Almost there...

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...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Obesity and Health and History

So last night, I'm driving home from Oakland after a lovely night of ceili dancing, feeling good, and I tune into KQED and listen to a few minutes of Sarah Varney talking about her book XL Love. Since it's Forum, folks are calling in and asking about what's considered obese and she starts talking about BMI and how unless you're an athlete, really, at the point you're tipping into a 30 BMI, you really are obese.

And then I turned to KFOG because I remembered it was time for 10@10 and it turned out to be 1988 and it was a fabulous set and I hoped very much that my brain would let it go.

So today, I'm flipping past Facebook and hit a post of photos of Victorian burlesque dancers. And all I can think is, "How is it I'm obese, and these girls were hot?" Because I'm pretty sure I'm about as fat as this girl:
And I could pick out any of about half of the girls pictured. Some are a little heavier, some lighter, but none of them are as thin as is considered "normal weight" today.

And by BMI standards, I'm obese, and have been for the past two years, and have been overweight for the last 20+ years.

And I'm fighting the good fight, trying to lose weight, but while I eat 1 egg and a slice of Canadian bacon for breakfast, a 3 oz. piece of chicken and some steamed veggies for lunch, an apple for a snack in the afternoon, and a 3-4 oz piece of meat with some steamed veggies for dinner, and maybe a glass of wine, and I might lose a pound a week, and I can put that right back with one deviation from the plan. Meanwhile, my intern is eating 24 sausages a day for breakfast because it's what he can afford to keep him from withering away. He's sitting at the same desk I am for just as many hours, and while yes, he's a 22 year old boy, I was already overweight and fighting it long before 22 and I NEVER got to eat like that. Ever. So is it just a different genetic makeup? Because I don't eat badly. I rarely have. It was chicken breast and salad for lunch in high school. I just always gain weight unless I'm hyper-vigilant. And I'm sick and tired of it. And I'm sick of being told that the obesity epidemic is something totally new and that Americans have never been this fat before. I have to ask, "Is that really true? Or has our standard for "obese" shifted to move more people into the category." If it is true, I hate being lumped in it. I'm fatter than I should be, but it's not because I'm living on Doritos and Coke and burgers from McDonald's. What the hell is going on that I can barely shift the needle with vigorously healthy eating and at least 2 miles of walking at lunchtime per day?

Anyway, shut up brain. It doesn't make sense. It's never going to make sense.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Athena's School

A lot of nights, we're not necessarily the best parents ever. We tend to let Athena watch some Bob the Builder and/or Dinosaur Train while we unload the car, get dinner ready, and take care of random life details like opening mail or putting away groceries. I would feel worse about that if I didn't know with absolute certainty that Athena is run ragged at school.

They play so hard. And the stuff she comes back with is amazing. She'll go on about how she can't push because if she does then someone could fall down and then they would be sad and they would cry. Or she has to be patient and wait her turn. Or she wants to paint. Most days she comes home covered in paint. Or smelling sweaty with dirt smudges on her face. Or both. Or both shoes filled with sand. They take photos and post them on a group on Facebook for the parents every week or two.
Painting with dye
There was orange paint everywhere when she got home.
Taking a car down the slide at school
Random dough project
Egg game
Water play day this summer with Clementine
More water play
Halloween parade at school!
She shares her days with kids from every ethnic background and her best friend has two moms. It's everything I want it to be. One recent morning, we arrived and another couple of kids ran in front of us. The little boy was wearing a fluffy white tutu. Miss Lupe called out, "Slow down please. There's not enough room to run inside please." Yep. Perfect.

She has a sometimes teacher named Miss Kym. Kym floats from room to room subbing for folks on vacation. Kym is undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, but so far as I can tell it hasn't even slowed her down. She's got no hair left and wears a scarf most days. Miss Kym started doing Athena's hair a year or so ago, getting her used to brushing it out, putting it up in "ponies" and other various styles. For a little girl with a lot of curls, this has been a godsend that she gets to practice this stuff at school. Recently Kym  brought nail polish. We know, because Athena came home with blue and orange fingernails. She was so very pleased with them. I don't know how she managed to get them to sit still, but in the weeks since, Athena has had green, and then purple fingernails. It's fantastic. Wednesday night Athena was putting on her jammies and caught her shirt on her head, and flung it around and said, "I'm Miss Kym!" Erik and I looked at each other and we both knew how thankful we were for her. Miss Kym is awesome. She usually has to run off at 6 sharp to go teach an aqua Zumba class. She's pretty much who I want to be when I grow up - someone who puts her heart and soul into taking care of kids all day, then runs off to get some exercise after chasing kids all day.

Now our girl is not a morning person. She's not easy to get up on the best of days. Well, okay, to be fair, the last time we went to Disneyland, she woke up a few minutes early and said, "I want to ride the flying elephant!" But most days, we're lucky to pry her out of bed. There's often a lot of complaints about not wanting to go to school. I'm pretty sure they're (even) more likely to force her to live by the rules than we are, so there's a bit of resistance. But lately, we've got an ace in the hole on Fridays. She's got dance class at 9:15. They pick the kids up from her classroom and take them to class. She tried a 4 week stint back last spring and we decided to pause for the summer since she wouldn't be there on Fridays. Well, she's back, and she loves it. We knew this because I told her last Friday that she had to get up because we had to get there in time for dance class. Suddenly my ordinarily lethargic child was up and out of bed and dressed and in the car and into her classroom in no time at all. She actually ended up at school 40 minutes earlier than the day before. We also know this because another parent opted to try to capture dance class on video recently. The net result is that his daughter didn't dance much at all, but we got adorable video of Athena and Clementine dancing.

My favorite was this one with the scarves. Not only is the dancing adorable, but then at the end, Athena offers to help put away all the scarves for the teacher.
These are the moments of parenting that just turn you into jello. I always knew I'd love my kid, but I actually really like her as a person. She's helpful and enthusiastic and a good friend. A lot of it is her basic nature, but there's nurture there too. A big chunk of that is a really good pre-school/daycare where they encourage the best in her.

Friday, October 31, 2014


The pirate family rides again!
Y'arr! Avast ye scurvy dogs!
Two years ago we were momentarily internet-famous for my BoingBoing post with this picture. 

Looks like I gained the pudge that Athena has lost. C'est la vie. 

Happy Halloween! (33 Months)

October is my favorite month of the year. I love Halloween, and I love the changing of the season into fall, and it usually includes the first rain. All these things combine to totally overwhelm the nuisance that is pumpkin-flavored everything.

We started the month with a trip to Disneyland for Mickey's Halloween Treat. It was another wild weekend trip to Disneyland, this time with a special event Friday night. The biggest catch was that the weather missed the "it's fall" memo and it was over 100 degrees. But we did okay. We totally failed to take pictures of us in our family pirate costumes at the Mickey's Treat event, but it was indeed super cute. In fact, I seem to routinely take pictures at Disneyland while Athena is on the carousel. This is largely because there's a waiting period where the ride gets loaded, then you wait while they check everyone. That gives me time to get out a phone and entertain Athena by taking photos. So, lots of carousel photos.


Princess Anna

Pirate girl!
But we did lots of other things besides the carousel this time. Athena discovered the Little Mermaid ride and we rode it about 6 times on Friday. Friday night was Mickey's Halloween Treat which meant somewhat reduced crowds (though not nearly as good as last year). Erik went on Nemo's Undersea Voyage with Athena while I hit Space Mountain with Kevin and Rachel. The line was far shorter than any other time during the weekend, so that was great. Athena knows these characters now, so she got a huge kick out of those.

She still loves the flying elephants. 

She didn't enjoy Midway Madness at all. And we rode Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, which she mostly liked, but then bonked her head on the exit gate as we walked out and gave herself a big forehead bruise, so that wasn't fun anymore. 

We tried a new hotel - the Stovall's Best Western. I like it! It's on the Disneyland Hotel side of the park on Katella, so it's a bit of a hike, but if you take the monorail in, it's sweet. It also gave us a chance to pop into Trader Sam's. It's not as nice as the HoJo, but it's nicer than most of the rest on Harbor, and less expensive, so that was a nice thing to learn. 

It's funny though, she really does adore Disneyland. I told her we were going, so on Thursday morning she woke up extra early and said, "I'm ready to go to Disneyland!" But we had to wait for Erik's class to end at 2:30 so that was inconvenient. I picked her up from school just before 1 so that she wouldn't have her nap with everyone else. Instead, we ran errands at Target and picked up burritos for the road. She was just getting really sleepy when we pulled into DeAnza to pick up daddy. I told her that yes, we were finally going to Disneyland, and she almost immediately passed out. She took a solid nap all the way past Lost Hills. When had a rest stop at Tejon Ranch and she hopped right back in the car saying, "Let's go!" Sadly, we hit Anaheim just after the park closed, so we had to wait til the morning. Otherwise, I would've totally run her in for one or two rides before bedtime. 

The flipside to that though is that on Monday on our way to school she said, "I don't want to go to school. I want to go to Disneyland." Then she said it on Tuesday. And Wednesday. All I could think was, "I know baby girl. Me too." 

The following weekend we planned to go back to Santa Cruz with John and Becky to celebrate our anniversary. Santa Cruz is almost as much fun for her as Disneyland. 

Flying dragon all by myself!

The whale ride is still the best.

Red baroness!

Driving in my buggy.
Boats Boats Boats!
We took a break midday and headed to downtown Santa Cruz. It was a nice walk. John wanted to hit Bookshop Santa Cruz. I picked up a copy of Fortunately, The Milk and the first book of a new Jasper Fforde YA series called the Chronicles of Kazam. We grabbed a burrito and headed back towards the Boardwalk where both tiny humans passed out in their strollers en route. This let both couples have a turn on the log ride. We paced with the girls while John and Becky went, then they did the same. Teamwork! They went again, and Athena woke up and wanted more whale time. Whales, dragons, and truck convoy ridden, we were done and Penelope was just waking up. They took a turn on the carousel and then we all headed back over the hill for dinner at Aqui.

The other thing we discovered at Bookshop Santa Cruz was that Neil Patrick Harris was coming to town to be in conversation with his husband, David Burtka. Now, interviewed by Terry Gross for Fresh Air is cool, but on stage with your husband? That's special. You can tease and tell in-jokes and see how they are with each other. Unfortunately it was on a day that Erik's class ran til 5:45 and the show was at 7 in Santa Cruz. He pushed me to go ahead and go, and I'd mentioned it to Christyn, so she and I headed over the hill and had a great time. How do they interact? Playfully. Lovingly. Like two people who really love each other and who are totally raising two kids. I can't wait to dive into the new book. Plus, mine is signed!

Wait, what? you say. Yes, Neil wrote an autobiography in the style of Choose Your Own Adventure. Here's the YouTube trailer. Trust me, it's totally worth three minutes of your day:

Officially our anniversary was Friday, October 10th. Christy emailed a few weeks before and said, "Your anniversary is this date, so unless you object, I'm babysitting." Don't argue, just go out. So we went for hamachi shots and cocktails at Alexander's followed by air hockey at Bowlmor.

I won 3 games to 2. Woohoo! I do so love that Erik makes me bring my game to air hockey though. Could I have married someone I could always beat at air hockey? Hmmm... probably not. 

The day before our anniversary, Tesla had it's big media event in Hawthorn. Folks are all manner of jazzed about the dual-motor drive going 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, but the auto-pilot segment is what wows me. It reads speed limit signs, it keeps you in the lane, it changes lanes for you, and it comes to a stop if traffic stops in front of you. I'm in love. See it here:
So we make some pretty cool cars here at Tesla. Also, I had a meeting with my manager this week up on the hill. This is one of the hills on Stanford land, so beautiful oak tree, rolling hills, horses, and all. But best yet is that I'm sitting there looking up stuff on my computer because there's wi-fi on the hill. You know you're living in the future when your meeting room is the great outdoors. 

How all meetings should look.
We went to the NASA Ames 75th anniversary, but oh what a total disaster! They should've invited that many folks over 2 days instead of 1. As it was, traffic was gridlock and it took us 3 hours to get inside, only to walk back to the Supercomputing building where Athena colored a rocket man, then we saw the Mars Rover, then she started hitting naptime, so we hiked the hour and a half back to the car and she woke up a few minutes later. Total disaster. As we were leaving, friends said, "Heading to the food trucks!" I texted back, "Heading to Aqui!" At that point after all that stress, there was not a large enough cocktail in the world. They could've easily spread the event over 2 days to increase capacity, but everything had crazy lines and you couldn't see the information while pushing a stroller because folks would just cut in front of you. They could've worked with the nearby business parks to borrow parking for the weekend, but instead, several (Symantec!) had guards making sure no one used the lot. We tried to use public transit, but the web sites were so confusing that I couldn't make out which stations were likely to have parking, save for the Mountain View station where a shuttle left from. But the line for the shuttle was daunting, so we opted to try to find another option. We parked at Ellis and Middlefield and started hiking in the 2 miles to that gate/shuttle. We were told once there that to walk in, you had to go to the Moffett gate, another 4 miles away, or we could wait the 90-120 minutes for a shuttle. We started walking to Moffett, but I realized this was going to be a hell of a walk back to the car, likely with a grumpy toddler, so I went to seek alternatives. Just as I got back to the car, we heard from Christyn that they were allowing people to walk through at the Ellis gate now. That's when I just sat in the car with my head on the steering wheel for a few minutes. I walked up to the light rail station, but the train had just gone through and they were only running twice an hour. I walked back to the car and reparked in the Google lot, taking my chances, and walked in the Ellis gate to the farthest point possible away and finally caught up to Erik and Athena for the coloring and the Mars Rover. Anyway, total total disaster. Total waste of time. 

The following day, Erik had his monthly RPG with T & Danielle, which was a great chance to catch up with them after the kidney swap. He came home with a big bag full of yummy carnitas and chicken because since they both only have one kidney now, they have to be on a somewhat reduced protein diet. And that's why it's awfully convenient to have your wife donate a kidney to you: it puts you both on the same diet restrictions! Meanwhile, I took Athena to see Disney on Ice with Lorelei and Athena Lendvay. Through the joys of ordering by phone (never again, Ticketmaster!), my tickets weren't sent to me, but to Manny Woodbury. And when I realized this after 8 p.m. on Saturday night, I couldn't do anything about it for a show that was at 11 a.m. the next day. So, I called at 9 when they opened, got it corrected, and waited for the tickets to arrive by email. But they didn't. They were sent to another wrong email address, disregarding my careful spelling. Then Ticketmaster hung up on me. Then Erik called back because the next person I talked to was going to die. He got the tickets switched to will call. We parked in the lot immediately behind the SAP center because walking with toddlers is hard, but it turned out the will call was on the polar opposite side of the place. When she said that I must've looked like I was going to cry, because she said, "Let me get you and escort to take you through the building." We did, and I dropped Athena's waffle on the way, down the stairs and out. Tickets were acquired and it was back up to where we started. Ah well. Disney on Ice was weird. It was 4 different stories - Cars, Little Mermaid, Tinkerbell, and Toy Story 3, complete with children destroying the toys, the incinerator, and all. It was an odd choice. Athena loved the Cars, Mermaid, and Tinkerbell segments though. 

After that weekend, Erik said he really wanted a weekend at home with little planned. That was all well and good, and I agreed right up til about 5:30 on Saturday night. It was Gaskells. It was the second-to-last Gaskell Ball at the Scottish Rite Temple. Fred posted about meeting Malaya there and how they were headed up. I got a bit wistful and posted a comment saying I wished I could go with them. About an hour later I caved and confessed to Erik. He was coming down with the cold I'd come down with the prior Saturday, so didn't want to go, but said he backed me going on my own. Then Fred texted and asked if I wanted to carpool. I said, "Likely yes. When are you leaving?" and then set about trying to find something to wear. The answer was, "Pretty much now." I had an old French Maid costume in hand, and found it could zip up. Then I found the apron. Then I put my hair up. Then I did a little makeup. Then I ironed the apron as Fred and Malaya arrived. We all piled in my car and hit the road.
It zipped!

Yay dancing!

The most beautiful dance floor.
So there I was, in my favorite place to dance with most of my favorite dance partners, and certainly more than I could dance with in one night, and it felt like home. Gaskells is my favorite. It's the first thing I heard about when I came to Berkeley and it led to my first really big foray into Victorian costuming with a beautiful ballgown I helped my grandmother make. It led me to Dickens Fair a year later in 1995 and it's so much a part of my life. I remember when it cost $10 and sometimes had over 700 guests. Nowadays it's a more modest 250, but it's still the most gorgeous ball I know of and the thing most likely to take the breath away from people the first time they go. I will miss it dearly.
Today is Halloween. We took Athena for practice trick-or-treating at the mall last weekend and she loved it. She has the full routine down, and it's a treat to watch people melt with this tiny person says "Thank you!" for the treat. I asked her if she wanted to go trick-or-treating Friday with Lorelei and she said, "Yeah! Can we go now?" That's my girl.

Monday, September 29, 2014

32 Months

I started this back over a month ago. My new job has the catch that I spend most of my time writing things up instead of teaching or working with colleagues, so when I need a break, I actually need to walk away from the keys. The net result seems to be a multi-month backlog. I'm going to try to be better about getting to it in 10 minute chunks throughout the month, but wow, there's a lot to tell this time.

First, Erik's flight got canceled and he was stuck in Dublin for an extra day. That might sound like fun, but when it's a day of scrambling to get a new flight while hanging around an airport, it's not actually any fun at all.

On the plus side, his new return time meant that there was plenty of time for me to pick up Athena and then go meet him at the airport. Athena was insanely cute at the airport. Once I figured out where Erik would be exiting from, I started trying to see where we could wait that would not be too boring to a toddler. Turns out the trains upstairs were scary because of the loud overhead announcement. The moving sidewalks to the parking garage totally fit the bill. Athena took me on an endless loop of going back and forth across the two lengths of it. Then she noticed the parking ticket machine. She wanted to go push the buttons. While she was poking it, a man came up and offered up his parking ticket for her to put in. She did, and it sucked it away. Then he gave her his credit card (Brave soul!) and it sucked it in, then made a bunch of noises and gave it back, with a receipt ticket too. She handed them all back to the man one after the other. He said, "Thank you." She said, "You're welcome!" Then she said, "I'm helping mommy!" Meanwhile, a queue had formed behind all of this. The assembled crowd melted under her cuteness rays and they all handed over their tickets and credit cards one by one to be processed by the 2 year old. These are the moments when you realize that people can be really totally awesome, which is so good to remember in months like this where terrorists are beheading journalists and the Gaza Strip descends into war again and an unarmed black kid with his hands up gets shot in Ferguson. Its all a little more than I can take. But then a stream of random strangers all turn over their credit cards to a tiny human they've never met before so that she can feel like she's helping. That's just amazing, and just what I needed. So, four tickets later, the last person has cash, so she figures out how to do that too. Then we head back to the moving sidewalk. Just as she realizes she's bored with that, I get some texts from Erik saying he's got his bag and is walking out. We're at the far end from him when he comes around the corner. I say, "Who's that?" And she shouts, "Daddy!" and starts running for him. It's every bit as good as you can possibly imagine. He scoops her up and there's hugs and kisses and stories. And then we go back and she processes our parking ticket and we all get in the car and head home.

Athena wasn't much worse for the wear for his being gone a week, but did insist that Daddy had to stay in her room while she fell asleep. After a couple of nights, we figured this out, and Erik just brought in a pillow and curled up on the floor with her. It took a week for this to wear off.

Right after Erik got back, he had to take Athena to a study at Stanford. They called and asked if we'd be willing to have her participate in a language development study and since we're big science boosters, we said "Sure! We love using our kid for scientific research!" So off they went. She sat in Erik's lap with him blindfolded while they showed her a bunch of stuff and figured out if she could adopt new nonsense words for things. At the end of the test, they had her  go through a series of cards to level-set her vocabulary. Can you point to the <insert thing/activity here>? Yes she can. At the end, the researcher said, "I was beginning to wonder how long that would take with her" because she'd made it up into the 7-year-old vocabulary cards. On the one hand, yay! She's totally getting language! (We knew that.) On the other hand, ohmygod she understands EVERYTHING we say. And then we suddenly entered the spelling things phase of reality.

Afterwards they had lunch with me at Tesla. I got busted by Athena for taking photos of her, so she made me take more.

Then she looked at her picture with her yogurt-face and used it to know where to wipe it off. That's how she rolls.

The following weekend, I'd decreed that Guardians of the Galaxy was required. After a lot of negotiation, we ended up at Camera 7. I do dearly love that theater. My latest reason is that all shows before noon are $5, even if it came out this week, even if it's the most popular movie in America. I had a moment where I was standing in line behind another guy who moved forward to let me out of the sun. I made a random joke about skin cancer, which he replied to, and I thought, "Wow, this guy rolled with one seriously awkward comment. He seems like my people." I settled into the theater in his row, grabbing the six seats remaining in the row. Cyrus, Athena, and Erik settled in. Eventually, Christyn and Brian made it in the nick of time, and said, "Oh! Hi Joe!" Turns out the random guy was her friend Joe Decker. Christyn took her seat next to him, and we all had a good laugh. Then we watched a super fun movie and laughed a lot more. Then we went to Patxi's for amazing deep dish and laughed more. And then we picked up the girl at Kids Park and were generally totally amazed at how inexpensive the whole event was. Also, we may end up getting some of Joe's art for our living room. Go figure, eh?

I was planning to go to dinner with the girls on Wednesday the 13th, but I'd been watching my diet and was down almost 10 pounds. I really didn't want to blow it, and after staring at the menu for the dinner destination a half dozen times, I changed my mind and went to ceili at Sam and Monica's house instead. This was a really good call. You know that moment when Norm walks in the bar? Yeah, it was that. I walked in, I was asked what I wanted to dance next, we danced my favorite jig, and the night proceeded in that fashion. I walked out two hours later sweaty and spent, having danced all my favorites with lots of my favorite dancers.

We found ourselves once again at Sam and Monica's place for a Robin Williams Memorial Viewing of Dead Poet's Society. There was poetry reading and champagne and the light of knowledge passed around from candle to candle. Before the movie, Athena saw the empty floor cleared of furniture and insisted I had to dance with her. She recognized it as a dance floor. She just about melted me right there. Of course I'll dance with you darling girl! Athena watched the first 30 minutes or so of the movie, then we transitioned her to watching Dinosaur Train on the iPad. She was a perfect angel.

Athena's school had its 30th anniversary party on August 21st. There was a woman there in a bright white eyelet dress with a red belt running the snow cone machine, complete with red and blue flavors. I thought, "This is a brave woman." I don't wear white anymore ever, let alone at a kids party with snow cones. I called to Athena and she said, "Athena. That's a powerful name." I said, "Yeah, we didn't give her much of a choice. She's Athena Eleanor." She nodded and said, "I see. Yes." and smiled at Athena. Turns out, she's the founder of Early Horizons.
I'm going to lift you up Daddy!

Make me a monkey!

Three little monkeys

We're just still really grateful for Athena's school. Recently I dropped her off and Miss Lupe called to one of the little boys running across the room in a fluffy white tutu, saying "Slow down please! There's not enough room to run inside." Not a peep about the tutu. It was just one of those moments that reinforced that yes, she's in the right place. She goes to school every day with children from a rainbow of ethnic and cultural backgrounds who speak a variety of primary languages where they don't enforce gender stereotypes. If there's ever a place to learn how to be a proper Californian, this is it.

We had Clementine over for her first overnight stay on August 22nd.

It was a lot of joy and fun until it was bedtime, and then Clemmy missed her moms a lot. But she got through it, slept through the night, and we all got up and headed to the park in the morning where she gave Erik a workout on the swings. One toddler in each swing for a mighty long stretch makes for unusually sore arms the next day!

Athena also figured out a new trick with her baby stroller and the slide at the park:
On August 24th, we had an earthquake. Initially, we woke up because we thought the cat was banging the shower door. Erik got up to yell at the cat. Then once he'd established there was no cat in the bathroom, he noticed the ceiling fan shaking. Then he went online to check and said, "Oh, it's a 6.0. That's big right?" Suddenly I was wide awake. Yes that's big! I fell back asleep soon after a brief check of Facebook to determine that pretty much everything was fine and that wine is likely going to be more expensive for vintage 2014. So it goes. Athena slept through the whole thing. That's my California girl!

Ordinarily, we do Conquest Pacificon gaming convention for Labor Day Weekend. It's always been the least of the three major annual gaming cons, but it's so close to home that we sleep at home. Since we'd had to pay full price due to dithering about even going the prior year, we signed up at con last year for a half-price deal on the next year. And then everyone we knew decided to bail. Harumph! So, we decided we'd at least run a game to get our money back. Erik procrastinated on getting started on the game for a little too long though and spent most every day in the week running up to the game writing like a madman, with me doing proofreading and sanity checking. It was done though! And then six people signed up for our 20 person game. D'oh! At least we were the first LARP GM for the weekend to actually show up, so that's something, right? Yeah.

Meanwhile, Wendy and Jeff hosted Non-Con at their house on Saturday. It ended up being really nice. I played a round of Sentinels of the Multiverse and Erik played two RPGs. I'm hoping it scratched his itch sufficiently. I made epic guacamole. I used to always just buy guac, but it turns out I can make some mean guac! Cumin is my best friend. In the evening I got to hang out and catch  up with Morgan, which was a treat because it's been far too long. But perhaps the best part of the weekend was when Autumn called on Friday saying, "Hey, where is everybody?" She hadn't gotten the full extent of how much folks had bailed on con and was sort of at loose ends, so we ended up having impromptu Chinese food dinner at our place with her and Logan and Wendy and Connor. Athena decided Autumn was her favorite person ever. Autumn works in a childcare center, so she really knows how to interact with kids and Athena loved it. When Autumn headed back to the hotel for the night, Athena shouted, "Bye Autumn!!!" and waved furiously and blew her kisses. We were amazed, but sure enough, she loved her again the next day.

Since we'd arranged for Athena to stay with Clem's moms while we ran our game, and our game didn't run, we instead headed out to IKEA to shop for bathroom vanities (after a quick farewell lunch with Autumn). We're almost ready to do our long-awaited bathroom remodel. We've now picked out a sink and cabinetry and mostly picked out tile. With a little luck, we'll have a master bath by the next time I write here! The girls went with Clem's moms out to Lemos Farms in Half Moon Bay. Athena got her first pony ride!
Yeah, we got them matching dresses.

Athena also transitioned from crib to toddler bed over Labor Day weekend. She got to see the transition at Clementine's house on Sunday as they did it Friday night. We'd been talking to her about it, prepping her for a week or so. Then she got up and helped Erik put it together Monday morning.

I'm helping!

Pepper approves
She slept in it like it was no different. In fact, it took her most of the month to figure out that she could actually get up out of bed on her own. That said, we woke up yesterday and checked her monitor in time to witness her get up, take off her diaper, and poop in the little green potty in her room. And then we headed in to help wipe. Potty training is going well. We're almost there with only a few accidents a week now, usually because the world is just too much fun and she doesn't want to stop doing the fun thing to do the potty thing. I'm going to admit to that being something of a problem for me too, so I can sympathize.

Karen came out to visit, which is always great. We hit the Mountain View Art and Wine Festival on Saturday, starting with dim sum at Fu Lam Mum. Kelly, Cole, and Clementine joined us and we made our way slowly down the festival, but mostly ended up at Seascapes Pet and Fish. Clementine hit her naptime, but Athena was still ready to go on, so we headed to the bouncy play area. For a buck, she took a hesitant trip through a bouncy play climber. Out the other side, she had her confidence and wanted to go again. Twice more through and she was clambering up and over without any coaxing.

The next day we headed to Santa Cruz with the Lendvays. Lorelei and Athena had a blast together on the rides for a while, but Lorelei tired of them soon and headed for the beach. Athena wanted more more more.
Lorelei and Athena on the bi-planes.

The whale ride was her favorite.
Hi Mommy!

Boats boats boats!

The carousel (and the clown) was her least favorite. Go figure!

Purple retro car!

More whale! Mwah!
Before long we decided it was time to just bite the bullet and get a season pass. It's good until next December 2015. She fell asleep in her stroller for naptime, and we headed down the wharf for a yummy lunch at Firefish. Cyrus got the best meal - a delicious filet of sole. My fish tacos were good too as was Karen's wild salmon salad. We headed back to the Boardwalk for a few more rides, but Athena longed for more. Still, it was time to go home.

Karen's flight home was delayed on Monday, so after dinner, we got a chance to sit down and watch The Little Mermaid. Athena totally adores "the mermaid Ariel" and spent the movie curled up between Karen and I. That was a nice parting gift for Karen. If the airline is going to muck up your plans, getting extra snuggles from your granddaughter is a good trade off.

The following weekend my mom came down. Before she arrived we went to the Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival. We now have opinions on the south bay art and wine festivals. Sunnyvale has the best for a number of reasons - parking, spaciousness, and variety. Santa Clara comes in second with a gorgeous park setting. Mountain View was third with a crowded feel and big parking problems. Athena enjoyed the carnival rides at the Santa Clara event.  The little train was her favorite, followed closely by the giant slide.

The normal park is still fun too!

Peeking out of the train.

Bye mommy!

After the first big slide ride. "Again!"

Sliding with Daddy.

We spent Athena's nap getting my mom oriented to her iPhone and getting all the settings tweaked on her phone. After that we went to Christy's birthday dinner at CKP house and had a lovely evening around the grill. The next day we got up and snuggled on the sofa and watched Frozen, Athena's other favorite. Movies with grandparents seems to be a theme this month. We had a nice brunch at Aqui and sent my mom on her way home, then headed to the Lendvays for an afternoon of board games. We played "Marrying Mr. Darcy," which was a surprisingly good card game. I followed that with a couple of rounds of Forbidden Desert, the first one where we totally died of thirst, and the second where we won. It was a hoot.

The King Fire broke out on September 13th and within a few days headed towards my childhood cabin. Quintette and the surrounding area has always been very special. It allowed for the kind of childhood not really allowed nowadays - running around unsupervised in the woods, fishing in a lake, and driving around in a golf cart long before I could legally drive a car. At first it looked likely to be fine. Then the fire took off and went from 18,000 acres to 70,000 acres overnight and did this to Stumpy Meadows (a nearby lake):
Luckily, the fire mostly went in  another direction, and while it kept threatening for over a week, a rainstorm finally came and quenched it. Whew! I hardly make it up there anymore, but losing it would be tough to bear.

On the weekend of the 20th, Rachel hosted a photo shoot. We came on Saturday for family photos, then followed up on Sunday for a magical Frozen photo shoot with Lorelei. On Saturday, Rachel gave Athena the giant Mickey Mouse she'd gotten from Costco. That, plus her Minnie Mouse dress, and Athena was the happiest little girl in the world.

Athena Lendvay got little Athena an Anna dress to go with Lorelei's Elsa dress, and Athena adopted the little sister persona like she was born to it.

Watching the girls play and sing along on Sunday was just about the best thing I've ever seen. The following Friday, the Lendvays came over for dinner and Lorelei was wearing her Elsa dress again, so Athena demanded her Anna dress, shucking off her clothes, and sat down next to Lorelei to play. She may be an only child, but I doubt she'll ever want for sister figures in her life.

One final detail - I changed desks out of the wind tunnel at work. I get whispers of it that usually get me into my sweater after lunchtime now, but no more do I need that sweater, plus gloves, plus a blanket, plus a heater. It's a huge relief. Shivering is no fun day after day. My intern starts tomorrow and he gets the cold spot. I should've warned  him to pack a heavy coat.

And another thing!
Holy Growth Spurt Batman! Athena grew an inch, cresting over three feet finally, but the thing that brought it home this time was actually her feet. When last I wrote, she fit size 6 shoes comfortably. Easily even. And then we started transitioning her to 7s a month or so ago. Then suddenly, the 7s didn't fit. She's totally wearing 8s now. So in 60 days, she grew two full shoe sizes. I kept trying to shove 7s on her feet and she'd say, "It's too tiiiiiiight." I finally had to agree it was true. So, she's pretty much wearing 3Ts and size 8s now. And Thomas has fallen far out of favor compared to Dinosaur Train. I can't tell you what a joy that is. The opening song kind of explains a lot:

So let's see - we value adopted kids as much as blood, we explore the world, and mom takes good care of us. That's a great start. Then there's Dr. Scott the paleontologist and stories like the one about Laura the Giganotosaurus, who serves as lookout for the train and loves to paint. And Athena can say "Giganotosaurus" without flinching. It's all good.