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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.


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