Category Archives: Updates

Work and School from Home: Learning about Racism

I am bad at talking about racism. I never know the right thing to say so I tend to stay silent and watch and listen. I’m also too timid, which I understand is a privilege many people don’t have. However, I feel like my sporadic updates about COVID-19 would be incomplete without acknowledging our additional crisis caused by racism.

I’ve watched COVID-19 magnify existing problems. For example, organizations bad at communication become even worse at communicating. It’s also widening the differences between our socioeconomic classes1 as well as racial groups2, particularly for black people.

Then, police officers murdered George Floyd3. This is too common 4. Protests erupted, including in Seattle.

Calvin and I now share an office. A couple of days ago, while I was reading a Seattle Times article on the protests, I must have made a sound because Calvin asked me what I was doing. I told him I was reading about the protests and he asked me why there was a car on fire. For a moment, my mind went blank. How do I explain?

A while back Calvin and I watched a movie on Netflix called See You Yesterday. We had just recently watched Back to the Future and this movie seemed like a good continuation. The central plot of See You Yesterday is a teenage girl’s quest to change the past and save her brother from being shot by the police. Commonsense Media suggests it’s appropriate for ages 15+. Calvin was 10 at the time we watched it together. I wasn’t sure if Calvin was old enough to see a film with police violence. However, as I was looking for articles about the movie I ran across one, I can’t remember which one, which pointed out that black children don’t have the luxury to be ignorant. So, we watched the movie. It was really good.

So, when Calvin asked me what the protests were about, I asked him if he remembered watching See You Yesterday. He said he did. I then told him that while the movie was obviously fictional, police killing unarmed black people was not, it had happened many times before. The protests were because another murder had happened and people are justifiably enraged.

As I said, I don’t do a good job talking about racism and I’m also deeply ignorant about so much of its impact on people. However, I felt I needed to give Calvin some additional context. When in doubt, I turn to books. So, I started looking for audiobooks that could help explain it to Calvin. Eventually, I ran across a list from The Book Table, an independent book store, that had A Black Lives Matter Reading List. It included Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. The reviews were good so I bought it5.

Calvin and I both listened to it. It’s for a juvenile/teen audience so is substantially shorter than the book it’s adapted from, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. As I listened, it reminded me of when I was an adult reference librarian and was asked for basic information about a specific topic. Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to find a book in the children’s area explaining the topic. Stamped is both engaging and informative. I think it gave Calvin and I a lot to think about.

  1. About Half Of Lower-income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due To Covid-19
    Kim Parker-Juliana Horowitz-Anna Brown – https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/04/21/about-half-of-lower-income-americans-report-household-job-or-wage-loss-due-to-covid-19/
  2. Race and Income Shape Covid-19 Risk: Sph: Boston University
    Samuel lhemdi – https://www.bu.edu/sph/2020/04/28/race-and-income-shape-covid-19-risk/
  3. Four Minneapolis Officers Are Fired After Video Shows One Kneeling on Neck Of Black Man Who Later Died
    Dalton Bennett-Brittany Shammas-Katie Mettler-Timothy Bella – https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/four-minneapolis-officers-are-fired-after-video-shows-one-kneeling-on-neck-of-black-man-who-later-died/
  4. A Decade Of Watching Black People Die
    https://www.npr.org/2020/05/29/865261916/a-decade-of-watching-black-people-die
  5. At the time, the library didn’t own the audiobook version. Less than 48 hours later, they currently own 10 copies but there are 47 holds

Work and School from Home: School

The First Week
On Wednesday, March 11, Seattle Public Schools announced they were closing for at least two weeks starting the next day. I had half been expecting schools to close but I thought they would finish the week and then close. I think closing so quickly threw everyone off-guard.

Within about three hours we had an email from Calvin’s teacher. She said all kids were coming home with a packet of what they could work on and gave guidance on how long kids should work on each subject to mirror school time. Wednesday evening I moved the kitchen desk and computer down to the office where I was working and came up with a schedule for Calvin.
Mine and Calvin's desks
I decided it would probably work best if I tried to coordinate Calvin’s schedule with mine. My first attempt was pretty structured.

  • 9:00-10:00 – Math
  • 10:00-10:15 – Walk around the block
  • 10:15-11:15 – Reading
  • 11:15-12:45 – Lunch/Free Time
  • 12:45-1:15 – Longer Walk
  • 1:15-2:00 – Writing
  • 2:00-2:15 – Walk around the block
  • 2:15-3:00 – Science/Social Studies
  • 3:00-3:30 – Art/Music
  • 3:30-4:30 – Free Time
  • 4:30-5:00 – House hold cleanup time
  • 5:00-6:00 – Free Time

Julian’s daycare was still open but Jaeger and I talked and decided since everyone else was home, it probably made sense to keep Julian home also, starting Friday. We sent Julian to daycare on Thursday in order to get Calvin use to the new routine without Julian around.

Wednesday evening I talked to Calvin about the plan and requested to see his school packet. Calvin had no idea what I was talking about. I asked to see everything he brought home and did find several things for him to work on but no math. I emailed his teacher for clarification and she apologized for the confusion and said she and the other teachers had only an hour’s notice on Wednesday to prepare packets for the kids. However, Calvin could practice his math by going to an online site.

Thursday morning dawned and at 9:00 I dragged Calvin down to the office. He was visibly dismayed to discover this wasn’t just going to be time off from school. The first school day at home went ok. Calvin complained a lot about the all the walking but settled down with just a bit of grumbling. Though, he was ready to go back to regular school by the middle of the day.

One bright spot of Thursday was Creative Coding, Calvin’s in-person coding class. They managed one of the best pivots I’ve seen during this crisis. They saw the warning signs and came up with a contingency plan by March 4. Just hours after the school closures were announced, on March 11, they sent out an email saying that class was going to continue online and information on how that would work. On Thursday, they emailed out additional online classes students could sign up for. I immediately signed Calvin up for an additional class. I was tempted to sign up for more but decided 2 a week was probably enough. Plus, I didn’t want to hog all the spaces.

Work was a different story. I have a lot of experience working from home. After Calvin was born I spent 7 years working from home full-time. However, working from home in the middle of a burgeoning crisis, while also supervising a child’s school work, is not a normal work from home situation. It was probably one of my least productive working days. I spent the majority of the time waiting to see what our library was going to do while I contingency planned with other libraries on the best way to configure the integrated library system for a shut-down, or partially shut down, of the library. That evening, a notice was posted that, at end of day Friday, the library would be closing to the public till at least April 13.1.

Friday was hectic. Calvin was still resistant to the new school at home experience and I had a lot of systems work to shut down the library to the public. Jaeger and I did discover some bugs with all of us working from home. For example, I was relatively use to the experience of ignoring screaming around me to focus on work. Jaeger was not use to working with kids in the house and did not appreciate being given the opportunity to learn. After some consultation, I told the children that if they were going to be rambunctious during Calvin’s freetime, they had to stay on the first floor of the house. Overall, the school schedule still seemed to mostly work.

The Second Week
Things started unraveling the next Monday. Calvin moved from grudging acceptance to whining obstruction. I had several failures on Monday. First, I had decided to have Calvin work on art and music on alternate days. Monday was a music day. However, I was working so I couldn’t do any actual music instruction. I decided that I could give him a book about music and call it music appreciation. This didn’t work well. Second, he was suppose to do some sort of “social studies”. Again, my solution was to find a book roughly about the right subject. Third, Calvin truly hated how much I was dragging him out the house for boring walks.

Tuesday’s successes included:

  • Learning I could login to Schoology, the online software Calvin’s school uses, and view what his teacher posted to the class myself. This made it much, much easier to keep track of what Calvin was “suppose” to be working on.
  • Calvin video conferencing with his classmates. This seemed to help a bit with the social isolation. This involved learning real life skills such as keeping your mic on mute unless you were talking.
  • Art. Calvin’s clearly loved art and, after watching a video, drew a great sketch of a Mandalorian.

Tuesday’s problems included:

  • Math – The prior week Calvin had grumbled about doing math. Tuesday he was outright rebellious and spent the whole time allocated for it whining.
  • Exercise – The same thing happened with exercise. This concerned me as we didn’t have a lot of options for aerobic exercises in our house and I was worried that Calvin would become unhealthy.
  • Schedule – I learned that if I didn’t set an alarm for each “school period”, both Calvin and I would forget and he wouldn’t get through everything I had intended.
  • My Work – I was spending so much time trying to manage Calvin that I was having trouble concentrating on my paying job.

After supper I called a meeting with Jaeger and Calvin to discuss the school problems and request suggestions. Both Jaeger and Calvin thought it was completely unreasonable to have math first thing in the morning at 9:00 AM. I also compromised on exercise and told Calvin he didn’t need to come on the short walks with me but I still wanted him to do the lunch walk.

The prior Thursday we had ordered Calvin a chromebook computer. This was because we discovered that my old all-in-one desktop, which was adequate for basic internet connectivity, did not work for video conferencing. We had an external camera for the all-in-one but there weren’t any Windows 10 drivers. We had managed the first coding class by having Calvin login to two sessions: one on the computer so the teacher could see his screen and the other on the ipad so Calvin could talk and the teacher could see his face. However, it wasn’t ideal. Jaeger did some rush researching and determined that a Chromebook would probably meet all our needs and wasn’t excessively expensive. The Chromebook arrived on Tuesday and Calvin was very excited to have his own laptop computer. Jaeger set the computer with Calvin’s Google Family Link account as well as giving me a parent login for it.

Wednesday we started the revised schedule. Reading now became the first subject of the day which seemed to agree with Calvin better. At Calvin’s 10AM video conference, we started running into the limitations of the Family Link setup. Calvin was trying to join his class via Zoom when we discovered that child accounts couldn’t install apps or extensions. Jaeger investigated and verified the problem. He suggested having Calvin use the guest account to get around the problem temporarily which did seem to work, though it wasn’t ideal.

The Third Week
By the third week we had settled into a schedule that was roughly working and allowed Calvin to get some education while I also managed to do productive paid work. I relented on requiring him to take walks with me which also seemed to help his mood. Instead, I suggested he do some basic weight exercises while he watch YouTube. Not ideal but at least it was some level of movement.

For reading time, Calvin started reading The Complete Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbook. I was amused when Calvin pointed out that it had a section on Flu Pandemic. With the exception of masks2, the advice was exactly what everyone was recommending for the COVID-19 situation. I find it particularly amusing to see such a relevant section since previously Calvin had been reading about how to escape an alien abduction.

Thursday was Calvin’s birthday. Not good timing for a birthday. I decided to take the day off work and not require Calvin to do any school work. Instead, I tried to make the day as decadent as possible. We started the day with Chocolate waffles, topped with Nutella, whipped cream, and strawberries. After breakfast, we started watching the original Star Wars trilogy and had pizza for lunch. I had forgotten Calvin had coding class, which he wanted to attend, so he took a break from Star Wars for that. We we had a supper of fruit salad and cake and ended the evening by finishing up the original Star Wars trilogy. While I’m sure it’s not the birthday Calvin would have preferred, he seemed reasonably content with it.

Calvin and Julian eating chocolate waffles.

While I had been wrestling with figuring out how to make school work for Calvin, our au pair had been trying to figure out how to keep Julian entertained. Initially, they had been going to the playground but Seattle had made playgrounds off-limits the prior weekend. I invited him on my walks, and he’d come occasionally, but that still left a lot of time when Jaeger, Calvin, and I were occupied. He did a couple of FaceTime chats with his cousin. Our au pair also ended up playing what looked like endless Catan Junior games with Julian. I inquired of a mom’s group what other games we might try and ordered Sleeping Queens as well as Ticket to Ride: First Journey.

The Fourth Week
The Seattle School District had been very leery of providing online education during the school closure due to equity issues. In practice, this seems to have meant that how much education support was happening was very dependent on the school/teacher. On March 23, The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) released revised guidelines saying that education had to continue during the closure. The Seattle School District came up with a plan that involved online education for those that were able and paper packets and TV lectures for those that were not. Calvin was quite miffed to discover that learning up to this point had been somewhat optional.

From our perspective, the school district’s change of plans didn’t really affect Calvin’s classes. His teacher was already doing roughly what they were recommending so she just made a few tweaks. The one big difference I noticed is that with so many users Schoology was much slower and was obviously having capacity issues. I tried having Calvin listen to a couple of the district recorded sessions. The teachers obviously were trying very hard, and I thought the production quality was pretty decent. However, Calvin didn’t find it engaging at all so I eventually gave up.

For some of the school subjects, such as reading time, I required Calvin to spend the entire time doing the assigned task. However, for other school work that had more finite assignments, I let him do other things until it was time for the next school subject. Calvin spent most of this extra time, and much of his middle-of-the-day freetime, playing games on the Scratch website that other users had coded.

We continued to try to figure out how to make the Google Family Link do what we needed. One of the biggest problem was that regular YouTube was blocked and only YouTube Kids3 was available. This works fine for some things, such as the YouTube art videos his teacher was linking to. However, it worked less well for many other YouTube videos she suggested he watch. Our best work around was either to have him watch them on the iPad min, or to log out of his account and login to the Chromebook guest account.

The Fifth Week
One of the advantages of both Washington and California having school at home is that suddenly many Google parents were testing out Family Link. Monday morning Jaeger let me know that we should now be able to install the official Zoom extension in Calvin’s profile.

My original schedule had evolved over time and by week five looked something like this:

  • 9:00 – Reading
  • 10:00 – Class Video Conference
  • 11:00 – Respond to class chat question
  • 11:15 – Freetime
  • 12:00 – Exercise (weights or step)
  • 12:30 – Freetime
  • 1:00 – Writing
  • 1:30 – Science
  • 2:30 – Math
  • 3:00 – Art
  • 3:30 – Freetime

While Calvin and I had settled into a reasonable daily schedule, Julian started getting more clingy. It finally occurred to me that, while our au pair was doing a fantastic job, Julian felt left out because everyone else in the family was “working”. After a disastrous Tuesday, where Julian spent the last hour of my working day sitting on my lap, I decided I needed another plan. I told Julian anytime he wanted to be in the office he’d have to do “school work”. Previously, I had loaded up a whole bunch of audiobooks and preschool apps on our old iPad and I removed the less educational and more game-like apps. So, when Julian visited us I’d either have him do something on the iPad, or draw a picture. That approach seemed to work ok.

I had initially tried the district’s recorded resources and decided they didn’t work for Calvin. However, his teacher assigned the Ecosystems video and worksheets so I had Calvin try them. Neither he nor I could muster much enthusiasm for them so I had him watch Netflix’s Our Planet instead. It wasn’t teaching exactly the same lesson but it did cover how everything is interrelated which I felt was roughly the Ecosystems module’s message.

The Sixth Week
Calvin had spring break from April 13-17 which was a little weird. I wanted to keep Calvin occupied so I came up with an idea to have a “books to movie” week. The idea being that he’d read the book and then we’d watch the movie. That didn’t quite work out. I also decided to only work half days that week so I could spend more times with the kids, particularly Julian. That didn’t really work out either. I was hoping to convince Julian to go down to the Gas Works Park parking lot and practice riding his peddle bike but I never was able to convince him. So, it wasn’t a terrible week but wasn’t a particularly great week either.

The Seventh Week
I was relieved when spring break ended and Calvin went “back” to school. I had been a bit nervous about whether or not Calvin would be resistant to doing school work again but he didn’t spend too much time grumbling. I think he enjoyed being able to videoconference with his class again. His teacher changed the schedule so Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays were all-class video conferences. However, Tuesdays and Thursdays she would break the class into smaller groups. During one of the small video conferences they talked about a new assignment where they were suppose to write a “Farewall Letter to Jamestown”. It sounds like they were suppose to emulate older speech patterns and I heard Calvin say “Huzzah!” a fair amount.

Julian’s preschool decided it would start doing some Zoom conferences and they sent a schedule out which worked out to about 1/2 hour of video conference a day. As this was the first week there were some bumps. I’m not sure how much education Julian got out of the experience but it did break up his day a bit and I believe he enjoyed having a video conference just like everyone else in the family.

My main focus during this time has been to try to keep Calvin on track with reading, math, and exercise. I view reading and math as fundamental to the rest of education and exercise as fundamental to a healthy life. I felt ok about Calvin’s math and reading but still wasn’t particularly comfortable with the amount of exercise Calvin was getting. He was doing some but I didn’t feel like it was enough. However, this week we finally had an exercise breakthrough. I can’t remember whether Calvin or I suggested it. However, he started walking on the treadmill while watching YouTube. Thus entertained, he averaged at least an hour of walking a day which made me feel better about his activity level.

Calvin has been enjoying the art assignments every day and continues to put his own unique spin on them. For example, Calvin’s teacher suggested his class draw a glass of lemonade. Calvin drew the glass and then expanded it to show a zombie holding the glass.
Zombie holding a lemonade glass.

In Conclusion
On April 6, The Seattle Public Schools announced students would continue to learn from home for the rest of the school year. As a result, we have quite a few weeks left in this new weird school at home experience. It’s certainly not my first choice of schooling for Calvin but it’s the only option we have at the moment. All in all, we have our ups and downs but so far seem to be surviving.

  1. This resulted in many desperate people flocking to the library on Friday. It even got national coverage with U.S. News reporting that we had 8 times our normal Friday checkouts (https://www.usnews.com/news/cities/articles/2020-03-17/coronavirus-closes-libraries-in-seattle-around-the-nation).
  2. The book recommended wearing masks. However, as of March 25 public health officials were still discouraging healthy people from wearing masks in order to save them for sick people and healthcare workers.
  3. Among other reasons, Calvin doesn’t like YouTube Kids because shortcuts don’t work the way they do with regular YouTube, including the very standard spacebar key to pause and restart videos.

Work and School from Home: The Beginning

Wow. This month has been surreal.

On Monday, February 24 I woke up with a sore throat. By that evening, I had a feeling I was getting sick. I woke up in the night and took my temperature. It was 99 which is high for me1. I emailed my manager I was sick and went back to bed. Jaeger was gone to Mountain View. However, our au pair was already scheduled to start at 7:00, because that is usually when I leave for work, so I didn’t have to get up to get the kids ready for school. We knew there had been a case of COVID-19 in Washington but, at the time, they were saying only people who had contact with people from Wuhan were at risk. By the end of the day I was feeling better and didn’t have a fever anymore.

On Wednesday, February 25, my symptoms had morphed into coughing and a runny nose. However, I had no fever2 and believed my energy was back so I went to work. I also went to work on Thursday but at that point COVID-19 was starting to make a bigger splash and people were obviously nervous when I coughed. So, I requested working from home on Friday.

In general, my library is not supportive of working from home. However, the IT department is a little more flexible because it is very useful to do some things on off-hours and weekends and no one wants to spend time commuting on a weekend if they don’t have to. However, there are still rules. I can request to work from home for one day in the future. I cannot request to work from home for multiple days at a time. At the beginning of my day I have to send out what I’m planning to work on. At the end of the day, I have to send a detailed3 report of what I actually worked on. While the rules seem excessive and can sometimes be inconvenient, I’ve never had my work from home request declined. Though, I usually don’t request it more than one day a week.

Over the weekend, King County Health Department reported it’s first COVID-19 death. Library employees started expressing concerns about everyone getting together for staff day, which was planned for the following Tuesday.

On Monday, March 2, I was still coughing and people were getting even more worried about COVID-19. I once again requested to work from home and it was granted. The intranet thread about COVID-19 and staff day concerns had exploded. At the end of day, administration had posted that Staff Day was still on for Tuesday but anyone who felt sick should stay home. I was feeling fine but still coughing a lot which I did not think would go over well around large crowds of people. So, I requested to work from home and once again, it was granted.

My cough had become less noticeable, especially if I constantly sucked hard candy, so I went in to work on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, the King County Healthy department said that anyone who could work from home should. However, my work didn’t support working from home during the Seattle Squeeze so I doubted they’d pay attention this time either. As a result, I went to work on Thursday. On Thursday, the city sent out a memo saying that employees were encouraged to work from home following the alternative work arrangement process that had been put in place during the Seattle Squeeze the previous year. Also on Thursday, our IT manager became increasingly concerned about the COVID-19 situation and said that anyone who could work from home should consider it. Except, this wasn’t supported library-wide yet so we still needed go through the normal process of requesting to work from home. Thus I requested, and was granted, permission to work from home on Friday.

Late evening Wednesday Jaeger’s work had sent out an email saying that Seattle employees should strongly consider working from home. Except Jaeger didn’t see it till he arrived at work on Thursday. Before he left, his employer had increased the strength of their work from home recommendation and said that anyone who wanted to take their equipment, such as monitors, home could do so. That decided Jaeger so he packed his desk into his car to take home.

Thursday is our normal date night. I get off work before Jaeger and usually walk to his work which is about a 1/2 hour walk. There were already signs that the big tech employers were strongly encouraging their employees to stay home. While people were still on the street, there was significantly less traffic than usual and the closer I got to South Lake Union, the sparser traffic became. On my walk, I passed a Girl Scout trying to sell cookies. Almost no one was going past her table, which was completely full looking. I stopped and bought some Thin Mints, even though I almost never buy Girl Scout cookies. I continued on my way and passed an salon that did eyebrow waxings. Two employees were sitting with nothing to do. I had been thinking of getting my eyebrows waxed for a while but I haven’t found a regular place in Seattle yet. So, I popped in and got my eyebrows waxed.

I met Jaeger and we went to eat at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. The fascinating thing about this restaurant is they didn’t appear SDA. However, they used Loma Linda and Worthington fake meats in their food. Nowadays there are so many fake meat options, including amazing choices from Taiwan4, that I don’t expect to see traditional SDA fake meat. While eating, we discussed the prospect of both of us working from home for an extended period of time. Jaeger almost always goes into work5 and I don’t normally telecommute more than once a week, if that. Fortunately, since Jaeger’s employer let him take his monitor home, we weren’t going to have a monitor crisis. However, we decided we did need some additional supplies and so headed to Fred Meyer.

The store was an interesting experience. They had most of what we were looking for but some weird gaps. I had groceries delivered the prior Monday and my shopper said he couldn’t find any frozen mangoes, so I decided to see if any were back in stock. The frozen vegetable/fruit aisle had been decimated. I knew people were hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap. I didn’t realize that frozen vegetables were also a thing. Interestingly, I did pass several bottles of soap6.

Once home, I started reconfiguring the office. Our office doubles as our guest bedroom, and up-till-now, may have gotten more use as a guest bedroom. I prefer working from our bedroom because there’s more natural light and the view is better. However, since Jaeger wakes up later than me, it made sense that he would work in the bedroom. The desk in the bedroom was too small for Jaeger’s two giant monitors so we swapped it with the larger desk that was in the kitchen. Both looked better in their new positions so we probably should have done that all along. I surveyed the downstairs office and decided additional lighting would improve it. However, we didn’t have any extra lighting. I tried stringing Christmas lights and it did improve the vibe, but didn’t offer much additional lighting. I tried to convince myself I didn’t need more light but that lasted only a day after which I ordered another light from Amazon7. We also only had one office chair, and I contemplated buying another, but eventually decided I didn’t want to spend even more money and settled on using a dining room chair.

I got permission to work from home Friday-Tuesday. On Wednesday, March 11, I went back into work because I had a couple of in-person meetings which hadn’t been cancelled yet. Plus, I had a couple of library holds to pick up which were going to expire soon. Truthfully, that may have been the main reason I went in. The IT office was empty. Eventually, some people drifted in. At around 10am, administration posted an announcement to our intranet saying that they realized people who could work from home should and so they were going to start determining who might be able to work from home.

Our IT manager sent out a link to the livestream of Governor Inslee’s press conference about COVID-19 so I listened to it with one ear while I continued to work. As expected, he announced that gatherings of more than 25 people were now prohibited in King County. However, he also said that schools should start making plans for what to do if they were shut down in the next couple of days. At that, I started paying more attention and messaged Jaeger that we should come up with a contingency plan for if schools were going to be closed. Jaeger was not listening to the press conference but forwarded me a tweet from the governor saying he was not currently calling for schools to close. However, listening to the actual speech, I was pretty convinced it was a matter of when, not if.

Two hours later, The Seattle Public Schools announced they were closing for at least two weeks. Right about the time Jaeger sent me the link to the announcement, I heard some loud exclamation from my supervisor’s office (my supervisor is parent to four school-aged kids). I went to my supervisor’s office, we exchanged stunned looks, and then I took my lunch break and went down to the children’s section of the library and checked out 25 books. I probably would have checked out more but that’s all I could fit in my backpack and spare grocery bag I had with me and I was taking the bus back home.

Our IT manager strongly recommended that anyone still in the office that could work from home go home. So, after checking out books, I headed back home and finished the day working from home. Though, I spent most of the rest of the afternoon in a daze.

  1. My normal temp is 97.9. The last time I had a fever was probably sometime before Julian was born.
  2. I’ve been trained to believe one should go to school/work unless one is vomiting or has a fever. Obviously, this is not the protocol I’m following now.
  3. As in, I can’t say I worked on tickets, I have to note the ticket numbers I worked on and say what I did.
  4. I know that Taiwan’s vegetarian history predates that of SDAs, but SDA is the one I grew up with.
  5. For being a tech employer with amazing conferencing tools, they’re weirdly antithetical to working from home.
  6. Which I did not get because I usually get the giant refill containers of soap which was still mostly full.
  7. A couple of months ago I bought a light for Julian’s room. He has an overhead light but it weirdly is in a corner of his room which makes for odd shadows. I like this light because it’s a warm LED and also has three brightness settings. Julian likes it on the lowest setting when he sleeps.

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.

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.

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.

Crazy Winter

Jaeger has now been in San Francisco since the beginning of February. For the most part, I have been in Colorado. My prior schedule ended up being a bit optimistic. With job hunting, house selling, and figuring out San Francisco, my evenings have been overflowing. Most nights I pretend listening to an audio book as I drift off to sleep counts as “me time.” However, this is ok. It’s only temporary.

At the end of February Calvin and I took a “preview” trip to San Francisco. Jaeger’s mom watched Julian while we were gone. The original plan was to use one day for rental hunting and the other day to convince Calvin that San Francisco would be a fun place to live. However, Ted was able to find a rental ahead of time. Instead, I spent most of one day measuring the rental for my SketchUp model while Jaeger entertained Calvin. Then, on Sunday, we visited Alcatraz and the Exploratorium.

Coincidentally, the major user conference for our ILS was in San Francisco this year. I abandoned the kids back in Colorado to Jaeger’s mom and stayed with Jaeger during the conference. Back in the fall I had volunteered to present two presentations. At the time, it had seemed like a good idea. However, with everything else going on in our lives it was a challenge to find time to properly prepare. I finished the prep for my last presentation on the flight to SF. The conference turned out really good. In addition, I enjoyed spending time alone with Jaeger, the first since Julian was born.

After the conference Jaeger flew home with me and we immediately left for a spring break ski vacation near Breckenridge.

Originally, my work thought they could continue to employee me once I moved to San Francisco. However, after more research, they realized I would be considered a California employee which would have awkward tax complications. So, I’ve been job hunting. Wednesday, during the ski vacation, I was invited to interview the following Monday. Jaeger and I made some quick flight adjustments so he could stay with the kids while I went back to California.

The interview went very well. It was very strange having our rental house to myself. The last time I was by myself was at the Computers in Libraries conference back in 2012. (Which, now that I think about it, was the last time we were selling our house.) It was really lovely being by myself and it sounds like Jaeger survived and did a fantastic job with the kids.

As soon as I got back home it was time to get the house ready to sell. This last weekend our house went on the market. At our realtor’s suggestion I rented an Airbnb place for the weekend so we wouldn’t have to constantly be leaving the house for showings. This turned out to be excellent advice because we had 25 showings Friday-Saturday with an additional 3 showings first thing Monday morning. Offers were due to our realtor by noon on Monday and we received good ones. We picked our two favorites and now are under contract with a backup if the first one falls through.

As our realtor was leaving, after discussing the offers, she told me, “now the hard part is over and you can sit back and relax.” Unfortunately, getting ready for the house showing meant I neglected many other things so now I’m desperately trying to catch-up before something else shows up that needs attention.

Jaeger is coming for a visit this weekend. I’m hoping to get some quality relaxing time tomorrow, in between taking care of Julian, before starting to mark off items from my to-do list. It’ll be interesting to see what next week brings.

Interesting Times

When this year started we expected that our major event of the year would be Julian’s birth. That did indeed happen. However, a bit more has also happened.

Towards the end of July Jaeger’s employer announced they were going to layoff about 15% of its workforce. Unfortunately, while they announced they were going to do layoffs, they didn’t actually decide who was going to get laid off until September. Thus, we had several months of uncertainty. I do not do well with uncertainty and dealt with the situation by trying to avoid thinking about it. This mostly worked but did leave a little gear in my head spinning without giving it the ability to do anything useful.

A Google recruited contacted Jaeger on the same day layoffs were announced. We’re not sure if it was coincidence or not (they have been contacting him a couple of times a year for a while now). However, possibly mostly to kill time, Jaeger decided to start the Google interview process. The job he was being recruited for was in San Francisco.

September came and Jaeger was told he was getting laid off. While we always knew it was a possibility it was still a bit of a shock. However, his last day wasn’t going to be till January and the severance package was pretty decent. So while it wasn’t the best news it wasn’t a big problem either.

By October Jaeger had progressed to an on-site interview with Google. He survived the interview only to hear they wanted another follow-up interview but could do this one in Boulder.

In November Google offered Jaeger a job. Of course this was exciting but it also meant this stopped being playing and meant we had to actually seriously think about moving our household. There were a number of drawbacks to the proposal. First, our original plan was to move to Asia at the end of the school year. If Jaeger accepted the Google offer this would put that plan on hold for at least two years. Second, San Francisco is fun but also really, really expensive. The Google salary would be extremely generous for most locations in the country but once you adjust for cost of living and taxes, our family will be earning less in San Francisco than we do in Colorado1. However, I did get permission from my employer to telecommute from California so at least I wouldn’t have to go hunting for another job.

Eventually, Jaeger decided to accept the Google offer. He got his current employer to pull in his last day so he’ll finish working at his current employer in December, take a break, and start work at Google in February. The rest of us will move to San Francisco at the end of the school year. I’ve started mapping out plans in my head for how to handle being the sole parent in Colorado. I’m also looking at our house and making a list of everything that needs to be done before it’s ready to go on the market to be sold.

Well, that’s pretty much all the facts. As to how I feel, the answer is complicated.

I’ve always enjoyed moving. I had a great deal of fun moving to different colleges and kept a fantastic spreadsheet that allowed me to graduate on time even though I changed majors and colleges many times. I’ve now been in Colorado for 13 years and am ready to move on. At this point we’ve accumulated a lot of stuff and it makes moving harder. One of the downsides of San Francisco is we’ll probably be living in a much smaller house. However, I’m hoping to use this opportunity to really reduce the amount of useless stuff we have floating around. My biggest fear centers around never living in a big city before. While I do ok with people, I much prefer being surrounded by trees. Even so, I’m relieved that my brain finally has a problem that has been refined enough I can start working on solutions.


In other news, Julian continues to develop. He can now crawl rapidly, stand, and looks like he might be getting ready to walk any day now. He has taken one or two very shaky steps but still has a way to go before he’s actually walking. Of course, Julian is still only 8 months old so he has a lot of time left before we would expect him to walk. Julian has also recently starting playing with solid food. Given Calvin’s extreme slowness in learning how to eat solid foods, I still had to puree foods when Calvin was 1-year-old, I was also expecting Julian to be slow. However, just this week he has started enjoying soft potato, sweet potato, Cheerios, and Asian pear. He hasn’t got the chewing/swallowing thing down completely but is shoveling food enthusiastically into his month.

Unfortunately, Julian still wakes up during the night. Calvin was sleeping through the night by 3 months but Julian still requires at least one bottle, and sometimes two. However, just within this last week he’s finally started eating better during the day so I’m hoping his nighttime eating might taper off soon.

Calvin excels at being a great big brother and is doing well at school. He finally seems to have gotten over the reading hump problem we were having last year and now reads for fun when we find the right (i.e. interesting) books for him.

Overall, it’s been a very exciting year so far and next year will also be full of new experiences for our family.

  1. At least for the first year. Their bonuses and stock do look generous but our family has always preferred to live on the guaranteed base salary and use bonuses for fun stuff but we’re going to need to adjust that somewhat for Google.

Hugos, Au Pairs, Babies, and Neil Gaiman

Yes, I’ve been very bad at posting. Also, I’ve read almost no books since Christmas. The exceptions are a couple of baby-related non-fiction books. Most of this is because I’ve been going to bed about the same time as Calvin. This is proving problematic for Hugo nominations.

Speaking of Hugo nominations, at the moment there are three novels I’m going to nominate: Ancillary Sword, The Martian (which may or may not be eligible??), and Lock In. My thoughts on these three novels mostly mirror Jaeger’s but I suspect I liked Lock In better than he did just because I read mysteries more than he does. There are several more I feel like I should read before nominations close but I’m not sure what the odds are.

I have been listening to audiobooks but mainly as a way to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. There’s so much stuff going around in my head about baby that it would be very easy to spend the whole night panicking/planning. Fortunately, the audiobooks are working out wonderfully. I start the audiobook and within about 10 minutes I’m out. Unfortunately, the audiobook keeps going. I really wish I could hook it up to some sort of wearable that would shut it off after I was obviously sleeping. I’ve only been listing to old favorites, mainly books by Bujold and Pratchett.

So, what has actually happened in my life for the past month? The most exciting thing really is what hasn’t happened. I’ve passed the infamous 32 week and 2 day mark without going into preterm labor with this baby. I’m now well into week 33 and still feeling pretty optimistic about my chances of making it to full term.

Since I did not go into preterm labor at the 32 week mark, I did make it to my church baby shower this time. Heidi, who hosted the shower, did a huge amount of work and it was a spectacular shower. We also got a lot of much-needed items. This week I’ve been going through the list and figuring out the remaining items we know we’ll need and the best place to get them. Things are coming together. The one thing I’m stuck on is the changing table. You will find countless websites saying that changing tables are useless. I beg to differ. While it is true I ended up changing Calvin on all sorts of surfaces, in the middle of the night it’s really nice to have a changing table next to the crib where you know everything you need is in a specific place. My first thought was to go for Ikea’s Sniglar changing table. It’s very basic and doesn’t cost too much. The downside is it has very little storage and, for some reason, Ikea is no longer selling the changing pad that fits it. It is very small so standard changing pads don’t fit. My next thought was to repurpose some of the cubicle pieces we have lying around the house. We could use a standard changing pad on the desk and could fit diaper pails and garbage underneath the desk. In addition, we could hang additional storage baskets from the cubicle. However, Jaeger seems dubious about this solution. So, that’s one item I’m still wrestling with.

Jaeger and I are also seriously looking at getting an au pair. We’ve had two interviews with potential candidates so far. I think we can see the clear advantages but we also find the concept a bit intimidating. On the other hand, it’s less intimidating than actually moving to China/Taiwan so it might be good practice for us. I think what’s particularly hard for us at the moment is trying to bridge language, culture, and time zone issues to figure out exactly how to properly screen and select an au pair from China. We’re still working on that.

Back to baby, he’s been head down and in perfect labor position since at least week 28. This is good but a bit uncomfortable as he was firmly planted against my bladder. I went to the dentist’s office a week ago Friday for my annual six month checkup. The dental hygienist leaned me back in the chair and I actually felt baby detach and float “down” toward my ribs. When I went to my OB appointment last Tuesday she confirmed that he had moved and was now in breech position. My next appointment will be at 36 weeks at which point my OB will check and see if he’s still in the breech position. If so, I’m looking at a scheduled cesarean. My OB says she won’t try an external cephalic version (where the OB tries to change the baby’s position from the outside) because of my prior cesarean due to worries that it could result in a uterine rupture1. After my latest ultrasound and the comprehensive Boulder hospital tour I had been strongly leaning toward attempting a VBAC. However, this changes things again so I guess I’ll just get to wait and see.

Yesterday, Jaeger and I went to a Neil Gaiman signing in Fort Collins. We’ve been to two Neil Gaiman events before. The first one was back in 2005 at the Tattered Cover. Gaiman spoke a bit and then started signing books. We had to wait a couple of hours but were able to wander around the bookstore in the mean time. The second time we went to a Gaiman event was 2008 in Boulder. He wasn’t doing any personal signing but had pre-signed books available to buy. This time was only going to be a signing, no speaking. The Old Firehouse Bookstore had won a contest to have him do a signing of his new book, Trigger Warning, due to selling the most copies of his last book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My understanding is this is the only promotional stop he is making for this book.

Neil Gaiman is a fantastic author and an amazing library supporter but his adult fiction isn’t my favorite. I much prefer his juvenile books. However, both Jaeger and I bought copies of the newest book explicitly so we could each have 3 additional books we brought from home signed. I was particularly interested in getting The Sleeper and the Spindle autographed which has both Gaiman’s great storytelling and Chris Riddell’s fantastic art.

The signing started at 4pm and Jaeger and I left home a little after 2:00pm. I arranged for Jaeger’s mother to watch Calvin while we were gone. I did tell her I didn’t know how long the signing would last but we’d probably be back a little late. We arrived at the bookstore about 3:30pm and the zooish situation we were walking into quickly became apparent. I mean, we knew it was going to be a zoo but I think you had to be there for the reality to sink in. At 3:30pm, the line already snaked around several alleys and streets. We ended around 300 meters from the front of the line. The line continued to grow for at least the first several hours. I don’t know how long it ended up. Not surprisingly, the line did not progress particularly fast. Fortunately, the weather was amazingly good for February. Possibly it was too good. Jaeger didn’t bring a coat and I only brought a thin coat. This was fine for the first couple of hours. As I was standing in line, it occurred to me that standing for several hours in line while pregnant can be problematic. For instance, there isn’t a large quantity of bathrooms facilities available.

About an hour and a half from when we first joined the line I took a hiatus and went to a cafe. I bought some coffee cake for Jaeger and myself (I wanted to avoid liquids) and used their restroom. As it got darker, it got colder. Jaeger had it worse at first due to having no coat. I think about 3 hours in Jaeger left to get coffee and try to warm up a bit. It kept getting colder. Another hour or two later Jaeger left line to go get food from Chipotle to bring back for supper. By this point it appeared we were nearing the “home stretch.” That is, we finally were in the parking lot next to the bookstore. However, the line slowed down so we made very little progress over the next hour. By that point I was also shivering and the shivering was bringing on constant contractions. I was starting to wonder if I was going to need to bail due to baby reasons. I had a horrendous vision of almost making it to Neil Gaiman and having to abandon the whole thing due to my water breaking or something. There was a Starbucks within a block so I took a break. I went there, ordered some hot chocolate, and sat down inside a somewhat warm store for a while. When I got back the line had barely moved. Jaeger and I tried to huddle together for warmth but the size of my belly made that extremely hard. Eventually, we got to the door and then the line stalled again, within sight of the warmth within the store.

We finally got into the store and met a bookstore employee about 7 hours after we first joined the signing line. It was a little before 10:30pm when we were greeted by the first bookstore employee. He went through the standard spiel about how many books could be signed and then he noticed I was pregnant. He looked somewhat aghast and called over another employee to shepherd us to the front of the line. The second employee apologized continuously for not spotting me earlier in the outside line. Jaeger had explicitly told me to wear something that made me look pregnant but just the prior week someone had told me it looked like I was harboring triplets so I didn’t think there was any way to avoid looking pregnant. Jaeger suggested, as the employee herded us outside and around to the back entrance, that next time I needed a t-shirt that said “I’m pregnant” in large letters with a couple of neon signs to emphasize that point. The store employee agreed that would be helpful for “next time.” You may think that skipping line at that point was fairly pointless. However, the line in the store would have taken at least another half hour, quite possibly more. While I would not have asked to skip to the front of the line, I was extremely grateful they let us.

Jaeger and I had each brought three books from home as well as the new book we got at the store. So Gaiman was signing four books each but due to time constraints he was only personalizing one. I decided to get Fortunately, the Milk personalized for Calvin. I had explained the concept of author signings to Calvin and he seemed fascinated by the idea. Neil Gaiman was amazingly coherent when I got to him. I really have no idea how he does it. At that point I was almost completely incoherent but he still was able to make excellent small talk and mentioned that Chu’s Day at the Beach was going to be out in a couple of months and the plot was “starting to get complex”2.

We left Fort Collins and I texted Jaeger’s mom to let her know we were finally on our way home. Sometime around 9 she had taken Calvin back to our home and put him to bed. We got home a bit after 11:30pm. We were lucky. Gaiman didn’t finish at the bookstore until 3:12am. His patience and endurance are amazing. In retrospect the whole thing feels like something only college kids would do. I can’t believe we actually stood in line that long. Possibly we were just trying to recapture the feel of freedom before 2.1 changes our life again ๐Ÿ™‚

UPDATE: Here’s the picture from Old Firehouse Books’ Flickr account proving I was actually there.

  1. I have found some people claiming the risk of a uterine rupture with ECV and a prior cesarean is unlikely. However, given I had such a good cesarean with Calvin, I’m not interested in the risk and am not going to push the issue with my OB.
  2. I had the 2nd Chu book in my stack of books to sign which is why he mentioned it.