Saturday, December 14, 2013

life, last month

A few moments captured on camera.

Genghis playing with some of his best friends: Xena, Dump Truck, and Excavator.

Xena with pipe cleaners and a strainer. Interestingly, I did this same activity with Genghis when he was Xena's age and posted about it here. By way of comparison, it was clearly more successful with Xena.

Genghis made a train out of toy tubs one morning before preschool.

As a side note, here's our Christmas playlist this year. Feel pretty good about this one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Now that the Twix and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are gone from our candy bag, there's not much left of the Halloween spirit here. Anyone want one of our Crunch bars?

And, after looking through our selection of costume photos, I'm determined to hire a professional photographer to follow us around everywhere we go. Life around here moves too fast for stills.

Our costume theme was Children's Books.

Genghis was the Excavator from "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site". Costume chosen by him, designed by Abe. 

 Xena was Max from "Where the Wild Things Are". Costume chosen and designed by me.

Isis was the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Costume revamped from Genghis's 3 years ago. (Sorry, Isis.) The best thing about her costume was when I would carry her in her back carrier and wrap the costume around us both, so I had a caterpillar dangling from my back.

Monday, October 14, 2013

challenge of the week

The Challenge: Get passport photos for children ages 3, 18 months and 3 months.

The Solution:
This tutorial + this software. Add a camera, stool, sheet of butcher paper, 2 parents, and children. Mix briskly on a Sunday morning.

The results:
Oh geez.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

there is life after grad school

We have had many good things to celebrate in our family lately:

- moving into a new home
- Abe finishing his dissertation
- welcoming baby Isis
- being completely and totally finished with the phd program
- enjoying amazing California weather
- Abe having no more dissertation work to do on every evening and weekend known to man
- starting a nanny with the kids so I can work part time, and Genghis starting preschool
- no more dissertation

Did I mention that Abe finished his dissertation? We are free! It took longer to complete the "last stage" of his thesis than it did to grow and birth our baby.  But it's done. Done. Done. Done.

I am just a little bit completely ecstatic.

But if the last 9 months have taught us anything, it is to simplify our lives. In keeping with that, I have decided that it is time to officially announce the scaled-back scope of this blog.*

I love capturing the stories, moments, and absurdities of life in the form of blogging, but it's just not happening right now. At the same time, I humbly recognize a devoted group of readers whose Number One purpose in reading my blog is to see photos of our three fabulous rugrats. So, I am going to try to post photos regularly, maybe with captions and stories as a bonus.

Some day, I want to tell stories again. For now, I will work on just living them instead.

With that said, here are a few photos.

Xena at a great garden in Palo Alto. 

Genghis and Xena at the garden. 

Super smile from Isis! 

Genghis reconstructing the Hong Kong skyline and harbor out of legos, based on photos sent from grandma. 

* Okay, I'm pretty sure no one really cares about the stated purpose of said blog. But writing it down officially will help ease my "A-type" mind.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 things that made me happy today

1. This morning, while finishing my breakfast, I was treated to this scene: Genghis clad only in his Thomas the Train underwear and Xena's giant brown and turquoise hair bow, jumping spasmodically around the living room (he calls this "dancing") to We Wish You a Merry Christmas being played on an oversized floor piano.

2. I dusted our house from top to bottom for the first time ever (meaning, since moving in over 2 months ago). With hardwood floors, dusting necessitates a lot of sweeping and moving furniture and sneezing. Especially if you have 10 weeks of accumulated dirt. But the house feels so clean and fresh, except by the two diaper pails we have next to the bathroom. Remind me again that we won't have children in diapers for the rest of my existence.

3. I signed a contract to continue some evaluation work for a museum group that I have really enjoyed working with in the past. It's one of those few times when you make recommendations for how a museum should move forward with evaluation, and then they have the means and enthusiasm to actually do it.

4. Homemade chocolate chip cookies. Enough said.

5. The replacement cord to my digital piano arrived in the mail. I lost the cord in the move, and after looking in box after box wondering where I mislaid it, I finally ordered a new one. It felt silly to have the piano looking pretentiously like a normal upright piano but total useless with no power. Sadly, I don't have plans to play the piano even now that we have power. But the kids have loved it. Someday I will play again ... Also, I finally found the original cord later this afternoon while I was dusting. Go figure.

Friday, August 23, 2013

friday photos

One of the many awesome things my mom does is hand craft a special outfit for each of her grandchildren to wear for their blessing day in our church. We did Isis's blessing a few weeks ago. Here are some shots to show off her gown. I love the colors mom chose, almost as much as I love Isis's stubborn ebony mohawk.

Monday, August 19, 2013

this post is really just about the photos

When I venture out with my brood of 3, ages 3 and under, people usually tell me I am either very brave or very busy. More appropriate adjectives might include the following: tired, insane, easily brought to tears, envious, or crazed and possibly dangerous.

Today at the playground I met a grandmother who told me she had 4, ages 3 and under: the 3 year old, a set of 1 year old twins, and a newborn. It was such a relief to realize things actually could be harder. I asked how she got through it. She thought for a moment and then said she had no idea - it was all a blur.

And somewhere between dragging the 3 of them to the doctor's office for Isis's check up, coming home and trying to feed all 3 of them at once, and then wondering at 8:30pm if I should get something to eat myself, I realized that she is 100% right. Later in life I may have no clear memory of this time period. And that may not be a bad thing.

Cynicism aside, each of our three kids is awesome. Here are long overdue photos of each of them.

Isis. Now 1 month.

Xena. Almost 18 months.

Genghis. Just turned 3.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Big brother ...

... is sometimes a good thing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

we had a baby!

Born on Monday, July 15, 2013. She is calm, happy, and easy going. These will be critical personality traits for a 3rd child.

We've decided on Isis as her blog name. Isis is an Egyptian goddess, of motherhood and nature (depending on what sources you look at: I reviewed the wikipedia page and an obscure website on Egyptian goddesses and dance). Anyway, the meaning of Isis connects pretty well with the meaning of her given name.

I don't know if we have any choice about what family we're born into. But if we do, I'm convinced that Isis chose our home as much for her siblings as for us parents. Even at 2 weeks, she is fascinated with them and loves to be in the room with them. In turn, they shower her with kisses, hugs, and "soft touches". Xena throws in a few claws across the face, but I think her intent is mostly to get Isis to do something a bit more interesting than look around with a somewhat vacant expression.

Here she is!

I love her scrunchy face.

Tired and happy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

we bought a house!

This has been in the works for a while, but now that I'm sitting in our new 3rd bedroom-office writing this, I think it's official.

We bought a house!

I could go into the story of the 1 month whirlwind of looking at homes in a frustrating sellers market, the 2 months of craziness that was being "in contract" for the home, the 2 weeks of packing/cleaning/leasing our apartment, and the last 3 days of unpacking and starting to settle in to our new home.

But honestly, it's not something I want to relive in great detail.

Instead I will do a digital victory dance (da da da dooby da da) and enjoy the idea that we now live in a home of our own.

At some point I anticipate posting photos. For now, here's the exterior photo from the real estate listing. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

I am an Evaluator-Mother

This morning I read a blog post by Shannon Hale (author of Goose Girl, Austenland, Princess Academy, to name a few), where she describes how being a writer and a mother works for her.

As I was reading it, I thought, This totally describes my feelings as an evaluator-mother. I should write my own blog post about my thoughts on the subject. And when I was done reading it I thought, Never mind. Sentiments completely captured, and by someone who is a professional writer.

So, if you want to know what life feels like for me as an evaluator-mother, read Shannon Hale's post here:

Points that particularly resonated with me:
- Maintaining balance means saying no to a lot. And sometimes this means excluding other opportunities and friendships to the point that you don't have to even say "no" anymore because no one is asking...
- Being an evaluator and being a mother pretty much precludes most other hobbies, social time, house maintenance, etc. Except mindlessly watching TV at the end of a long day. I can still do that.
- Sundays are crucial days of rest and rejuvenation. I would die without a Sabbath.
- Everyone has their own passions and balance that (hopefully) they can find a way to accommodate. My choices might not always end up being the right ones, but I am trying to choose what's right for me and my family.

(As a side note, listing evaluator first in evaluator-mother is no reflection of priorities. The other way around just doesn't sound right.)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

never go back

I have a list of things to accomplish during kids' naps today, but they would all require me to get off of this bed. 

Hello, blog post.

Today, I want to commemorate a few things I would never go back to.

1. Classic peanut butter. A few months ago we started eating natural peanut butter (my definition: the only thing on the ingredient list is peanuts) from Costco. It is deliciously non-sugary and not a pain to stir to get the texture right. The hardest part about the switch was remembering to look for it in the fridge not cupboard.

2. A single computer monitor. My main computer is my laptop. It has a home on my work desk, next to an external monitor. I always hook it up so I can work from two screens. Now I am almost incapable of getting anything done without having 2 monitors' of workspace (current blog writing excepted). It is unreal how much time I spend comparing between two applications (e.g. looking at a webpage while taking notes in a word document, or writing an email while checking numbers on an Excel file). Being able to see both simultaneously is a huge gain in productivity.

3. Bedroom without a ceiling fan. Okay. This is a lie. I currently do not have a ceiling fan in my bedroom. But every night as I lay in the stifling air trying to sleep, I fantasize about ceiling fans.

4. Using a mouse to navigate in Gmail. In Gmail, you can enable keyboard shortcuts that let you navigate through your inbox, open/label/archive emails, send replies, etc. It's actually kind of fun to open my email in the morning and fly through all the junk mail, deleting it all with a few keystrokes in under 30 seconds.

5. Self checkouts at the grocery store. I am constantly tempted to go back on this one: I'm at the store, ready to check out. The "live" checkout lines are so long, and there's only one person ahead of me at the self checkout. Surely it will be faster this time. 

But a fundamental law of nature declares that either 1) that one person ahead of you is completely at a loss for how to use the self checkout, bogging down the entire system and tempting you to think horribly negative thoughts about them OR 2) you have more produce than you thought you did and you have to look up the item number on each one, place it on the scanner and wait, and then bag it. Over and over and over again until you think you are going to die. 

Only use self checkout if you can answer yes to all of the following:
1. You have less than 10 items.
2. None of those items resembles a fruit or vegetable.
3. There is absolutely no wait in the self checkout.
4. There is at least one other person in the live checkout.
5. You feel 100% confident in your ability to use the self checkout.

Bonus: here's an outdated picture of the kids. It's the most recent one I have that doesn't require additional downloading from a device. Plus, I like to think Xena is looking up to read my list of self checkout rules. Learn young, little one.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

five characteristics of this week

1. House negotiations. We have been extremely lucky to get an offer accepted on a house in the area. As we've watched the market, we're convinced this is the last house that is going to fall in our price range as home prices accelerate at an astounding rate. Nothing is final yet. We have some rounds of negotiations to go through because of discrepancies in the house disclosures, and the bank's appraisal of the home needs to clear. If we can't resolve some of these issues, we may be renters for a while longer.

Regardless, we've spent hours and hours this week learning the ins and outs of the house's problems, and figuring out the best ways to negotiate repairs. Abe and I have a reputation for over-thinking things, and our combined powers of data analysis, game theory, and list-making have played out in full force this week. Late nights, spreadsheets and formulas, lots of back and forth with our agent.

2. Heat wave. It's been very hot here all week. I forgot what it's like to really be hot and it took a few days to realize why I always felt uncomfortable and parched. Now that I've remembered concepts like "central air" and "light clothing" and "drink lots of fluids" I feel better. Of course, the heat wave broke today and we'll be back to mid-60s for the next week.

3. Sleep deprivation. The combination of hot weather, thinking about the house, and uncomfortable pregnant condition has made sleep very difficult. Some nights I was up late working. The nights I went to be early, I couldn't fall asleep. And every morning, Genghis was more and more eager to start the day bright and early. We made two trips to Target to find just the right clock to hang in his room, with a colored "7" and little hand. We set the clock behind by about 20 minutes, and have imposed a strict rule that children are not allowed out of the bedroom until the little hand and the 7 line up. It has worked delightfully well. Tomorrow I think I will set the clock just a bit more behind...

4. Desperately needed family time. Abe is working hard to finish his dissertation on nights and weekends, which has resulted in almost zero family time in the last several months. As it turns out, our family really doesn't function very well without him playing with and teaching the kids after work and on Saturdays. This week Abe had more flexibility in his schedule and we ended up with several afternoons and evenings together. It was lovely. The kids loved having Dad back. Eight more weeks, and the dissertation should be finished. Please!

(As an aside, we've decided that a famous quote by past LDS Church leader J. Reuben Clark, about being in debt, could be rewritten to accurately describe finishing a dissertation: "May I say something about Dissertations? The Dissertation never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits or travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours; . . . Once you're ABD, the Dissertation is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders, and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.")

5. Promising fiscal year. I secured a few California-based contracts for my work, which is a big win for me to have before the baby comes. I also managed to get a wage bump for some ongoing contract work I do. We decided to finally bump our entertainment budget up by 50%. The responsible thing to do would have been to put all the extra income into savings. But with a bigger budget, we went out for dinner and ice cream. Seeing Xena delight in her first soft serve ice cream cone (she would look at us and giggle in between most bites) was very much worth it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"i will throw it at mom"

There comes a moment in every parent's life. A moment they've anticipated and feared. A moment they've read about, talked about, watched how-to videos about.

For us, that moment has arrived.

Toilet training.

Okay, I actually attempted this moment a few months ago. In January we did a "trained in a day" boot camp complete with practicing on a doll, candy rewards, and lots and lots of toilet talk. It was a total fail. We were all tired and frustrated by about 4pm and couldn't go on. After that, I tried the laid back approach of just asking Genghis with some frequency if he wanted to wear his underwear instead of a diaper that morning or afternoon. The response was always an adamant "no".

But the reasons to press forward with some expediency have been piling up. Genghis is ready. Life is only going to get more complicated for the foreseeable future. The thought of changing and washing diapers for three children is completely unimaginable.

So yesterday afternoon, I told Genghis he was too big for diapers. My "method" is to cut myself off from diapers as an option during awake times, remind Genghis of the utility of the toilet (prior experience has confirmed that he does know how to use the toilet), clean up messes like its just spilled milk, and celebrate milestones with high fives and positive feedback.

Genghis' counter-response has been interesting. When I rolled out the plan yesterday afternoon, he refused to wear underwear. He opted to sit in the bathroom for an hour, naked, instead. Here are some snippets of our conversations.

"Genghis*, do you want to pick which underwear to put on?"
"No! I want to put the underwear in the bathtub. No. I want to put it in the trash can."
"Are you ready to put on your underwear?"
"I will take it and throw it at Mom."
"We're going to get ice cream when Dad gets home."
"I want ice cream."
"You need to wear your underwear to go outside to get the ice cream."
"I don't want ice cream."
[Enter bathroom, Genghis is sitting in the sink, covered in layers of liquid soap with his underwear piled around him.]
"I am washing my hands and my legs."
"Yes, you are."
"And I am wearing all of my underwear."

He finally decided it would be okay to wear underwear if he could put it on when it was tucked inside of his shorts, so they went on together. Whatever.

Today, Genghis took a different tack. He was very excited to put underwear on in the morning. And he made it the whole day without any accidents, and also without ever using the toilet. (The nap time diaper was a sight to behold. Also, we went swimming in the afternoon.) Still, there was a solid 5 hours of morning playtime in there. I have always described Genghis as strong willed.

I don't know whether to consider this a success or not.  But mostly I wonder what he'll do tomorrow.

*Except I used his real name. I don't think he's aware he has an online sobriquet.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

etiquette in childrearing

Family dinner tonight inspired Abe and I to submit a series of questions to the Miss Manners column regarding etiquette toward our "house guests".* A sampling:

Dear Miss Manners,

Recently, we had a dinner guest bypass the serving spoon and use his bare hands to help himself to the main dish on the table. We politely removed the serving dish from his vicinity, and he responded, "But I want to grab it!" We asked him to use the serving spoon instead of his hands and he simply repeated (though in an escalated tone), "Want to GRAB IT!"

What further course of action would you suggest?

Serving Up Trouble

Dear Miss Manners,

We had overnight guests last night. After retiring for the evening, the guests proceeded to call out from their quarters at regular intervals throughout the night, demanding our attention. We saw to it that their dietary and digestive needs had been thoroughly attended to, that their quarters were reasonably comfortable, and that they had appropriate attire for the night. We were puzzled as to the nature of their distress. Additionally, despite the apparent total lack of sleep during the night, our guests were eager to start the next day "with the sun" as it were.

Can you suggest techniques for assisting our guests to have a more comfortable night's rest - or perhaps an effective method of sound-proofing?

Sleepless in San Francisco

Dear Miss Manners,

We have an awkward dilemma. Two of our guests have chosen to consistently engage in forceful squabbles over the recreational items we have provided for their enjoyment while staying at our home. At what point is it appropriate to spank a guest?

At the End of My Rope

Dear Miss Manners,

Halfway through dinner last night, I looked over to see one of our dinner guests standing on his chair, completely nude, and draped in spaghetti noodles.

As hostess, what would be the appropriate response?

Lady Godiva

*We didn't actually submit any letters. Do etiquette columns still exist?

Friday, April 5, 2013

friday photos

A few snapshots from Xena's first birthday, a few weeks ago. Going through our B+ pictures, I decided that something really cool should happen to us so a documentary filmmaker can follow us around and take all the photos and videos for us.

In the meantime...

Xena wasn't very interested in her birthday cake, just the candle. But I assure you, this Chocolate Tres Leches cake from Mel's Kitchen Cafe is divine. Considering this is about the 2nd cake I've ever attempted to make from scratch, I would rate it pretty easy and fool-proof.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

that is so 23 weeks ago

So I've been behind on a lot of things. One of which is mentioning that when I get dressed in the morning, I put on something that looks like this:

Answers to questions you may or may not want to ask:
1. I'm due in July.
2. Genghis will turn 3 years old a week or two afterward.
3. We characterize our emotional reaction to this development as "surprised excitement".
4. It's a girl.
5. While we love all of our children, we strongly hope that she continues Xena's legacy as "most calm and agreeable baby in the universe".
6. I'm feeling pretty well. Physically, things are just starting to get difficult. I almost threw the lasagna at Abe the other day when he told Genghis to sit down at the dinner table like Mommy, and demonstrated by grunting his way into his chair. Emotionally, things have been more difficult that in past pregnancies. I usually feel like my normal self, but sometimes get pretty low (manifesting itself in lots of anger toward Abe, frustration with children, and sobbing while doing the dishes).
7. We have grand plans to fit all 3 children in our sedan.
8. I may or may not be considering how to turn our walk-in pantry into a nursery.
9. I may or may not be considering selling all of my maternity clothes after July.

Monday, March 18, 2013

friday photos

Back in February, my mom flew all the way across the country and took three days off of work so I could go to a work conference and get a few days vacation with Abe. I don't need to say anything else about how fantastic my mom is.

Before I left her alone with 2 children under 3 for 5 days, we got to explore some of the California coast. We visited Half Moon Bay on a chilly and windy day. Genghis minded not one bit; the rest of us were happier eating fish and chips at a seaside restaurant afterward.

This is how Genghis smiles for the camera. 

 "The sea was angry that day, my friend."

Xena thinking about eating sand.

 Xena asking if she can eat the sand.

Xena pretending to eat the sand.

Xena actually eating sand when she thinks I'm not looking.

Friday, March 8, 2013

friday photos

Xena celebrates her 1st birthday tomorrow! In honor of her (not, not, because I'm too lazy to upload new photos) here's a collection of some of my favorite Xena expressions captured on film over the last year.