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Holiday cards 2022!

Every year I send out a big batch of winter-themed holiday cards to friends, acquaintances, and anyone who made there way to this blog post somehow.

Reading this? That means you!

Even if you’re outside the United States!

Even if we’ve never met!

Send me an email at lyz@princessleia.com with your postal mailing address and put “Holiday Card” in the subject so I can filter it appropriately. Please do this even if I’ve sent you a card in the past, I won’t be reusing lists from previous years. I’m also starting late this year (oops!) so the window for sending cards will be brief, so please get me your postal address by December 10th.

Disclaimer: My family is Jewish and we celebrate Hanukkah, but the cards are non-religious, with some variation of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” on them.

Date at the BART HMC, local fall festivities, and my SPARC

Several weeks ago a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) board meeting was held at the BART Hayward Maintenance Complex. I’d never been to a BART board meeting before, but the chance to visit the maintenance complex was too good to pass up, and I RSVPed for MJ and myself as soon as I saw it.

It’s pretty rare to have tours of this facility, and I don’t think they’d ever done a fully public event, so this was a really special opportunity. Several hundred people showed up, and we were whisked off from a public BART station over to the facility via a series of shuttle buses. I get the impression that they were surprised and impressed by the turnout, but they were able to easily absorb the crowd. The board meeting was kept short, and then the facility tour began! We walked down the long corridors of the facility seeing stations for repairing all kinds of things for the trains. Every so often we’d pause to hear from one of the folks who worked there, either giving some details about the work, or sharing the history that led to some of the work that’s happening now. It was fun and fascinating to get such a behind-the-scenes look at everything.

And I’m glad it was fun. It occurred to us halfway through this tour that we hadn’t really gone out to do something other than meals together, alone, in quite some time. Date morning at the BART HMC? Hah!

In November I also got sick again. It happened a few days after I finally got the bivalent COVID booster, and along with a cough that needed an inhaler, I also had an incredibly stubborn sinus headache. Pile on some recent struggles with depression that caused me to contact my doctor and up my dosage of antidepressants, it was a tough few weeks as I struggled through not feeling well and a couple weeks of drowsiness caused by the medication change.

Still, I have two little ones and they love to go out! We met up with some other families one gloomy weekend recently to check out a fancy new playground in a nearby town, complete with a few rides, including a small train that went around the park and a carousel. I’ve succeeded in bestowing my love of trains upon my boys, so it was a really enjoyable time for everyone.

Our town also had the Castro Valley Light Parade recently. Like so many things, it went on a two year hiatus during the pandemic. MJ and Adam went to it in 2019 while I was out at a hackathon for work, but it was my first time experiencing it. We decided to go after the boys had dinner, which seems to have been a bit of a mistake since the parade really does conclude after an hour or so and then it’s just the festival, which was less interesting to the boys. Still, at this age it was actually a fine amount of time to be out, especially since they got to eat some cupcakes and get light-up bracelets while we were there.

Finally, MJ had a friend of his in town recently who came with us to the light parade. She traditionally has visited a couple times a year, but both the pandemic and having kids have changed it somewhat. Thankfully, she is interested in getting to know the kids more, so it gave me the opportunity to send them off with her and MJ one Sunday morning while I got some peaceful alone time. I took the opportunity to dig into my Sun SPARC Ultra10 project again. I ordered a hard drive that should work and got it all set up, but I was disappointed to discover that a lot of tools had changed since the last time I set up a PXE boot server, and I found myself reading more documentation than expected once I sat down and got started. As a result, I couldn’t get much done and was left feeling a little disappointed. Since then, I’ve been able to dig a bit deeper into the options out there for DHCP and TFTP, and will probably end up with a solution that uses dnsmasq exclusively for the whole setup, and be much simpler than ones I’ve used in the past. Bonus, if this works out I can document and re-purpose it for use at Partimus, and that cheered me up a bit and made the process of learning a new generation of tools more compelling.

Which brings me back to my mood. Now that I have mostly gotten past the drowsiness and the worst of this depressive episode, I’m going to try pushing myself again to get back on track with hobbies, house projects, and some of the things I enjoy but haven’t had the energy to do. I don’t have very much time to myself these days, but I certainly could use the time I have more effectively, which in turn should bring me out of this slump. I hope.

Our doorbell

It’s hard to believe we moved into this house nearly five years ago. In some ways, it feels like we’re still settling in, but I’m sure part of that has to do with how much our lives have changed since moving here and having kids. Plus, we’re still discovering new things about the house, like our doorbell.

The doorbell worked intermittently when we moved in, and as the months progressed it stopped working entirely. Given our workload and focus on new family, it ended up near the bottom of our list of priorities, and with babies in the house, the lack of a doorbell was actually a feature most of the time. Still, it was a little annoying when people would stop by, since the front door is far from where we spend most of our time so knocking is rarely effective. Halloween this year changed my priorities. These past two years were pandemic Halloweens where we just put candies out front on a decorated table, but this year we were back to answering our door. A working doorbell would be incredibly useful, so I grabbed MJ and we set about debugging it a few weeks ago.

We honestly thought it would be a very involved project. It was not. I even questioned the value of writing this post at all for fear of getting hopes up about this being a deeply technical, fascinating story. It’s not. But it was still pretty fun to dig into, especially since I knew nothing about how doorbells actually worked.

The actual chimes live above the stairs, which is tricky to get to, so we decided to start at the button. Plus, figuring out if there was power even going to the button seemed like a valuable use of our time. Good news: power was good!

So up to the chimes we went. Taking off the cover led us to discover a much more interesting device than we expected. Manufactured in 1994, it appears to be a an Emerson Rittenhouse Model C8846R 8-Note Electronic Door Chime. It’s fully electronic, and lo! There’s a battery in there! Maybe that’s all it will take to “fix” it? I swapped out the battery and… it kind of worked. Huh.

That’s when I dropped the model number into Google and discovered this glorious YouTube video: Servicing an Emerson Rittenhouse Model C8846R 8-Note Electronic Door Chime Base. As the video shares, there are no service manuals, wiring diagrams, or any technical information that can be found online about this, so the video was all I had! Thankfully, the solution was hilariously simple. About halfway through the video he does a close-up of the board and it clearly says, “Use with two 9 volt batteries”. Two! There are TWO batteries inside this thing!

So I climbed back up to the chimes and dug around behind them until I fished out the other battery so I could replace it. That was the solution all along!

Our 28-year old doorbell lives once again, just in time for Halloween. In the couple of days it took for us to ferret out the issue, MJ did a bit of research into what we’ll eventually replace it with that can be tied into our overall home automation strategy. But I can wait, this old doorbell and I are pals now.

Halloween 2022

These past two years have been unusual for a lot of reasons, but Halloween was notable because it’s a holiday that is incredibly memorable and social for kids. The pandemic meant very muted celebrations, and either none, or limited, trick-or-treating. As things ease up this year and kids become fully vaccinated, we finally got a glimpse of what a normal Halloween could be for our boys, and we had a lot of fun.

First, I discovered hooks along the front of our house last year, presumably used for Christmas lights in the past, and so I took the opportunity this year to buy Halloween lights! Adam “helped” me install them and I also put some pumpkins and a little wreath by our front door.

We did some Halloween art!

We took an afternoon to go to a local pumpkin patch and mini-carnival with rides for the kiddos!

And the weekend that led up to Halloween itself, we did a bunch of little activities in our costumes. This year Aaron and I dressed up as Stitch and Lilo, while MJ and Adam dressed up as the Man with the Yellow Hat and Curious George. Our first outing was to a trunk-or-treat that is held at a park within walking distance of our house. That afternoon, we walked down to our local comic book store for a festival they were having.

Sunday we attended a pumpkin decorating and playground event with other local families.

And that afternoon we went home and did our own pumpkin carving!

We have Gromit, Shaun, and Timmy lawn ornaments that a few of the kids in the neighborhood enjoy visiting, so I thought it would be fun to do Shaun and Gromit on the pumpkins this year.

The stencils I used were made available in a couple promotions Aardman did, and are still available online:

On Halloween itself we spent a little time at the village for a big Halloween event, but it was unexpectedly (for us!) crowded, and a bit much even at this phase. Besides, the boys didn’t actually need much candy and it was nice enough to get a little taste of the event and walk back home. That evening we went trick-or-treating!

Once we wrapped up trick-or-treating, we all hung out downstairs to answer the door to give out more candy. The boys probably enjoyed that just as much as getting candy themselves, as the novelty of people coming to our house is still fresh. It was also fun for them to see lots of kids and costumes, and generally to be up “late” doing an activity that was outside the norm.

Looking forward to lots more “normal” Halloweens with the boys in our future. It’s always been my favorite holiday, but celebrating with kids is a whole different experience.

Holidays, 41st birthday, and friends

The end of September was a bit of a whirlwind. The Jewish high holy days always land around that time, I have my birthday, and at work we’re winding down from the busiest time of the year (especially true this year!).

When we got back from Philadelphia, we immediately paused to observe Rosh Hashanah. We’re still not going to the synagogue for services, but the synagogue we’re still members of in San Francisco still had a virtual option this year available via YouTube. So we enjoyed services the evening before, and before services in the morning Aaron and I spent a little time at the nearby Japanese gardens before returning home for morning services.

That evening we all sat down and enjoyed some honey and apples!

Yom Kippur was similarly observed, but without the food since it’s a fasting holiday. The notable thing we did for Yom Kippur was taking the boys to Dublin on BART to have a nice pre-fast meal before sunset. It’s something we should repeat, as the boys really enjoyed the whole evening and Adam has since asked to go to dinner on the train multiple times.

The Jewish holiday that lands after Yom Kippur is Sukkot. It’s not one I’ve ever paid much attention to, but we decided it was a nice opportunity to visit a local-ish synagogue that was building a sukkah. The boys definitely enjoyed that too. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to properly observe it with a meal in the sukkah and more time with the community, but this was a nice introduction for the boys and me.

In the middle of all this was my 41st birthday. The day before I got my annual flu shot and was grateful for no ill effects. So that morning I did a run/walk of a 5K in the morning, which concluded with a ridiculously decadent pile of birthday pancakes.

We celebrated with the boys when they got up from their nap. To everyone’s delight, there was cake!

That evening, MJ and I spent the rare evening out by walking over to OCULTO, which opened during the pandemic but we had avoided until we eased up on our indoor dining restrictions for special occasions. It was a great dinner, and though the limited menu means we probably won’t go there too often, it’s nice to know that there’s a nice place we can go within walking distance of home.

We’re aiming to get our bivalent COVID vaccine booster in the coming weeks, something that we delayed due to our household finally succumbing to COVID in July. Still, we have loosened our restrictions somewhat and I’ve started visiting with friends again. My friend Jose was visiting from Peru a couple weeks ago and we met for lunch. He was one of the last people I saw before the pandemic lockdown because we both attended the Southern California Linux Expo in March of 2020. This past Friday I met up with my friend and fellow Partimus board member Grant, who I also hadn’t seen in over two years. We recently lost a former board member and Partimus volunteer, so the visit was tinged with shared loss, but it was still wonderful to catch-up. I hope to continue this in the coming weeks, I really have missed everyone.

Open Mainframe Summit 2022

On September 21st I headed to Philadelphia for my first in-person event since March 2020, the Open Mainframe Summit! The Linux Foundation kicked off this event in 2020, and it swiftly went virtual for two years. This means it was the first time this event had been in person too. Masks and either vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test were required to attend, which made me feel much safer about this being the first event I went back to. Kudos to the event team for holding firm on this requirement at this phase of the pandemic.

The day before the event I also had the pleasure of meeting with our VP, Meredith Stowell, who was in town for an Open Mainframe Project board meeting prior to the event. One of the things that I’ve found so valuable about my role and the teams that I’m on is not only how accessible our leadership chain is, but that they go out of their way to check in with individual contributors. I’ve worked on a lot of great teams, but it’s really transformational to work for an organization where you feel directly supported from the top down.

My participation in this event took several forms. Early on, I was part of the program committee that helped select the talks. I was also managing IBM’s sponsor presence for the third year in a row. While I always had a nice cohort of folks helping me put together materials and things for the virtual booth, it took a lot more logistical work to get everything there in-person. Finally, I gave a talk on the Linux Distributions Working Group with my group co-creator Sarah Julia Kriesch and also participated in a mentorship keynote panel.

As we led up to the event, I helped get a booth schedule put together for IBMers who I knew would be on-site to help, and made sure I had my Raspberry Pi 400 all loaded up with our sustainability demo to show off at the booth.

The morning of the event I loaded everything up into my backpack, a small suitcase, and the monitor tucked away in its box, and took the train down to the city. The background banner for the booth was all set up when I arrived and came out beautifully, and with a few extra pairs of hands helping out, we had the booth set up in no time.

And then the event kicked off! I won’t dive deep into technology here, since this is a more personal reflection, except to say that the technical sessions I was able to attend were top-notch and I think we did a really nice job selecting a diverse set of speakers, across various metrics. The keynotes felt approachable by everyone in the audience, which is hard to pull off for a technical conference, but the Linux Foundation does a really good job making sure various perspectives are captured in the community. Perhaps the most personally valuable one to me came from Cynthia Coupé who spoke on “Neurodivergency and the Mainframe: A Parallel Universe”. I have a loved one who recently received a neurodivergent diagnosis, and as I learn to support them I’ve learned a considerable amount about myself, and my own peculiarities. What I loved about her message though was that we need to be building inclusive spaces where we accept and celebrate our differences because of the different types of value we all can bring. I know I have a tendency to get hyper focused and excited about things, but it turns out that it has served me quite well in my career, as long as I had a team to support me and a community that’s forgiving of quirkiness.

The biggest take-away for me at this event was meeting people. This has always been true of in-person conferences, if all we went for was learning, we could arguably do that by viewing a carefully curated playlist of talks from YouTube. It was particularly important this time though. I joined IBM less than a year before the pandemic, which means most of my time spent in the mainframe space has been online. There are more people I hadn’t met in my immediate sphere than those I had, and it was a tremendous opportunity to connect on a personal level, and have some candid conversations that I otherwise have not had the opportunity for.

There were a lot of selfies.

A lot!

It was of course a pleasure meeting and doing a talk with Sarah. Her passion for openSUSE on IBM zSystems and LinuxONE inspires everyone around her, and she’s being doing a lot of great advocacy to our broader Linux and open source communities. I think our talk together went quite well, and it was nice to sync up with people there at the summit to discuss what some of our future plans should be.

With Sarah!

I also had a lovely time on the keynote mentorship panel on day 2. I have worked with Michael Friesenegger of SUSE extensively over the years, so it was a pleasure to finally meet in person and doubly-so to be on a panel with him. It was also nice hearing from people after the panel, so thanks to everyone who paused to chat with me about it.

In all, great event, and it’s invigorated me in a way that I forgot in-persons had the power to do. I have new ideas for the projects and working groups I’m part of, and excited about improvements we can make to create an even more exciting event next year.

We finally made it back to Philly

We celebrated the arrival of 2020 with nearly one year old Adam and our extended family at my father-in-law’s house. There were hats and fireworks on TV and simply enjoying each other’s company. A couple days later we flew back to California and had no idea what 2020 would bring. Turns out, it would bring a pandemic that meant that we couldn’t return to Philadelphia and see our family for over two and a half years.

So, with an additional kid in tow, we were grateful to finally make our way back to our townhouse in Philadelphia in September.

The first hurdle was the flight with two little ones and all their stuff. We spent our spare moments for over a week making lists, getting everything ready, and packing for the trip. It was exhausting. I prepared myself for the worst on the flight, and while it’s tiring to entertain a couple kids awake and trapped in their plane seats for five hours, they were reasonably happy for most of the flight. I’m sure it helps that part of the travel prep was making sure they had lots of things to do, videos loaded on their phones, and way too many snacks.

Once we safely arrived, two hours late thanks to flight delays that are the norm now, we spent two weeks there. Our goals for the trip were to visit with as many friends and family as we could, and to “open up the house” which meant taking care of whatever came up, planned and unplanned, as we settled in. The tasks ended up being:

  • Get rid of the hole in the rough-in bathroom downstairs that allowed a mouse to get into the house
  • …and clean up after the mouse
  • Replace the garbage disposal, which inexplicably stopped working
  • Power wash the deck, and key spots on the house
  • Put up some gates to prevent the kids from falling down the stairs and/or leaving the house

We had a large gated play yard in the living room designed for life with a baby, so it was weird coming back with two kids, neither of whom is a baby anymore. The gated area was useful for keeping the toys contained, but that was about it. We also didn’t exactly have a plan for where little Aaron would sleep. We had always assumed that the boys would be sharing a room by now, but with Aaron’s poor sleep schedule, we haven’t made the leap. As a result, we shifted our plans several times, and Aaron ended up sleeping in a bathroom (it was safe!) for a few nights before we cleared out an unfinished room downstairs that we converted into a little room for him.

I also quickly discovered that our door-free home office is not optimal for serious business calls or virtual presentations with the kids playing above me. Which leads me to the fact that while MJ was handling the majority of the above tasks, I was working overtime for a launch event, virtual conference, and in-person conference, all of which I’d been preparing for over the past couple months. I was considerably more stressed and crunched for time than I would have liked on this trip, and I hope that next time we’re in town I can actually find some time to just sit and relax and enjoy our home.

The lack of downtime also reminded me how much I’ve changed since we bought the townhouse. The goal of the townhouse was always so we’d have a home base to easily come back to as we raised our family. MJ’s family in the neighborhood could see the kids grow up, visits to my family that’s spread up and down the east coast would be easier. But for the first several years of having the townhouse it was during our long child-free existence. We had projects, but the chore overhead was nothing like our home in California, which meant I had a lot more time to relax, catch up on some of my open source work, write, and read. The vast difference with this trip was shocking in a way I didn’t expect, and still haven’t quite come to terms with. For now, I am focusing on how much joy our little ones bring me, and in my moments of pause, I remind myself that this very young age is a season, and they won’t always be so in need of my constant attention. My work is personally fulfilling and many of my hobbies can wait.

Ultimately, the trip was successful by our simple metrics. We managed to see several family members, and shared a couple meals with friends. The townhouse is now in reasonable shape for our next visit, which is good because our next visit won’t be until the chilly weather around the winter holidays. I wish I had taken more pictures though, we really didn’t get enough, and the boys and their cousins won’t be young forever.

MJ and I also took the time for a date night at The Continental Midtown, and we met up with some other families at an au pair event at Washington Crossing, where the boys had a lot of fun running around.

I got to have my Philly food favorites: pizza, buffalo chicken cheesesteaks, hoagies, east coast Chinese food, and some really great Italian food.

East coast shrimp egg rolls and sweet & sour chicken, nothing like it in the west!

My beloved cannoli

Work-wise, I completed my virtual conference, with much success!

And then I spent time getting ready for the second week, when I went down to the city for the Open Mainframe Summit, which I’ll share more about at a later time. It was also a resounding success, and as a smaller event in a familiar city, it felt like the perfect way for me to ease my way back into conference travel. The key components of preparation were logistical, and making sure my Raspberry Pi 400 was up to the task.

In addition to the obvious, what I think I gained the most from this trip was a fullness of heart I hadn’t felt since before the pandemic. As an introvert, I would have imagined two and a half years at home would be bliss, but even I truly missed people. It was tiring seeing so many people, but I’m grateful we did this time, because it was so nice to reconnect. Now as the COVID threat starts to fade, I’m eager to get back to seeing more of my friends and family.

Cake, cars, and work

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were sick a lot in August. But there were days here and there that weren’t so difficult.

In the middle of the month, we were all doing a lot better and attended the wedding of our first au pair. She met her now husband right before the pandemic began, and as we all worked through the challenges of the pandemic, we were grateful that she had someone within our bubble to spend time with. We were then thrilled to see that their relationship bloomed and were honored to not only attend their wedding, but for Adam to be their ring-bearer. The event also marked the first time we went to any sort of life event since the pandemic began, and though we were somewhat apprehensive about it, everything went really well and we were comfortable with the whole affair. Adam carried out his duties and little Aaron had a wonderful time dancing when the floor opened up. The evening wrapped up with something Adam had been talking about for weeks: cake!

That same week I went into the office for the first time since the pandemic began, there was cake there too. What prompted the visit was the obvious seeing colleagues in person, but also to celebrate the release of the IBM z16 with a general release event. Wwe all enjoyed balloons, got t-shirts, and spent time chatting about our work and the launch. It was nice putting some names to faces, as there are some new hires since the pandemic began and I hadn’t been able to meet everyone in person. It was also nice to get to work in my office for a few hours, and make sure it was still there! What wasn’t there? An opportunity to charge our new hybrid car. Every single one of the EV charging stations was in use when I arrived. There are dozens, more than the last time I was in the office, but it seems we’ve all bought EVs or hybrids during the pandemic!

Unfortunately, whatever cold thing I had got bad again after this week of fun, and it wasn’t until late August that we all felt well enough to resume our regular weekend routine of farmer’s market, parks, and outdoor dining at our favorite lunch spots.

The Castro Valley Cruise Night landing at the end of the month was a nice evening out for us. I get endless joy out of living downtown in our little town. I’ve mentioned before that it made the transition from living in downtown San Francisco much easier, since I can still walk to a coffee shop and stores. But we have such a nice collection of festivals throughout the year too. Like the annual car show, it’s a fun opportunity to see a lot of classic cars, but instead the boulevard is open to traffic all the vintage and exotic cars are driving around, with people lining the boulevard to socialize and enjoy the sights.

Over Labor Day weekend we got back to our old dining routine as we all started feeling better and the weather warmed up. Then on Monday it really warmed up, too much! So we went to San Francisco for a morning, where it was a little cooler. Our only plans were to take a train ride (BART!) and then take a walk to let the boys enjoy the waterfront. We succeeded, but it definitely wasn’t cool enough, and we all felt a bit overheated as we settled down for lunch. It was nice to get to the city though, we hadn’t made a journey like that as a family before.

I welcomed in September with a promotion at work. And a lot of work. It’s a busy time of year for us with the annual event my team works on and compounded this year with the first in-person Open Mainframe Summit, and a launch event for the next IBM LinuxONE to prepare for. I am not sure I fully thought through adding in our first visit back to Philadelphia to coincide with all of this, at first glance it made sense because the summit is also my first conference in-person again and it’s in Philadelphia. What it turned into was a bit of a perfect storm of busy and stress, but I started writing this post on a flight with both kids chomping away on snacks next to me, so I guess I’m not doing too bad.

Which brings me to this, the visit to Philadelphia! It’s our first trip back to the townhouse since we rang in 2020 with New Years with family. We haven’t seen anyone in almost 3 years, so most of our family and friends back east haven’t even met little Aaron, indeed, they didn’t even see me while I was pregnant with him. It’s wild how much things have changed, and I didn’t quite realize it until we started getting ready for this trip, now with two kids. Plus, it’s a lot more to carry. It’s nice to be here, but work isn’t slowing down any and I sure have the next week cut out for me.

August has been cough, I mean tough?

I’ve been sick.

Admittedly, this has characterized most of 2022, since Adam started going to preschool. We had a nice little break of a month and a half during summer break, but then we got COVID. Once we recovered, Adam came down with a cold with fever at the end of July after going back to school, which I swiftly caught. On August 7th I lost my ability to smell and taste, and it took a full 10 days for it to start returning. After a couple weeks my low-grade fever passed and I was well enough to go to a wedding! I even went into the office for a day! But then my symptoms crashed back in. Antibiotics didn’t help. Prescription cough medicine didn’t touch the cough. I’m grateful that a chest x-ray didn’t show anything concerning, but it didn’t help get me answers. On Friday I did a virtual visit with a walk-in clinic and got a pair of inhalers to use twice a day, and a cough medicine that’s actually helping.

The doctor I saw on Friday doesn’t believe the proximity to a COVID infection is a coincidence. In spite of my bout with COVID seeming somewhat mild at the time, he said it’s likely that it weakened my already asthmatic lungs. Since I’m predisposed to lingering coughs, it came as no surprise that I’ve gotten so sick from “just a cold” while others in my house recovered quickly. Fortunately, he also believes that I should recover from my weakened lung state within six months or so. The failure of my senses of smell and taste to fully returned seems to also be in line with longer-term impact post-COVID, since I’ve now had several people tell me that theirs has come and gone a few times since their infection. In the meantime, the hope is that the inhalers will patch me up enough so that I can finally feel better.

Aside from the misery that is having COVID and then being hit with a month-long cold, it’s also a frustrating situation to be in life-wise. Every evening I’m tired and feeling extra sick, and do the bare minimum to keep the house going and our cat taken care of, and then I go to bed. No time for hobbies, very little time for reading or TV, and no time for the million things that I’d like to do around the house. When little Aaron outgrew his 18-24M clothes this month, it was a multi-week process to get the 2T clothes rotated in (dig clothes out of storage, wash them, pull out the 18-24M from the dresser, wait for laundry to spit out the remaining 18-24M clothes, pack them up, pack them away. Oh! Socks! Go through those too.). And suddenly both boys needed shoes. It’s made for a much more chaotic home experience than I’d like, and extra tasks like routinely sweeping through closets and cabinets to reorganize aren’t even being attempted right now.

I’ve also felt bad about how the kids are experiencing this summer. It was bad enough that our COVID precautions preclude us from much socialization and indoor activities, but while sick we’ve even had to curb many of the outdoor ones. I simply haven’t had the energy to take the boys out a lot, or do a lot of things with them. Even our weekend routine of outdoor dining has been disrupted, since we obviously don’t want to go out while sick. This past weekend I rallied the energy to do a few things, but I am also concerned I assuaged my guilt at the expense of my health, and I probably should have been resting more.

I’m feeling well enough to write this on a Tuesday evening instead of going straight to bed, so maybe things are improving, or maybe it’s just that new cough medicine.

Our house fell to COVID-19

We’re not yet sure how it happened. We were masking indoors, avoiding indoor dining and crowded areas, and not traveling. Still, on a Saturday evening a few weeks ago our au pair started feeling sick and took a COVID test. It was positive. MJ and I immediately ones of our own, his was positive, mine was negative. As we sat with this knowledge, it weighed heavy. We spent over two years exercising caution, and just two weeks after getting the boys their first vaccine dose, we got infected.

As it turned out, our infections appear to have been relatively mild and swept through quickly, with only some lingering fatigue. Our au pair was probably the sickest with traditional COVID symptoms. MJ had his fatigue and headache symptoms the longest. I got away with just five days of headache, fatigue, and sore neck, but it was enough to knock me out of all but a couple hours of work per day that week. Adam and Aaron didn’t seem to get sick at all, in spite of us all being in the house together sharing germs. It’s unclear if they were just asymptomatic, or if their single dose of vaccine two weeks prior protected them from infection entirely. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. With negative COVID tests from adults, when the time came to clear Adam to go back to preschool we finally tested them and they were negative.

I’m grateful the boys didn’t end up sick, but that fortune also meant we had a one year old and a three year old bouncing off the walls while their trio of caretakers were sick, and we couldn’t go to parks or playgrounds to burn off energy. They watched more TV than normal when we were the most sick, and I rallied my energy to bring them out to the backyard to play a couple times. But we also couldn’t do our typical weekend outings for two weeks in a row, which I know was incredibly disappointing to them.

As for the adults, I think to some extent we’ve grown accustomed to hermit life. We still go out to pick up food and get groceries, but the added level of stay-at-home that full quarantine required was not a real hardship. The most difficult part was figuring out what services to use for grocery and take-out deliveries, and coordinating with restaurants we’re friendly with to let us pay with a credit card over the phone and pop it in the trunk of the car. As far as difficulty level goes, even while navigating a headache the process of selecting groceries while resting on the couch barely ranks.

Our eating habits did change some. We made a big dent in the food that had been collecting in our freezer by having a half dozen meals cooked at home, which is unusual for us. We prepared tacos, sausages, ravioli, and bao buns, and finally finished the brisket and turkey leftovers we had in the freezer. It was nice to know that we can get away with eating at home if the need arises, and to not have to go out and pick up food all the time. I didn’t enjoy the additional dirty dishes load though, especially with the level of fatigue I was experiencing. The kitchen sink was getting pretty basic triage for several days while the pots and pans piled up.

Taco night!

Why yes, that is leftover turkey from Thanksgiving

We had to delay the second vaccine for the boys by a few weeks so they’re well outside the infection zone, but still landing within the guidelines for vaccine spacing. Thankfully we were cleared quickly enough so that an outpatient procedure I’m having done this week won’t need to be rescheduled. And if there is any long-term impact of this infection on any of us, we don’t know about it yet, and we’re all doing much better now. I’ve been back at work for a full week, and the house is even recovering from the chaotic mess it had descended into.

It still feels a little disappointing to have dodged it for so long, and finally succumb. But with restrictions falling by the wayside, it was probably only a matter of time. We caught it during a major wave here in the bay area, so our basic precautions simply weren’t enough and we got unlucky. Thankfully, the hospitals we sufficiently staffed and available, there are many treatments out there now, and the vaccines that we all got probably prevented us from getting sicker.

Perhaps most importantly, our diligence in not becoming infection vectors ourselves protected everyone around us, and likely saved lives by helping control the spread. With that in mind, I’m still wearing my N95 mask in grocery stores until it seems safe to do otherwise. It’s not much of an inconvenience, and it’s still not worth taking the risk.