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Monday, September 29, 2014

32 Months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make me a monkey!

Three little monkeys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm helping!

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

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

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

The whale ride was her favorite.
Hi Mommy!

Boats boats boats!

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

Purple retro car!

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

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

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

The normal park is still fun too!

Peeking out of the train.

Bye mommy!

After the first big slide ride. "Again!"

Sliding with Daddy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.