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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Science News!

Okay, it's been forever, I know, but in a day where IFLS is competently aggregating science, I usually don't feel compelled to do this anymore.

But even before reading Gulp, the news on the influence of your intestinal biome on your health had been creeping in and being fascinating. It's about the only successful treatment for some chronic infections like C.diff and for other inflammatory diseases like Crohn's. The FDA is getting on board, and the research that keeps coming back is impressive.

Now there's evidence that your microbiome may be what makes you fat, in multiple ways. First, by having a microbiome that more efficiently breaks down food, giving you more calories, and also potentially by actually controlling signals to your brain, making you want to eat more or eat more of what that breed of bacteria likes to eat. Now that sounds insane until you remember that these bacteria outnumber human cells in our bodies on an order of 100 to 1 and you also remember the effects of Toxoplasma Gondii infection on mice.

This week's news pushed me over the tipping point: your microbiome is also what protects you from peanut allergies.

The net result of all of this new info is that more than anything, I'd still love to have a fecal transplant from someone like Nicole Sivell or my mother-in-law who don't gain weight regardless of what they eat or drink. As I fight the battle of the bulge again, cutting calories to the bare minimum and still barely creeping lower, I sure wish my body would be a partner rather than an enemy in this fight.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Two and a Half

Athena is now two and a half, which as it turns out, is a lot different from 2. In the past six months, she's grown 3 inches and gotten a command of language that's pretty impressive. I think this language change is also responsible for a lot of the difference in her behavior as well. She's far less likely to throw a tantrum, and I think it's in no small part due to her being able to tell us what she's thinking and what she needs.

An example of her language these days is when Meme asked her about the fireworks the day after Independence Day, she said, "They were LOUD! But mommy covered my ears and held me close, so I felt safe. It was pretty sparkles." I just about melted into a puddle for a whole bagful of reasons. She got that I was trying hard to make it a good experience for her. She also was asked one question and spewed out a whole paragraph on her experience. I used to have trouble prying that much out of high school students, so getting that from a 2 year old was amazing.

We did have a really lovely 4th of July party, moving the sofa out to the patio as we did for my birthday. Unlike most parties that have folks coming and going at various times, folks kept arriving throughout the day, and most folks didn't leave until after fireworks, making the party feel like it kept building up. It was awesome, and we're definitely doing it again.
Sofa in the yard!
Watching fireworks.
We did have a ridiculous overabundance of food. I made enough food for an army, and of course, everyone else brought something too. On Sunday, we invited Athena's besties from school, Clementine and Miriam, over for time in the wading pool and dinner. We cooked up the tri-tip we didn't even open the day before and pulled a wild assortment of salads and fruit out of the fridge. Kelly and Cole and Rachel and Ben helped us make a good dent in the bounty, and the girls had a squealing, joyful good time in the wading pool.

Bubble guns!
Stomping bubbles.
Just after I started work at Tesla, Karen came out to visit. I'm not sure how she does it, but each time we make a crazy transition, she appears like some sort of guardian angel who manages to bring sanity back to the household and bring explosive joy to Athena. This time the summer heat set in, and she took Athena to the big pool across the street with her new swim jacket from Costco. This allowed her to swim across the pool on her own. This quickly led to a big case of "Don't help me!" as she proceeded to go back and forth across the pool. An hour later, Karen helped her shower off and get out of wet swimsuit into dry clothes and the wee miss passed out in her stroller on the way back to the house. In the evening she kept exclaiming, "I had big fun! Big fun mama!" The went back the next day too. We've now got a family pass to the pool so that she and Erik can go whenever they want this summer.

She also likes to "Rarrr" us. Sometimes she's a lion. Sometimes she's a dragon. But the rarrr is adorable, and always begins with, "Can I rarrr you?"

By the way, folks ask how Tesla is. I'm starting to settle in. I miss Stanford. I miss being able to walk to lunch. I miss longish walks to my meetings. I miss having time for exercise. I miss the academic community. I really miss my colleagues. But, I'm starting to feel actually useful in my new job. I did get a rolling file cabinet, so now I have a stash of spices and salt and pepper for food prep and nuts for emergency food. I also bought a knife because the kitchen there has no knives, even though they have a weekly fruit day, which desperately needs a paring knife to trim strawberries and slice plums and what not. I even asked HR about getting a cheap set of knives and they said that was a safety risk and that I should use the utensils provided, but I'm not sure how a butter knife is a safer/better tool for slicing fruit. When I asked was right after I'd nearly stabbed myself with a butter knife trying to slice a plum, so yeah, safer, sure. Everyone knows dull knives are safer.

I also worked out the lunch thing due to a Groupon for Personal Trainer Food. Frankly, that's the worst name ever, but the food is great. One packet of prepped meat and one packet of prepped veg for lunch and dinner, a couple of eggs for breakfast, and a piece of fruit every day. It's low calorie, highly satisfying, and makes other people look pretty jealously at my meal. Add a little lemon pepper to the veg and it's actually really yummy. I was eating it just for lunch, then making a similar type of meal from scratch for dinner, but this week, lunch and dinner from the bags, and it's making everything doable.

One thing I do really appreciate at Tesla is that they have mugs, bowls, plates, and flatware available for everyone. Being able to eat off a real plate with a real knife and fork makes the world a better place, plus there's no waste. The amount of disposable dining materials not used daily makes my heart happy. It's almost enough to offset the energy wasted on air conditioning that keeps me in a heavy sweater every single day after lunchtime.

The other big challenge is finding any time for things like this. Even if it's your lunch hour, it's open plan seating, so there's no privacy, and folks will come up and say things like, "Nothing to do, eh?" which is really not it at all. Too much to do and not enough time, but trying to use a little bit of my time to take care of something important to me. I'm doing my best to get used to that.

Erik finally finished the quarter of doom. It turns out that if your usual load is 15 contact hours, that's roughly equivalent to the amount of time you're busy as when you're a student taking 15 units. Erik worked 23 contact hours this quarter, which any of my college-grad friends will guess that went about as well as could be expected. Most days he worked his normal workday schedule, concluding at 5:45 to pick up Athena before 6, then came home, entertained her for a bit while waiting for me, then we did dinner, and then it was bedtime for Athena, which I handle mostly. While I put her to bed, he got started working again, and often worked til 1 a.m. Add to this his Tuesday/Thursday classes starting at 7:30, and it was very rough indeed. This left no one unscathed and by the end, I was counting the days as much as he was. July has been delightful by comparison. Erik sanded and painted a play structure for Athena and will assemble it when he gets back. He's spending Mondays and Fridays with Athena on his own, and she's going to school Tuesday through Thursday, giving him time for some chores.

While out with her, I get fun photos. They watched airplanes over lunch at Smashburger between Target and Trader Joe's one day.

Another day she insisted on wearing her long-sleeved space shirt in July.
Space shirt, with shades. Yeah, she's that cool.
Turns out, a cute toddler in a space shirt makes folks in Trader Joe's happy. One woman said, "Oh aren't you adorable! That's a great shirt." Athena started talking about her shirt saying, "It's my space shirt!" and Erik said, "Hey Athena, what's your favorite space show?" And Athena said, "Cosmos!" And the woman just about died of the cute.

Athena's language skill comes with adorable toddler quirks. Sometimes we'll tell her we can do something tomorrow and she'll say, "No, let's do it to-now." Related to the big fun at the pool comes her favorite bedtime phrase, "I love you big much mommy." I say so much, but I've got to admit, big much has a certain charm. When we're leaving the house, she also now says, "Let's go Daddy-O!" to get us to hurry up.

Another interesting thing that's cropped up in the past couple of weeks is Athena's insistence that I say please when I want her to do things. No more can I get away with directives like, "It's time for me to brush your teeth." or "It's time to get up." Nope. Instead she'll say, "Can you say please get up?" and "Can you say can I please brush your teeth?" The thing is, she's not wrong. Yes, I could stand to be a little more polite and practice my pleases and thank yous. We make her do it, so why not me to? And when I do it, she almost universally acquiesces to my request. It's probably because it's a polite request and not a demand, and well, most people respond better to that, even a 2 year old.

Athena has leveled up on her bike. She can now glide along faster than we can walk behind her. Occasional jogging to keep up is now part of the deal. Once around the block is now about 5 minutes instead of the 30 it was originally.

During the great hand-foot-and-mouth illness in May, I let her watch some afternoon PBS cartoons. She fell in love with Thomas the Tank Engine. She can sing the song. She asks for it most nights. And we're learning to hate Sir Topham Hat. Some of the messages of Thomas are not our favorite, so I'm starting to watch them carefully with her, correct some weird issues, and save the episodes that are inoffensive so that we can stop recording new ones and just watch the good ones til she's bored. But really, I can't just cut off Thomas wholesale because she loves it too much.

We went to see Thomas the Tank Engine in person at Roaring Camp in Felton. I'm going to admit right now that I'm horribly spoiled by Disneyland. Part of that comes from having had the experience and knowing how to optimize it, so with that in mind, here are my observations and super secret tips for parents who might be considering this journey, either in October when Thomas and Percy will be there for Halloween, or next summer.

We underestimated the drive, bailed off of 17 at 85 as it was nearly stopped. Instead, we took the gorgeous but windy road through Saratoga to Felton. It was a trip down memory lane for me, back to the old days when Brooks lived out in Boulder Creek. Meanwhile, Erik turned green in the back seat. When we finally made it, we parked in the near parking lot. In the future, I'd park closer to the turn off the road. There's a train parking shuttle, so why not?

We got through the ticket line and headed out to change a diaper and get on the train. The women's line was loooooooong. Erik went to check if there were changing stations in the men's room and there were. Yay! There were also empty port-a-potties just past the covered bridge that had gotten very little use over the whole weekend, so were still plenty fresh. I hit one on the way in and was so glad I did.

The train ride itself was pretty disappointing -  just a very short wind into the mountains where we couldn't see Thomas at all. On the upside, I'd picked the coach car, so I told Athena it was Anabelle and she liked that. After the train ride we got in the too long, too restricted line for Thomas. With big metal barriers marking out the line, once you were in line, even if you decided you should bail, you couldn't. The big take-away here was not to get in line right after your ride on the train, but to instead wait until just before the train returns full of passengers, and get in line then. That would make all the difference. But oh, once we got to the front, our wee miss who'd been turning her head away all day when we tried to get photos (a rare thing for her actually) beamed with all her might. Being that close to Thomas was worth the wait.

Train coming in!
Once that was over she said, "Thank you Thomas! Bye-bye Thomas! Thank you Thomas!"

It was hot, food was overpriced, and people were behaving badly, so we decided that rather than get lunch here, we'd stick it out for a bit longer (easily done when we carry food for Athena with us!) and just split an It's It for now. I'd forgotten how really delicious those are! I mean, I knew, but I didn't Know. Athena watched a little Daffy Duck cartoon while we waited for Erik to get that, then we danced out to the music of Thomas, and headed for the other activities. Face painting? Nah. Bubbles? Nope. Bounce house? Yes! Baby's first bounce house! Oh how I've waited for this!

They had one reserved for the 2-4 year old set. At first she thought she got a turn by herself, so she started crying when the other kids climbed in with her, but she figured it out pretty quick, bouncing around and enjoying the heck out of flinging herself down.

When it was over, she wanted to do it again. Luckily there was room in the next group, so she climbed back in and we said, "Last time?" and she said, "Last time!" (Last time is a thing around here. We get way better results when we pre-confirm that it is the last time for something. The other big thing around here is "Are you ready for...?" If she's not ready, we give her a time frame to get ready, and then we follow through. This makes brushing teeth work out so much more often. It's also good for pajamas and lots of other stuff.) The bouncing was epic. She then acquiesced to climbing out and putting her shoes back on. We tried to stop by and see Sir Topham Hat, but he was on break, so we headed to the parking lot train and rode it out to the parking lot and back again, which made her completely thrilled. She said "Bye-bye Thomas! Thank you Thomas!" again and we were off. We buckled her into the car and she was out before we grabbed lunch at a really completely delicious local taqueria on the way to 17.

In a "perhaps I say too much," I'm going to say the only time we needed to show our ticket was to get on the train. The train was the least impressive part of the whole day.

We discovered something new in May: Kids Park. For kids 2-10, you can drop them off anytime they're open with no prior planning. They don't even take reservations. It's on-demand child care for $7.75 an hour and they're open til midnight on Friday and Saturday. This has been life altering for us. Not having to make an epic plan for babysitting has given us back a lot of freedom. We decided at 11:40 one day to go see the new X-Men movie, dropped her off, stopped for a slice of pizza, and made it to a 12:40 showing. It all cost us less than $20 for babysitting. Then we went to Richard and Tracey's anniversary at FNW, and dancing with my husband for over 2 hours cost us $19.52. When babysitting usually runs $12-15 an hour, plus planning around a lot of folks schedules, it's amazing to do this. Huge thanks to Mice who mentioned it again at Erik's birthday party.

We went to a Tempest concert in the park in Redwood City. It's been ages since I've made it to a show. Turns out Leif had never seen me blonde, let alone with a tiny human. Somebody found this old video of us dancing to Tempest in Redwood City a bazillion years ago.

This time was a smaller crowd since half the usual suspects in that video were down with summer colds. (Silly teacher types getting sick during their time away from students!) The music was a lot of the same though, and a bouncy fun trip down memory lane. I led a serpentine/reel for the crowd with Athena and had a blast doing a bit of Irish dancing while Athena played in the playground with Erik.

We went to Bates and Jamie's wedding and it was the most singularly kid-friendly wedding ever. They had a dress-up box for the kids and Athena claimed a pink tutu and a pirate sword.

We also enjoyed having Clementine over a couple of weeks ago. She and Athena spent 40 minutes playing in the wading pool, naked as jaybirds. They'd fall over, giggle madly and say, "I fell down!" then get back up and do it again. I can't imagine having that much energy, but they don't keep anything in reserve.
No video, because they've got naked butts. Too bad though.
They played til they were spent and we recharged them with some fish sticks. Then they played on the lawn for another hour, and then they had a little squabble around ten minutes to eight, which clearly signaled bedtime. They brushed teeth together, then both keeled over like logs. They were both out by five after 8, well over an hour before Athena usually goes to bed with a fight. Kelly and Cole hoped she wasn't too much trouble, but I was thinking, "Geez, can we rent your daughter more often? That was awesome!" The following weekend, Athena went over to Clem's for the evening. Similar amounts of fun and joy were had by all, and Nicole is way better about taking pictures than I am.

Erik is in Ireland this week for a friend's wedding (Hi Alisa!). This leaves me with 7 days as a single mom - a full business week plus one weekend and another Monday. What that seems to leave me with is just enough time to get up, get myself ready, get her ready, work, pick her up, run any minor errands (we Needed coffee like OMG why is there no coffee when I'm single-momming it?!?!) And then we get home, she likes to play in the car, so I run in and out of the house unloading the car, resetting her lunchbox, setting up coffee for the morning, starting dinner for her, microwaving dinner for myself, and then I sit on the stoop and eat my dinner while she plays.When she's done playing, we come inside and she usually asks to watch Bob the Builder. I like Bob. He's into making things and recycling and his theme song is "Bob the Builder, Can we fix it? Bob the Builder, Yes we can!" That's a sentiment I can really get behind. Some of the machines he works with every day are even female-gendered, which is awfully refreshing because Emily is the only named female in Thomas's song and I've yet to see a single episode with her in it. Grr...  Anyway, Bob the Builder and Thomas and fish sticks, then a banana, and maybe some packet fruit to finish up. Then we play around a bit, sometimes with baby-doll, sometimes with other toys, then I ask her if she's ready to get in pajamas or brush teeth. Then we brush and floss, then pajamas, then water and bed. Then I do the rest of the chores, run through the shower, and by then, it's past my bedtime too. Then we start again at 6:30 a.m. the next day. It is a grind, but we're getting through it. The first day and a half was filled with the sad, but then Athena decided that Daddy was on the magical island of Sodor, and that made it mostly all better, so we're totally going with that. We've made it to the end of the business week now, concluding with Kelly and Cole picking up Athena from school and having us over for dinner. It was so fabulous. When I arrived, the girls had already insisted on sharing bathtime, and my little ladybug was already in pajamas. There was pizza and a peach lemonade cocktail. I love these ladies. They are my people.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tesla Week One

The first week of work has come and gone, and I have several take-aways.

There is so much to do and so much for me to learn. Both of these things are good. I love that I'm out of my comfort zone and learning about something totally foreign to me.(Amperage and voltage and connectors and CAN networks!)

I got to ride in Elon's roadster at orientation. It was zippy. The team has a Model S with test software in it that one of the team takes home over the weekend. Once I get training, I'll get to do that too.

I still know way more than the average bear when it comes to how IT systems interlink. They're using a lot of familiar systems and some I wish we'd been running instead of what we had chosen. In general, I approve of their IT choices. They're doing a great job of linking everything through their AD so that you have one login to get you everywhere.

I don't so much have a desk, office, cube or anything like that. I have a table. I don't have a drawer (yet). They're working on getting me that. It's an open-plan office, so there's zero privacy. I have to check the guy behind me so that I don't roll back directly into his chair when I get up.

The guy behind me is a treat. Marv is an older gent. He rolled back my first day and said, "There's no place to eat around here, so I just get in my car and drive. Makes me feel like I'm doing something real to get out of the office for a bit. It's good." Another day he started talking about how folks don't say goodbye when they leave for the day. This was disappointing to him, a lack of good manners. I said that sometimes folks sneak off because they don't want to interrupt your flow at the end of the day when you're trying to finish up. He said that was a good point. I make sure to say goodbye when I'm leaving. He got caught dozing off at his desk on Thursday. It was a classic five-minute cat nap. When called on it by his boss, he wasn't cowed. He said, "Sometimes the brain gets full and you've just got to shut down and restart like a computer." I have to say that just made me respect him more. He's confident, and customer focused, and does what he needs to do to get things done, even if it doesn't necessarily look good. I know I've had those days of droop where five minutes closing my eyes makes the difference of two more hours of torture and drowsiness versus two hours of productivity.

Another adventure is the food problem. There are no restaurants nearby and Tesla provides coffee, soda, and carbs. If you want cereal or pretzels, you're covered. Otherwise, you need to bring food or buy from a food truck (one per day, with little visibility to the menu before you walk up to the truck), or buy from Eat Club by 10:30 a.m. That's a far cry from the half dozen eateries within a 5-10 minute walk at Stanford. I miss my chicken taco and side of pinto beans.

The biggest challenge for me is the a/c. I miss my window that opens to let in the day's weather. Here, the a/c duct looms above us and seems to blow more and more forcefully as the day wears on. It blows on the left side of my head and dries out my left eye, leaving me wondering why I'm getting a headache until I put my hand up to block the breeze. Then I remember. I brought in a long, heavy cardigan to wear over my outfit daily. When the guys around me are complaining about how cold it is, I know it's not just that I'm being wimpy.

Right now, I'm trying to link some orphaned symptoms to causes in the troubleshooting database and to fill out some additional information about those symptoms. It's a fun puzzle to tease apart. There are 8000 articles in the system right now and I'm sort of wishing I could print them all out and take them to a white board wall and build a big map. Instead, it's going to me and a spreadsheet and the system graphs trying to get it all to knit together. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

28 Months

I'm no longer employed by Stanford University. That's weird. It's really hard to let go of all the stuff that's been in my head for so long. I still care about things getting done, but I'm not allowed to care about them anymore formally. I did manage to get things handed off mostly gracefully and I finished up several things effectively so that Jo-Ann never has to pick them up, so that's awesome. The one thing I put off too long was getting my items off AFS, so I don't have copies of a lot of the e-learning items I developed, some of which went back to creating PeopleSoft walkthroughs using Dreamweaver and anchor tags on images to simulate clicking through a procedure. These were created before there were tools like Capitvate or Viewlet Builder or Articulate Storyline. I don't miss those days, but I do wish I had a copy. I ran into a problem with the computers at work - my Mac being persnickety about tokens and my Windows machine having connectivity issues, so I decided to do it when I got home since I'd have til midnight, but it'd been a very long week and I dozed off after getting Athena to bed, then ran into problems using the computers here. We had it figured out by about 1 a.m., but that was too late. All of the systems did their job well and flushed me away promptly at midnight. Now I need to see if someone can sponsor me for a day to make a copy. Or, I can let it go.

Stanford threw me a lovely going away party. It's always nice to find out that the folks I value the most feel much the same about me. I'm just really going to miss the people I worked with. Stanford is chock full of people who are smart and get stuff done, both at work and outside of what they get paid for. They're my people through and through.

Anyway, I had a lovely week off where I had four days with Athena at school to take care of all the stuff that I can't usually get to. I cleaned out my closet, the hall closet, Athena's closet, the laundry room closet, did the four-month backlog of ironing, took clothes to the tailor for hems, took shoes to the shoe repair, and also managed to get a pedicure. I also confirmed that I really don't have time for this normally. There are still things I very much wanted to get done - cleaning out our back room, emptying the living room shelves and organizing them properly, cleaning out the pantry and bathroom closets, shopping for new hiking boots (since my current ones are too tight, post-pregnancy), and so on. But still, it felt really good to get a huge swath of stuff taken care of and to feel for just a moment that things were under control enough to go to work on Tuesday with confidence and security about how things were situated at home.

But then, I went to pick up Athena at daycare on Thursday while Erik picked up his car from the body shop and I got rear-ended. So now I have to deal with getting my car fixed.

And then, Athena went to school Tuesday morning and before I'd walked into my orientation for Tesla, her school called and said they suspected hand-foot-and-mouth disease and she needed to be picked up immediately and taken to the doctor. That's when I kind of lost it.

See, when I left Stanford, I had over 600 hours of sick leave on the books, plus 180 hours of vacation. The vacation I got paid out for, but the sick leave just goes poof! That alone was a huge limiter in deciding to take the job. I asked if perhaps I could have a few days leave on the books to start so that I could take care of just this sort of emergency. I'd heard that this was a reasonable thing to ask for in negotiations for a new job. The answer was that Tesla didn't do that and weren't going to start that precedent with me. Great. Okay, so, that leaves me hanging for the first several months (well, year really) til I have enough accrued that I could take a day here or there to take care of Athena. I figured if I could at least make it til summer, it'd be okay once Erik finished teaching as he has the summer off. Then maybe we could actually stand to go back east as planned for Christmas without destroying all of my leave (since Tesla offers 15 days PTO accrual per year, with no separation for sick leave versus vacation). Well, that didn't happen.

Instead, I walked in for my first day of work, said I had to go pick up my daughter, and left to make an appointment at Kaiser. She did indeed have HFM disease and would need to be out of school all week. I contacted my recruiter and told him I couldn't start til next Monday. So here I am, unpaid, not starting work when I planned, and looking up at that glass ceiling thinking that yes, motherhood and career truly are incompatible unless you're making enough to have 24/7 nanny care at your beck and call. (Hello Marissa Mayer. Must be nice.) We'll get through this, and I'll just file it under reason number #127 why I never wanted to have kids. It's a good thing she's so darned adorable. I love her to pieces, and I'm glad she's here, and I chose this path, but damn, it is a choice full of consequences. I sincerely hope that my manager (and his bosses) are as understanding as they sound in the emails they've exchanged this week and that I haven't just started off on the wrong foot entirely.

Also, my health insurance for Stanford runs out on Saturday night. My health coverage for Tesla starts Monday, June 2nd now. After the past week, I'm staying home on Sunday, not lifting anything heavy, and probably going to skip eating anything I might choke on. Let's not tempt fate, m'kay?

But, speaking of adorable, Athena is adorable. She has picked up the phrase, "You have to wait." I think there is a lot of waiting to have a turn at school. I'm fairly certain that by 3, she'll be passing the marshmallow test with flying colors. Also, to our amazement, she likes stickers now. Like, really loves them. It developed over the past month. They went from being awful sticky things to being something she wanted on her hand, her shirt, her knee, etc. I think part of it may be from Clementine's injury where she had a band-aid on her face.

Okay, so that brings us to the single-biggest news-item of the month. Just ask Athena. She will tell you, "Clemmy fell down in the tan bark. She got an owie. I had to give her a hug. And a kiss. Her mommy came and got her. She got a band-aid. I got a cookie monster band-aid too." We have heard this story so many times over the past month that it's hard to believe it was just a month ago. Also, she's burying the headline. The owie was a splinter that was bigger than a toothpick jammed in Clemmy's cheek. Seriously. I dare not post pictures lest friends faint at their computers, but feel free to ask if you want to know. It's just amazing. Her mom posted a photo on Facebook at the doctor before they pulled it out and gave her a couple of stitches and a band-aid. The amazing part is that a week later, all that was left was a faint red mark. Gotta love those long telomeres of youth! Clemmy and Athena are back to running around like lunatics at school like nothing ever happened.

We went to Yosemite to visit John and Becky and Penelope. I got a hand-me-down pack from the Stanford Parent-Net list and Athena LOVED it. I wanted to test her out in it at home before we went hiking to be sure she'd fit and be comfortable and what not.
She loved it!
The next morning we almost couldn't get her out the door to school. She wanted to "go up high" right now. Suggestions that we'd do that once we got to Yosemite were not acceptable. But, we did go to Yosemite, and hiked around the valley, and she went up high and loved it. She also loved playing with Penelope in her pack as well.

For Erik's birthday, we used PNO at Action Day to let us have a games party with all the little fiddly pieces. Athena watched Frozen for the first time. She's now totally down with full-length movies.

The next day we headed to Penelope and Alexander's first birthday party in SF. It was a blustery day, but Athena was ready to rampage through the playground. Save for the moment of singing and cupcakes, one of us was on duty in the playground with her the rest of the time.

For Mother's Day, we shared dim sum with the Lendvays and Christyn and Brian, then headed out to the park to tire out the kids. It worked like a charm! They rampaged like maniacs for a couple of hours. Then we headed home and walked over to an open house on Layton. It was a gorgeous remodel at the end of a court. The realtor had roses for Mother's Day so she let Athena give me one. Then we headed home and she settled in for a nice long nap.
You're never too young to stop and smell the roses.

On the 17th, we had Clemmy over for the day while her moms went to a work event. We learned once and for all that two two-year-olds is more fun that one. They played til they were exhausted. Then Athena said, "Clemmy's tired. We should have a rest." And they did. Athena insisted that Clemmy use her crib, and they both crashed for nearly 3 hours. Then they got up and had yogurt together and just generally spent the whole darned day giggling. It was awesome.

The next day, we went with Brian and Christyn for a morning hike at Castle Rock. Athena crashed out cold at 2 p.m., allowing us to have a lovely, leisurely lunch of steak, cous cous spinach salad, and sugar snap peas tossed with olive oil and lemon pepper. Yum! We'd just climbed into the hot tub when Athena woke up, so she joined us and all was right in the world.

The following weekend, Kelly and Cole took Athena while I had my birthday party. They had a blast. Nicole sent us a couple of videos as evidence. She had her very first sleepover, and that seemed to go well til both girls woke up at 4 a.m. and started chattering. They split them up into two rooms and everyone got a bit more sleep. Unfortunately, Athena was likely already contagious with her HFM then, so we were unsurprised with Clemmy came down sick today.

Meanwhile, my party was delightful. We emptied the living room of furniture, throwing it all onto the patio, creating a swank and comfy social space lit with tiki torches and paper lanterns. Inside, Brian and Erik hooked up the stereo speakers and we tried out the room for dancing. The verdict is that it's the best space I've ever had for dancing at home. It's more than large enough for any kind of Irish, great for five or six couples doing swing, perfect for at least six couples waltzing, and could probably fit more easily, but we didn't have enough critical mass. Also, removing all the furniture took less than a half hour, and with five people on the task, took about 10 minutes to put back, so yes, we will do this again. Oh yes. Soon!

Monday, April 28, 2014

27 Months

Yeah, so we kind of skipped 26 months there. Sorry about that y'all. I'll do my best to get it all in here, but suffice to say, things have been more than usually busy and stressful, and I felt like things were in such a state of flux that I never felt like writing it down. Look - a cute picture of Athena!
Some days, the cute makes it nigh impossible to get to work.
But, this past week, the biggest change to come to my life in a long time, short of having a child, has arrived. I am going to be changing jobs on May 27th and leaving Stanford. On February 13th, Stanford announced a reorganization. This moved all of the projects I was working on from IT Services to Administrative Systems. All of the technical staff working on those projects also moved. The support services staff stayed behind like some sort of bizarre computing Rapture. There was a big math problem for me there. If I was paid by projects, and my project dollars left and went to an organization that previously laid me off with the expressed perspective that client support was not their responsibility, then how exactly was I going to continue to have a job going forward? Hrm...

So, I contacted some friends about working for their companies and applied for a few jobs within Stanford. Tesla got my resume and called me the next day and scheduled a phone interview immediately following the holiday weekend. The gig sounded interesting so away we went. We started through a series of interviews. I figured that in the interim, I'd find out if I was getting laid off or not and how my job was going to change.

Fast forward through 2 months of anxiety, clandestine job interviews, and upheaval at work. I'm still not sure whether or not I would've gotten laid off at Stanford. I don't think so. Jim did some heroic work to position our group to support the three central IT organizations at Stanford - ITS, AS, and ISO. I think he may have made it work, but it's still not settled, which is a problem, because I had a job offer with a clear path forward, and no clue how things were going to work at Stanford after the dust settled.

So, off I go to the first totally new job in 13 years! I'll be tackling turning a wiki of service solutions into a professional product that can be used by Tesla service technicians around the world. It sounds like a great puzzle to solve - finding duplicates, filling in gaps, and professionalizing the language and presentation. It's going to be a big adventure!

Meanwhile, in the further adventures of life with a 2 year old, we've got one heck of a stinkin' cute kid. Her very latest thing is singing the song "Slippery Fish." Here's an example of the song.

Last week, this led to a moment of silliness where she was asking Erik for a video, and Erik texted me at dinner with friends asking what she was on about. I had no idea. Something about a great white shark. No clue. But two of the women there with me had 3 year olds, so I asked the collective and blammo, Slippery Fish. Sure enough, that was the thing. They proceeded to do all the gestures. Then they explained that in their home versions, Cthulu and a kraken also get involved. Do you ever have one of those moments where you realize you know all the right people? Yeah. Of course, when I tried that on Athena, she informed me that that is not how it goes. When I persisted, she covered my mouth with her hand.

Athena learned this song at school, where I suspect she hears a lot of songs. She also became an enormous fan of "Let it Go" unbeknownst to me until one morning when we're listening to an interview of the couple who got the Oscar for the music. They played a clip of the song, and she immediately said, "It's Elsa's song!" And then I knew about that. I downloaded the song to my "Athena's Favorites" playlist and there have been many days of singing "Let it Go!" repeatedly at the top of our lungs on the way to school.

We had an exciting moment last week where we got a notification of a Code Blue lockdown at her school. The director didn't have much more information, but when one of the other local schools decided to evacuate, they let us know that EH was in voluntary evacuation as well. Meanwhile they were keeping the kids locked safely indoors. I decided that I was going to get there to pick up Athena early. I arrived and Athena said, "Oh, it's Mommy! Mommy, it's circle time! Come sit." She was not giving up her time with the books. This is a girl after my heart. We sat through one story and I thought maybe we'd get moving after that, but they pulled out the next book and she said, "Oh, I like this story. One more?" I said okay. Five stories later, most of the kids were starting to get bored and wander off. Athena was still rapt, but they said, "Okay, story time is over." I thanked her teachers for letting us stay and shuffled her out the door. This also managed to explain one of the greatest mysteries I'd had around the house. At bedtime, in her darkened bedroom, Athena had turned to me and said, "The wolf is coming." What I didn't realize, and couldn't figure out, was that this was not some strange subliminal Dr. Who reference, but was the name of a story at school. Gotta say, late at night, it's darned creepy when your kid says that to you with deepest sincerity. (We've got a used copy on order via Amazon.)

So you're getting the idea that Athena loves books, right? Here's her doing her rendition of "The Pigeon Has Feelings Too."
I think this was the third time that night. Her favorite right now is Dragons Love Tacos. She's almost got it all memorized too.

She also loves music. She sung us her words for the French song "Alouette" this month. It goes, "All wet-ah, jumping in the water. All wet-ah, gonna swim and play." That works! One of her favorites on YouTube is the series from SuperSimpleSongs that involve the owl and the star. She started with Twinkle Twinkle, which promo'd Little Snowflake, and finally led us to hunt for more. The "bear song" is her favorite now and I realized this was going to be a thing really fast, so I memorized it one afternoon so that I could sing it for her at bedtime. This also led to a new tradition. In the video, the mama bear remembers their day together. Now we sing the song, then talk about all the things that happened today, then sing the song again before drifting off to sleep. It's kind of a magical way to close the day.

In other "my kid is so awesome" news, Athena is crazy polite. We were in the car and I sneezed and she said, "Bless you mommy!" And I said, "Thank you Athena." And she replied, "You're welcome." I swear she gets this from school. I love Early Horizons.

Also, she likes to floss.
I have got find a way to get this to my hygienist.
 March is of course home to my second-favorite annual holiday (after Halloween): St. Patrick's Day. Oh yes, the one day of the year when the rest of the world gives a care about Irish dance. On Friday at work, Stanford Ceili did a demo for the Staffers party and I dragged coworkers into the act. On Saturday night, we went to the Stanford Ceili on campus with Athena.
Leaning out is fun!
She wanted nothing to do with mommy and daddy dancing together, but was more okay with us dancing with her. On Monday, I snuck away to Sam and Monica's Parlor Ceili and danced like a maniac. It was awesome, sweaty, joyful, and just what I needed. It felt like home.

Because we are unable to control ourselves, we also went to Disneyland last month. Athena got to meet Mickey Mouse at his house and fell in love with the carousel.

Family at Disneyland
She asked for a hug.
Carousel joy!

I spent two hours with her Saturday morning on the carousel at DCA, getting off, running around to get back in line, then getting on again. Meanwhile, Erik got to go on California Screamin' as much as he wanted. This had the somewhat unexpected effect of teaching her about waiting in line and taking turns. The third morning, we went to Dumbo and she said, "I have to wait my turn." I concurred. Then she said, "I want a purple elephant." And so she got it, after waiting her turn.
First time on Dumbo.

Flying Dumbo
On Saturday, after we left the carousel and she promptly passed out in her stroller. We sent half the group onto Soarin' Over California and retired to the Carthay Circle Lounge for cocktails.
Heck yeah!
Yes, we could wheel the stroller right in. A double pear martini and a Manhattan and one sleeping toddler in a swank bar makes for two very happy parents. Athena also loved playing in ToonTown. I sent Erik and the crew to hit some rides and hung out with her in Goofy's Garden. The first two times she climbed up the boxes, she asked for help. Then she did it again herself. And again. And again. And again. For an hour.

Another unexpectedly fun time is with her in line for the Jungle Cruise. The line moves really fast since each boat holds 30 folks. We put her at the front of the group and let her play, then catch us up, then play, then catch us up. It was 30 minutes of jumping, giggling, running, happy toddler with a ton of bemused looks from those around us, and a lot of "She's so cute!" comments.

Also, we learned that she knows how to say, "Cheese!" when someone is taking a photo of you. Erik caught me reacting to that revelation:
Before she yelled, "Cheese!"

After "Cheese!"
 She had a really nice time all in all. It was a little tough sharing a room with 6 adults and 2 kids, so we won't opt for that again, but we did opt to convert to an annual pass. Also, Athena got red mouse ears with her name embroidered on the back. Wearing that with a red Minnie Mouse dress at Disneyland makes all the other folks around you melt.

Here are a few more Disney moments.

Spinning the marble with Daddy.

Also, our little bug is a brave little trouper. She had a splinter in her finger and we stopped into first aid to get it out. She let me hold her hand while Erik poked and pulled. At one point, she pulled her hand away and Erik said, "Do you need a break?" She said, "Yeah." Then waited less than a minute and gave him her hand back. We were amazed. No screaming. No tears. Just a princess band-aid at the end which she wore very proudly.

Don't get me wrong, she's still a toddler, full of tantrum on occasion. On Saturday at lunch time she ended up up under the table having it out. I waited til she was done and then asked if she wanted any more chicken. I'd walked past another mom standing next to her toddler thrashing on the ground near Grizzly Rapids. I said, "Two?" She said, "Yep." And I said, "Yep, mine did that yesterday." Thing is, you can try to get them to stop, and it really just prolongs the whole drama. If you just wait it out, it last ten minutes and it totally blows over. Just let the storm rage, and before long, she'll figure out it's not getting her anything.

We also started working on potty training. I had the somewhat genius idea that if Clementine and Athena had a weekend of it together, maybe they'd peer-pressure each other. Well that worked! But damn, potty training is a mystery. Athena had all the mechanics, but it wasn't until I showed her that I was "making water" that she ever peed in the potty. That little detail had thoroughly escaped her. After two days, we felt like it was good enough and reliable enough to send her to school. But 3 days of undies at school, and 2 wet/poopy pairs a day, and we backed off a bit. She'd never successfully pooped in the potty. That bit still escaped her. And frankly, it happens infrequently enough that it's hard to train on. It's not like liquids where if I want her to practice more, I just offer her milk. Nope. She's got to figure this one all on her own. I mean, my showing her that part has not necessarily improved success. Instead, she seems to be pooping less often. So, we backed up to pull-ups. She gets them down in time to pee most of the time when she's with us, and about 50% of the time at school where it's awfully distracting. She has now pooped in the potty once and we made an enormous fanfare about that, including TWO Hershey's kisses. Since we knew she liked them, we made that her potty reward, as stickers are often still offensive rather than pleasing. (They're sticky.) Clementine was standardized on M&Ms, so Kisses worked. The pleasure she takes in peeling a Hershey's Kiss is something I hope she retains for many years. It is the most deliberate, intensive work I've ever seen someone do for a bite of chocolate. This whole experience has also solidified the word "chocolate" in her vocabulary. 

Lunch break!

Timer goes off and two girls race to the potties!
Okay, so we've also been watching Cosmos. It's been a joy to watch with Athena. I know she's not getting half of it, but she loves watching it, and if even just a tiny bit is seeping in, I'll call it a win. Last night we were watching it with Christyn and Brian, and they joked, "Lovely to spend time in church with you." It is though, very much like church, where we bask in the wonder and mystery of science, learning about the light spectrum and black holes and tardigrades and evolution and the five great extinctions.
Watching Cosmos
Not all TV is bad.
For Easter, we got some ham, boiled some eggs, and had friends over for brunch. Kev and Rachel snuck into our yard the night before and left a trail of chocolate bunny footprints leading to a basket of goodies for Athena.


Athena was all over it, especially when she realized that the golden foil wrapped bunny was made of chocolate. We had a lovely brunch with egg-spinach-onion-ham scrambles with Irish cheddar and blueberry coffee cake, then headed out to the park where Athena met a little girl named Alia who really wanted to hang out and play. We made "cupcakes" out of sand and had a grand time.


We went to a reading of "William Shakespeare's Star Wars." Want to know how to entertain a bunch of lit geeks and sci-fi geeks? Yeah, that's a good start. Add yummy roast pork and smoked chicken, broccoli salad, and various tarts and pies and cakes and a lot of wine, and a rousingly good evening was had by all. Erik spent the evening as Han Solo to my Princess Leia. I think my favorite bit was the treatment of the added Jabba scene. Just genius.

I also taught two Continuing Studies classes at Stanford on Mastering iOS 7. This was such an unexpected joy. Instead of the usual crowd who turns up for my free presentations, I had a room full of professionals who were willing to pay a hefty fee to be there. They were so engaged and eager, it was utterly revitalizing. Luckily, I get to keep that as a side gig going forward as it takes just one Saturday per quarter. Also, Erik is talking to them about having an evening class on chemistry for non-scientists, mostly revolving around one of our favorite books, "The Disappearing Spoon." Stanford will be with me at least a little bit going forward.

Well, that brings us mostly up to date. As I'm about to lose all of my vacation time and sick leave, I've been thinking about what are the things I never make time for and should. One is a makeover, and it was offered on the Staffers list for free, so I scheduled it for noon last Friday, disappeared for an hour and came back prettier, having purchased a foundation that actually looks right on my skin. Yay!
All dolled up for work and an evening of toddler-wrangling.
Good night y'all.