Almost there...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Holidays!

A few days before Christmas, Erik said to me, "What are we getting Athena for Christmas?" Let's skip right over the implication of that "we" and how I get to handle it and tell him what we did, shall we? But "we" erred on the side of "everyone else is going to get her a ton of stuff." I got her a musical set, a couple of Magiclip dolls, and a slinky. Let's be clear though, it took her 3 days to open all of her stuff, and not because she wasn't into it or wasn't skilled at doing it. There was just way more stuff than any 2 year old really needs. Being the only grandchild and the only kid in my family or Erik's family means that Athena will never want for much. Also, Amazon wish lists are awesome because as I think of fun things throughout the year, I can stash the ideas there and folks will just find things she will really love.

On the weekend of the last Gaskell's Ball, Athena went to school for Parents Day Out, then went home to Clementine's house for a sleepover. She had a great time, and we went and worked all day at Dickens, then followed up with Gaskell's, then grabbed some breakfast and picked her up. The freedom of Dickens without a toddler is pretty nice. And Gaskells was one last hurrah at something that has been a huge part of my life for 20 years.
Bohemian National Polka

Sir Roger de Coverly

Waltzing with Dave

One of my favorite things at Dickens, aside from all the dancing, is the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah at the end of the day. I usually grab the King of Kings/Lord of Lords card and proceed to be a big ol' ham, jumping for the sopranos' high note, bending for the basses' low note, swooping for the big runs. It just makes me happy. I got to do it both at Dickens, and again at Gaskell's later that evening.

Now as if watching Athena for us Saturday night/Sunday morning wasn't enough, Kelly and Cole also watched her so that we could go to Mythbusters Live on Thursday night.
Adam hanging from an interleafed pair of phone books

Good seats!

The most powerful paintball gun ever

Athena wouldn't get it at this age, but darn I do hope they do a show like this again in another five years. We'll take her in a heartbeat, and hopefully she'll be the little girl on stage swinging the huge hammer, or something similar. Adam and Jamie were awesome, telling tales and giving me a new word: BLEVE: (bleh-vee) Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, also known as "What happens when you leave a boiling ham bone on the stove overnight and the water goes down and the bubble under the bone superheats and it all explodes at 3:30 in the morning." Because it did. All over the kitchen. So we cleaned house til 5 a.m., then I got dressed and headed to work and started my workday at 5:45, before we headed to Mythbusters later that night and learned that fabulous new word.

Enormous thanks to Kelly and Cole for watching Athena two nights in one week! Overnights aren't smooth yet. Athena said on Thursday she "Had a rough night." But the waking hours of the two of them together is adorable.

At work the following day, I wrapped up the last crazy steps to send our diagnostics database out for translation into Chinese. We got it down to 7,303 articles with over 300,000 words. Of those, only 317 were not last edited by myself, or my two interns, Zach and Eddie. Bless those young men! We moved mountains of data in two months, checking and validating every attachment, ensuring that every alert had a definition, and cleaning up a lot of duplicates and other bad data. It's an amazing amount of work.

On the final weekend of Dickens, we headed up early to Soup Night at Becky's parent's house. This is my favorite holiday event. Erik and Carolyn are the best hosts. We made a tortilla soup this year that was a big hit. That, plus split pea, butternut, and chili provided by the house, yummy bread, brownies, and more. Then folks roll in from a long day of Dickens, grab a bowl, and tell tales. It's all laughter and family. This year, Erik had his 1950s electric train set up under the tree. Athena was rapt. The other kids present milled in and out, but Athena spent almost two hours lying down on the floor with the trains. This once again serves as a preview for John and Becky, busy wrangling a mobile but mostly non-verbal 18 month old. It gets better!

We stayed the night in the (rather disappointing) Ramada arranged with the Dickens rate, allowing Erik to hit fair in time for tableau. Athena and I gathered ourselves together and had a leisurely breakfast downstairs, then went to Tanforan to hang out for a bit before fetching Karen and Rich at the airport. Being in a mall in full Dickens garb is weird. Athena didn't care. She picked out a Christmas present for Lorelei, then we headed to the play area and played for an hour, climbing and exploring.

Then we headed to the airport. This is her waiting for Meme face:
They landed?
When we caught up to them, Athena wanted to ride the airport train. So we took a grand circle tour of SFO, then headed for Dickens Fair. Karen and Rich had never seen it. My dad met us there and he squired Karen and Rich around for a bit. We stopped for tea and had a generally lovely time.
A friend of Erik's caught this amazing photo!
Erik took Karen out for four or five dances. We would've made it til closing, but they extended the hours and Athena was starting to melt. We piled into the cars and headed home.

I talked to my dad at Dickens and told him about the train and he decided to get Athena a train for Christmas. When she opened it, she wanted it assembled now. Moments later, the train was under the tree chugging along. She learned how to operate it immediately, and never managed to get her helmet off from her bike ride.

Christmas went really well. Karen and I went shopping earlier in the week and decided on a prime rib roast that was pre-prepped from Costco. It was delicious, and beautifully prepared. It was stuff full of garlic cloves. I can wait to boil the bones for stock! Add to that Karen's twice-baked potatoes, shaved brussels sprouts in sage and bacon, rolls and cheddar biscuits, fresh butternut squash soup, and green beans and it was a feast. We didn't even manage to cut into the pie for hours after dinner, opting instead for a trip through the hot tub.
Christmas in California done right.
We spent Friday hiking and going to the Tech Museum, then Greg and Kayla headed home. Saturday was dim sum, train museum, and RC cars at Vallco, then Scott headed home.

On Sunday we made a pilgrimage to the new Exploratorium. I was relieved to find so many of my favorite exhibits made the journey. I had this weird fear that it would be a cleaned up, more sterile, more polished place, but it was the same old Exploratorium, just in a glorious new space with a fabulous view of the water and the bridge. We met up with Justin, Monica, Seamus, Christyn, Brian, Brian's sister Sheri, Athena, Cyrus, and Lorelei, and fanned out through the museum with tiny humans leading the way from one exhibit to the next.

We convened in the Seaglass restaurant at noon and found a lovely meal (fresh sushi bar, salads, roast chicken, fresh mac and cheese, and poke. Yum!) and a full bar. I opted for the lemon basil cacahca drink. I love that the museum is the sort of place you can get a freshly muddled craft cocktail. Things have really improved since the days of hot dogs and cheese in a can poured over tortilla chips!
Athena watches the dry ice in the water on the bar. I'm watching the fresh basil, mint, cucumbers, limes...
Karen and Rich headed home Sunday night. Monday I got up to go to work and Athena said, "But don't go. All of my friends are leaving." I promised her I'd be back by bedtime, and that Meme would come back soon and that she got to spend all day playing with daddy. Still, she was a little sad. She really loved playing with Scott and Greg, and she always loves Karen and Rich.

Christyn and Brian were looking for company for a trip to see Kurios. We hadn't gotten tickets yet, so we dove on that grenade and went with them on Monday. Athena was supposed to be hanging with Clementine, but Clem's mom came down with the flu, complete with 6+ days of fever, so Anna and Heraldo rescued us. (Thank you!) She spent the night doing crafts and dancing.

Ballet in the living room
Aside from the obvious, "It's Christmas!" there is something else I really want to record this time and not let it slip away. Last year about this time we started getting a real preview of what 2 was going to be about. Now we're getting a good look at 3. She's suddenly changed so much. Independent play is normal. She sings to herself and makes up songs. She can have a book read to her once and will have several pages memorized the next time you read it, calling out the story before you can. It has been "No I can do it by myself!" for a couple of months now, but that just keeps escalating. She actually can do a lot by herself, so she's not wrong. This morning she got up and peed in her potty and tossed her overnight pull-up in the diaper pail, then said, "I need your help to get dressed." Erik and I looked at each other, shrugged, and said, "Okay, good job honey." The only thing that's mildly worrisome right now is "No I want to go first!" which leads to a meltdown if you go in front of her. We're trying to get across that she doesn't always get to go first. She gets it sometimes.

To sum up, it's been a good, hectic holiday season. I'm glad it's over. Next stop: January. And the ladybug has been waiting for January for a very long time. Back in October, she was saying, "I don't want to go to school. I want to go to Disneyland." So I figured out that we could go back in January. I told her and she said, "I don't want to go to school. I want to go to January." I said, "Well honey, we're going, but there's going to be a lot of stops along the way." We're almost there!

Oh, and the other thing. Our grand experiment in not modifying our linguistic style around our child has borne fruit. Athena correctly used "Dammit!" in context the other day when she dropped something she was working on while sitting on a stool at the counter. She did it again a few times over the next few days, but as it's not getting a huge rise out of us, it seems to be fading back in the lexicon again. So, yeah, she knows what that word means, and when Mommy would use that word. Now to get onto the deeper contexts like, "Um, sweetie, we don't saw that around your great grandparents, okay?" We'll see how it works out!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Grrr.... grandma went for a follow-up appointment today. Her ankle is broken after all. Apparently the doctor she saw on the Friday after Thanksgiving can't read an x-ray.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Almost 3!

Every month I say, "I'll start earlier and not be late this time." And then the 28th rolls around and I say, "Dangit!" So this is the almost 3 edition, before Christmas, since I can almost guarantee the Dec. 28th edition will slip to January as well.

First, I'd like to say that things at work are settling into a nice routine. My early concerns about this being a good fit are going away. The benefits plans are significantly improved this year, no longer catering to the single young men nearly exclusively. The food situation is so much better with the addition of the Whole Foods mini-market, plus they announced they've hired a chef to start in January, so hopefully food will be even better soon. Today I forgot my lunch for the first time in ages, but it was no problem. I grabbed some tacos from the Mad Mex truck and they were great - carne asada, baja fish, and pork cubano. Nom! I also moved desk out of the wind tunnel and that's improving the condition of my neck and shoulders significantly. Turns out, it was indeed the clenching from shivering that was doing a number on my shoulders week by week. Meanwhile, my two interns are closing in on the end of the term. We've managed to slog through so much work together. It's amazing. What seemed insurmountable is now largely tamed and we hope to ship it all off to the Chinese translators before the holiday. I've gotten in the habit of going for a 2 mile walk at lunch, often on the Matadero Creek trail behind the building. This includes climbing up to the top of the foothills and getting a view of the bay, downtown Palo Alto, Stanford, and 280 and the hills beyond. Not a bad thing to have in my day at all!

Halloween went swimmingly well. I realized I had a reasonable batch of work to do at home, so I didn't drive into Palo Alto. Sanity level: expert! We picked up Athena from school and headed over to Fox Hollow for trick or treating with Lorelei. Athena wore her Elsa dress and Athena wore her Anna dress. Three cul-de-sacs later, Athena was spent, having hauled in more treats than any 2 year old needs. We headed back for dinner and a party at the Lendvays house. My Frozen blue sangria was a hit for the Elsa drinking game - drink every time an Elsa comes to trick-or-treat.

Athena curled up in my lap in the garage movie theater to watch Addams Family. The style and imagery didn't bother her at all and honestly, it's still a great movie with good themes - family sticks together, parents love you and are in love with one another, and dancing is awesome. Heck, the dancing was how I ended up in the garage. Folks came inside to let me know it was almost time for the Mamushka. This is how I know I'm with my people.

The next day we took the girls for a trip to Lemos Farms. Clem's moms took Athena with them back in September and it was a big hit. It was our turn so that they could pack up house, and the girls were once again enchanted. The Groupon for $25 for 2 adults, 2 kids is a deal. Unlimited train rides, bounce housing, and pony rides til the girls can't do anymore. Shockingly, neither opted for a nap on the way back in the car. That's new! Instead, we took our tired girl home and she crashed out early. We're definitely getting to the point where she can either have a nap around 2 or 3 o'clock, or if we make it through to 4, then she'll get past the crankies, and be fine til 7:30 p.m. or so. We've taken advantage of that a couple of times this month to have a nice active day and an adults-only evening at home. On Thanksgiving, this meant her passing out in my arms at 7:15 and slipping her into bed and getting to relax and catch up on some tv, and she slept til 9 a.m.

The following Saturday we headed to Pacifica for Dickens workshops. We're officially working Dickens this year - one day per weekend, as best as we can. Workshops went well. She sat relatively patiently through the lectures, actually enjoying Shelly's steam and gears lecture (trains!) and doing just great in Cathleen's dance class and fine in Hilary's language workshop. In the cafeteria during lunch and during Fezzi rehearsal, she grabbed any willing child and ran up and down the ramps and stairs, monkeying through the bars. When one child flagged, she grabbed another and off they went chasing around again. Athena hit the cranky time (4 p.m. and no nap? Uh, we gotta go...) after an hour of Fezzi rehearsal and we bundled her off into the car with new gate passes in hand. She then crashed out and slept for 3 hours straight. We headed to Crystal's birthday party and parked her in the backyard with a monitor where we got an hour into dinner before she rose to consciousness again. Crystal once again did amazing things with meat and also smoked mac and cheese. We had a lovely time with good friends and very good wine.

This has also been a month of renovations at our house. We finally dove into the bathroom remodel. It's an adventure having contractors tromping through your bedroom daily, but when it's over, we may be lucky enough to have a beautiful new bathroom. Right now, it's life in a sea of dust. When we bought the house, we knew there were issues with the master shower. The rest of the master had issues as well, so we opted to just demolish the whole thing back to the walls. Under the shower, the floor was nearly rotted through because the last shower had been installed very very badly. Do it yourself seems to often mean do it wrong. That's all fixed now and new tile is in place. The walls are painted at cabinets installed. The toilet arrived broken, but Home Depot was a champ about it and gave us a discount on the replacement with speedy shipping so it should arrive Wednesday. By this weekend I'm hoping I no longer need to creep down the hall to pee in the middle of the night. If the new toilet is as quiet as advertised, I may get to pee AND flush without waking the household!

I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time ever. My mom and grandparents trekked down from Sacramento. Luckily, they had great traffic because everyone was going the way I usually have to go - towards the valley and Tahoe. My mom asked, "What can we bring? I don't want you to have to cook everything." I said, "Oh trust me, I'll cheerfully cook anything you want if I don't have to slog to Sacramento on Thanksgiving!" The usual 2 hour drive becomes 4 hours of torture. I've learned some creative routes through the backroads in the last 20 years, but instead, I stayed home, prepped on Wednesday, cooked Thursday morning, and had a gorgeous feast - turkey, two kinds of gravy, Brussels sprouts with bacon and sage, broccoli with almonds and onions, mashed sweet potatoes with browned butter, roasted root vegetables (onions, parsnips, carrots, and potatoes), ginger-ale jello salad inspired by the Missionary's Downfall, and an apple crumble. My mom brought pumpkin pie and cornbread stuffing. We had enough to feed twelve, and only five adults and one tiny human who prefers fish sticks (though she did try some pumpkin pie). My grandmother baked a huge batch of ginger snaps which have turned out to be the key to getting Athena to do whatever we want - eat your fish stick, poop in the potty, etc. Those disappeared and we had to make more this weekend. We've almost made it to the end of the turkey. Almost.

The only bad thing was that my grandmother stepped off the step from the dining room to the family room and fell. Luckily, nothing broken - just a sprained ankle and some bruises - but oh that is so scary!

The next morning we got up and loaded into the car for a trip to Racoon Gulch with Christyn and Brian to get a Christmas tree. A tromp around the back lot led us to the chicken coop and to a lovely tree in the vineyard (soon to be a lemon orchard). Erik headed out with saw in hand to slay the mighty conifer. Athena wanted to help.

Clementine arrived for a sleepover just as we got back. We tucked them in for naptime, but they never settled down. I took an hour to sew some hooks on my Dickens skirt while they "slept" (but mostly giggled a lot). I went in at the end and said, "Are you ready to get up?" Athena announced, "Yeah! We just woke up!" Sure ya did kiddo. But, that meant they both crashed when we tucked them in at 8 p.m. and slept til 7 a.m. I sent Erik back to bed and went and watched Frozen with the girls til 8:30. Then we got ready and headed to the Cow Palace. The two little balls of energy both dozed off on the way up and got a good nap before we handed Clem off to Kelly and Cole.

Then we headed into Dickens. This worked out great for Athena. She was raring to go and we rampaged all over Dickens. Erik and I took turns for who was Fezzi-ing and who was on duty with Athena, which mostly worked pretty well. She decided the ramp up to the upper parking lot was the North Mountain (and Fezziwig's was the ballroom at Arendell), so she climbed up to the top of the North Mountain 8 times with Erik and 6 times with me. Meanwhile, on the dance floor, I danced with a special young man who gave me the most sprited mazurka in ages whose caregiver was just melting with joy to see him dancing. I danced with someone who used to be a teen at FNW years ago, moved away and back again, and now is a grown up who should join us. I helped a set of Sir Roger that was struggling and talked a gentleman through Duke of Kent til he felt like really had it by the end. I danced a Northdown with a young lady whose friends gushed about how elegant and amazing she looked. Later she and her girlfriend asked for waltzing tips and I recommended open waltz variations and to "just play." They had a blast, focusing on the twirls and passes rather than the turning waltz and were all smiles. This thing we do for so many hours a day - there's magic in it. We left the Cow Palace at 7 and Athena was out soon after. We picked up a pizza on the way home (the just reward of a very active day), and she didn't stir. We got home and got the car unloaded and she didn't stir. We scooped her right into bed and she slept til 8 a.m. the next day. Day two in a row of a quiet evening at home on the sofa with my husband.

Erik has been teaching a Continuing Studies class on Thursdays at Stanford. He picks up Athena early from school and drops her off at my work about 5:45 to save me the crazy of leaving earlier and trying to get down 280 in traffic to pick her up by 6. She's never wanted to transfer from car to car directly, so instead, we go inside, take a walk, get some cereal, and then head back to the car. Colleagues have noticed the tiny curly haired moppet narrating her way through the world in their midst and have joined in the fun. Usha's son is 15 so she's thrilled to see a toddler again. She offers Athena Chocolate Kisses, which Athena will never ever refuse. Lamar has a dragon sculpture on his desk, and she goes and pets it each time. This week another coworker whose name I don't know yet offered to let her fly his tiny quadcopter. She took to it instantly and had it whizzing around in no time. Then we got her Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a cup of water and headed home.
The blue car is happy. The black car is scary.
Like she owns the place.
So Saturday was spent baking cookies and making gingerbread waffles and decorating the Christmas tree.
Admiring the tree.
Pointing at her Princess Anna ornament from Grandma.
Gingerbread waffles!
More ginger snaps!
On Sunday, Erik was still suffering a cold, so he stayed home with Athena while I headed up to Dickens to put in a solid day in the warehouse. I forgot my hat so I danced all day. I think I skipped four dances from the time I arrived. I taught many people dances including two teens of thick foreign accents, a young man I pulled into Sir Roger at the last moment who was all grins by halfway through, an older gentleman from Red Thistle who took to mazurka better than someone a third of his age, and Mike, who wanted to know more about where to learn this going forward. With a little luck, Mike may turn up at a Fezziwigs rehearsal in the future. I missed Erik and Athena but loved my day nonetheless. I concluded with triumphant flapping of the King of Kings card and dressing down during notes. It was perfect. This is Christmas for me: baking and dancing. I guess I should do some Christmas shopping sometime soon...