I mentioned in my previous entry that we’ve moved to a new house. Now I can’t decide which I dislike more: packing or unpacking.
We’d hired movers, but only to move the furniture and other things we couldn’t move ourselves. They also agreed to take any boxes we had packed by the day of the move. So we were scurrying to keep ahead of them; I got to the point where I was practically tossing things into boxes just to get them packed up. Tossing things in boxes is an EASY way to pack. Unfortunately, it turns unpacking into a ridiculous mess.
On the other hand, methodical organized packing takes a lot longer, and I’m not sure the time-save on the other end makes up for the time spent trying to decide which items should go into a box together, especially when they’re going to a house with a different layout and different distribution of storage areas.
We decided (well, in a “we don’t have time for this” way) not to do any keep/toss/donate triage during our packing. It seemed like it would be easier to cull out the things we wanted to get rid of after we were in the new house and had a better idea of what we’d actually have space for. I still think this was the right approach, but now it’s getting harder to find space for all the things that we’ll be sending off to Goodwill! Does anyone want a couple dozen mismatched wineglasses?
(And given how infrequently we drink wine, it’s amazing how many wineglasses we had… and how many we’ve decided to keep. We might need to make a second pass through what we’ve got on the shelves. Later. Right now I just need to get all these boxes empty.)
(Maybe it would help if I emptied some wine bottles too as I go along.)
We have a huge bonus room that we’ve designated as the playroom. It’s full of toys now, and eventually they’ll be sharing space with a TV for video games. At the moment there’s no space for anything but the toys, and somehow the boys have managed to spread out everything they own almost corner to corner. We’ve let this happen because letting the kids entertain themselves means more time for us parents to unpack boxes.
Some day we’ll have everything unpacked, and if we’re lucky, it will be before the next time we move.
The last time I wrote here (about my own life, I mean), I had a two-going-on-three-year old who was, in theory, learning to help me with household chores. I’d been experimenting with making different kinds of candy, to varying degrees of success, and thinking about how to recruit more women into engineering fields. That was more than two years ago. Things have changed a little bit.
That two year old just turned five last week. He just graduated from Kindergarten Prep in June, and will be starting kindergarten this fall. His school is less than a mile from the new house that we just bought, and are in the process of moving into. Oh, and he’s got a one-year-old little brother now, who’s all but walking, and who looks just like a junior version of Kiddo the Elder.
My work life has changed too. I’m in charge of two projects (well, let’s say one and a half) and I have a handful of people reporting to me – the first time in my 15-year software engineering career where I’ve had
minions reports. And naturally, these changes have had an impact on our family life. So has the fact that my husband now works at the same smallish company that I do.
When I first started writing here, I was dealing with the challenges of learning how to be a parent to a young child. These days, it’s things like finding the right school districts; keeping work conversation at work rather than the dinner table; and just figuring out how to be a family of four, when the number of kids has doubled but my capacity for attention (and patience!) has not.
Oh, and figuring out how to get Kiddo the Elder to help with household chores. Still.
Last Thursday, Dec. 6 2012, was the first day in Washington state where same-sex couples could legally get a marriage license. And since Washington has a three-day waiting period once a license is obtained, yesterday, Dec. 9, was the first day on which same-sex couples could legally be married.
I’ve been celebrating in my head all weekend. I never realized how much this issue meant to me until Washington first passed approval for civil unions. While I was glad to see it happen, I wasn’t entirely convinced that a civil union was equivalent under the law to a marriage – I couldn’t quite believe that there weren’t some omissions or loopholes somewhere that would screw someone over at some point down the road. Now, I can feel that those loopholes and omissions have been addressed.
The rallying cry of the opponents of same-sex marriage was, “Don’t redefine marriage!” Well, I’ll tell you something: no one is redefining anything. Marriage is a partnership between two consenting, legally unencumbered adults. It’s a public commitment that those two people make, in front of friends, family, and if applicable, the Deity of their choice. It’s a contract honored by the State, granting that pair certain rights and bestowing upon them certain responsibilities. It is a confirmation that you, my espoused, are the person with whom I want to build my future, to support, to celebrate. And not one single part of that is dependent on either person’s gender.
Seattle City Hall scheduled almost 140 weddings on Sunday, with sixteen volunteer judges performing the ceremonies. Supporters crowded the steps outside cheering the newlyweds, throwing rice and confetti, waving signs of support. The Paramount theater hosted a large group reception. I wish I’d thought to go downtown myself; in lieu of that, I’ve been drinking in the articles and photo galleries.
Seattle City Hall becomes state’s same-sex marriage capital
Ceremonies in Seattle, Olympia kick off day of same-sex weddings
Seattle City Hall: One day, 138 same-sex weddings
60 Moments That Gave Me The Chills During Seattle’s First Day Of Marriage Equality
18 Joyful Declarations Of Love From Newlyweds In Seattle
LOVE WINS! Gay Marriage at Seattle City Hall, Sunday Morning, In Photos
I hope and believe that by the time my son is ready to get married, no one will give it a second thought whether the person he marries is male or female, no matter where they choose to tie the knot. By then–and, I hope, much sooner–we won’t be calling it “same-sex marriage” anymore.
By then, we’ll just be calling it “marriage.”
Can social media inspire more young women to explore computer science? It’s an idea Jocelyn Goldfein, a Director of Engineering at Facebook, discussed in an interview with the Seattle Times a few weeks ago. Bringing more visibility to the women who built popular features like the news feed and photo viewer could interest teenage girls in tech-related careers, she says.
I’ll admit that it’s a start, but I think it’s going to take much more than that.
Software engineering has a big strike against it right from the get-go: it’s still perceived as a guys’ world–one full of gadget-loving geeks whose idea of a good weekend is blasting their way through the latest shoot-em-up video game. Guys who are intelligent to the point of cockiness, but lacking somewhat in social awareness. Most teenage girls aren’t going to find the appeal in a world like that.
When I look back at my high-school self, I see someone who already knew what her career was going to be, and the only keyboarding involved would be writing up the news stories I’d been chasing all day. Journalism seemed like a great fit for me; I earned scholarships and assembled a good clip file. But as I learned more about the hours and workdays, the shine came off a bit. When I was a senior in college, I got interested in the potential of the World Wide Web thing–remember, this was the mid-90s, when it wasn’t the ubiquitous presence that it is today. Less than a year after I finished my Journalism degree, I was back in grad school studying computer science.
I’d like to claim that what changed my course was the foresight that we were on the edge of a paradigm shift, and I wanted to be in on the beginning. But in fact the only reason I even knew about the web was because some friends of mine had gotten me interested in Internet Relay Chat (IRC), one of the early chat networks, and people who were more tech-minded than me were starting to talk about this internet thing.
What draws people into the field that eventually becomes their career? For many of my female peers, it was because computers and programming were something they got into when they were young, and that appeal never went away entirely. But when it came time to choose a degree program, a lot of us looked elsewhere. Is that because that other career path simply seemed a better fit? Or did the idea of darkened rooms, flickering monitors, and the complete lack of a social life put us off?
These days, there are a lot more young women online than there were when I was growing up. But most of them are there to use the software, not to create it. Knowing how to use a computer isn’t anything special anymore; in fact, it’s more or less required in our day-to-day lives. And yet, the number of women studying software and systems is down from previous decades. Less than one in five computer science majors are women, says the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
To draw more women into the fields of computer science and engineering, the most important thing we need to do is change the perception that’s it’s a playground for “brogrammers.” And yes, maybe Goldfein’s idea of giving more visibility to female programmers will help with that. But I think it’s the wrong presentation. “Look at this woman who is a programmer!” is not going to do it; all it does is emphasize the rarity of women in the field. We have to get to “Look at this programmer who happens to be a woman,” before we can achieve that mental shift.
Four years ago (this evening) my about-to-be husband and I stood up in front of our friends and family (and assorted venue staff), while a good friend of ours read this Ogden Nash poem:
I Do, I Will, I Have
How wise I am to have instructed the butler to instruct the first footman
to instruct the second footman to instruct the doorman to order my
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered into by a
man who can’t sleep with the window shut and a woman who can’t
sleep with the window open.
Moreover, just as I am unsure of the difference between flora and fauna
and flotsam and jetsam,
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people one of whom
never remembers birthdays and the other never forgetsam,
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or the gas pipe
and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the windowsill,
it’s raining in, and he replies Oh they’re all right, it’s only raining
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it’s the only known example of the happy meeting of the
immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and combat over
everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life, particulary if
he has income and she is pattable.
The bolded line is one of my favorites. We even hid it in our crossword-themed wedding invitations. Because, as anyone who knows us well has discovered, this is a pretty good description of the pair of us.
One of us is stubborn, and digs in their heels when their position is threatened. This. Is the way. It is going to be. Period. Convincing this one to change their mind can be an undertaking; even more so when they’re convinced that they are right. Conceding that there may be another, better, way is done grudgingly, with some muttering afterward.
The other is determined and lets nothing stand in their way when there’s something they want–even if it means an uphill battle against opposing viewpoints. For heaven’s sake, why can’t the rest of the world just see that they’re right? And while negotiation is nice, there are times when steamrollering is much simpler and faster.
It’s not entirely clear which of us is which, although it’s certain that the roles switch off depending on the situation. Most of the time, the force and immovability are directed outward, but there’s been an occasion or two when we’ve butted heads at home. Two strong personalities sharing one marriage. It could well be a simmering trainwreck. But it isn’t.
You see, immovable objects can also stand firm and give their partner someone to lean on without fear that they’ll give way. We are strong for them even in the most difficult times. We support them through sickness and stress. We are family, and we can stand up together against anything.
Irresistable forces can also face challenges head-on and propel our partner if their confidence flags. We carry the family over even the worst bumps in the road. We push aside the naysayers, the worries from the past, the discouraging statistics. We are family, and we will get ourselves through anything.
We’ve had our conflicts. We’ve had our trials. And we’re committed not just to getting through them, but to getting through them together.
Happy anniversary, immovable and irresistible husband.
It was a little surreal after dinner a couple of nights ago. I was the last one finishing up my meal (not unusual, since I’m often eating and kid-wrangling at the same time) and I needed a distraction for Kiddo. “Hey, do you want to go help Daddy pick up in the living room?” I suggested enthusiastically. “Yeah!” he said, and ran off to do… a chore I’d been putting off myself.
What parent hasn’t joked that the reason to have kids is to get free household help? It seems just a little ironic that he’s so eager to help now, with all his two-year-old klutziness, and once he gets the motor skills and attention span to be able to do a task well, he’ll find all kinds of things he’d rather do.
But we’re making the most of it while we still can. He’ll pick up his toys and books as long as one of us sits there directing Kiddo’s efforts. There’s a lot of, “OK, now please put away the red dump truck. The red one. That’s it, great! Now the yellow truck. The yellow–hey, we’re still working on the living room here, come back!” When we’re in a hurry or antsy to get on with the day it’s really tempting to just do it myself. But all that’s going to do is teach him how to get out of doing chores. That sure won’t forward my goal of being able to lounge on the couch eating bonbons while Kiddo vacuums around me.
His favorite “chore” these days is sweeping the floor. And if enthusiasm was all it took, our living room carpet would be as clean as the day it was installed. Kiddo likes to grab the old broom from next to the fridge–the one with straw bristles that break off pretty easily–so we can tell where he’s been sweeping by the trail he leaves behind.
He isn’t completely ineffective though. He’s gotten pretty good at picking up his clothes, if reminded, and he’ll help me sort laundry. First we sort it into shirts, and everything else. Then we sort the remaining pile into socks, and everything else. And so on. I’m confident that with practice, we’ll be able to reduce the number of passes through the basket.
A few months ago, I asked some of my toddler-mom friends what chores they recruited their children to help with. Some of their suggestions were things we were already doing, and others (like the laundry sorting) were easy to put into practice. But the one that surprised me was getting him involved with cooking. That seemed like asking for trouble! But I decided to give it a chance.
I was making a test batch of key lime fudge (you’ll see more on that project before long) and it seemed a simple enough and safe enough recipe to test out this mother-son cooking gig. Before we started cooking anything, I prepped everything. I opened the cans and containers, measured the other ingredients into little bowls, and lined up the equipment we’d need. I also recruited my husband to photo-document the whole thing.
Kiddo’s tasks were to break up some white chocolate baking bars in a Ziploc bag, and to pour ingredients into a cold saucepan. Once that was done, I melted everything together on the stove. I’d planned that he would pour the remaining ingredients into the pan once I took it off the heat, but we realized right away that this wasn’t a good idea and I took over. Fortunately, Kiddo’s nose wasn’t put out of joint at all by this, because he’s still got that typical two-year-old short attention span and he was ready to move on.
We’ll probably try it again one of these days, when time and the recipe allows. I think it will take a couple tries before we get a good feel for what kind of recipes are best for him to help with–if anyone has suggestions, please let me know! We might as well leverage his desire to be just like mom and dad for as long as we can.
For Valentine’s Day I made cherry and blackberry fruit jellies. I half-dipped some of them in dark and white chocolate, and rolled the rest in sugar. They ended up distinctly different, even though both kids of treats started from the same foundation.
The ingredients aren’t far off from what you would use if you were making homemade Jell-O blocks. The jellies have a lot more sugar than the gelatine blocks, and the fruit flavoring comes from jam instead of juice. This means that you’ve got the pectin in the jam to help the gelatine do its gellin’ thing, producing firmer blocks. The recipe also calls for citric acid, which is used as a preservative and sometimes as a stabilizer for ice cream.
(Fun fact: Vitamin C, often associated with citrus fruits, is ascorbic acid, not citric. Rather than go off on a tangent about how they differ, I’ll just refer you to here, here, and here.)
This was one of the simplest candies I’ve tried so far, and probably the only one where the recipes in my two candy cookbooks were almost identical. Mix everything up, bring to a boil for a few minutes, then pour into a well-buttered pan. Then into the fridge for several hours, or in our case, overnight.
It took some effort to get the jelly slab out of the pan after it had set up. When I’d made caramels, that recipe had suggested a pizza cutter to slice up the slab, so I tried it on the jellies as well.
Well, this looks like trouble! He’s standing on a small stepstool, but I suspect it won’t be long until he doesn’t need that anymore.
Cornstarch kept the cut jellies from sticking to the pan, the parchment paper, and each other. It also got all over the counter, the floor, and my sweater. You know what’s really dumb? Wearing a black sweater while working with cornstarch. No, you don’t get to see those pictures.
I let them chill for another 24 hours or so, and then got on with the dipping. I used compound coating because it was quick and easy, and because I hadn’t yet gotten any practice with tempering and dipping real chocolate. The blackberry jellies got the while vanilla coating, and the cherry ones got the dark cocoa.
I didn’t dip them all the way because I wanted people to be able to see the jellies inside, not just taste them. It ended up being a lot of work, so I only did about half of them in this way.
The final result! They weren’t as beautiful as I’d envisioned, but they tasted great. I took most of them to work as a Valentine’s Day treat for my co-workers.
After all that, I still had half a batch of undipped jellies, and I wasn’t wild about doing the compound coating again. Both the books had suggested rolling them in granulated sugar, so after we got tired of nibbling the naked jellies, I gave sugaring a shot.
I found the easiest and least-risk-of-sticking method was to use a spoon to cover the jelly square with sugar and then to roll it around.
The blackberry ones got regular white sugar, and the cherry ones got pink sugar. Colored sugar is super easy to make: one cup of white sugar, plus 10 to 12 drops of liquid food coloring. Combine in a Ziploc bag, and shake the bejeebers out of it. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but I got a nice pink color.
And here’s how this bunch turned out.
The texture difference between the two styles is interesting. With the enrobed ones, the coating was a solid coating containing a soft center. I’d intended that the jelly flavor would dominate and that the coating would be just a flavored container. But the only way to get that effect was to eat it upside down. If I try this again, maybe I’ll dip the top halves instead.
The sugared ones have a more consistent jelly texture, with the graininess of the sugar as a minor contrast. I was worried that adding more sugar would make them too sweet, especially to the already-very-sweet blackberry jellies, but that turned out not to be the case. They’re much easier to handle too. They’re still sticky, but they can touch each other without fusing into a blob.
As usual (if two posts defines a “usual’) the post-mortem!
- Be open to changing your plan. I had this vision of chocolate-dipped jellies that I wouldn’t let go of. Sugaring them was both easier and (in my opinion) produced a better result. In addition, I’d been determined to have two flavors, when one would have been plenty and would have saved a lot of time and work.
- Consider how the components will react with each other. Jellies will melt with they get too warm. Melted compound coating is rather warm. The blackberry jellies were leaving purple streaks in the vanilla, and I had to keep stirring it up to get a uniform color. I’m sure the cherry ones were too, but it was harder to tell with the dark cocoa coating.
- Dipping is harder than it looks. Half-dipping? Good grief. I think it would work with something like a mini candy bar where I could hold one end, but trying to manage blocks this small got frustrating. I’d also made them too small for my dipping forks, so I had to use regular table forks.
Changes for next time:
- Single batch rather than taking on two flavors
- Sugar the whole batch, don’t bother with dipping unless I’m feeling really ambitious.
- Try not to be overambitious.