groupon for $25 for 2 adults, 2 kids is a deal. Unlimited train rides, bounce housing, and pony rides til the girls can't do anymore. Shockingly, neither opted for a nap on the way back in the car. That's new! Instead, we took our tired girl home and she crashed out early. We're definitely getting to the point where she can either have a nap around 2 or 3 o'clock, or if we make it through to 4, then she'll get past the crankies, and be fine til 7:30 p.m. or so. We've taken advantage of that a couple of times this month to have a nice active day and an adults-only evening at home. On Thanksgiving, this meant her passing out in my arms at 7:15 and slipping her into bed and getting to relax and catch up on some tv, and she slept til 9 a.m.

The following Saturday we headed to Pacifica for Dickens workshops. We're officially working Dickens this year - one day per weekend, as best as we can. Workshops went well. She sat relatively patiently through the lectures, actually enjoying Shelly's steam and gears lecture (trains!) and doing just great in Cathleen's dance class and fine in Hilary's language workshop. In the cafeteria during lunch and during Fezzi rehearsal, she grabbed any willing child and ran up and down the ramps and stairs, monkeying through the bars. When one child flagged, she grabbed another and off they went chasing around again. Athena hit the cranky time (4 p.m. and no nap? Uh, we gotta go...) after an hour of Fezzi rehearsal and we bundled her off into the car with new gate passes in hand. She then crashed out and slept for 3 hours straight. We headed to Crystal's birthday party and parked her in the backyard with a monitor where we got an hour into dinner before she rose to consciousness again. Crystal once again did amazing things with meat and also smoked mac and cheese. We had a lovely time with good friends and very good wine.

This has also been a month of renovations at our house. We finally dove into the bathroom remodel. It's an adventure having contractors tromping through your bedroom daily, but when it's over, we may be lucky enough to have a beautiful new bathroom. Right now, it's life in a sea of dust. When we bought the house, we knew there were issues with the master shower. The rest of the master had issues as well, so we opted to just demolish the whole thing back to the walls. Under the shower, the floor was nearly rotted through because the last shower had been installed very very badly. Do it yourself seems to often mean do it wrong. That's all fixed now and new tile is in place. The walls are painted at cabinets installed. The toilet arrived broken, but Home Depot was a champ about it and gave us a discount on the replacement with speedy shipping so it should arrive Wednesday. By this weekend I'm hoping I no longer need to creep down the hall to pee in the middle of the night. If the new toilet is as quiet as advertised, I may get to pee AND flush without waking the household!

I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time ever. My mom and grandparents trekked down from Sacramento. Luckily, they had great traffic because everyone was going the way I usually have to go - towards the valley and Tahoe. My mom asked, "What can we bring? I don't want you to have to cook everything." I said, "Oh trust me, I'll cheerfully cook anything you want if I don't have to slog to Sacramento on Thanksgiving!" The usual 2 hour drive becomes 4 hours of torture. I've learned some creative routes through the backroads in the last 20 years, but instead, I stayed home, prepped on Wednesday, cooked Thursday morning, and had a gorgeous feast - turkey, two kinds of gravy, Brussels sprouts with bacon and sage, broccoli with almonds and onions, mashed sweet potatoes with browned butter, roasted root vegetables (onions, parsnips, carrots, and potatoes), ginger-ale jello salad inspired by the Missionary's Downfall, and an apple crumble. My mom brought pumpkin pie and cornbread stuffing. We had enough to feed twelve, and only five adults and one tiny human who prefers fish sticks (though she did try some pumpkin pie). My grandmother baked a huge batch of ginger snaps which have turned out to be the key to getting Athena to do whatever we want - eat your fish stick, poop in the potty, etc. Those disappeared and we had to make more this weekend. We've almost made it to the end of the turkey. Almost.

The only bad thing was that my grandmother stepped off the step from the dining room to the family room and fell. Luckily, nothing broken - just a sprained ankle and some bruises - but oh that is so scary!

The next morning we got up and loaded into the car for a trip to Racoon Gulch with Christyn and Brian to get a Christmas tree. A tromp around the back lot led us to the chicken coop and to a lovely tree in the vineyard (soon to be a lemon orchard). Erik headed out with saw in hand to slay the mighty conifer. Athena wanted to help.

Clementine arrived for a sleepover just as we got back. We tucked them in for naptime, but they never settled down. I took an hour to sew some hooks on my Dickens skirt while they "slept" (but mostly giggled a lot). I went in at the end and said, "Are you ready to get up?" Athena announced, "Yeah! We just woke up!" Sure ya did kiddo. But, that meant they both crashed when we tucked them in at 8 p.m. and slept til 7 a.m. I sent Erik back to bed and went and watched Frozen with the girls til 8:30. Then we got ready and headed to the Cow Palace. The two little balls of energy both dozed off on the way up and got a good nap before we handed Clem off to Kelly and Cole.

Then we headed into Dickens. This worked out great for Athena. She was raring to go and we rampaged all over Dickens. Erik and I took turns for who was Fezzi-ing and who was on duty with Athena, which mostly worked pretty well. She decided the ramp up to the upper parking lot was the North Mountain (and Fezziwig's was the ballroom at Arendell), so she climbed up to the top of the North Mountain 8 times with Erik and 6 times with me. Meanwhile, on the dance floor, I danced with a special young man who gave me the most sprited mazurka in ages whose caregiver was just melting with joy to see him dancing. I danced with someone who used to be a teen at FNW years ago, moved away and back again, and now is a grown up who should join us. I helped a set of Sir Roger that was struggling and talked a gentleman through Duke of Kent til he felt like really had it by the end. I danced a Northdown with a young lady whose friends gushed about how elegant and amazing she looked. Later she and her girlfriend asked for waltzing tips and I recommended open waltz variations and to "just play." They had a blast, focusing on the twirls and passes rather than the turning waltz and were all smiles. This thing we do for so many hours a day - there's magic in it. We left the Cow Palace at 7 and Athena was out soon after. We picked up a pizza on the way home (the just reward of a very active day), and she didn't stir. We got home and got the car unloaded and she didn't stir. We scooped her right into bed and she slept til 8 a.m. the next day. Day two in a row of a quiet evening at home on the sofa with my husband.

Erik has been teaching a Continuing Studies class on Thursdays at Stanford. He picks up Athena early from school and drops her off at my work about 5:45 to save me the crazy of leaving earlier and trying to get down 280 in traffic to pick her up by 6. She's never wanted to transfer from car to car directly, so instead, we go inside, take a walk, get some cereal, and then head back to the car. Colleagues have noticed the tiny curly haired moppet narrating her way through the world in their midst and have joined in the fun. Usha's son is 15 so she's thrilled to see a toddler again. She offers Athena Chocolate Kisses, which Athena will never ever refuse. Lamar has a dragon sculpture on his desk, and she goes and pets it each time. This week another coworker whose name I don't know yet offered to let her fly his tiny quadcopter. She took to it instantly and had it whizzing around in no time. Then we got her Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a cup of water and headed home.
The blue car is happy. The black car is scary.
Like she owns the place.
So Saturday was spent baking cookies and making gingerbread waffles and decorating the Christmas tree.
Admiring the tree.
Pointing at her Princess Anna ornament from Grandma.
Gingerbread waffles!
More ginger snaps!
On Sunday, Erik was still suffering a cold, so he stayed home with Athena while I headed up to Dickens to put in a solid day in the warehouse. I forgot my hat so I danced all day. I think I skipped four dances from the time I arrived. I taught many people dances including two teens of thick foreign accents, a young man I pulled into Sir Roger at the last moment who was all grins by halfway through, an older gentleman from Red Thistle who took to mazurka better than someone a third of his age, and Mike, who wanted to know more about where to learn this going forward. With a little luck, Mike may turn up at a Fezziwigs rehearsal in the future. I missed Erik and Athena but loved my day nonetheless. I concluded with triumphant flapping of the King of Kings card and dressing down during notes. It was perfect. This is Christmas for me: baking and dancing. I guess I should do some Christmas shopping sometime soon...