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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.

Pony!
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.