Geekamama


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I do not like them in a box.

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.


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Time flies.

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.


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On marriage

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
carriage;
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
straight down.
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.

Walking together at wedding rehearsal


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Mama’s little helper

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.

Breaking up the white chocolate

Scooping up the chocolate pieces and pouring them into the pan

Shaking up some condensed milk before we add it to the mix

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.


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Cupid says hi

We made valentines for Kiddo’s class last week. I did some whirlwind shopping on Monday evening, grabbed a few things I already had on hand, and with Kiddo’s help, constructed a dozen valentines for his friends. I was worried that I was going to be That Mom who goes nuts with the DIY crafting. But when we picked up Kiddo and his haul after daycare the next evening, it turned out we weren’t alone in this endeavor.

At any rate, it was a fun family activity for us to do together. We had a hard time keeping on track and needed to take a couple goldfish breaks, and we didn’t finish the insides until after dinner. But I think we all had a good time. I need to find things like this to do more often!

I glued big red hearts onto some blank cards that I had on hand, and then let Kiddo go to town with the heart stickers that I’d gotten on my way home.A couple ended up on his father’s card as well. Then I wrote a greeting on the inside and Kiddo “signed” the cards with a scribble or two.

He had a little trouble getting the stickers off the sheet, so his dad and I took turns helping out.

Peeling stickers off the sheet

We let Kiddo pick out which ones to use next.

Stickering is serious business.

Placing stickers on the cards

The finished product.

We hope your Valentine’s Day was a good one!

Love, Kiddo and family


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Snow day

Last week we had a record-breaking snowstorm in the Seattle area. There had been snow on and off for the previous several days, but on January 18 the official measured snowfall was 6.8 inches. That’s almost 2 inches more than the average annual snowfall around here.

It may bring traffic to a standstill and strain email servers as everyone works from home, but it’s also a lot of fun to play in. Kiddo didn’t get a snow-covered Montana trip this past holiday season, so it came to him.

He and his dad set out from the back porch (where we’d measured the snowfall) around to the front of the house.

Walking around the house in the snow

(Click the pictures to see larger versions.)

Once he got to the front, he tromped around by himself for a bit.

Tromping around in the snow

We brought a bucket and shovel out for Kiddo to play with. He loved it. He walked from one spot to another, scooping up a shovel of snow and dropping it into the bucket.  When asked, he told us he was grocery shopping.

Playing in the snow with bucket and shovel

Someone taught him how to throw snowballs. It only took him three tries to discover the true purpose of snowballs: throwing them at other people. His favorite target? Mom, of course.

Kiddo throws a snowball

When his grandparents were here a few days earlier, we’d made a snowman with the couple of inches that fell over the weekend. Today seemed like a good day to round out the family.

Building a snowman

He was clearly having a grand time playing outside…

Very cute picture of Kiddo

… but eventually decided he was done for the day, after one too many falls in the deep snow.

Down again in the snow

Just how deep? Here’s what we measured on the picnic table on the back porch. I think there was even more than that out front.

Snow measurement: just over 7 inches


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Imagine this

Sunday night, we rode home from the grocery store in a bulldozer. The piles of dark-colored blankets and pillows on the floor are water, perfect for swimming around in, as is the pile of wrapping paper in the living room left over from New Year’s Day. Those Duplo constructions parked on a Rubbermaid tub in the studio? Airplanes waiting at the airport.

You can, I hope, guess which member of our family is the creative mind behind those discoveries. Our young sir Kiddo has quite an imagination spinning in that head of his. It’s endearingly entertaining. It does at times make it more challenging to figure out what he’s so enthusiastically telling us. We can’t go off contextual clues when the context is all in his head.

The tough part for us lately is holding back from asking leading questions about what he’s dreaming up. If he’s decided that his Mega Bloks tower is the airport, I don’t want to squelch that line of imagination by asking whether it’s a house. I feel a little regretful when he changes his own idea to fall in with ours. But more and more lately, he’ll reply that NO, Mom, it’s the AIRPORT. Duh.

He’s picked up my habit of making up silly little songs too. The other night at bedtime he asked me to sing the Mommy Song. “Mommy Song?” I asked, buying time while I tried to remember it. He helped me out by singing it: “Mommy and Daddy and Kiddo, Mommy and Daddy and Kiddo…” All him, ladies and gentlemen. Call to inquire about bookings.

Eventually, I’m sure, he’ll realize that he can tell us things that aren’t true. He hasn’t quite gotten to the point of lying, which is actually a developmental milestone, according to a study from the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University published last summer. Sometimes he does deliberately answer No when he knows we’re expecting a Yes answer (“Did you open the microwave when we told you not to?”) but he hasn’t yet started making up full-blown lies intending to get him out of trouble. At the rate he’s going, that’s probably not too far away, and that will be a whole ‘nother can of worms.

But until that happens, we’ll just grin silly grins when he starts telling us about how Doggie and Cookie Monster are riding on a boat and a helicopter and a train.