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Thursday, May 30, 2013

16 Months

When last we left our heroes, they'd just lost out on yet another house bid. Since then we've bid on two more places, one of which was a serious fixer-upper that sold for $352k over asking with an all cash, 7 day close offer. This was pretty much the turning point that made us admit we needed to either look in other neighborhoods or look only at townhouses. In a small miracle of serendipity, we are now in escrow for a delightful house in Santa Clara.
Our house!
Gorgeous backyard 
Family Room
Kitchen
Master bedroom
When I say miracle of serendipity, I'm not kidding. First, the only reason I even saw it was because there was a house for sale on Cheyenne that looked lovely, but we knew would go for more than we could possibly afford (it did, over $200k over asking). But right there on the Sereno Realty page was this other house, just down Homestead in Santa Clara. We looked at a really awful townhouse in our dream neighborhood, and then went to see this house. We managed to squeeze this in before going to a friend's wedding. It was everything we wanted, just four miles from where we wanted it. It was all fun and games walking through. Then we hit the back yard. I stood out on the lawn as Erik walked up and said, "I know this isn't the "big plan" house, but if we bought this, it'd be a good investment, and if we ended up stuck here in another downturn, I'd be really okay with that." So we started pulling it together, reading all the disclosures. Kevin looked up a little info on the owner, and he's associated with Game Kastle, which led me to ping Justin to see if he knew him via Secret Weapon, who immediately pinged the owner and said, "Hey! Small world!" Luckily, the owner thought that was amusing rather than creepy. We put in our bid after consulting with the owner on which pictures were cuter, and in the end, though apparently there were slightly higher offers, our offer had the charming family introduction letter and a good overall package and we won! So now we're moving! Soon! Wheeeeeee!

I'll admit though that as I look at what we'll be paying each month, this whole thing still seems crazy. But where we live now has a school with a 2 out of 10 rating. That just will not do. We had two options: keep our current house and pay for private schools, or buy a house with a good elementary school and pay a bigger mortgage. We picked option B, because we can resell the house at some point, and private school tuition is just a sunk cost. Sutter Elementary sports a 8 out of 10 rating, plus we have friends whose kids went there and loved it. And ultimately, the last time I bought a house, I shopped for too long, watching prices rise for 2 years and getting priced out of places I wanted to live. This time I wanted to get it done before we lost our chance. Housing prices tend to rise around here in a wave, starting in Palo Alto, flowing to Mountain View, then Sunnyvale, then Santa Clara, and finally San Jose. As people get priced out, they look at the adjacent market. We grabbed this place in Santa Clara because it feels like the prices there have not risen to match similar places in Sunnyvale yet. I hope I'm right, but if not, I'm also okay with living here for the rest of my life.

Athena is now 16 months old. She keeps learning new words. She's clearly says, "bubbles" and "cookie" and "duck" and "dog." Bubbles are awesome. We went to Cordelia's second birthday party in the park and she loved playing with the bubbles. She also loves swings. She also loves running in circles around just about anything - tables, columns, kitchen islands. Heck, she loves running. If it's around something, that's better. If it's running down a hall, that's pretty much good enough. Running back and forth between mommy and daddy for hugs is awesome. We can burn five minutes getting a hug and then pointing to the other and saying, "Go hug daddy!" And she runs over and gives a big hug. Then Erik says, "Go hug mommy." And she runs over and hugs me. And then I say, "Go hug daddy." and she does. It's pretty funny actually. Plus, baby hugs are awesome.
Almost running at great-grandparents house a month ago.

She also loves to spin with daddy. She'll go for a hug, then launch herself up onto his shoulder into spin position. And then the fun begins.
Baby dizzy face is awesome.

Athena is still fascinated with wallets and iPhones. Small wonder, but dang, baby girl loves her the credit cards. Why yes, we are doomed! We entertained ourselves at the end of one day with Daddy's credit card.
Fun and games
Then she figured out how to win this game:
Seriously, how can you not love this kid?

May is the month of birthdays. First there was Rachel's birthday on May 1st. Then there was Erik's birthday on May 8th. Then there was my birthday on May 24th. It was birthday a-go-go. For Rachel's birthday, we put the new outdoor kitchen into service and had steak and green bean salad and then yummy ice cream cake from Cold Stone: Peanut Butter Playground. That was definitely something I shouldn't know about, but now I do. So, we had it again for Erik's birthday a week later. This time we had artichokes instead of green beans though.
Flaming table fire pit and flaming ice cream cake!
For Erik's birthday we went to see Wait Wait Don't Tell Me live cinecast, whereupon we learned that the secret to comic timing is good editing. Also, Paula Poundstone's style has not changed at all since the 80s and Tom Bodette is way younger than I expected. 

Also for Erik's birthday we got to see Oblivion, which was pretty good sci-fi. We had scheduled this with her daycare via their Parent's Night Out, but then they canceled it at the last minute again. Argh! Athena and Cyrus said they'd be happy to watch the ladybug, so we got to go anyway and it was worth it. It was definitely one of those movies that was still populating my idle thoughts a week later, so I count that as a big win. 

Also for Erik's birthday, we had an afternoon social dance with Anna and Heraldo. Anna and Erik's birthdays are a day apart, and both of us have tiny humans that keep us from dancing that starts at 9 p.m. A dance at 1 p.m. sounded like way more fun. So Anna reserved the function hall at her complex and we had a great party. We hired sitters for the kids and had them there on site. And then we danced! Yay dancing! 
Yay everyone who made it!
Why yes, that is more cake from Cold Stone.
Dancing like real people!
Snuggly baby girl
The hall at the complex is really awesome, and there was an open house there. Seriously, if we hadn't gotten this house, another fall back plan was to get a place at Villa Santiago. We toured this one place that was so much nicer than anything we'd looked at in Sunnyvale for a while, and it was 10% of the cost. The catch? Mobile home. But Heraldo put it best as "Think of it as a super cheap rental with an insanely high deposit." Yep, just $900 a month for the space rental, and we could pay for the home itself in cash. Sure, there are some catches, but damn, if I were working at Google, I'd be all over it. I envy Anna's walk to work. (Thanks to Anna & Heraldo for all the great photos!)

Last weekend we went to KublaCon, and as much as I want to love that hotel, it's just got issues. That the food on site is so expensive and so mediocre and so often wrong is huge. This time we tried getting Waiters on Wheels only to find out food can't be delivered to the room for "security reasons". Ugh. But, the amazing part was that both nights, Athena was curious about my food. She took a piece of chicken from my pasta the first night and took several licks from my pizza the second night, actually consuming real ricotta and pesto. We're getting there! But mostly it's still all puree and baby cereal all the time. Oh well. She'll get over it eventually.

We attempted to have Athena participate in a brain study here at Stanford, but it involved wearing a hat. She would be fine for a few seconds, then just casually reach up and take off her hat. The only way I've managed to convince her to keep a hat on longer than that was to take her to the mirror and show her how cute it was (making a really big deal about it) and that would last til she forgot about it and then she'd wonder what was on her head and then take it off. So that failed. Then there was a second test where she was supposed to watch Elmo on a screen, but Elmo scared her, so that was a no go. She really has been a pretty much zero tv baby up til now, with a few notable exceptions. Lately we've been watching Dr. Who with the Foxes and Lendvays and she watches a few minutes of that before wandering off to play. She LOVES the opening song, mostly because we sing it for her every night, one of us singing the baseline and the other singing the melody while the stuffed Tardis makes the Tardis noise. So there she was last week, sitting on the edge of the sofa, kicking her legs along to the theme song. Geek in training - level 2 achieved. Last night I was sitting on the sofa with Athena before bedtime and she wanted to poke at my computer. I thought it might be fun to watch the baby giggling at tearing paper. Yes, indeed! But dude, that kid will laugh at anything. I mean seriously: celery? Yeah. So we watched babies laugh at lots of things, including a popcorn eating dog. That had a dogfood commercial before the video, and Athena points and says, "Dog!" Perhaps I've irreparably damaged Athena's brain with 20 minutes of "screen time" but I doubt it. It was a nice way to wind down together on the couch.

Athena is a huge fan of closing things right now. We spent a lot of time with her opening and closing cabinets and what not in the past few months with me saying "open" and "closed" each time. Now she thinks closed is awesome. She routinely closes the bathroom door, which is pretty awesome because we try to do that but frequently forget and it's best to have it closed to keep her from digging through the drawers, unreeling the toilet paper, or drowning in the toilet. Now she does it for us. She also really wants to close the dishwasher, which is sometimes inconvenient when you're trying to load or unload it. If I leave a cabinet open, I can just say, "Athena, can you close the cabinet please?" and she does. That's pretty cool. She also loves helping pick up stuff off the floor or carrying it to us from another room. Put to good use, this can be pretty handy. Sometimes when she runs out of things to pick up, she pretends, and hands it to us very carefully anyway. 

Some toys you think she's outgrown keep being fun for far longer than you'd expect. She still occasionally asks to get in her exersaucer for bounce time. The level of glee that usually accompanies it is just fabulous. I caught this video after a few rounds of bounce-bounce-bounce. She's clearly getting too tall for this toy, but it's still fun. Many thanks to Christine for the hand-me-down!

She also loves doing whatever Mommy is doing. I had to get her a kids electric toothbrush so that she could brush her teeth with it while I use mine. She also likes brushing hair when we brush our hair. She's rapidly turning into a little person instead of a baby. 

We also learned this month that some moments are so awesome that they cannot be adequately captured. I was completely unable to get a video of Erik doing "the robot" with a laundry basket over his head. He was playing peek-a-boo with Athena in the kitchen and when he had the basket over his head, he'd be the robot, and then he'd slide it up and be Daddy. At some point there was music, which then became robot dancing. Athena started imitating Erik's robot dancing and Erik said, "Did I just teach the bug to do the robot? Because if so, that's awesome." Sure enough, now when there's music and we say, "Do the robot!" she bends her arms and does robot arm motions, dancing with glee. It makes us grin every time. 

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Science News!

I'm way behind on this, but it's time to kill Chrome on my desktop (because "Chrome Helper" has spiked my CPU for the last time), and that's where these tabs have collected. And they're some really wacky fun science news bites. Take for example Irish dance as a treatment for Parkinson's Disease. Turns out, the music and the patterns help Parkinson's patients control their mobility better. Or there's the bit about sourdough bread having natural mold killers in it, staving off mold for nearly an extra week due to anti-fungals created in the sourdough fermentation process.

I'm also loving the follow on news about HIV treatments, where they've now identified 14 adults functionally cured due to early aggressive treatment. Better yet, there's the much more replicable gene therapy treatment for leukemia that cured a patient in 8 days. Seriously, from verge of death to nevermind in 8 days. That's awesome.

Then there's the annoying science news. Sometimes I've wondered why Nicole gets to eat all the bad foods and never gains weight and I eat to fullness and routinely gain weight. Well it could be the microbes in her gut. (The other commonly held theory has to do with a portrait hidden in her attic.) Also in this category is the old wives tale come true about pregnant women gaining a shoe size. I know I'm planning to give up a lot of old favorite shoes at the girly clothing swap this weekend. (Note - if you're reading this and you're a lady and you want to swap clothes, ping me and I'll add you to the list. We're getting together on Sunday afternoon. If I missed you, it's only because Google invites are annoying maddening to manage, not with thought of excluding anyone.)

And for your moment of zen: Ceiliculus. I don't know these people. Well, I don't, but I know people just like them. If not, there wouldn't be a two page analysis on what happened when I screwed up calling and we accidentally created the Dutchess Reel. But there is and it will be published soon.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

15 Months

We're running a few days late on this post because big news was breaking. In fact, all of my non-baby-chasing and non-working time was utterly consumed with offer forms, mortgage approvals, and writing and rewriting a pitch letter to make us sound like the most adorable family in the whole universe who you simply must sell your house. None of that matters. The place went for at least $200k over asking. Though we were apparently the second place offer again, though we knew the homeowner personally, though we'd been working on this for 3 weeks, they did not even counter our offer. Two well-educated, well-employed professionals can't afford to buy a basic 30 year old house in a good school district within 15 miles of Stanford. It's just not possible. And yet, the same house would go for 10% of the cost in Sacramento. I don't know what to do about that.

But in the meantime, a ton of other things happened this month. Athena has a confidence of motion that's astonishing. She runs. She often keeps moving her feet while not looking where she's going, which leads to her taking big missteps, running into things, and other general comedy that you just can't actually laugh about because it usually ends with a crying toddler. She gets over it quickly most of the time, but she had a doozy of a landing earlier this month where she scraped her nose and upper lip. She was too busy playing with another little girl and missed the transition from lawn to concrete. Concrete was unforgiving. Hugs and milk later, she was mostly better, but it took a good week for that boo-boo to heal.

This was during a visit from Karen and Rich. We had a great time seeing them again and managed to introduce them to Mongolian BBQ. Apparently, that's not so common in Cape Cod. We also took them out to see Beltramo's, the best liquor store I've ever seen. We toured the gardens of Sunset Magazine.
On an acre of lawn at Sunset Garden 
Found a dandilion
This is when I found out that Sunset isn't universally known. It's more of a west coast thing. Go figure, eh? We also took them out house hunting and to Happy Hollow to watch Athena rampage with the other kids. This time there was the world's most pushy goat that practically knocked the girl over. Luckily I got in the way and that crisis was averted since the wee miss was already sporting her skinned up nose. We also went to bocce in Los Gatos with the Lendvays and Foxes and enjoyed a game of ciders vs. wines, discovering a delightful cider: Angry Orchard Crisp Apple. And yeah, the cider drinkers totally won. Go us!

Athena is in a pretty clingy phase. She sticks to me like glue. If I'm present, then she wants me to hold her, feed her, everything her. So that's at once very sweet and also very annoying. Sometimes Mommy wants a break, but there we were at dinner with Karen and Rich and Karen tried to help by holding Athena's bottle. Athena swatted her hand away and started fussing. We thought maybe she was done. No, that's not it at all. She just wanted Mommy to hold it for her. Sigh. Karen had said that they'd watch Athena while we went out Saturday night. Turns out, this was perfect. We had a great time, just Erik and I having dinner together and then going out to see Argo at the Blue Light Cinema. We called after Argo to check in, and they'd had a totally fabulous night. With me out of the picture, Athena had a great time playing with Karen and Rich. We decided to stay for a second show and got to see Warm Bodies as well. It was the best double-feature we could've picked. Argo was edge-of-seat for well over an hour. Warm Bodies was thoroughly enchanting from start to finish.

The next morning we all headed to brunch at the Naglee Garage. Athena really enjoyed running around the patio.
Playing with Karen
We continue to get reports of super-adorableness from Early Horizons, Athena's daycare. She has become best friends with Clementine. I say to her on the way in in the morning, "Do you want to go play with Clementine today?" And she kicks her feet in glee. One day Athena was absent, so Jessica showed her a picture of Athena on her phone and that made Clementine happier. Later that week, our little sweetie gave Clementine a kiss, because that's what you do with people you love. Now all the experts say that she's too young to really play with other kids. That's just not what we experience though. Wendy said, "Yeah, well you and Erik are two of the most social people I know, so..."

Clementine and Athena at school
Athena is also an enormous fan of peekaboo. A napkin over her head will buy us another 10-15 minutes of sitting willingly at a restaurant. Apparently she's a champ about it at school too. They posted this photo and called her the Queen of Peekaboo:
Reigning Queen of Peekaboo
Early Horizons has a Facebook page for each room in the center. This is one of my greatest joys because they frequently post pictures of her, which totally brightens my day every time.

Athena stole her teacher's belt
Telling tales at lunchtime. 
It makes me feel a little less bad, because I know she's happy and enjoying the world even when I have to be at work.

That said, we did go back to DeLor Montessori to investigate a switch in situations. Schools seem to have an annual fee due in September, and we can realistically take 3 or 4 weeks off of daycare in August/September between Erik's summer and fall quarters. In preparation, we're evaluating where she should go in September. If we decide to stay at EH, that's fine, we'll just take her down to minimum enrollment for August/September to give Erik a little time to work on non-baby things. If we decide to switch, then we'll pause in August and start up again in mid-September. We showed up at DeLor and brought Athena in to see how she'd do and how the 18 months old room works. She did great, almost immediately diving in to play with the other kids and the new stuff in the room. The kids were just finishing up free play and they cleaned up the toys, then sat down to read books for a while. A little girl named Alyssa came over and said, "You have a really pretty necklace." Then she handed me a book and sat down for me to read it to her. I turned to the other teachers and said, "How old is she?" They said, "She's 2. She's just about to move up to the next room." It's amazing how fast kids grow and change at this age. After books, the kids sat down for circle time. They sang songs, with the teachers asking each of them what song they wanted to sing next. All the kids sang and clapped along. After singing was color flash cards. They all knew their colors and after they called it out, they would find someone wearing that color in the room. When that was done, it was time for snacks. All the kids got up and went to the table and sat down and waited while the teachers set out a scoop of Cheerios for each kid. These kids were 18-24 months old. So, I'm kind of down with that actually. I love the idea that the expectation is that they will be civilized - learning to put things away, wait for their food to hit the table, and take turns. After snack came time on the playground. We headed out at this point to get on to work. We chatted with the director for a few minutes, then walked out past the playground. On our way out, Alyssa said, "Bye bye. I hope you come back soon." So that's probably our plan for September, and as a bonus, it's about $150 less per month than at Early Horizons. The only catch is that we do love Early Horizons too, and we'd really miss Clementine.

We went to Sacramento for Nicole's 40th birthday party. It was a horrible drive, taking about 4 hours to get there, but we made it eventually, dropped Athena with my mom, and got to dance a Dancers Anonymous party for the first time in a really long time. We walked in just in time for Mustang Sally, and spent the night dancing to all the old favorites, and taught everyone the Night Fever before all was said and done. The next morning we had brunch with my grandparents. They hadn't seen Athena since February when she was just taking her first steps. This time she spent hours running in circles around the kitchen island.
Hello!
The following weekend, my dad came down for lunch. Athena wanted nothing to do with sitting for lunch at Left Bank, and instead wanted to climb the stairs endlessly.
Les escaliers et l'enfant.
She's into doing everything these days. We stopped by Mice and Wendy's house and saw Michael riding his bike. He set it down and she wanted to get on the bike and ride next. She saw Lorelei climb onto a little yard cart, and she followed her. Then she wanted a ride. Both girls got one from Cyrus before long.
Yes, ferry me, kind sir!

Two girls, one ride.
She's still a huge fan of all the shoes, wearing daddy's shoes around the house.
Yep, these are perfect.

Watch me go!
She also had an evening where she insisted it was time to wear two pairs of pants.

The flowery ones add some flair, right?
Two Pants Dance!
Athena has also gotten helpful, and is actually good at a few tasks. Her favorite thing in the world is feeding the outdoor kitties. She also totally understands the phrase, "Do you want to go feed the kitties?" She'll say, "Kitties!" and jump off my lap and head for the door. This morning I decided to see if it was the helping or the kitties that were the best part. I had a stack of diapers by her door (unboxed after she went to bed last night). I said, "Can you hand me the diapers to put away?" She pulled the first off the stack and handed it to me around the bedroom door, then the next, and the next, and soon they were all put away. I said, "Thank you!" and she clapped and looked so proud. Now to find more household chores she can do!
Still the cutest!