Author Archives: kiesa

Westmoreland Park Nature Play, Portland, OR

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go down to Portland to visit my grandmother. We decided to stay at a hotel downtown near OMSI1. I was delight to discover that our Pacific Science Center membership included a reciprocal agreement with OMSI, along with other science center/museums, for free general admission. We all went our first day. However, on our second day Calvin wanted to go back but Julian wanted to go to a playground instead. Several years ago my mom sent me an article about a trend toward natural playgrounds in Portland. I had been wanting to visit one for years but the timing was never convenient. However, Julian’s wish to go to a playground seemed like a good time to try one out.
Natural Playground with slide, rock towers, and logs.
Julian and I hopped into the car and, trusting Google maps, successfully found the Westmoreland park. There didn’t seem to be a parking lot but street parking was adequate, at least for a drizzly day2. The first thing we saw was a grassy area with a bunch of picnic tables.
picnic tables
From the picnic area we crossed a bridge to get to the play area.
Bridge between picnic area and playground.

View from bridge

View from the bridge.


Julian immediately headed for a group of logs installed horizontal to the ground.
Julian crawling on logs.
He was so proud when he was able to stand up and walk on them.
Julian walking on the log.
These logs led to a tower of rocks for kids to climb.
Julian climbing rocks.
There were a variety of other wood climbing options but they were too big for Julian. I think Calvin would have enjoyed them if he had been there.
Wood climbing tower.
Another wood climbing option.
They also had some logs propped against a small hill. Julian seemed to enjoy climbing them but they didn’t keep his attention as much as the horizontal logs did.
Julian climbing up logs.

There was also a sand area which Julian enjoyed.
Sand pit with toys and stumps.
It looks like in summer there may be an option to play with water in the sand which would be fantastic.
Water Spouts.

Overall, it was a fun playground and a lovely park to visit. However, I’m not convinced the “natural” play area has any innate advantage over the more traditional playground.

Summary:

Features Many climbing opportunities on logs, stumps, and stone, small slide, sand area, water area (I think) in summer.
Surface Material Wood chips
Restrooms Yes
Water fountain Yes
Shade Lovely mature trees that look like they might provide a nice amount of shade.
Picnic area Yes, though main picnic area isn’t within site of the play area.
Parking Street parking.
Coffee None.
Pros
  • Natural aesthetic makes for a nice change.
  • Large sand area
Cons
  • Not much for really small kids.


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

  1. Still my favorite science museum.
  2. Contrary to what the pictures show, the park had a lot of people in it. I was just trying to avoid taking pictures of other people. This is one reason I haven’t done a post about Gas Works Playground yet. It’s always mobbed and impossible to avoid pictures of other children.

North Transfer Center Playground, Seattle, WA

One of the things I like about our current house is we live within walking distance of three playgrounds. The North Transfer Station playground recently re-opened1. It’s nature themed so Julian refers to it as the “tree playground”.
Main playground equipment
The main play structure looks like a tree fort. Complete with little critters hiding in the tree.
Raccoon peaking from tree trunk.
Julian enjoyed walking up and down the climbing logs.
Climbing logs up play equipment.
There were also fake tree stumps dividing the main play structure from the climbing net. The stumps were handy for the parents to sit on.
Tree stumps.
The logs were fun to balance on.
Logs to balance on.

Across the road, on the transfer station side, there’s a variety of equipment for stretching and some strength exercises. Technically, they’re not for kids but Julian enjoyed them anyway.
Pull up bar.

Balance Equipment
Sit up Equipment.

Overall, it’s a fun park and Julian has requested we visit several times since our initial visit.

Summary:

Features 5-12 playground equipment, slide, log climber, ladder, Centipede Climber, talk tube, periscopes, net climber, logs to walk on
Exercise Equipment (on other side of the road) Springer, bench, stepper, pull-ups, sit-ups, stretch
Surface Material Mainly wood chips and some poured rubber
Restrooms No
Water fountain No
Shade Not much.
Picnic area A couple of small picnic tables.
Parking Street parking.
Coffee About a block from The Essential Baking Company.
Pros
  • A nice basic playground.
Cons
  • No bathrooms.
  • Not much for really small kids.


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

  1. It had been closed due to substandard initial work.

Webster Park, Seattle

Back in November Julian and I went to the Webster Park Playground which is near our rental house in Ballard. It’s right next door to the old Webster school1. I loved the bright colors of the playground equipment.
Brightly colored play structure.
This playground looks primarily designed for ages 5-122. There wasn’t a playground structure designed for 2-5 year-olds. However, they did have swings for both young and older kids. In addition, there was a sandbox with some community toys!
Sandbox with toys.
Julian particularly loved climbing on the net rope strung between two large climbing boulders.
Climbing net and rocks.
The playground is “interactive”. I didn’t try it, but there’s an app you can download from Biba to use with the playground.
Biba app sign with info on how to download the app to play with it in the playground.
The park also has a basketball court, grass lawn, and a sundial.
Sundial.

Summary:

Features 5-12 playground equipment, bucket swings, regular swings, molded plastic seat swing (without straps), telescope, drums, interactive Biba app, wheel panel, gears panel, rope ladder, tunnel, climber, double slide, curved slide, climbing rocks, rope net, number panel, sandbox, community sand toys
Surface Material Wood chips
Restrooms No
Water fountain Yes
Shade Leafy trees. (Not sure if they would shade the play equipment in summer).
Picnic area No.
Parking Currently there’s a parking lot by the old school. That will disappear if the school opens with its current proposal.
Coffee No.
Pros
  • A variety of options for older kids.
  • Sandbox!
Cons
  • No bathrooms.


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

  1. This use to house the Nordic Heritage Museum which recently moved to a new location.
  2. With the caveat that my kids start playing on the 5-12 equipment by 2 1/2 or before . . .

Update: Wallingford Playfield, Seattle

Update
I’m doomed. I just read on the Wallyhood blog that Wallingford Playfield’s playground is now closed. Given my past experience with construction projects I have no faith it will re-open before we move or my kids are too old to appreciate it1. That said, the proposed play structures do look very nice.

Original
Last 4th of July I was by myself because the kids were with Jaeger’s parents and Jaeger was still in San Francisco. I headed to Gas Works Park to view the festivities but it was a little crowded for my taste so I decided to wander around and see what houses were for sale. I like walking around neighborhoods because you see things that aren’t as obvious when driving. On my quest, I ended up walking through Wallingford Playfield and was delighted to see that it had a large wading pool.

We ended up buying a house within walking distance of Wallingford Playfield2 and, on one of our numerous visits to the house, the kids and I dropped by the playground.

plaground-structure2_small

Wallingford Playfield has a traditional-style playground. It has both a very nice structure for older kids as well as a smaller structure for younger kids.
Play structure for 2-5 year olds.

Julian enjoyed moving the rings back and forth on the smaller structure.
Three bars with rings that can be moved back and forth.

Calvin was excited to see that the playground has a traditional merry-go-round. It also has a traditional tire swing.
merry-go-round picture

Julian loved the digger. Unlike most playground diggers, this one isn’t in a sandbox. It’s just digging the surrounding dirt/mud. Julian also loved climbing the rocks that surrounded the play area.
Julian using the digger to dig mud.

The wading pool had been drained for the season but I’m looking forward to taking the kids there next summer.
wading-pool_small

Summary:

Features 5-12 playground equipment, bucket swings, regular swings, molded plastic seat swing (without straps), tire swing, 2-5 year-old play structure, merry-go-round, digger, rocks, trees, large half-circle climbing structure, circular monkey bars, seasonal wading pool, climbing wall, curved slide, tunnel slide, ladder, fireman pole, tunnel, chain net, steering wheel panel, corkscrew climber, simplified abacus panel, small curved slide, bridge, double slide, tennis courts, soccer fields
Surface Material Mostly wood chips. Parts are surrounded by poured rubber
Restrooms Yes
Water fountain Yes
Shade Leafy trees. The larger structure has a roof on some sections and underneath is fairly shady.
Picnic area Yes, multiple picnic tables.
Parking Street Parking
Coffee No.
Pros
  • Nicely balanced play structures. Something for every age.
  • Has both merry-go-round and tire swing
Cons
  • No coffee.


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

  1. Right before we moved to San Francisco the Balboa Park Pool closed for renovation and is still closed.
  2. Jaeger claims I think everything is within walking distance, which is somewhat true. However, this is also within walking distance for Julian.

Taking a Break

The beginning of last week was a bit much for me. I woke up exhausted Monday and the day didn’t get better. I stayed awake just long enough to shepherd Calvin to bed and then went to bed myself. Tuesday morning didn’t start much better. I emailed Jaeger and told him I wanted to go off by myself that weekend. Then, I realized I had scheduled Willow’s vet appointment for the weekend which initially derailed my plans until Jaeger offered to take both the kids and Willow to the vets office. I was ecstatic.

I didn’t have a plan when I emailed Jaeger, I just needed to be by myself. I would have preferred to stay home and have everyone else leave. My favorite vacation in recent memory was when Jaeger took Calvin to New York City. However, I didn’t feel like I could kick everyone else out on a whim.

After considering several scenarios, I settled on renting an Airbnb in Edmonds, which is about 30 minutes north of Seattle. The Thursday before I left I got groceries delivered. It topped up the basics for Jaeger and the kids. However, I also ordered prepackaged meals to take on my vacation so I wouldn’t have to leave the Airbnb if I didn’t want to. Friday, I came home, made supper, ate, and then put Julian to bed. Then, I was off on my adventure.

The adventure did not start auspiciously as I had to jump start the van in the dark. Jump starting the van is actually not very hard, we have a portable battery to do that. However, getting the van’s hood open is an art form. It involves jamming the handle of a screwdriver in at just the right angle to force the catch to release. Eventually, the hood did concede and I was able to start the van. I piled my stuff in, started my new audiobook, and drove off. About one block away I remembered I had forgotten to put the screwdriver back in the van. Not wishing to be stranded in Edmonds with a car I couldn’t start, I circled around and picked up the screwdriver. Then, I was really off on my vacation.

It was a lovely drive. I left late enough there wasn’t a significant amount of traffic to worry about. It was raining as I pulled into the driveway. The place I had rented was a loft attached to a main house. My Airbnb host met me and made sure I was able to get in ok and then left. It was so quiet. The loft was really cute. I puttered around and arranged my stuff. Then, I watched an episode of The Doctor Blake Mysteries before going to sleep.

I woke up around 7:30 on Saturday, reveled in not having to do anything, and went back to sleep for an hour. I eventually got up, made breakfast, and showered while contemplating my day. The Airbnb I picked was not close to downtown Edmonds. I was loathe to exert myself enough to drive anywhere so eventually decided I would take the bus into town. To be clear, the bus was not a remotely efficient way to get to downtown but since I was on vacation I decided I didn’t have to be efficient. I put on my raincoat, started up my audiobook, and took a 20 minute walk to the bus. The bus runs only once an hour so I got there about 20 minutes early. I spread my rain skirt on the grass, sat down, and continued enjoying my audiobook. It was very relaxing.

Eventually the bus showed up and, after a transfer, I successfully made it to the touristy downtown. I was amused to see that the downtown association had green communal umbrellas for shoppers. I wandered around and naturally ended up in a used bookstore. Among other things, I ended up with a physical copy of Home Comforts. It is one of my aspirational books I read when I want to pretend I have the time to perfectly organize my life.

The books were heavy and it was nearly lunchtime. I decided I had enough of people for the day so I took the bus back to the loft. The rest of the day I alternated between eating, reading, and watching movies. It was a glorious day.

Roxhill Park, Seattle

Ok . . . it’s been a while. So much stuff has happened and I didn’t have the time or energy to record most of it. However, I took my kids to Roxhill Park today1 and I got inspired to do another playground post. The last one was when Julian was a baby and we still lived in Boulder, CO.

We went to Roxhill Park on the recommendation of the Seattle Family Adventures book. It’s down in West Seattle so driving was the only practical way to get there for us. Google Maps took us to the southern side of the park. However, we did find both the playground and parking lot located near the northwest corner.

South side of playground with playground structures and swings.

Roxhill Park has two castle structures. One for ages 5-12 and one for 2-5. The smaller castle was cute and had a small double slide.

Small structure with double slide.

The structure for older kids was much bigger. Though, it also only had one slide.

5-12 Castle Playground Structure

While this playground does have things for smaller kids to do, it excels at climbing options for older kids. On the north side of the playground there is a large dome-like structure that has various types of climbing nets for kids to climb.

North side of playground. Shows the climbing options.

Then, there’s another structure that has plastic climbing holds to scramble up.
Structure with plastic climbing holds.

It also has more traditional playground equipment such as monkey bars and hanging rings. Julian particularly liked the balance poles.
Julian crossing the balance poles.

As I mentioned, the playground does have some things for smaller kids. In addition to the small play structure, there are also swings for all ages as well as a nice sand play area.

Summary:

Features 5-12 playground equipment, curved tunnel slide, corkscrew climber, money bars, bucket swings, regular swings, molded plastic seat swing (without straps), 2-5 year old play structure, small double slide, sand, small climbing wall with rope, rope climbing structures, other climbing structures, new-style merry-go-round (seats 4), balance poles, small bridges, fireman pole (attached to rope structure), rope ladder, skate park, ball fields
Surface Material Wood chips
Restrooms Yes
Water fountain Yes
Shade Leafy trees. Depending on the time of day, significant parts of the playground are in shade.
Picnic area Yes, multiple picnic tables.
Parking Parking lot.
Coffee2 Starbucks in nearby Target.
Pros
  • Really nice climbing options
  • Target (with embedded Starbucks) one street over. Convenient for emergency diaper pickups and coffee.
  • Sand play area.
Cons
  • Not as much stuff for little kids to do compared to other playgrounds.


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

  1. Yes, we now live in a Seattle. Everyone is still a little surprised.
  2. This is a new category for Jaeger.

Reading in 2017

I have read more books this year than any past year in recent memory1. My long commute is a mixed blessing and the upside is definitely my evening reading time.

At my library we have two staff members who are known for reading voraciously. One of the adult librarians thought it would be fun to have a competition with the entire adult departmentment pitted against these two individuals2. To assure victory3, the librarian conscripted every librarian scheduled to sit on the reference desk for the adult team. I do one Sunday shift every 8 weeks and thus was considered eligible to join the adult librarian group. The competition started in April and goes till the end of the year. To count, a “book” must be at least 100 pages long.

I finished one last book today so it looks like I’m going to be at 66 books since April. It’ll be interesting to see what the final numbers for the two teams will be 4. Regardless, I’m happy with the number of books I managed.

I read a lot more novellas than usually which is one reason my numbers are so high. For some reason I’ve always had trouble getting into shorter fiction. The Hugo Awards contain many contegories and I always felt bad that I wasn’t well read enough to contribute to the shorter categories. I’m still lacking in the Best Novelette and Best Short Story categories. However, I’ve read 13 novella length stories5, published in 2017, which is significantly better than normal.

Here’s my favorite 2017 stories so far (in random order):

Novels

Novellas

For 2018 . . .
I stumbled across the website for the Sirens conference. It sounds really fun. I need to figure out logistics but am hoping I can make it there by myself, no kids attached. We’ll see. However, even if that doesn’t work out, I think I’m going to try their 2018 Reading Challege. In addition, I’ll be reading all the Hugo nominees for this coming year as well as trying to keep tabs on the 2018 interesting science fiction and fantasy. Hopefully 2018 will be another year full of good books6.

  1. Probably more than any year since I started working and certainly than any year since I had children.
  2. Contrary to certain stereotypes, not all librarians love to read. Librarianship is really more about information finding than reading skills.
  3. Because yes, there was definite doubt whether the entire department could read more than 2 people.
  4. For comparison, one of the librarians in the other team was at 264 books so victory is definitely not assured for the adult team.
  5. I think they’re novella length based on pages but I don’t know what the word count for each one is.
  6. And while we’re handing out wishes, let’s hope 2018 is a happier year for our country . . .

Routine

The new school year has started and I’m finally back on a consistent routine.

Mountain View is still a long commute but, other than that, I do enjoy my job. Back in February I started taking BART/Caltrain to work instead of driving. Mass transit does take a little bit longer than driving1 but it’s fantastic to be able to work on other stuff while I commute. On the way down I usually work on paying bills, balancing bank accounts, and other misc household stuff I can do online. On my trip home I usually read a book which is the only consistent reading time I’ve had since Julian was born2.

When I get home I make supper, we eat, and then I start Julian’s nighttime routine. Currently, this involves him taking a bath while I clean the bathroom3. After bath I read him several stories and then pop him into bed. Then, it’s time to start Calvin’s bedtime routine.

For years I read to Calvin ever night. However, Jaeger was gone for a couple of weeks in the summer and I decided I needed to find a way to relax and have bonding time with Calvin at the same time. I strongly believe in reading to kids, even after they can read to themselves. However, while Jaeger was gone, I decided to try watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with Calvin instead. This ended up working really well. Even if I was running behind in my schedule I could start the episode for him and then join him as soon as I could. This also resulted in him going to bed at a more consistent time every night. After Jaeger got back I considered going back to reading. However, Jaeger started joining us so we end up with more “family” time watching TV than we did when Jaeger or I read to Calvin. For now, we’re sticking with the nightly TV time. It seems to work for our family.

After months of waiting, I got approved to telecommute on most Fridays. Getting approved for telecommuting was a fascinating, and terrifying, peak into city bureaucracy. I had to take workplace safety and ergonomics training so I could make sure that my home house was up to spec. Then I had pages of checkboxes. I had to check to certify that I had a first aid box in the house, I had fire extinguishers, I didn’t have tripping hazards, etc. Then there were all the agreements I had to sign stating I understood that telecommuting was not a right and MV could revoke the option any time they wanted4, along with other stuff. After I filled out my paperwork, my manager, and her manager needed to approve it. Then it wended it way through IT, the assistant manager, and finally landed at HR. I applied in May and in August learned I had official approval to telecommute.

It’s amazing how much difference just having one telecommute day makes in my weekly schedule. A couple of weeks ago our au pair needed Friday off in order to attend a class. Being able to work from home that day meant I only need to find an afternoon babysitter instead of also figuring out dropoff/pickup logistics for daycare and school. It still requires thought and planning but isn’t as overwhelming as if I were gone 6:30am-6:00pm like I am on a normal day.

I’m still trying to figure out what I want to get out of the weekend. Julian has almost dropped his afternoon nap which makes it harder for me to take an afternoon nap but also opens up more afternoon activities.

  1. Though not as much as one would think because of the abysmal traffic coming back at nights.
  2. I did listen to audiobooks when driving but I don’t like listening to the same stuff that I read. Plus, it was really hard for me to switch books mid-commute on the occasions when I discovered mid-way the book was terrible.
  3. This house has a lot of bathrooms, which is one of the most expensive parts when paying for house cleaning. To cut costs, I rotate which bathroom Julian takes his bath in and use the time to clean it. Much cheaper than paying a house cleaner and it’s also very efficient ๐Ÿ™‚
  4. And of course, my silent whispering back, “and I can quit anytime I want.”

Eleven Months Later

It’s been eleven months since we moved our entire family to San Francisco. The year has been incredibly hectic but I think things are starting to settle down, just in time for an insane summer.

May, 2016
The kids and I finally joined Ted in San Francisco. Moving wasn’t too bad since the movers packed us. However, it was challenging to fit all our stuff in our rental house.

June, 2016
Our first au pair hated San Francisco and transitioned to another family. Fortunately, I didn’t have a job yet so I had a little bit of time to find a new au pair. However, it was stressful to find my original childcare plans disrupted. Eventually, we found a wonderful au pair who worked really well with both of our kids. In addition to looking for a new au pair, I spent the month unpacking and trying to organize everything. I also started learning my way around our neighborhood. However, the lack of an intellectually stimulating job started to make me depressed.

July, 2016
Mountain View offered me a job as soon as my background check cleared. I accepted, which took care of the depression problem. However, my next challenge was finding enough childcare. Au Pairs are only allowed to work 45 hours a week. In principle, I agree with this rule. I personally think the au pair program doesn’t have enough safeguards for young people who may not speak enough English to get around in our country by themselves. However, having a job down in Mountain View meant I was gone from the house 10-11 hours every day, depending on traffic. So I needed to find additional childcare. In Colorado I had a lot of success finding good caregivers from care.com. However, I discovered it doesn’t work as well in California. I don’t know why but a huge percentage of the applicants in the price range I could afford ($20-25/hr) were very flaky. I spent the next several months trying to nail down enough reliable childcare and I think it caused everyone in the family a lot of stress.

We did manage to go camping in Yosemite and introduced our au pair to the US tradition of hot dogs and smores. I think she was amused by the experience though she did have a bit of trouble with there being no showers in the camp (we did have flush toilets though!).

August, 2016
In August Calvin started school which finally gave him a chance to meet other kids his age. We had sent him to a summer camp but the same kids didn’t always show up each day. In the future, if possible, it might be good to try to move right before school starts rather than right after school ends for the year. We also managed to go camping one more time near Lassen.

By this time Jaeger and I realized that we hated being renters. The rental we had was pretty good, for San Francisco. However, it drove us nuts that we couldn’t fix the small but glaring problems we had with the house, such as no light in a deep dark closet — we used flashlights. Also, while the property management company was very, very nice and came right away whenever we had problems, they rarely fixed the problem the way we would have. For instance, by the time we left we had four separate keys for the house. One was for the front door, one was for the back door, one was for the door at the bottom of the stairs and one was for the door at the top of the stairs (we think it use to be rented as two separate units). Anytime there was a problem with a lock they’d just go by another door knob from Home Depot.

We were very fortunate to have sold our Colorado house for a nice profit which gave us enough of a down payment for a house that would be considered obscenely expensive anywhere in the US but San Francisco or New York. In San Francisco, it was enough to comfortably get us 2 beds and 1 bath with “potential” in a moderately popular, but not trendy, neighborhood. Unfortunately, because we had an au pair, we needed a minimum of 3 bedrooms and 2 baths (at least if we wanted to maintain our sanity). Our rental lease wasn’t up until February but we started looking in August because we knew it was going to be hard to find something that met our bare minimum specifications.

September, 2016
We continued going to open houses looking for a house that would work for us. In the months we were house hunting we saw some pretty insane houses. Most of the houses in our part of San Francisco are on 25′ wide lots with varying depths. The houses almost always touch each other. The second floor of the house usually contains 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, and 1 bathroom. The first floor of the house will either have a huge garage area that covers the entire 2nd floor footprint or a 1 car garage with additional living space that 90% of the time was finished without permits. One house we saw had obviously been finished without permits and then, when they needed to sell, they just ripped out all the unpermitted walls leaving really weird spaces. While I wasn’t planning to insist on a permitted first floor, I did want assurances that it wouldn’t kill us, which was sometimes hard to obtain.

We found a house that looked promising but only had 2 bedrooms and 1 bath on the top floor. The first floor was unfinished. We considered the feasibility of finishing the first floor and had tentatively decided that we could probably afford it when the pest inspection came back. The estimate was enough more that I didn’t feel we could risk it.

October, 2016
One of my grandfathers died in October. I wasn’t expecting it but it sounds like others had been for a while. He died in his sleep at home. We loaded ourselves and our kids on a plane to Portland for the funeral. The night before we all met at my grandmother’s house for haystacks. It had the weird family funeral feel of being both sad but also a chance to see people you haven’t seen for years.

Also in October we found another house that looked promising. It was a 4 “bedroom”, 2 bath house with real permits for the bottom level. You had to go outside to get to the “bedrooms” on the first floor but it fit our basic needs (though we’re really not sure how they got permitted for those bedrooms). We submitted an offer but were outbid by a couple of thousand dollars. Our realtor seemed slightly miffed they didn’t even try to counter as this is rounding error with the prices of San Francisco homes.

November, 2016
It seems like in hot real estate markets open houses become a much bigger thing. A day or two before the weekend our realtor’s assistant would email us potential open houses with comments. Usually Jaeger and I would go together, though I went by myself for some of the less promising sounding houses. Then, if the house looked like it had actual potential we’d talk to our realtor about it. I walked to almost all of them from our rental. I’m firm believer in understanding the neighborhood by walking it. I walked a lot of miles and saw many houses. However, by November fewer houses were coming on the market and I was starting to worry that we’d have to extend our lease.

The first weekend in November there were only 2 houses that matched our bare minimal requirements. Most of the houses we’d been looking at were between 1200-1400 sq feet. However, one of the houses on this list was 3000+ sq feet. It was so much bigger than most of the houses in our price range that Jaeger and I weren’t convinced the square footage was correct. However, we went and saw it and it really was huge and had tons of bathrooms and bedrooms. Way more than the 3 bedrooms and 2 bath we were hoping for. On the upside, it was almost a brand new house. On the downside, it lacked any historical character. We contemplated.

Then the election happened. We saw the house for the second time the day after the election. Do you remember that big stock market crash when they realized Trump won? To afford San Francisco we have to supplement our normal income with stock. So far this strategy has worked out. However, I was worried about buying a house if suddenly we had a serious economic downturn. In Colorado we could live on my salary for brief amounts of time if we cut out the extras. This is not feasible in San Francisco. We waffled for a bit but finally decided the house was too good to pass up so we made another offer.

Given our experience with the last house, we went on the higher end of the range our realtor suggested. It turns out there was another potential buyer who was looking at the same comps and made almost the exact same offer. This time the realtor did come back to us and asked us to give us our last “best” offer. We were already on the edge of what I was comfortable with but we didn’t want to lose again with just a couple of thousand. So, we went up another 20k and called that good. I was not convinced that was enough to get us the house but I really, really didn’t want to go higher. As it was we would need to supplement our Colorado profits with Jaeger’s stock for the downpayment. Both our realtor and I were quite surprised to learn that the sellers accepted our offer. I tend to be a pessimist and don’t believe a house is mine until I move in. However, things were looking positive.

Thanksgiving this year was on the Logan side and corresponded with the biennial Logan family reunion which includes Jaeger’s grandfather and all his grandfather’s siblings. It’s at Leoni Meadows, near Grizzly Flats, CA as many of the Logans live in California. This was the very first time we were able to attend without flying and it was so much easier. We invited our au pair to go with us to experience the grand US Thanksgiving tradition. She later said that all we did was eat, cleanup, prepare food, and eat again which probably does cover Thanksgiving in a nutshell. Calvin and Julian had fun running around but there aren’t that many kids their age around. Most of Jaeger’s cousins have not managed to produce children of their own (though Jaeger is one of the oldest).

December, 2016
Our 2nd au pair’s term was up in January. We had hoped she would extend but she’s a software engineer and wanted to get back to a “real” job which made sense. So, we started interviewing au pairs again. However, unlike last time, we had enough time to consider au pairs that were still in their home country. I think interviewing au pairs is more an art than a science. We eventually narrowed down our choices to two au pairs who both sounded good. We decided to go with the au pair who really enjoyed reading as we felt it would probably help her mesh with our family better.

In addition to finding a new au pair, we had to find additional supplemental care for Julian. Because of the high babysitting turnover I decided to focus on daycares this time. Unfortunately, there were almost no daycares with openings. However, I did find one daycare that had a morning-only program that looked like it might have openings in January. I contacted the provider and arranged to go on a tour. It was a home daycare that aimed to have the children playing outside at least 90% of the time. Given how active Julian is I thought this would be a really good match for him. We applied and to my great relief we got the one “full-time” spot that was available (full-time in this case means 8:15-12:15).

Also in December we managed to close on our new house. Like all real estate transactions I have been involved in, there were tense moments. However, it all worked out in the end. In Colorado, at closing, the buyers and sellers actually sit down at the table together and sign the papers. However, in San Francisco these transactions are asynchronous, which I found pretty strange. We signed our papers and then needed to wait for the sellers to sign theirs later in the day. Eventually, we heard the house was officially ours. Though, the sellers were going to be “renting” from us for a month while waiting to move into their new house.

At the end of December we went out to visit my parents. While we were moving out to San Francisco, my parents were also busy moving. They lived in Longview for all but the first two years of my life so it was very weird to see them in an entirely different city. They’re now about a couple of hours north of Seattle, depending on traffic. One of the main reasons my parents moved up there was to be close to my brother, who also moved around the same time we did from Tennessee. My brother and sister-in-law have a kid who is about 6 months younger than Julian. They’re still a little young to play together but it was still cute to see them together. In addition to my immediate family, all remaining grandparents visited as well as Aunt Carolyn. Jaeger and I also managed to sneak away for a couple of days to have alone time in Seattle without the kids. It was amazing to be able to sleep through the entire night without having to go in and calm Julian down. We also filled our movie quota for the year by watching two movies in two nights ๐Ÿ™‚

January, 2017
In January Julian started his part-time daycare. Our second au pair was still with us for the first week so she helped him transition before she left. We had found another good au pair but she wasn’t scheduled to arrive till the end of January. We were also scheduled to move into our new house and I didn’t want our au pair to try to settle in to our rental only to be moved a week later into our new house. In the meantime, we used grandmothers to help fill in the childcare gap. My mom came out for two weeks, during which we moved into our new house. The she left and Jaeger’s mom came for another two weeks and hepled us settle in and helped our new au pair learn her duties.

February, 2017
Most of February was filled with getting settled in our new house. This house is way better than I was expecting but there still were, and still are, lots of minor projects to work on. We have spent much money at Home Depot and Amazon.

March, 2017
March continued the trend of being busy. We took a long weekend and went to Tahoe. We enrolled Calvin and our au pair in ski lessons, while Ted indulged in skiing more interesting routes. I stayed with Julian. I had intended to find a babysitter for him so I could relax but delayed too long so no one I had been recommended was available. However, it was still interesting to see a new town. It reminded me a fair amount of Colorado ski resorts, right down to the lack of vegetarian food options.

A few weeks after that Yanthor and Anya came to visit us and we had a lot of fun playing games together. It was so good to see them again. That’s one of the biggest problems with living way out in San Francisco. At the very end of the month Jaeger’s mother flew out to help take care of the kids while I went to a conference in Maryland.

The conference was like being back in college. I had signed up for a pre-conference “hackathon” on Sunday. I had been meaning to learn how to use the ILS’s APIs for a while but never had time so I figured signing up for the hackathon would force me to learn them. It turns out that most of the others who signed up hadn’t really played with the APIs either and had varying levels of coding experience. The leader asked how many developers there were and only 3 people raised there hands, I was not one of them because I consider myself a librarian, not a developer. However, it turns out what he really was asking was who knew how to code which was a larger number of people (though still less than half the people there). We formed into three (too large) teams and then spent most of the rest of the conference working on our projects to have something to present at the end. I got to bed before midnight every day but it was really close some nights. My team won 2nd prize, my share was $21, which would have been more impressive if there had been more than three teams ๐Ÿ™‚ However, I did learn a ton, including finally getting a github account. In addition, to the hackathon I did a presentation on using Python to automate reports in the library. I was targeting this toward people with no programming experience but with an interest in learning. I was surprised at the wide variety of people who turned up. In spite of the wide range, it seemed to go really well.

April, 2017
Fortunately, April has been a little less frantic. Though, I don’t know how it is already almost over. We did have some excitement last week. While I was gone to my conference Calvin had chipped one of his front teeth. Last Thursday I took him in to get it filled and then dropped him off to school. Less than an hour later, and as I was almost walking out the door to go back to work, I got a call from the school saying he had a cut on his knee and needed to see the doctor. I reserved judgement till I got there but it was indeed a pretty decent gash that obviously required stitches. I wasn’t sure where the nearest urgent care was with parking (I don’t go anywhere in San Francisco without parking if I can possibly avoid it) and so I instead went to the nearest hospital. 3 hours and 7 stitches later we were back on our way home.

One reason Jaeger and I decided to move to San Francisco, apart from it being more convenient to fly to Asia, was for the culture opportunities. I don’t think we’re really taking advantage of that yet. However, Jaeger and I did manage to see Hamilton this week which was pretty amazing. This was also a very pretty good month for authors. We went to Borderlands and got Yoon Ha Lee to sign Ninefox Gambit and then just yesterday we saw John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow at a Google Talk in Mountain View.

Now that we’re in our own house I feel like we’re finally starting to settle down and start enjoying San Francisco. Though, summer is looking very busy so maybe I just need to give up on boring and enjoy the couple of weeks of calm I have left.

Working

While I was pregnant with Calvin I considered becoming a stay-at-home mom. I don’t remember what my reasoning was, but it was probably something along the lines of “we can afford it, it’s good for the kids, so why not.” At the time, Jaeger was very supportive of this, his own mom stayed home with the kids and it seemed normal to him. However, my mom thought it was a bad idea for my personality and she talked me out of it. She told me that she felt like her brain was rotting the two years she spent home after my younger brother was born. After thinking about it more, I realized I didn’t have to make this decision before Calvin was born. If working and having a kid was too much, I could always quit later. Instead, I negotiated going down to 20 hours a week and working from home1. Continuing to work was definitely the right decision. I’m sure my postpartum depression would have been even worse if I hadn’t been able to mentally escape at work.

A little over a year before Julian was born I went up to 32 hours a week. Our library system was preparing for a major ILS migration and I, and my manager, felt like it would be best if I had more time to devote to the migration. I thought it would be hard going from 20 to 32 hours a week. It wasn’t, it was easier. I felt less rushed during my work day and felt I could take longer to make better decisions.

Jaeger and I decided to have another child. I looked at our personal schedule, we were planning to move overseas in the next couple of years, and the implementation timeline at work and came up with a target date range for conception. If I still wasn’t pregnant at the end of our target window we would reconsider whether it made sense to keep trying to get pregnant. I was lucky and Julian decided to be conceived right on schedule.

Meanwhile, our work implementation kept plodding mostly forward. Because Calvin threatened to be born preterm I wanted the ILS implementation over before Julian hit viability so I could drop everything if he ended up in the NICU for months. This provided very strong motivation for me to keep the project on track. I’m quite sure our vendor got tired of me telling them that I managed to conceive on schedule so they should be able to deliver the product on schedule. Julian was born at 41 weeks. In retrospect, I didn’t realize how much post-migration clean-up there would be so I was very fortunate that Julian agreed to wait till he was full-term.

I had told my manager I intended to take 3 months of maternity leave. At about 4 weeks postpartum things were going so well (i.e. nicely boring) that I was tempted to come back early. However, I didn’t have childcare lined up for going back early and then Julian went through a hard period so I did end up staying mostly offline from work the whole 3 months2.

In July, about a month after I came back from maternity leave, Qualcomm announced they would be doing layoffs. They told their investors before they told their employees. Very tacky. No doubt there were some regulatory issues around the announcement but surely there could have been a way to coordinate that better. In any case, Qualcomm announced layoffs but said they wouldn’t publish the layoff list till late September. Our plan had been to move to Taiwan after Julian turned 1 and Calvin finished school for the year. If Jaeger got laid off it would potentially either force us to go through the savings we had for the international move or move early. Neither situation was ideal but we were fortunate that all we had to worry about was opportunity, not where the money for food and mortgage was going to come from.

Possibly coincidentally, a Google recruiter choose the day Qualcomm announced layoffs to send their semi-annual email asking Jaeger if he would be interested in interviewing with Google. Jaeger didn’t want to work for Google, he wanted to move internationally. However, he decided that interviewing at Google would be an interesting interlude while waiting to see who Qualcomm laid off.

Long story a little shorter, Qualcomm did lay him off and Google offered Jaeger a job in their San Francisco office. We had visited San Francisco several times and had been impressed with how diverse the city is. I talked to my manager, who talked to HR, and they thought if we moved I could still telecommute and work for the district. After a lot more waffling, Jaeger decided to take the job with Google and push back our international plans for another couple of years.

Life got complicated. In February Jaeger left for San Francisco while I stayed behind with the kids and our au pair so Calvin could finish school. Right about this time I learned that I may not be able to keep my job after all. After looking into it more, HR decided there would be complications with me working from home in San Francisco because I would be classed as a California employee. I’m a little vague what all the implications would have been but among other things they would have had to withhold California taxes for me. This was not something they were willing to do. At one point, I was told that this would probably have been easier if I had moved overseas instead of to another state. My manager was quite upset and spent months trying to find a way around it. However, she was not able to find a cost-effective option that HR felt would legally cover them. It was too late to back out from Google so I was going to be out of a job once I moved to San Francisco.

As soon as I realized there was uncertainty about my job I started looking for interesting jobs I could do from San Francisco. I knew I was too specialized but I hadn’t done anything about it because I was secretly hoping to be able to keep my job forever while wandering the world. Unfortunately, my specialization was now coming back to haunt me.

I applied for several jobs but most of them didn’t feel like a good fit and I was fortunate to be able to be picky. Then I saw that Mountain View Public Library had a job opening that sounded very similar to what I currently did. The timing was a little awkward. The huge ILS user conference, handily in San Francisco, was in just a week or two and the job already had dates set for when they would interview candidates which was 2 weeks after the user conference. Obviously they only expected local candidates to apply. A week before the interview date I was called and invited to come for an interview. Fortunately, Jaeger was able to rearrange things to stay in Colorado while I went to California for a couple of days.

The first interview involved three people who had a preset list of questions they had to ask. It was a pretty easy interview. However, I thought it was odd that none of the people who interviewed me worked for Mountain View Public Library, or even the City of Mountain View. Instead, they were librarians from surrounding libraries. I assume this was to try to prevent any appearance of bias. However, from my perspective this was not helpful as they did not know the answers to any of my questions. So, the process allowed them to shortlist me but did not give me enough info to shortlist them. I was invited back for a second interview, this with the actual librarians at Mountain View. Everyone I talked to was very nice and seemed like fun people to work with.

A couple of weeks after the second interview I received an email from HR saying Mountain View was still interested in me but they needed to verify my degrees and pass a background check before the process could continue. This sounded pretty straight forward, though I did think the background check a little weird. As requested, I filled out my school information and then dutifully took the background check form down to the Boulder police station to get fingerprinted. Then I mailed the form back. This was the beginning of The Long Wait.

The first problem was they couldn’t get confirmation of my MLS. I never learned what the problem was but I blame someone either misspelling my name or not knowing what to do with hyphenation. In the end, Mountain View accepted a scan of my transcript. The next hurdle was my background check. I had sent back the fingerprint form via 1st class mail. I have never had any problems with the USPS. In fact, sometimes they managed to deliver mail to me when almost everything on the address was wrong. However, two weeks had passed since I had sent off the fingerprints and Mountain View still hadn’t received it. Mountain View sent me another copy of the form and requested I send it back with a tracking number this time. So I went for a second time for fingerprinting and emailed Mountain View that it should arrive on Saturday. As luck would have it, my original fingerprint form arrived with an apology note from the USPS attached the next day. Mountain View submitted the fingerprint form and we started waiting and waiting and waiting some more.

My last day working for High Plains Library District was May 20. Leaving HPLD was harder than leaving anything else in Colorado. I had been working there for almost twelve years and worked with a bunch of fantastic people.

My last week in Colorado was spent running around doing useful stuff. On May 30 I flew out to San Francisco with the kids and our au pair. Jaeger stayed behind to oversee the rest of the moving process. Our furniture showed up a week later. Jaeger’s mom was helping out with childcare and also helped tremendously with the unpacking. I spent the next several weeks unpacking and trying to fit everything into our smaller rental house.

Every so often I would get an update from Mountain View saying they were still waiting for the background check to come back.

Before I left my High Plains manager had expressed interest in hiring me for specific jobs on a contract basis. Since nothing was happening on the Mountain View front, I decided to explore setting myself up as an independent contractor. San Francisco requires small businesses, including independent contractors, to get a business license. The problem with the business license was that the “business address” was publicly searchable. My address is probably pretty easy to find but I didn’t think I should just give it to the public. So I spent some time getting an alternate address for business purposes. Eventually I got everything lined up and High Plains had me work on a couple of small projects.

Since I still hadn’t heard back from Mountain View I started exploring other job options. There weren’t any interesting librarian jobs in my area. I started considering what types of jobs I could do outside of librarianship and applied to a couple of options. By this point the unpacking was mostly done and even with job searching and contract work I wasn’t as busy as normal. This turned out to be unhealthy for me and eventually I realized I was getting depressed.

Once I realized I had a problem I decided I should prioritize exercise more and also find some personal development projects. I had been contemplating learning Ruby, Perl, PHP, or Python for many years. All of these are used within the library world but there isn’t one used significantly more than the others. Basically, everyone uses their favorite language which means we don’t work well with each other. As a result, I had never figured out which language would be most useful. However, when I was job searching one of the interesting sounding areas was data analytics. Many of these job postings had Python as either a required or desired qualification. I had just come up with a plan for learning Python when I got a call back from Mountain View.

Whoever Mountain View submitted my background check to did not like how Boulder had filled out the fingerprint form so they were rejecting it, 59 days after it was first submitted. Since I was now in California Mountain View asked if I could come down and get fingerprinted by their police department. I agreed and went down the next Monday. They thanked me for my patience and said results should be back within 10 days but they would request it be fast-tracked. I nodded politely but was dubious. Much to my surprise I got a call the next day with a verbal offer. After a week or so of negotiations I accepted the job. Somewhat ironically, the day after I accepted the job I was contacted for a interview with one of the other companies I had applied for.

I’ve been working at the Mountain View Public Library for two weeks and am pretty happy. So far all my coworkers have been really nice and my manager is wonderfully organized. I am really impressed with the amount of effort and thought she put into getting me up to speed. The biggest downside at the moment is my commute. It takes a little less than 1 hour to drive down and a little more than 1 hour to drive back. I don’t mind the driving, it’s actually really nice to spend 2 hours every day by myself3. However, it does make child care much more complicated4 and all things being equal there’s other stuff I would prefer to be able to do during that time period. I have contemplated taking BART and then Caltrain so I could work on other stuff while commuting. However, I just can’t fit that extra 40 minutes it would take everyday into my schedule.

Overall, I have been very lucky with how everything turned out. I felt a little adrift not getting an offer before the background check was complete but it was nice to have time to unpack the house. I have also learned that I really like the structure and mental stimulation of a full time job. In addition, I need to work more on procuring skills outside my current specialty. I either need to get experience supervising others and go up the managerial path or focus on improving and expanding my tech skills. For now, I’m not sure what path my career will take but I am happy to once again be working in an environment I love.

  1. This is why it’s nice to work for a while before getting pregnant. If you’re valuable, and your work realizes that, people are willing to do a lot to keep you.
  2. Excepting the occasional email, of course ๐Ÿ™‚
  3. Another interesting perk of driving is being able to oogle Google’s self-driving cars. I usually see at least one on the way to work and one on the way home. One day I had a Tesla in front of me and a self-driving car beside me and I felt like I was living in the future.
  4. I am away from home 10 1/2 hours a day so we have to hire extra help so our au pair doesn’t go over her 45 hours/week maximum.