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Saturday, March 01, 2014

25 Months

The monthly post continues! Yeah, no one talks about their kid in months after two years. You say, "She's two." and they all nod with sympathy and comprehension. And whoa Nellie is she two! Her independent streak grew 3 sizes on her birthday and she's had totally 2 year old melt downs about some very little things. Erik put her boot on. She wanted to do it. She bursts into tears, rips it off, and puts in back on. She is struggling to get out of her jacket, so I hold the sleeve and it slides off. She bursts into tears, throws the coat on the ground, and then puts it on and proceeds to take it off again. "I do it!" is her constant refrain. On the plus side, you can totally reason with her and make deals. Today I offered that she could have more milk if she ate some fruit first. One pouch of fruit and she was back to asking for milk. We often get her to do things like get in the car by making promises about where we're going. Very often, things like, "Let's go see Connor." or "We're going to Lorelei's house." mean the difference between a huge battle and an, "Oh okay" as she settles into her car seat.

Also, they posted great pics of her birthday in the Ladybug room at school.

Thumbs up!

So excited!!!

Make a wish!

She transitioned to Dolphin Room at daycare the Monday after her birthday and has been thriving there. There are so many more kids in her class, but they still keep to a 1:8 or 1:9 ratio. 1:12 is mandated by the state at that age, so this is way way under the limits, but I absolutely cannot imagine one adult wrangling 12 two-year-olds. It's a recipe for chaos. So we're happy they're on their own limits and she's loving it. There's a bigger outdoor play space and plenty to climb on. Every day we arrive and Clementine stops whatever she's doing, runs over, and the girls hug each other. I'm so very glad they found each other. It makes every day better. She also loves the garbage truck that pulls up at the park twice a week. Big trucks pull up and all the kids run over and press themselves against the fence to get a good look. Athena exclaims, "Big truck!" whenever we pass one on the road too.

We had an unexpected, but fabulous Super Bowl party. Rachel got sick, so the party had to move and we were good candidates to host. I never pictured myself as a Super Bowl party host, but it worked out great! There was bean dip and hot wings, thus making it official as far as I can tell. We laughed at the good commercials, groaned at the fumbles, and generally had a perfectly lovely time. Athena went down for a nap just as the party started and let me spend the next 3 hours as hostess instead of mommy.

I started a diet in January and I've been hitting the gym most days at work. I'm down about 8 pounds since I started, bringing me just under the mark for "obese" according to the BMI chart. So far, not much difference in how I look, but even making that minor, mostly meaningless milestone sure feels better. My jeans are looser so that's good. I'm taking a mini-break this weekend from the diet while Karen and Rich are visiting, but plan to dive back in next week. Honestly, after 2 months of being good, a little break is a good thing.

But yes, Karen and Rich are here from Massachusetts. Yay! I slept in this morning, lounged, and slowly rose from bed. Once dressed and ready to face the day, I headed down the hall and saw Athena and Karen playing in her room.

Athena pulled out a stuffed toy and said, "It's sticky." meaning it had a tag/sticker on it still. I offered to help and she handed it to me. When I went to remove the tag, she said, "No no, Meme do it." Erik has lost patience with how many times Mommy has to do it, so I texted him almost immediately to tell him it was my turn. Meme rates higher than Mommy this morning.

We headed to the Children's Discovery Museum this morning. I took Athena about a year ago and she was really just a tad two young for it then. Now she had a blast in the water play space and in the under 4's room.
Pouring sand.
My mom came down last weekend and we had a lovely leisurely afternoon while Athena had a very long nap, then went out to Aqui for dinner where Athena tore into Daddy's dinner and ate a whole piece of chicken. Athena is still picky, but when things look like food she wants, she's on it these days. We came home  and showed my mom how different Sesame Street is these days - muuuuch longer segments, very different characters, and Mr. Noodle is just weird. Then we played til far too late. The next day, we went over to Fred and Malaya's house for waffles and fun and came home in time for another big nap. My mom headed home to get ready for the week, but when Athena got up, her first question was, "Where's Grandma?" She's lucky to have four active, loving grandparents in her life, plus two great-grandparents! My grandmother made a box of ginger snaps that she sent down with my mom. I treated myself to a few, but Athena thought they were great. She and Erik polished them off on Friday night.

Mmm... gingersnap.

Thank you Grandma!
Over President's Day weekend, we went to DunDraCon. This year we had adjoining rooms with Wendy and Jeff and hired Sarah to babysit for the games on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Unfortunately, the shuffler didn't put Erik and I into a game together, but we both got to play both sessions, which was great. My Sunday game ended before his, meaning I came back to the room and stole away with Athena to the pool. She swam about a hundred laps in their glorious, very heated pool, holding onto a pink pool noodle shared by the other kids in the pool (Thanks Savannah!). DDC is awesome because the San Ramon Marriott is a great hotel with fabulous staff and it's walking distance from Target, Whole Foods, Pasta Pomodoro, Baja Fresh and more, meaning you're never forced to eat overpriced, mediocre hotel food. Instead, the hotel food is reasonably priced ($4 for a tasty breakfast burrito, $2 for a cup of coffee with free refills) and the staff really seem to look forward to the con every year. The local Peet's was offering a D20 if you were wearing your con badge. Roll a 14 or better for a buck off your drink, or a free drink if you roll a 20. Seriously, it makes it all just magical.
Plus, where else will mother/daughter Federation uniforms get such high praise?
We headed to the Schluntz's place for our usual post-con-bacon-fest. It was also wonderful, and I ducked out to get a haircut for an hour and came back to find Athena happily playing with dice while Sean and Erik took Logan through his first game of Settlers of Cataan. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Athena!

Yep, it's true. We made it two whole years!

The phrase of the week is "Oh my goodness!" and "Oh my gosh!" She says both as a general exclamation all the time. It's absurdly adorable. Something falls to the floor? "Oh my goodness!" Something tips over? Oh my goodness!" Wet pants? "Oh my gosh!" Super cute, really.

When I got to daycare today, there was a "Happy Birthday Athena" banner in her classroom. She sat right down with her friends, kissed me goodbye, and dove into her day. I brought cupcakes for everyone, Athena-style: no frosting. Sure, all the other kids will be disappointed, but Athena will love every bite without having to work around the wet or the sticky of frosting.
The cupcake was irresistible the night before.
We're headed to Aqui for dinner with friends after work. This is probably our last low-impact birthday for her, so a reprise of last year's party sounded lovely. Last year this meant her first steps. We'll see if we get anything exciting tonight. She helped me mix up some gingerbread cupcakes for anyone who didn't want Aqui's flourless chocolate cake (Karen! Rachel!). She loves to help cook - counting out ingredients and stirring things. She stands on a chair in the kitchen, it's back turned toward the counter. Life is good.

A quick check in her room this morning put Athena between 33 and 34 inches tall. She's growing like a weed, up four or five inches since 18 months.

She's just started watching a bit of Sesame Street this month. She dearly loves Elmo. On nights where she's running low on steam, we'll sit down for half an episode. Boy has it changed since I was a kid! It's not bad, just so very different. I miss counting to twelve. I miss the Yep Yep aliens. Oh, but one thing has NOT changed: Maria. She's still there, and damn she is looking good for a woman in her 60s! Like WOW! There she is in a square-necked top, and I say, "She's been on this show forever. She's got to be in her 60s." and Erik says, "That doesn't look likely." Sure enough, it's true. Clean living on Sesame Street for the win!

Athena still loves singing songs. There's the Sesame Street alphabet, and Charlie Hope, and lots of good stuff from Pandora's Toddler Radio. She's decided she likes to Move it Move it! One night we were headed to meet up with friends for dinner, so Erik caught this video.

It's been a lovely leisurely month. We spent Christyn's birthday weekend with them at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Athena loved the fish and octopus and such, but really loved the jellyfish. The only challenge was that she didn't like being in the dark even if the exhibits were lighted.
Watching fishies with Daddy
We made it out to Friday Night Waltz once this month for Richard's night of Ginger and Fred lessons and movie theme music. It was a blast. We learned a nice foxtrot combination and got to dance to some favorite music with a whole lot of our friends. It was the busiest I'd seen FNW in a while. 
Silly tango is always fun.
I started a diet when I got back to work. It's working... slowly. Three pounds down with three weeks effort. I'm hitting the gym at least 3 days a week, which would be deadly dull, save for the use of an iPad to watch an episode from something I'm years behind on. First up: Warehouse 13, season 4. It's good goofy fun, and lasts 42 minutes long, which makes for a nice stretch on the elliptical. Getting to catch up on tv is an absolutely fabulous incentive for exercise! So, I figure I'll be working on that for the next six months or so. Maybe if I'm very very lucky (and diligent!) I'll get to my goal weight before my 40th birthday. I reckon by then, I'll at least be fitting back into a lot of my favorite clothes, and that seems an awfully worthy goal before that little milestone.

Clementine's family is moving to a nice duplex this weekend, so we took Clem Saturday morning so that they could pack, then dropped both girls off for Parents Night Out at school in the afternoon. Remembering the experience of toddler vs. packing, we were really happy to help. We spent the morning up at the park with a lot of time on the swings, then watching the swim meet for a bit and finally ended up reading a few books at the library before heading home for lunch. Athena's new favorite food is fish sticks, so we made up a batch. Clementine was dubious, but Athena will eat 4-6 at a sitting. 

We had a ladies clothing swap on Sunday and I'm wearing a lovely new-to-me purple dress today that fits perfectly. I took the leftovers to Savers, and then headed inside to use my 20% coupon. I found Athena a perfect purple Columbia jacket. She LOVES it. Her favorite things right now is anything purple. This means keeping track of our purple plate, purple bowl, and purple cup is a critical daily task. Food simply cannot be served on the orange plate! The only thing better than a purple outfit is one with pockets. A pair of pockets on the front of something makes it the best thing ever. 

Last Thursday, Wendy was in town for a business conference. We got to have dinner with her, which was a treat. Unfortunately, it was the third time in the last 2 weeks that Athena has gone all day without a nap. We're so not ready for that! And she really isn't either. She transforms from a happy, gregarious toddler to a super-crankypants. Oy. She did it again on Saturday, so we shuttled her off to PNO early and let Clementine have a nice nap. Then we shuttled Clementine over and went to Susanne's Twelfth Night reading at CKP's house. I drew Sir Toby Belch from the hat and had a lovely time being a drunken fool all night. We picked up Athena at 9, and she was still up. So, predictably, she crashed out hard and slept til 9:30 in the morning. She's taking after my sleep patterns for sure - unable or unwilling to sleep with there's something interesting going on, and sleeping late to make up for it. I can live with that. I know a lot of other parents who really wish that was an option. 

Erik's mom bought plane tickets to come back in a month. Can't wait! Athena loves calling Grandpa and Meme on Skype. She will cheerfully play in front of them for at least a half hour, feeding Meme tea through the screen and offering her food and showing her how well she rides her rocking horse. Hopefully it will be pouring down rain when she arrives so that Athena can show off her ladybug rain coat, boots, and umbrella!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Almost Two (23 Months)

What a lovely month it's been. We didn't do Dickens, and mostly didn't miss it overmuch. We did enjoy sleeping in a lot, snuggles in bed, and a fabulous Winter Closure/Holiday Break.

We went on a family outing to Target at Westgate to get some Christmas lights for the house. There's a sort of aging mall attached. While Erik dithered over the various options, Athena pointed to the carousel and wanted to ride it. Previously, this has been sitting for a moment, then crying piteously when it starts to turn. Well, she keeps growing up, and while I thought this would be a brief sojourn, I ended up dropping $3 in quarters into the carousel, and each time it stopped, she'd tap her hands together and say, "More? Again?" There were three horses on the carousel, so my $3 was a share of several other parents' rides as well.

We even met another little girl named Athena. She wanted to ride the carousel, but her mom didn't have change. I encouraged her to jump on. She did and rode several times til we both declared we were out of quarters. Athena went off to play in the play area, and we tried to sneak past the carousel on the way out, but Athena and her mom came back and begged to let her ride again. There's also an Orange Julius right next to the carousel, so I split one with Erik. I let Athena have a sip and she loved it. We checked out of Target and headed home.

In addition to our Christmas lights, I saw a cute lighted tinsel flamingo, complete with scarf, at Target. For some reason this amused me a lot. I looked it up online again later. Cute, inexpensive, and something about the scarf just made me smile every time. I came home one night from a long night at the office and Erik and Athena had gone back to Target and bought him and plugged him in at the front door. Athena said, "Mingo!" And she said, "Mingo!" every time we came home all month. So, Mingo the Flamingo sits as our doorway guardian, next to the snowman sign that says "Winter Welcome."

On Saturday the 7th, we had Christyn, Brian, and Christy over for waffles, and then we all headed up Highway 17 to Racoon Gulch for a Christmas tree. Greeted at the gate by Jeannie's dad, we tromped around the lower lot first, and then found two lovely trees in the upper section. We chopped ours down while Christyn and Brian got the full tour from Steve. Then they picked a tree and we started to load both on Brian's car. Then their tree started hissing. A lot. Turns out there was a little bat in the tree. Steve ran inside and got a large jar and a nice piece of bark and coaxed the bat onto the bark. We all then stood close and admired it. Athena said, "Bat!" I wish we'd taken a photo of him. He was so pretty. We'd clearly woken him up and he was grumpy. Steve made him a little house where he stayed for a day, then went on his way. We came back, put Athena down for her nap, ordered a heap of Chinese food from the corner, then settled in for a game of Betrayal at House on the Hill. The game is basically Cabin in the Woods as a board game - look around the house til you sort of accidentally stumble on one of 50 scenarios. I rather enjoyed myself as an alien invader who either killed or harvested all the other players. Sadly, an oddness of the game mechanic let me kill my husband almost immediately, knocking him out of the game, which is always a bit of a bummer. Anyway, I suspect not all 50 scenarios have been thoroughly playtested for issues, but it's definitely an interesting game. When Athena got up, we hit the hot tub and played a bit. Christyn and Brian stuck around for another round where the good guys won, but Erik still died early on. Oh well. Not his favorite game...

On the third weekend of Dickens, we made it back for the Twilight ticket - $13 from 4-7 p.m.  On the first weekend, Athena had looked longingly at the lion and the elephant on the carousel, but I figured she'd just cry. This time, I figured we should try it. We watched the group before and I asked her if she wanted to ride the lion or the elephant. She decided on the elephant and we got on. I thought maybe the ride would be too long, but she loved it. Around and around and the only tears came at the end when it was time to get off.

We also got a few dances at Fezziwigs, and another pair of peanut butter cups from Paul's booth. We danced to a jig that Casey was playing on the country dance stage and got to catch up a bit with Jennifer. We closed the day with a Sir Roger de Coverley (all three of us, passing Athena back and forth) and headed to soup night at the Lunds. Soup night is my absolute favorite holiday party. Several pots of soup and the singular hospitality of Carolyn and Erik and it really is a magical evening around their large dining table.

The following day, Erik had his Supers game, so I went out with Clementine and Nicole at Happy Hollow for a bit in the morning. It was soooo cold though that both girls got pretty cranky fairly quickly. We came home for a nap and Athena was out solid. Later, I decided to take Athena shopping again. We wanted through Target completely haphazardly, making it through the checkout four times. One time it was for a stuffed monkey - a Carter's Just One You bean bag monkey. Athena and monkey have been inseparable ever since. Monkey goes everywhere with us. (After searching five Targets for a spare monkey, I finally broke down and bought one on eBay last night.) We also rode the carousel again and went shoe shopping. I had a coupon for 20% off at Payless, so I thought I'd go looking for some brown boots for her. The boot selection was disappointing, but I let Athena try on a pair of red sparkly shoes. She set her favorite black boots aside and marched out of the store. I called her back to pay for them. She didn't really get it, but eventually came back because I let her swipe my credit card. (Have I mentioned how doomed we are? She LOVES using card readers while shopping. Yeah...) The red shoes were her new favorite. Then it was back to the carousel with her new shoes. Honestly, it was an awesome day.

Athena is eating more. Trader Joe's seems to sample things she likes. First it was gingerbread. Then it was vegetable biryani. Then it was mozarella sticks. She's become a waffle maniac, thanks to TJ's pancake and biscuit mix. For three weeks in a row we'd have waffles once a weekend, and freeze the excess for waffles on the way to school each morning. We can actually get her to try a lot of things by calling it either a waffle or pizza. She also ate some of our burritos, fish at dim sum, Mexican rice, and a quarter of my fish sandwich. She'll also eat as much mango yogurt as we'll let her. The silliest was one day when she wanted to trade off bites with Erik. I was in the back dealing with an issue from work. She'd have her bite, say "Daddy's turn!" then run down the hall to the bedroom, giggling. Erik would yell, "Athena's turn!" and she'd race back. I really honestly had trouble not giggling. Luckily, Mark Mellis has three kids and totally understands. She's also decided bananas are okay. She at one and a half bananas this morning. She can hold the peel and not get messy, and eat the banana. This really is the root of our food issues. She hate being sticky and dirty. We have recently convinced her it's okay to lick her finger clean when food gets on it. This is a weirdly big achievement. Previously, it was tears until we could get her a napkin and fix it.

I actually took a couple of extra days off work before Winter Closure because things were winding down and my time was more valuable as time to get things done with Athena in daycare. We spent Thursday cleaning house and prepping for dinner with John, Rebecca, Penelope, Carolyn, and Erik. A big pot roast, roasted veggies and crusty bread made a tasty feast after our trip to the Tech Museum to see the Star Wars exhibit. It was a traveling show that has seen some wear before its last stop in San Jose, but the costumes and models were great and the videos with the creators were fun. Then Penelope dove into dinner with an abandon that Athena has never exhibited. She at carrots and potatoes and parsnips and squash like a champ and even enjoyed beef. Athena had a waffle and a cup of yogurt.

There was cleaning and organizing and last minute gift shopping and last minute decisions about Christmas morning. My mom was sad that we were considering driving home. The trouble is, sleeping elsewhere with Athena these days requires a near perfect recreation of her room in whatever space she's in. This means bringing her orange pillow, her monkey, her blanket, her soundspa, her jammies, her sleepsack... and then usually something we didn't think of. Sure enough, she woke up twice before 2 a.m., and there was no rocking chair to get her back to sleep. Poor little bug is a creature of habit right now. She enjoyed reading in the morning with grandma though.

My grandparents are not doing especially well. My grandfather broke his arm earlier this year, and recovery has been slow with many bumps. My grandmother has been trying to take care of him and running herself down in the process. My mom and Mark spent months spending nights over at their house, and they've got some paid help now, but not every night, so Mom and Mark are still over there at least one night a week. They've got an ideal home for aging in place, with not so much as one single stair, but I think this has all overtaken them so suddenly that they are not quite sure how to deal with it. They really do need daily assistance at this point, so it's sort of down to hiring a live-in caregiver or going to a nursing home, but they're not ready for either option. It's a pity, but they've had such good health for so long that it's quite an adjustment for them. A year ago, my grandpa was still happily driving everywhere, so the steep decline of his independence is a rough trail to travel.

We headed home from Sacramento to have dinner and hot tubbing with the Lendvays on Christmas night. Athena made an amazing Lamb Mansaf with turmeric rice and brownies with fresh raspberry coulis. Ohhhhh so good! Then we headed out to the tub and splashed and played til the kids were exhausted. It was the perfect conclusion to the Christmas holiday.
Merry Christmas from California!
Athena is a child that shall not want for much. For Christmas, she got a ton of stuff.
She got a mini-stove from Mrs. Lendvay for Christmas. It has light-up burners and makes noise. She's been "cooking" her pizza in it a lot lately.

She got a wooden train set from Rachel for Christmas with lots of cars. She got a tea set from my mom at Christmas and we have tea parties a lot.

She got a subscription to Babybug from Erik's mom for Christmas. That will mean a new book/magazine every month, plus there's an iPad app. She also got her an adorable ladybug rain set.

She got a LeapReader Junior from Aunt D at Christmas and Minnie's Bow-nanza as the book. She loves it. I got her a baby doll set for Christmas (Cabbage Patch) that came with a stroller. She loves pushing monkey around in the stroller. The baby doll mostly goes night-night in the bed that came with the set.

My dad's next door neighbor got her a purse with a fake phone, fake lipstick, and wallet with fake debit card. She loves it.

With Christmas behind us. we got to do other things. Athena was home from daycare until January 2nd, so this meant a lot of mornings spent lounging in bed with books, and doing other Athena-centered fun things. We had dim sum with T & Danielle and the Los. We had a soup night of our own with a dozen south bay folks. We had long walks as Athena pushed her new baby buggy with monkey. We left Athena with Christy for a few hours so that we could go with Mrs. Lendvay to see Thor 2, and then we all retired to Aqui for dinner. We spent one afternoon cleaning out all the stuff we had in the garage that needed to go to Goodwill/Savers. We spent another 30 minutes after that browsing Savers and I found a fabulous asymmetrical cardigan for $5 in a lovely teal. 

Comcast messed up our bill AGAIN this month, and then service started getting really flaky over winter closure, being consistently down around 9 a.m. each day. We called and they told us our modem was not supported. Um, okay, so we bought a new one. This did not miraculously fix the problem. (We're taking it back...) Then they said it was the splitter. I picked up a new splitter. This did not miraculously fix the problem. Then they made an appointment to come out on Friday from 8-10 a.m. At 9:30, no one had called or shown up, so I started getting uneasy and asked Erik to call. They said they'd called and we didn't answer, so they didn't show up. We said, um, no, been here the whole time. When are you showing up? They said Erik wasn't authorized to make an appointment. Erik said they really didn't want to talk to me because the next time I had to talk to them, it would be to cancel service. The guy insisted while I was changing the baby's diaper, and I authorized Erik again, and then the idiot kept wanting to ask me questions. Erik took the phone back before I could tell them to go to hell. After several more conversations, they said they'd call back after noon to let us know when someone could come out. At 1:40, they called and said the tech was at our house, but since we weren't there we missed our appointment. We said we didn't have an appointment because you were supposed to call us back after noon to let us know when our appointment was. We begged the tech to stay while we sped home. Several exchanges later, the tech drove away before we made it home. That's pretty much when I lost it. Seething, screaming rage. We had been planning to go see a movie, but we missed the morning showing because we were on the phone with Comcast. We missed the next showing because we were racing home to try to meet the Comcast guy. We were working elsewhere in the interim because we had no internet at home. By the time it rolled around to 2:20, we jumped in the car to go see Frozen. They couldn't have our entire day. We hit the 2:25 showing just as the last Preview rolled and got great seats with a comfy footrest. Idina Menzel still rocks my socks off. Kristen Bell was adorably Kristen Bell (so looking forward to Veronica Mars!!!) and Olaf is likely to become a fixture in our house next year if Athena's current appreciation for snowmen is sustained at all. They finally came out on Sunday and determined that the line from the pole likely needs to be replaced. Erik handled that while I went to get a pedicure with Christyn. We are also looking into Sonic for internet and a digital antenna. 

Athena is going to be terribly disappointed with the world soon. Her favorite part of Christmas has been all the outdoor decorations and lights. She rides down the street on the way home from school and says, "Pretty lights!" punctuated occasionally with "Snowman!" She really loves singing Frosty the Snowman.

We got to see Book of Mormon on January 2nd. Athena stayed with the Lendvays. Just before showtime, we got a text of bedtime stories. It was the cutest thing ever.

She can sing her ABCs all by herself now, count to ten consistently, and count to 20 with a little help. She knows all of her colors and loves scribbling in a coloring book. She loves reading books and singing songs and is generally just a ridiculously normal little girl. She's also very sensitive to others emotions. When reading Giraffe's Can't Dance, she usually needs to hug monkey or Mickey Mouse when Gerald is so sad and so alone. When we left dim sum the other day, she gave Connor a hug and a kiss. I thought Wendy might just melt into a puddle from the cute. She knows Connor's house and Lorelei's house and is always excited to go visit them. At school, when she arrives, Libby, Naryan, and Clementine usually jump up and scream and run toward her. On her first day back after the holiday break, she immediately jumped down and gave Clementine a hug. She loves Skype time with Meme and Grandpa, and will play just so that they can see her playing, but sometimes when it's time to Meme to go, she actually starts crying. She loves her Meme and Grandpa so very much. When Kev and I were playing Ms. Pacman last week, she got really sad when Ms. Pacman got caught by the ghost and died. Kev was pretty surprised that she understood the narrative that much. 

Anyway, sorry for the delays! Happy holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

22 Months Addendum

I forgot to mention a couple of things. One of my favorite new things Athena does is that she'll try to do things herself, but then when she gets too frustrated, she stops and says, "Help, please?" It's both adorable, and also the most useful thing in the universe. This again is a skill I sincerely hope she retains rather than stubbornly blundering forward in frustration like her mama.

The other insanely cute thing is "family hug." Athena frequently specifically requests a family hug. Usually this is when one of us is holding her and she reaches out to the other parent and says, "family hug" and grabs us both and squeezes tight. Sometimes on weekend mornings, she gathers us both up, one under each arm after finishing her milk. It's infinitely sweet. As much as she is much more likely to depend on me over Erik in many situations, she truly adores having "both of her people" available as often as possible.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

22 Months

Let's face it. Athena continues to be amazing and adorable. She has started referring to herself as "Nena" because she can't quite say "Athena" yet. This is super cute when she's talking about her hat or her boots or whatnot.

Many mornings were spent lounging in bed with the girl or hot tubbing with her. We're not doing Dickens, so last weekend we really soaked up the lounging. Both days, Athena slept late and we enjoyed the time. When she did get up, she crawled in bed with us and her morning milk and snuggled while coming to life. Then it was time for family hugs, then playing, and then going to get books for Mommy to read. After the fourth book, we looked like this:

Rough life, eh?
 The next day started the same way. It looked like this:
Yeah… life is good.
Our day consisted of wild and crazy activities like folding laundry, which is actually more fun with a toddler, if more time consuming. For 20 minutes or more, Athena hid under a blanket behind Erik and wandered all over the house as a sort of blanket dragon.

We walked to the grocery store for some milk on Sunday night and stopped to split a burrito. That's when Athena tried Daddy's hat.
We may die of the cute. 
Also of note here is Athena's necklace. A couple of months ago she decided mommy's necklaces were fascinating. At Disneyland I got this necklace for her (complete with stretchy elastic string) and have since gotten her another at Target. It's a rare day we make it out of the house without her asking for a necklace. She is a girly girl this one.

She also loves pockets. Lately she's told us all about our pockets and her pockets, and jackets that have pockets win over other jackets she can choose.
Love my pockets! Love them!
When we get ready in the morning, she often helps me in the bathroom. She insists on getting to put makeup on herself as well, so I've got a carefully orchestrated set of distractions - an empty eyeliner I let her use, a spare lip gloss she gets to put on - and I do the really messy things like mascara while she's focused on those. Then I let her use my blush brush and translucent powder herself. All the while, she perches on the back of the toilet.

Using Mommy's toothbrush.
There's an app on my phone for her that shows pictures of different animals. One morning she noticed the dolphin, so we watched a couple of dolphin videos on YouTube. Then there's elephants. I scored bringing home that stuffed elephant from Educause. There was an elephant playing piano on Boing Boing, so we let her watch that.

At school, she loves to tag the poles on her way in, or run from utility cover to cover as if they are bases.

At home, she's a bundle of energy in the evenings. One night, we spent about 30 minutes playing Backwards and Forwards. This largely consisted of her walking backward, then running headlong at me. 

One night while I was out at dinner with the girls in Alameda, Athena started asking about Meme and Grandpa again. Since their last visit, she's always asking about them. They definitely have to come more often in their post-innkeeper life. She wants them around all the time. So one night, Erik takes this video and sends it to his mom:

Then Karen responded:

Then Erik and Athena send back:
So yeah, they had a nice night.

What was nice this month was that I feel like we got a bit of time to be a couple as well.

There was Parent's Night Out at Action Day on the second Friday of the month. We'd initially not planned on going because it had been a long week and we weren't up for FNW. But, then the Foxes and Lendvay's started talking about Ender's Game. So we checked in Athena and went out to Islands and then off to Ender's Game with a herd of adults. We said all the words on our minds and enjoyed a good sci-fi flick. Not oooh ahhh great, but a solid treatment of a good story. 

Later in the month Erik and I took advantage of Early Horizon's Parent's Day Out and went to see About Time. This was the kind of movie that has all the feels. We saw the preview and they had us at "from the makers of Love Actually" and really, if that's your kind of movie, go see About Time. It totally makes you love your family more and treat every day as precious. After the movie, we grabbed some slices at Pizza My Heart (because Camera 7 is awesome) and then I dropped Erik at home so that I could get a massage. It was a Good Day. 

We also got to see Radiolab Apocalyptica live. It was almost as awesome as the one two years ago (though the darkened theater with everyone with LED lights representing space was one of those peak experiences you can only have in a crowded theater with everyone participating together). This time I had the distinct advantage of not being absurdly pregnant. That was super nice. Two years ago, my ankles were swollen and it was a very long drive to Berkeley and back. This time the story of the dinosaurs end was just breathtaking. I could recount the full story here, but give it a couple of months and please please listen to the broadcast. Radiolab remains my very favorite NPR show ever. The latest research they dug up told the story of the dinosaurs destruction on a single day, one summer day (mid-June - mid-July) when an asteroid the size of Mt. Everest hit the earth. The telling is amazing.
Yeah, that's a dinosaur sniffing the audience.
Actually, a super awesome dinosaur puppet.
Then I got a Goldstar ad for Tim Lee, a UC Davis PhD turned comedian. I pinged the South Bay crew again, asking who wanted to go and was surprised to find that the answer was 10 friends. So we did and it was delightful. He managed to make some very funny jokes using Powerpoint. This is a mad skill. 

So suffice to say, we got more than an average helping of Ammy and Erik time this month. This was a very good thing. 

I also slogged back and forth to work a lot and came to an unfortunate conclusion: I spend an average of 3 waking hours with Athena a day, half of which is spent getting her ready for school or getting her ready for bed. So it goes. Barring winning the lottery (which I don't play), that's not going to change ever, so I guess I just got a tad melancholy about that. Her teachers at daycare see her awake for more hours in a week than I do. At least I'm confident in their capacity to raise her well. She usually says "Please" when she wants something and almost always says "thank you" when you get something she's asked for. She also says, "bless you" when you sneeze and says "I'm sorry" when she gets too rambunctious and accidentally hurts you. If she knows you're hurt, she says "I'm sorry." a lot. I wish I had a better grasp of that skill. In a highly emotionally charged situation, my gut reaction is not to just say I'm sorry. I say it later, but that's not when most people need it. It's a shortcoming I wish I could easily change, but in pressured situations, I just don't react as well as I would in a low pressure situation. 

In other news, I don't have skin cancer, yet. I had a red scaly spot on my nose that didn't go away for over a month, so I asked the doctor and the doctor said "biopsy" so I got a slice of my nose taken off and have been sporting a band-aid ever since. I'm trying to let it heal gently, keeping it antiseptic and soft with some antibiotic ointment. Right now it's an ugly red scab, but hopefully it will be better soon. It's getting smaller at least. The diagnosis came back "actinic keratosis," which is to say, "pre-cancer" that should be cut off, which we did, so nothing more to do now but wait for it to come back. It will come back, on my nose or somewhere else. You don't get to be my kind of white with a rough and tumble childhood and a mis-spent youth at Ren Faire without having this as an expected outcome.

For Thanksgiving, our original plan was to have my mom and grandparents down to see our new house, but unfortunately, my grandpa had a blood clot in his leg, so he couldn't travel. Instead, we drove up to Sac in the usual Thanksgiving traffic. I was fully prepared for it, so took the opportunity to try some alternate routes - Mission Blvd. through Fremont past the old Mission San Jose and Vallecitos Road from 680 to 580. Athena steadfastly refused to nap for the first hour and half. We stopped in Tracy for a gas fill up and diaper change and a fresh bottle of milk. That finally did it and she slept the rest of the way. We arrived around 3:30, helped finish up dinner, and let Athena run around like a happy almost 2-year-old. She tried her first pumpkin pie and apple pie. The pumpkin pie was deemed quite tasty, with many more bites consumed. The apple pie sat in her mouth for a moment while she had a pained look on her face. Finally Erik asked if she wanted to spit it out, and she opened up and let it roll into his hand. Oh well. At least we got her to eat one new food!

She is integrating some new foods, but they're um, well, um, not exactly the healthiest of choices. Her latest new favorite is fried chicken. She ran up and grabbed my chicken leg and took a big hunk out of it and relished eating it up. So, yay, she's eaten chicken now. Luckily, earlier in the month, we went to Crystal's birthday party and Athena ate some of her smoked chicken pate and deemed it "mmmmm!" We couldn't agree more. That was another one of those classic dinner parties at CKP house where the conversation roils and brews and you come away feeling like you've just had a seriously high quality evening with the best of friends. I'm always grateful for their invitations, and also incredibly grateful for their tolerance of the wee miss at what are terribly adult meals.

Today was spent at Dickens Fair, thanks to comps from Christyn. Athena and I were dressed in adorable matching green plaid dresses courtesy of Athena Lendvay. We were quite the picture of mother/daughter cuteness. We spent an hour or so at Fezzis, feeling ever so at home, then out to find a meat pie, then back for a diaper change and milk, then a buggy ride that became a good nap while we got to walk around. I got to hang out backstage with Becky while she pumped, totally understanding the total isolation of that experience. It was great catching up with her. Then a dance with my husband while Elizabeth rolled Athena back and forth, then shucking down to street clothes and heading home. It was a lovely visit. We headed home, swinging through Trader Joe's for groceries and Torrid for my single Black Friday purchase - a shirt I'd admired previously was now available for 40% off. Woohoo! We came home and made dinner of fish and chips and Skipper's clam chowder and Athena ate her first french fry. Sigh. At least it's another new food! We watched Christmas Eve on Sesame Street as her very first holiday special. Then we gave her a bath and off to bed. It was a perfectly lovely day, and just how a holiday should be spent - with chosen family and enjoying traditions. My sole regret for the day was not busting out my camera and getting photos, but participant conditioning dies hard. Some may exist somewhere, but no one stopped us to pose us, so maybe not. 

We're a day late here already, so I'll button this one up for this month. Thanks to my 13 intrepid readers! I hope you enjoy.

Monday, November 04, 2013


Athena wanted to wear her tutu to school for Halloween. We convinced her to do a twirl for us before school.

We had a great Halloween at Fox Hollow. Karen and Rich returned from Avila Beach just after my dad and Carol arrived from Sacramento. Karen and Rich joined me to pick up Athena at Early Horizons, and I handed them my car to drive her home for a bit. They were going to hang out and see if we got any trick-or-treaters, then come back to see the haunt during full scares time. We did get trick-or-treaters and went through most of a bag of candy. Athena was tucked gently into her own bed at bedtime.

The haunt was a blast. We had an interesting take on things in the Mad Science lab as we had 6 cameras showing us everything that happened. We knew the tentacle was hilarious to watch. We knew that the air cannons were a hit. We knew that they needed to tighten up the timing getting folks in. We had a preview of the really fun groups well before they reached us. Erik found a good place to jump out and I pressed the buttons. We missed pirating it up from time to time, but generally had a lovely time in our new locale.

For the rest of the weekend, we reveled in having some extra adult hands around the house. We lounged in bed in the mornings while Karen (operating on East Coast time + years of conditioning to make breakfast at the inn) got up with Athena. She loved getting time with her when mommy wasn't present and I loved lounging in bed, sleeping in a bit, snuggling my husband, and listening to them play and giggle.

In three days, Erik managed to finish knocking together the office closets, get the boxes in there unpacked, and take the go-backs back to IKEA. We picked out the alternative items at IKEA while Karen and Rich played with Athena in the kids section, her clamboring up the slide multiple times, riding the see saw, and playing with the play kitchen. She also LOVED the mini-Poang in the sofa section, and curled up in it saying, "My chair." It looks just like the two Poangs we have at home, only smaller, so she immediately recognized it. Karen and Rich offered to get it for her, which was awesome. Rich put it together for her while she napped and she woke to find it really was her chair. As we were leaving IKEA, we went for a diaper change in the Family restroom. She saw another little boy washing his hands at the sink for short folks and loved it.
Washing hands at IKEA
Meanwhile, I got a closet organizer thing from Amazon for the laundry room and transformed the room of shame into a functional room with everything put away in under 2 hours. Karen helped me put together the closet thing after unscrewing the old closet rail from the wall. Seriously, just having an extra set of hands turned projects from "impossibly far down the to-do list" to "done!" in 3 days. I caulked the cracks in the side of the house and bought paint to finish the job. I figure I can do that some day next weekend.

And we finally got to see Despicable Me 2 on Saturday night at the Blue Light Cinema. Yay!

Meanwhile, we also got to show Karen and Rich our new house and lifestyle. Friday night we soaked in the tub after Athena went to bed and Sunday morning we got up and took Athena for a tub swim while we sipped mimosas. Then we headed to dim sum before coming back for naptime. 

All in all, having them come visit and taking a couple of days off work was the nicest little mini-vacation I could imagine. I have the best in-laws in the world and I can't wait til they come back again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

21 Months

It turns out, this linguistic explosion is normal. Somewhere between 20-22 months, kids go from about 50 words to about 500 words. It's just that the way it happens is mind-blowing. One minute it's individual words - ball, dog, milk, and so on. Then all of the sudden, it's phrases, and conversations, and telling you whole thoughts like, "I have pretty necklace. Red. Pretty necklace." Erik and I spent a lot of time this month just sort of staring at each other when she popped off with something that wasn't so much strictly repetition (although there's plenty of that too!) as it was assembling words into a sentence. Not always a perfect sentence or perfect grammar, but perfectly comprehendible. She's also mostly able to count to 10 now, but it usually goes "1, 2, 3, 5" where we remind her of 4 and she continues, "4, 5, 6, 9, 10!" and we remind her of 7, and she says, "7, 9, 10" and we remind her of 8, and she repeats it and then says, "10!" And then we laugh. She's also singing along with the ABCs when it comes on Pandora. She asked Mr. Clifford, the singer at school, to play it for her. And, she knows her right from her left. She'll put shoes on and say, "Right foot!" and "Left foot!" which is frankly better than I can consistently do. So this is pretty much why everyone thinks their kid is a genius. It's because they are, compared to what they were a month ago.

Speaking of repetition, we also had our first incident of repeating mama's potty mouth. I realized I'd forgotten something fairly important and let out a quiet, breathy, half-whispered, "Fuuuuuuuuuuuck..." from the sofa. Athena promptly repeated the full intonation and gave a big grin. Erik and I turned to one another and I said, "Ah, so we're there now. Okay, noted." And now we're trying to clean up our act around our darling little parrot lest she opt to repeat such things at school.

In other news, we spent much of the month getting ready for Haunted Fox Hollow. Erik and I are staffing the Mad Scientist's Lab this year in the garage, so we got everyone in the family a nice labcoat, including Athena. Tiny toddler lab coats on tiny toddlers is pretty ridiculously cute. So far, we haven't been able to convince her to wear her lab goggles, but I have high hopes for Thursday. She and daddy also practiced their evil laughs and such on the way to school:

In early prep, we found an online deal for half priced tickets to a local pro-haunt in San Jose, so we asked Christy to babysit the girls and headed over with Brian, Christyn, Kevin, Rachel, Cyrus, and Athena. The haunt was broken into 3 houses so it was nice to get a little break between sections to chat. The staffer manning the door of the House of Voodoo realized we were talking about our own build and wanted in on the conversation. It being the first weekend they were open, things were pretty slow. So we chatted about favorite bits and what we could apply and past history in haunts and generally had a grand time. The most genius thing they had was a giant red button in the lobby and a video feed from inside the haunt. There was a big white X on the floor. For $1, you got two shots with an air cannon at some poor unsuspecting sod walking through the haunt. Erik said, "I'd pay a buck for that!" We waited... and waited... (it was a slow night) and then finally, a cowering group came along. They'd been spooked by something a few feet back. Then Erik fired the cannon and the guy in the front of the line freaked out and fell down, unhurt, but totally scared (which is what they were paying for, so everyone wins!). It was awesome. At that very moment, we all decided we had to add air cannons to the haunt, and Brian totally made it happen. So now, in the lab, we have a button that blasts guests in two spots as they walk through. It was a hoot watching folks jump on Saturday.

After the haunt, we made our first pilgrimage to Cooking Papa, an authentically Hong Kong style Chinese place down the street from home. Dinner was delightful, and Kev decided to order dessert - egg puffs. They sliced the four puffs in half for the eight of us and we each savored a deep-fried flakey, cinnamon-sugary confection that was the perfect finish. So, now we know another yummy place for dinner within walking distance of home. That means we've got a Mexican restaurant, a taqueria, an American-style Chinese place, and a Hong Kong Chinese place within walking distance of home, so we're pretty much covered on those fronts without having to get in the car.

I should also note that my new commute is actually working out. I was a bit dubious in late September as the full force of All The Schools being back in session came to fruition, but I can honestly say I've had far fewer days where going postal seemed a reasonable and appropriate solution after my commute. This pleases me a great deal. There's not much to be done about the leg between Magdelena and Alpine or the bits on campus at Stanford (short of getting a $2 mil windfall to move closer), but there are plenty of days where the big board before Foothill tells me it would take 34 minutes to get back to San Jose from there, and where it only takes me another 15 or so to get to my house. That's a huge improvement. I also have several paths to eject from the freeway when it's hopelessly clogged, starting at Foothill and taking Homestead all the way home. I've recently determined that getting off at Lawrence/Stevens Creek is actually better than going down to Saratoga because of where Stevens Creek hits Kiely. Or I can get off at Wolfe and take Pruneridge. Or I can get off at De Anza and take Homestead. Suffice to say, there are options, and options make me a much happier driver. And life is just better when I don't get all road ragey.

Athena and Clementine continue to be besties at school. Few things make me happier than Clementine running up in screaming joy as Athena arrives at EH in the mornings. Clem's moms took Athena for a Saturday so that both of us could do build and they took the girls to a pumpkin patch (and drove through Foster's Freeze while the girls had a tandem nap on the way back), had a bath together and generally just had an awesome day. I hope they manage to stay friends for a long long time because Kelly and Cole are totally our kind of people and we hit the lottery when Athena picked Clem as a best friend.
Art time at Clem's house

Doing Wheels on the Bus in the car together

At the pumpkin patch

Tandem naptime

On October 15-18th, I went to the annual Educause conference, this time in Anaheim. A month or so before the conference, we tried to figure out how to combine it with a Disney trip. The math kept coming out poorly. Then I thought, "Well, maybe I can get a one day pass and go in the evening." But they closed so early! Then I figured it out: Mickey's Halloween Treat. For $59, you get entry 3 hours before the park closes, then the party runs til 11. There were opportunities on Tuesday or Friday. Though the conference officially "starts" on Tuesday, it really doesn't kick off til 8 on Wednesday. This meant I had Tuesday night at my liberty. So, I packed my pirate costume, wore my tricorn hat to the airport, and headed out to Anaheim with ticket in hand.

You might think that going to Disneyland alone would be lame, but I would disagree. First off, I'm an only child, and I think that's made me better than average at having fun by myself. Second, this wasn't any old day at Disneyland. It was a party. Folks were dressed up and feeling friendly. In my first line I asked total strangers to take a picture of me. They did, and then we spent the rest of the 30 minute wait chatting about their trip, things to try, and generally having a great time. This was just the start. Later I met a guy dressed up as original Khan, talked to a nice family dressed as The Little Mermaid (Mom: Ursula, Dad: Triton, little girl: Ariel, baby boy: Sebastian), and was offered candy while in the boat on Pirates of the Caribbean after having a nice chat about teaching with a cute couple from Irvine.
Mermaid family

Wheelchair pirate ship

At the Golden Horseshoe

Awesome Khan and Savik

Super cute Minions on Star Tours

In line for Space Mountain

Indiana Jones getting on Indiana Jones

Venkman on Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy

I started my night with a trip to Trader Sam's, the Disneyland Hotel's spiffy tiki bar. I've never gotten to go since it opened after I was pregnant and bars aren't terribly baby-appropriate. After sipping a Shrunken Zombie Head, I was ready to head to the park.
Shrunken Zombie Head
It was 4 p.m. and my agenda was to make sure I got on Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and Haunted Mansion Holiday and that I got some bacon-wrapped asparagus at the Bengal BBQ. Everything else was gravy.

On the way in, we all got wrist bands and a candy bag. During the first hour after closing, cast members assiduously checked wrist bands in lines and as you walked around. All the normal folks were pushed out of the park while the party folks got the park to themselves. That 30 minute wait for Space Mountain? That was the longest all night. It was 15 minutes or less the rest of the night, for EVERYTHING. Indy? Walk-on. Haunted Mansion? 10 minutes. Space Mountain? 15 minutes. It was AWESOME. Also, there were trick or treat stations where you got in line, walked past a half dozen carts full of candy, held up your bag, and cast members plopped fistfuls of candy in. In 3 stations, my bag was full. There were fireworks at 9:30 with Zero taking flight over the castle. The Dapper Dans were outfitted as the Cadaver Dans. The Golden Horseshoe became a treat station with a skeleton band on stage and skeleton cowboys playing poker at the tables. The Rancho del Zocalo was another treat station with Chip, Dale, and Donald dressed up as pirates. That's where I saw a guy in a wheelchair dressed as a pirate with his whole chair outfitted as a pirate ship. Seriously, I had an enormous grin everywhere I went. Plus, being alone these days isn't really being alone. I kept posting photos to Facebook, and every time I had a moment to pause in line, I got to read everyone's comments. It was so much fun, and exactly the opportunity I needed to have a night as Just Ammy (or Ammy the Pirate) instead of as Mommy. I love being Mommy, don't get me wrong. But damn, Mommy needed a Break!

At 11, I turned into a pumpkin and headed back to the hotel, ready to turn back into an IT professional for the rest of the week. I went to a fascinating lecture on "Living with an Advanced Persistent Threat" that was a great breakdown of what happened at Stanford as it happened to UCSD a year ago. I tagged into several project management and project communications sessions. I LOVED Jane McGonigal's session on Gamification of Education. She's totally my hero. The Find the Future game at the NY Public Library sounds like the coolest thing ever. She also got everyone in the room (approximately 5500 people!) to simultaneously play massively multiplayer thumb wrestling. Everyone joins hands, two or three or four or five or more to a match, both hands simultaneously, and the first person in each handhold to pin a thumb wins. Suddenly, everyone in the room was engaged, connected, smiling, and learning something totally new.

We also gave our own talk on Campus Readiness as an essential tool to successful IT projects in higher education. We thought we'd been given a lame slot - 4:30 on Thursday, tucked in the farthest back corner of the convention. But it turns out, our session was packed, with standing room only and folks turned away, so that's about 200 people. And it went just great. Folks were engaged and had great questions at the end. Then we came back and delivered an abbreviated version at our IT Services Key Comm meeting to a bunch of our colleagues. We spent the next week soaking up compliments from a dozen different colleagues. It was great to feel valued and understood.

Meanwhile, Erik got to be a single dad for 3 days. Luckily, it was 3 weekdays, so he only really had to deal with mornings and evenings. When I got home, we went to pick her up and I got the big hugs. I gave her the elephant I won from the Clean Address booth (which is a super cool product) and a necklace I got for her in Disneyland.

My girl is a girly girl. She loves jewelry and credit cards and make-up and well... yeah. Every morning that she's with me as I get ready, she asks me to put make-up on her too. I pretend to give her eyeliner and mascara as she sits on the back of the toilet. When I do lips, she insists on lip gloss, no faking. Then we rub our lips together and smack and grin. For a while now, she's been pointing to mommy's pretty necklaces and wanting one. I gave her some less-loved items from my collection to wear and that went well, but in Disneyland, I found a stretchy red and white Minnie Mouse necklace with an A charm. She loves it and wants to wear it every time she sees me wearing a necklace (or otherwise gets reminded of its existence). We went to a tea party the Goudeau's hosted and Athena loved my hat, so she ran around the house modeling it.

On Saturday after I returned, we left her with Christy so that we could head to Gaskell. We had a lovely time dancing and being social, but Mommy being gone again for the night was clearly beyond the pale. The next day I was on solo duty while Erik was gone for 9 hours to play an RPG and I had the crankiest baby in the universe. We made it, but as much as I missed her, boy was I ready to be back to work on Monday! A week of normal patterns being followed with Mommy home every night by 7 and we were back to normal. Whew!

We actually got to do more than an average amount of dancing this month, making it to FNW on the 2nd and 4th Fridays in addition to going to Gaskell. They were teaching Thriller this Friday, and I was dying to learn it. I mentioned it to Mrs. Lendvay, and she promptly offered her husband to watch the girls so that we could all go. Woohoo!

On Monday night, Karen and Rich flew in. They're visiting until Sunday, so that's awesome. Tuesday morning, I heard Athena wake up at 7:15. Then 30 seconds later I heard Karen swoop in and pick her up and tell her how much she's grown and get her all set in the morning. I rolled over and snuggled my husband for a few extra minutes. I love it when they visit. I have the best mother-in-law in the whole world!