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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!

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