• Archives

  • Categories:

  • Other profiles

“Just ride around in buses and trains and cable cars”

Aaron and I recently went to San Francisco to see an aunt who was in town visiting, and he was really disappointed about not being able to go on a cable car. Adam was at school at the time, but hew knew that we went and that planted a seed that made him beg to go to San Francisco over the weekend.

“What do you want to do in San Francisco?”
“Just ride around in buses and trains and cable cars.”

That’s my boy. He also wanted to go back to the Cable Car Museum and to the new Transbay Terminal park where they have a fountain that activates along a path whenever a bus passes beneath it. With all these things in mind we mapped out a plan.

First up, we decided not to take the stroller. It was the first time taking both boys into San Francisco without it, so we were a little nervous, but we managed to keep walking to a minimum and relied on public transit. We took BART into the city and got off at Embarcadero Station where we picked up the California Street cable car. Aaron and I rode on the outside of the car while MJ and Adam rode inside for the first half of our ride. Once some people got off, MJ and Adam joined us on the outside and then we hopped off at the stop just down the street from the Cable Car Museum.

From there, we walked over to the new Rose Pak MUNI Metro station in Chinatown, during which we got to wave to several cable cars coming by!

We took the Metro from Chinatown back downtown where we then walked over to Jeffery’s Toys, which was sadly going out of business. We picked up a couple trinkets and then got lunch at a nearby California Pizza Kitchen that we sometimes went to when MJ and I lived nearby.

Right after lunch we stopped at the Ghirardelli ice cream shop at the corner of Market and New Montgomery for a couple sundaes.

After lunch we hopped on a PCC street car for a couple stops down Market and then made our way to the Transbay Terminal where we spent some time playing and watching the bus fountain until it was time to take our last exciting type of transit: a bus! It would take longer, but the boys really wanted to take a bus, and MJ found an AC Transit Transbay bus that we could take across the bay, through Alameda, and concluding at an Oakland BART station, which we’d then take back home. The plan was a hit for all of us. It was a nice and comfortable bus which was enjoyable to take, and Aaron fell asleep on me during the journey, so clearly he was comfortable!

That Sunday was quite rainy, and our only journey was to a thrift store to pick up a small filing cabinet to try and contain some of Adam’s school papers which had been increasingly taking over our house. During Aaron’s nap, Adam and I made a trio of custom shirts for Valentine’s Day!

Later in the afternoon, we made some banana bread and then some popcorn to enjoy with our stuck-indoors, movie-driven afternoon.

Speaking of movie-driven, I went to see a movie! I realized recently that something that would help a lot with life balance and mental health would be taking some time for myself. It may seem obvious, but our life is just so busy and we’ve been very reserved about hiring babysitters, only really doing it when absolutely necessary. Part of this is just a holdover from the pandemic, we haven’t adjusted our habits or repopulated our babysitter pool. But taking some time for me to go out, meet with friends, or just go to the record store on my own is so important. So last week I walked over to The Chabot theater, our local, historical, single screen theater and saw Argylle. It was so much fun! I also made some time to stop by my local record shop, and then over to the library where I picked up a couple books.

Last weekend celebrations began for the Lunar New Year. Adam had some celebrations at school to observe it and he was pretty excited, so I searched for some local events and found a lion dance event and crafts right nearby at our local library! So the boys and I first made our regular stop at the local farmers market, and then continued on our journey to the library where we met up with our au pair and her friend, and made it just in time for the dance to begin.

When that concluded, we made our way over to the children’s section of the library where they had celebratory crafts. Predictably, Aaron loved the crafts and Adam wanted to explore the rest of the library and check out a couple books. Around 11:30 MJ picked us up so we could go to lunch.

Before the sun rose on Sunday MJ was off to the airport for a business trip. That morning the boys and I went to the local Japanese Gardens. The boys love the gardens, they’re beautiful, have rocks to climb, and they can see fish and turtles in the water features. From there, we were off to lunch at our favorite local restaurant. Unfortunately, Aaron turned out to be terribly annoyed that we did the gardens instead of a playground, so we rectified that later in the afternoon by going to another park, this time with a playground.

Once all park needs were satisfied for the day, it was time to go home for the Super Bowl! We don’t really watch football and I can barely follow along, but Super Bowl Sunday is basically a holiday in the United States, and it turns out I really enjoy celebrating things with the boys. So we turned on the game, had snacks, chicken tenders, and little bagel bites. And we made and decorated sugar cookies. I guess making cookies isn’t a traditional Super Bowl thing, but the boys weren’t really going to watch the game and we needed something fun and different that we could do with the TV on aside from the regular playroom activities.

Then the game went into overtime right when I was supposed to start getting the boys ready for bed – oops! As a result, I was actively putting Aaron to bed as 5 minutes were left on the clock, and returned just in time to see Kansas City triumph over San Francisco. Adam was adorably disappointed because he knew San Francisco is “his” team, but he got over it within about 30 seconds and the subsequent bedtime routine went smoothly.

The week ahead promised to be very sugar-filled with a little birthday celebration for a friend and Valentine’s Day! We also have a week off from school coming up.

Health, trees, San Francisco, and the zoo!

A couple weeks ago I entered a period of depression. It’s something that I’ve written about before, I’ve had bouts of depression since I was a youth, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern or rationale to when they strike. I do think these bouts are made worse by life circumstances and stress, mostly because it’s easier to believe what my lying depression brain is telling me about my situation and the hopelessness of everything when things are already going poorly. Thankfully, it’s usually not debilitating for me. I can work, care for my children, and do basic chores to keep our home running. What doesn’t happen are larger home projects, thoughtful and creative activities with the kids, and I seek TV instead of reading because I am extra tired during these times. Even when we do go out on adventures, I go through the motions, but I feel numb.

I once read that depression can feel like a part of your soul taking a vacation, and it really resonated with me. First, because I do feel quite empty when I’m depressed, like part of my self is gone and I lack the ability to enjoy things and feel hopeful. But also because it’s a comforting story to tell myself. Where is that bit of my soul? Is she having fun by the beach? Going on some glorious hikes? I hope she’s happy, and well-rested when she returns. When I stop being depressed, I wouldn’t say I’m refreshed and ready to take over the world, but compared to being depressed, it’s a very clear shift in everything. Soul vacations work! I hope she comes back soon though, it may not be strictly debilitating, but every single day, every single hour, is hard right now.

Now that I’ve got done sharing that I am not being thoughtful and creative, I’m going to share that the boys and I did something thoughtful and creative for the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat. The holiday celebrates trees, and these days it’s an ecological holiday that’s typically observed by planting trees. We’ve tended to do little tree-related crafts on this holiday, but when Adam saw it on the calendar he became fixated on planting a tree. Unfortunately our small yard can’t really take any more trees and we weren’t able to find a local tree-planting activity that worked with our schedules, but I knew I had to do something. So, as soon as I was done with work for the day, I took the boys to the local hardware store to pick up a large bag of soil. Once we got home, we grabbed a giant pot that we’d originally gotten to grow a baby watermelon, filled it with soil, and then the boys planted several clippings from one of our jade plants (succulent trees! I can’t kill them!). It was a simple and cute activity, and seemed satisfactory to Adam’s desire to plant a tree.

Last week I had the nice surprise of my Aunt Mary being in San Francisco for a work conference. She was incredibly busy, but made time for us the final morning she was in town before her flight. I hadn’t seen her in years so even though only Aaron and I could make it up (MJ and Adam were busy with work and school) it was a real treat to get to see her, and for her to meet little Aaron! I also hope we can either make it to Florida in the coming year, or see her more if work brings here this way again soon, she hasn’t met Adam either, and he just turned five years old.

I’m glad Aaron got to meet more of my family, but I think mostly he enjoyed going on a trip with me to the city on the train. He was disappointed that we couldn’t go on a cable car and didn’t stay in the city for longer because we needed to get back for lunch and nap time, but it was nice to spend a little quality time just the two of us.

Over the weekend we took the boys over to the Oakland Zoo. We’re members and it’s just 15 minutes from home, so it isn’t something we spend a lot of time in planning for, but Adam shared that he wanted to go on some of the rides and the gondola, so we decided to make a day of it.

We started with a kids ride and the zoo train, but it was then getting to be lunch time.

For lunch, we took the gondola up to the California Trail and had lunch at the cafe up there. The zoo itself is located on a big hill, and the California Trail is on the top of that large hill, so you can see the bay, Oakland, San Francisco, multiple bridges. It’s a beautiful spot, and we even managed to snag one of the few tables outside to enjoy that view. It was also the first really beautiful day of the year, with sun and temperatures reaching the low 70s. It did mean that the zoo was rather busy and the lines were long, but it was all quite tolerable. After playing on the playground and enjoying the rest of the California Trail, we went down on the gondola and got to see an elephant and the giraffes before concluding our zoo day by letting the kids go on one final ride.

It’s now February. I spent January observing “dry January” to cut out alcohol for a few weeks. Just like in 2023, it wasn’t a difficult thing for me, but it was a change. I wouldn’t say it was interesting or helpful in any way, but it did reduce the calories I consumed! Speaking of which, back in July I reflected on my diet and weight, and how I had put on 25 pounds and wasn’t happy about it. I identified some changes I thought I should make, but at the end I made clear that I’d prioritize my mental health, and ultimately didn’t commit to making any of the changes I identified. I’d like to try to do that now. Let’s see how I do this time, I’m at 219 pounds now.

An exquisite 1940 Smith-Corona Sterling

Last year posted about the acquisition of an Olympia Traveller de Luxe. That’s when I received a message from my co-author of The Official Ubuntu Book and friend of mine that started out: “I have an old portable manual typewriter (1940s/50s, I think, offhand) in excellent condition…”

You know where this is going, right?

By the end of the week a beautiful, single-family, 1940 Smith-Corona Sterling (serial number 2A 66470) was in my possession, having been very carefully shipped. Aaron helped me with the unboxing and first test.

The typewriter had been owned by his grandfather, who bought it new, and it is in stunning condition. In fact, of my collection, it may be the one that’s in the best condition. I haven’t had to do any work to it in order to get it performing perfectly.

As a nice bonus, he included a hand-written note to explain the provenance.

The iconic round, glass keys are actually quite enjoyable to type on and it comes in this legendary case that kept the typewriter safe and in great condition for years, which is no small feat for a machine that’s 83 years old.

Of my three portables it’s probably the least portable, but it’s also the oldest portable I have, and it’s obvious even from the names that both the Skyriter and the Traveller de Luxe (which I keep in Philly) had a very specific intent. So I think my Skyriter will remain my hipster outdoor coffee shop typewriter, and this one will be the one I use in my deck and back yard.

What makes this one really special to me though is that I have a real personal connection to it.

Adam’s 5th birthday and a museum rainforest

We concluded 2023 in Philadelphia and got back to California late on January 5th so we could celebrate Adam’s birthday over the weekend.

On Saturday we decorated and settled back into our usual routine, with an added bonus of a trip to Adam’s favorite restaurant to enjoy his favorite food and then some birthday ice cream.

On Sunday we held a little family party with our former au pairs. As requested by him, it was Paw Patrol themed. This was the first year he could clearly articulate what he wanted theme-wise, instead of me just following what I knew his interests was. I even made a Paw Patrol tower for his cake, even if he was disappointed that the cake itself wasn’t a tower – hah!

The following weekend we took the boys out to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Aaron had been asking to see more dinosaurs, and Adam kept asking to go to the jungle to try out his “jungle hat” which is actually and old hat from the Philadelphia Zoo, the provenance of which is unknown to me, but I’m pretty certain it is from when MJ was a kid and it happened to surface while we were going through some stuff in storage and now Adam has claimed it. Since the academy had a temporary dinosaur exhibit AND a rainforest, it was a perfect fit! Plus, the weekend of Adam’s birthday was pretty low-key due to everyone being tired from the trip, so I’m glad we got to go out on an adventure.

Our first stop was the The World’s Largest Dinosaurs temporary exhibit, there were a lot of sauropod fossils! And some partial re-creations of the Argentinosaurus and Mamenchisaurus. It wasn’t as exciting for them as the dinosaur hall we saw a few weeks ago in Philadelphia, but it’s as close as we were going to get to satisfying Aaron’s desire to see dinosaurs for now and he seemed happy with it.

From there we went to the rainforest exhibit, where Adam was very excited to wear his hat. The rainforest globe is filled with butterflies, which the boys have been talking about ever since, and we were all delighted when one of them landed on Adam’s hat!

Seeing Claude was definitely a highlight. We have Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator by Emma Bland Smith, a children’s book about him, but this was the first time the boys saw him in real life! Aaron told us he was scary but didn’t actually seem very afraid, Adam said he thought he’d be bigger.

We then went to get lunch, a little late, but we were right on track to finish making our way through the cafeteria line when the museum fire alarm sounded. It took a few minutes, but it was soon clear that the alarm was real and wasn’t going to stop, and we had to evacuate, without our food! What followed was about 30 minutes of standing outdoors waiting to hear if we’d be let back in. A single fire truck pulled up to the front of the museum which the boys enjoyed, what they did not enjoy was being hungry, so I had to pull out the snacks. Fortunately that didn’t seem to dampen their appetite for lunch, once we were able to return to the museum they both ate well.

Once we were happily fed, it was downstairs to the aquarium! Aaron loves aquariums, and I’ve been wanting to go to this one since I made this discovery about him. Unfortunately putting it at the end of the day meant that everyone was getting tired, and I suddenly wasn’t feeling well. Still, we got to enjoy the rays swimming beneath our feet, and the boys got to see a lot of fish, and the downstairs view of Claude.

Our last stop in the aquarium was to visit 93 year old Methuselah, an Australian lungfish that’s been with the aquarium for most of her very long life. They discovered for sure how old she was last year via some new DNA tests and shared it during their 100th anniversary celebrations. Cool.

It’s surprising to me how many new things we’ve been bringing the boys to. It is very unusual that we have a three year old and a five year old who haven’t seen so many traditional childhood things! And then I remember the pandemic. We would have been able to introduce them to all these places and things much earlier if we hadn’t been sequestered for two and a half years! So while it’s unusual, it is our reality. I’m very happy that we’re at least healthy and able to do it now.

That weekend we also went to a farmers’ market in Oakland after meeting with someone who had a non-functional Oliver 9 typewriter for sale. I’ve been on the lookout for an Oliver 9 since I got to use one at the type-in in Philadelphia in November, but I wasn’t going to move forward with this one since it wasn’t working. MJ encouraged me to check it out anyway to see if it could be repaired. I watched some YouTube videos before we left, and through a basic inspection in the lobby I discovered that it was in really solid shape with all the important parts intact. So MJ bought it for me! Along with some flowers at the market. I’ve been pretty overwhelmed with things lately, and he knows that, so it was really thoughtful and sweet.

One of the things that has added to feeling overwhelmed is our four year old refrigerator. It stopped keeping things frozen in the freezer back in September and we’ve gone through a half dozen visits from repair and warranty folks over the intervening months. The timeline has definitely been lengthened by all our travel over the holidays, but it’s still a ridiculous situation. We’ve been effectively living out of my beer fridge, a large mini-fridge that we brought up from the garage, and only keeping a few semi-perishable things in the larger refrigerator, which was barely managing to keep a temperature below 50F. After our latest repair visit it didn’t even manage that, and the temperature rose to be in the high 50s, making it useless even for semi-perishable food. It’s now just a monolith that dispenses purified water. After discovering one evening that a bunch of recently purchased fruit had gotten moldy and feeling absolutely defeated as the kids clamored for fruit, MJ rushed to Lowe’s and picked up another large mini-fridge. Sigh. I really hope the compressor replacement solves the problem, living out of two mini-fridges isn’t very fun either.

The adventures of 2023

2023 was an interesting year. Our oldest started Transitional Kindergarten and came home having learned a bunch of new things. Our youngest matured in leaps and bounds, turning into a talking, opinionated, member of our family. We had a bit of a rocky summer with an au pair who didn’t work out, but following that we welcomed an amazing au pair into our family who immediately clicked with both kids and whose presence in our family I’m grateful for daily. I had a good year work-wise with several goals met this year and the launch of a little Open Source Program Office within our organization. I had the opportunity to attend a few conferences in-person, which has opened the door for more travel coming up in 2024. Travel in general is still quite limited, but we also had three great trips to our place in Philadelphia and enjoyed visits with family, including hosting Thanksgiving at our place for the family for the first time.

In 2023 I had to deal with some pretty big losses. The first was the loss of our cat, Caligula, in February. He was 19 years old and ultimately the care for his age-related ailments stopped being effective, and he declined rapidly within a couple days, to the point of being on oxygen at the emergency vet. He was my companion for most of my adult life, so it took months for me to start feeling normal again. In August I lost my friend and mentor Jim Fisher to an unexpected heart attack. His sudden death was shocking to an entire community of amateur radio enthusiasts who benefited from his enthusiasm and encouragement, and I’m still working my way through the loss.

I stepped up my typewriter hobby a little with my first minor repair, that of a marginally functional Smith-Corona Skyriter. I spent a couple weeks fiddling with various components to get it into a state I was happy with, and it’s become my go-to portable typewriter, and definitely one of my favorites. I always had a fascination with mechanical things, but I have discovered a real solid satisfaction from doing these repairs. Adam and I also started going to typewriter shops, and he has a lot of fun with them. The first was actually when we were in Philadelphia in April and he was fascinated by the eclectic shop we visited there, over the summer I brought him with me to Berkeley Typewriter when I needed work done on an IBM Selectric II that I picked up. In November the whole family came to a type-in in south Philadelphia. I’m glad I can share this hobby with my kids to some degree, otherwise I think I’d struggle to find time for it. I also bought a record player, which has taught me a lot of lessons about intentionally slowing down.

With the pandemic winding down, I had the opportunity to meet up with a few friends and have half day outings to myself. Becoming a parent requires a huge shift in priorities and presents massive changes to your identity, all of which I’m still adjusting to five years in. Taking time for myself, and to connect with MJ without spending the whole time talking about chores and kids, turns out to be incredibly important, and I don’t do it enough.

My first conference of the year was in April CPOSC in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which I discovered while we were in Philadelphia for a visit, so I was able to book a train ticket and make it a day trip. In September I spoke at the Open Mainframe Summit at IBM TechXchange in Las Vegas, and then in October at All Things Open in Raleigh. My final in-person event was a little PLUG meeting north of Philadelphia in November.

This year we finally had the opportunity to open the doors wide open to public settings again, so we brought the boys all kinds of places. The beach, a baseball game, adventures in San Francisco, local festivals, cherry picking, antique and model train fairs, museums, aquariums, zoos, and more. I joke that we’re a bit of a circus when we leave the house, but honestly I’m really happy to finally be able to share my favorite activities and places with our little ones.

Work has been going well, in October I went to the recording studio at IBM RTP to record a video about Linux on the Mainframe that went up on YouTube via the IBM Technology channel and I’m really proud of it. I launched an Open Source Program Office within our organization and have managed to do a lot of cross-organization and external work that I’m very happy with. The following is a rundown of talks I gave throughout the year:

In 2024 I’m hoping to find some balance between work, family, and taking care of myself. Health-wise I’m doing OK, but I’d like to find a way to sleep better, and it would be nice to make improvements to my diet and activity level so I feel more equipped to keep up with my kids as we go out on all these adventures. Here’s to the new year!

Concluding the year in Philadelphia

We spent the last couple weeks of 2023 and the first week of 2024 at the townhouse in Philadelphia. We had just been there for Thanksgiving, so it kind of felt like resuming the rest of a trip, since some of the food in the refrigerator was still good, and we didn’t bother having anyone take out the trash or anything between visits. We flew in on a Saturday, and so had the weekend to settle in before work on Monday. I took four days off between Christmas and New Years, which was a nice opportunity to get out of the house on some adventures, and allowed me a bit of time to do some things around the house. We also had a lot of nice, chill visits with family, that didn’t seem rushed or forced since we weren’t just squeezing things in before we left again. It gave me a taste of what it must be like to live near family full time, and it me a little sad. While there are tremendous benefits, one of the things we sacrifice by having chosen to build our life here in California is that daily closeness with family.

The first full week we were in town was nice for settling in. Our little California boys were clamoring to go outside, and one morning it was barely warm enough for me to take them out to a nearby playground. While playing, I noticed that there was a library nearby, so after they got done playing outside we made our way over to the library. It just happened to be at the same time as an open play with a bunch of other little kids at the library, so while Adam helped me get a library card, Aaron went with our au pair over to play with the other kids. Then Adam and I explored the rest of the library. It was at that visit that we learned that they do regular events for kids and one of the upcoming ones was a magician, which we went to on a rainy day later in the trip and Aaron really seemed to enjoy.

That week we also had our friends Danita and David over to visit and then went out with them to dinner. They’re moving away soon, so it was one of our last opportunities to catch up before their departure, and I was keen on learning more about the progress of their move. Plus, Aaron wanted to see them because Danita brought along her little dog Blackie the last time we saw them, and this time she did again! He’s slowly warming up to dogs, and meeting a little friendly one helps a lot.

We have a tradition of celebrating winter birthdays when we’re in Philly over the winter holidays. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate Aaron’s birthday at home in California before the trip, Adam’s after, and celebrate with family in Philadelphia in between – plus a few birthdays for adults that occur then! Unfortunately, winter also means cold season, so this year it fizzled out a bit. We enjoyed the company of my father-in-law and his wife, which was nice, but others couldn’t make it for cake and presents, and we had to meet up with them later in the trip.

This trip was colder than the one in November, and it was a longer trip, so I think the boys felt a little cooped up. But we tried to do a lot of meals out, and we had little at-home highlights like fire trucks driving by on December 24th for Christmas Eve, and family members dropping by later in the trip once everyone was over their colds (as much as kids ever get over colds, hah!).

We also had some adventures on the long weekends. Little Aaron has been really fascinated with dinosaurs lately, so once I told him that he could see real dinosaur fossils in museums he’s been fixated on seeing “a dinosaur museum.” I was disappointed to learn that the options were slim in the bay area. Instead, we decided to visit The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philly! Our original plan had been to take the train down since the boys had also been clamoring for a train ride, but sparse weekend schedules and a cold, rainy forecast put a damper on those plans and we ended up driving down and were fortunate to find very close metered street parking.

I’d only been to the museum once before, back in 2008, and I noted at the time that it was small, but also blessedly not crowded like a lot of the major dinosaur halls are. Unfortunately Aaron was immediately scared, and clung tightly to MJ through our whole dinosaur hall visit. I guess he didn’t manage to extrapolate from what he’d seen on TV just how big dinosaurs are, so you walk in to see a giant T-Rex with it’s 6 inch sharp teeth and I can see how that would be a little startling to a three year old. Adam had a delightful time in the dinosaur hall though, asking a lot of questions before making a bee line to the elevators, because he likes elevators.

The Big Dig exhibit was a hit with both of them though, kids are equipped with a large paintbrush and get to climb on and sweep their way through “fossils” covered in cork bits over a long span of play area. It was adorable and I’m grateful that they got some real playtime in. Upstairs, the Outside In exhibit also gave them an opportunity for some play, and crafting, which always keeps Adam quite enthralled, even if the activity seemed to be winding down when we arrived.

It wasn’t all family stuff though, one evening MJ and I managed to sneak out for a date night at The Continental Mid-town. It’s one of our favorite restaurants in the city, and it had been several months since MJ and I had gotten and evening out alone together. Given various factors, it’s difficult for us to do regularly, and instead we opt for opportunistic lunches together when we can carve out time. I discovered just how rare it was when I dressed up and came downstairs to an incredulous Adam asking, “Mom, WHY are you dressed like that?!”

It was a wonderful evening. I had the best company, our favorite foods were still on the menu, and we got to try several interesting cocktails. The rain picked up while we were eating, so we had a soggy walk/run back to the car, but I’d say that was the only thing putting a damper on the evening, and even that was a little fun.

During the four days I took off between Christmas and New Years, I spent one day catching up with my friend Stephen who also happened to be in town Pennsylvania visiting family. But before talking about that, I’ll pause to share that it’s unusual for me to take off this week. My family is Jewish and even prior to that my observance of Christmas was purely secular and rather solitary, so I’d often work this week, and even offer to be on-call on Christmas itself so my colleagues who celebrated the holiday could do so with family, in peace. Thanksgiving was always my family holiday! This has changed now that we’re bound to a school district calendar. Most people in the US celebrate Christmas, so the “winter” holiday naturally lands there, and it makes more sense for me to take off when everyone is at home, and in our case, cooped up at the townhouse in Philly in winter. Some of my week was spent catching up on chores, some was spent enjoying leisurely meals, a library visit, and playtime with the boys, and Thursday I spent the afternoon with a friend.

Our plan was to meet up and wander around the lovely town of New Hope, home to lots of delightful boutique shops and dining opportunities. But it rained. Thankfully there are a couple things that you can do when it’s raining, like enjoy a ride on New Hope Railroad! Purely a tourist and train enthusiast experience, the standard railway trip take you on a 45 minute ride through the woods of eastern Pennsylvania, so we were able to snag a couple first class tickets and enjoy some wine on our little journey while catching up, and listening to periodic tales about the historic railroad line and the area. We also enjoyed lunch (and beers!) right across the tracks at Triumph Brewing. It was fun to catch up, and I always enjoy a good train ride. Just don’t tell my kids I went on a train without them.

The next day was Friday and MJ had off from work, so we met up with our friends Mike and Jess and their two boys who are a little older than Adam and Aaron for a trip to Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. I hadn’t seen them since before the pandemic! Like so many people, they’d never met Aaron! And their own boys have grown so much since I last saw them. So I wanted to make sure we finally made time to get together, and Aaron’s love for fish made an aquarium an obvious choice. Unfortunately I planned poorly, and upon arrival discovered that they only had tickets for 90 minutes in the future, oops! I snagged the tickets and we found a nearby sandwich shop to sit down together and have lunch before our aquarium visit. Even then, we had a little time to kill, so the boys got to enjoy the waterfront and nice views of the Philadelphia skyline.

Since there were timed tickets, it should have been obvious that they were at capacity and it would be crowded, but it didn’t quite prepare me for how crowded it would be – wow! It was PACKED! I’m sure it being a holiday week with kids off from school contributed to this too. Fortunately, things actually went really well. All four boys were generally in good moods and listened, and we had some really nice moments. Adam got to pet a ray and take a bunch of pictures, and Aaron got to enjoy seeing lots of swimming critters and I think he enjoyed having other kids to hang out with.

The final partial week we were in Philly was pretty chill. We didn’t have plans for New Years Eve, so as soon as the fireworks wound down we went to bed. We were then back to work Tuesday through Thursday, but made time to meet up with family a bunch more in the evenings and a enjoyed lovely child-free lunch with my sister in law. I finally had my beloved buffalo chicken cheesesteak (I can get decent chicken cheesesteaks in California, but not buffalo chicken). Our flight home was blessedly uneventful, and the boys are definitely getting better about traveling, and we’re getting more streamlined in our approach to traveling with kids. It was a good trip.

Aaron’s 3rd birthday and a lot of trains!

On December 3rd we had a little birthday party to celebrate Aaron’s third birthday, a day after his birthday to make sure our au pair could join us, and so not to have it on the same day MJ returned from an international work trip. I decided to decorate on Friday night so he’d get to enjoy the decorations on his birthday and through the weekend. He currently enjoys the show Gecko’s Garage, so we went with that as his theme, but it appears there isn’t really official merchandise out there for the show, so we had to DIY a bit, and grabbed some laminated custom cake toppers from Etsy.

For his party, both of our former au pairs joined us as well, and we had a nice little gathering, except that poor little Aaron had a cold. He’s usually very social, and quite the trooper when he’s not feeling well, but I think the mix of being so congested, plus people over, and a lot of excitement got to him. He was inconsolable for most of the evening and spent it snuggled close to me.

I managed to get him calmed down for a few minutes to have a few bites of cake.

We also had a break in crying to open presents, during which he got gifts from his current and former au pairs. They all managed to get him presents he absolutely adores, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at how well they know him, given how much time they spent with him!

The weekend after Aaron’s birthday, and last weekend we were in California for the year, we went on a couple train-related adventures.

Saturday morning was spent at The Great Train Show at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. It was a mix of vendors selling various new and used model trains, accessories, and train-related things, and some working model trains that various clubs throughout the area brought for attendees to admire. My only goal for the show was to get some scented smoke fluid for our little Union Pacific O-scale train. That was satisfied within minutes of walking into the show, as a vendor near the front had some trains that he was allowing kids to control (thank you!) and I returned the favor by skipping the shopping around and just buying the one I wanted from that booth. There are a lot of scents, but I have the root beer one for the Pennsylvania Railroad train that we keep at the townhouse in Philly and everyone seems to like it, so I didn’t see the need to mess with perfection.

We picked up a bunch of BRIO tracks for the boys, and they each got a couple small train-related toys. Since we have two O-scale train sets (one in California and one in Philly) I picked up a Ben Franklin themed Lionel box car that I plan on bringing to Philly, and Aaron picked out a flat car with a bulldozer strapped to it, both were a steal at $10 each. Aaron’s choice ended up being quite amusing, since it goes well with Adam’s choice: a trio of log cars. He saw a few log cars at various vendor booths, but they were all the wrong scale. We got incredibly lucky when we stopped at a booth with a lot of O-scale cars and happened to ask if they had something similar and that’s when he pulled out the 3-car set! When we got home we hooked the three log cars and the bulldozer to the Union Pacific train and suddenly we’re ready to do some logging in the woods!

I also picked up a little Maine-themed box car, along with a Jewish-themed Mogen David Wine car, which I joked would REALLY make our train a Hanukkah train.

Adam had a ton of fun. MJ whisked him off to visit the model train layouts and with camera in hand, he was able to take a whole bunch of pictures of little trains and scenes.

Aaron struggled a bit because he’s a three year old surrounded by “toys” that he wasn’t allowed to touch. Oops! He was also at the tail end of that cold he had during his birthday party, so I think he wasn’t feeling 100%. I spent much of the show making sure he didn’t touch anything and calming him down when is frustration turned into crying and screaming. I guess I should have anticipated this, but he’s gone through a real maturity spurt these past few months so we were fooled into thinking that will transfer seamlessly into all environments and situations.

On Sunday, I had to go to San Francisco to pick up a pen I had repaired, which we turned into a whole family outing. We took BART into the city, and on the way to our station we got to see a BART car being hauled on a trailer! It may not sound like much, but we’re train geeks and the boys thought the sight of a train car on a truck at the side of a highway entrance ramp was an absolute delight. It was.

Once we got to the city I went to retrieve my pen and MJ took the boys in the stroller around Union Square. When I was finally done, we made our way down to the MUNI Metro and took the new subway line one stop south. That put us close to our old neighborhood where we enjoyed a lovely brunch at Fogo de Chao, which became a much more compelling option lately since we discovered that kids 6 and under eat free.

From there, we hopped back on BART and made our way to Rockridge station where hundreds of fans of BART gathered for Sweaterfest! 4,000 holiday sweaters were produced for sale this year, and they sold out within an hour each time they were offered on the online shop. During the first I managed to snag one for MJ, and after turning on alerts on Twitter I managed to get one for myself in the second offering. Phew! But the festival was to gather fans together for a sweater group photo, raffles, prizes, and merchandise sales which included the last chance to get a sweater if you couldn’t order online. We showed up just in time to get in the group photo, which was later shared across social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).

I’m glad we went for the experience, but it was PACKED, and a little overwhelming. The hour+ line for the merchandise looped around the whole outdoor space the event was held at, and it wasn’t easy to participate in much of what they had. Still, the boys got their pictures with a BART snowman who was wearing a holiday sweater, we picked up our transit passports and stickers. It’s great to see this level of enthusiasm from so many people, and I take that as a good sign for public transit in the bay area.

At work I’ve been busy completing a few projects before the end of the year, and I saw the release of the Linux on the mainframe YouTube video that we recorded in Raleigh back in October! But leadership gave us the opportunity to take a day off last week to do some volunteer work in our community. I took this opportunity to make plans to meet with the Partimus board and get some much-needed work done, including some financial tasks, website updates, and other administrative things.

Truth is, Partimus took quite a hit with the pandemic, along with the death of a key technical contributor last year and major life changes for 2/3 of the board members. Once I’m able to commit more energy to it, I’d like to do more work to reinvigorate the organization, but I’m incredibly grateful that I could spend what otherwise would have been work time getting the public face of the project in a better, more accurate, state. Plus, it gave me an excuse to finally go to the Oakland Public Library where I made plans to meet with a board member, and I got my library card!

As the week wound down we were packing for a flight on December 16th. We decided to conclude our year visiting family and friends from our townhouse in Philly, where I’m writing this. I’ll be taking a few days off between Christmas and New Years to do some outings, and in general have build some extra flexibility into my schedule. It should be a nice visit, as long as we don’t get sick!

Hanukkah 2023 / 5784

Hanukkah this year came together beautifully.

A huge part of crafting a successful holiday was that I took a week off from work following Thanksgiving. In addition to all the boring house stuff I did, I was able to prepare for Hanukkah. The first thing of note is that I did more decorating than I have in years past. Part of that was due to the boys getting old enough to enjoy decorating and being festive for the holidays, so I had enthusiastic helpers and didn’t feel like I’m just doing it all for myself.

While I had a babysitter watching the boys I put up some blue and white lights outside, and then the boys helped me put more lights up on the banister on the stairway. We found some window decals at CVS and the boys also spent a little time doing Hanukkah coloring and other art that we put on the walls.

I love model trains, and so do the boys, so each year I set up a “Hanukkah train” and in the middle of the loop we put all the presents. One evening I set up the table with a blue table cloth and the boys and I assembled the Union Pacific train I bought a few years ago for this purpose. I probably set it all up too early because the presents were a tremendous source of temptation and frustration for the boys as we led up to Hanukkah, but I was trying to build up the excitement!

Speaking of presents, I ended up making a document to track what presents the boys were getting for Hanukkah and where they were in the process (ordered, shipped, boxed, wrapped) so I wouldn’t lose track, and to make sure we had enough presents of similar value and excitement for both Adam and Aaron each night. I was also thrilled to find some beautiful Hanukkah wrapping paper at TJ Maxx (along with a Hanukkah cats pillow and blanket), so I didn’t have to just rely upon generic winter-themed wrapping paper. Hanukkah penguins! Hanukkah cookies! Menorahs!

The boys had fun with all the present unwrapping, at ages 3 and nearly 5, it was the first year both of them could really enjoy it properly. Reflecting upon my experience growing up with Christmas, it was fun to do 8 nights of presents. Each night and the following day they focus on one or two gifts they got instead of the excitement exploding in just one morning. It’s a really nice tradition.

We also managed to get some Hanukkah Gelt this year, which I also found at CVS and the boys eagerly devoured each night. Maybe next year we’ll be able to properly play with the dreidel for some instead of just launching it across the room, hah!

One day I ventured out to pick up some jelly doughnuts, which I hope were a reasonable enough stand-in for proper sufganiyah. But no homemade latkes this year. I enjoyed eating them the one year I managed to make them, but the work that goes into them was beyond my ability this year. Maybe I’ll try again if I get some little machine that shreds the potato and onion instead of having to do it manually.

As beautiful as the holiday was and the joy we all gained from it, there was the shadow of the war in Israel looming over it all, and a rise in anti-semitism, this time coming from the left side of the political spectrum. A menorah was vandalized in Oakland, and reports of violence have popped up across the country. Having not been born Jewish, learning most of I know about Judaism in the past 12 years or so, I guess I didn’t quite understand how much anti-Jewish sentiment can simmer for decades before boiling over. I’ve shared before that when MJ and I got married, I didn’t give another thought to raising a Jewish family. We live in a modern society! Jewish people are Americans! Everything is fine! These days I do worry about the world we’re leaving for our boys, and only hope that things calm down and they can continue to thrive in a safe place that’s full of opportunity for people of all faiths.

So it was extra special to see that the menorah in Castro Valley, which in years past had been nearly hidden in a small park down the boulevard, was in the center of town this year. Our local Chabad organization also did a whole event on the 5th night there with a lot of festivities (I didn’t know it was happening, otherwise we would have gone!).

And I took my time to admire the big menorah that graces Union Square in San Francisco when we made our way to the city over the weekend.

Happy holidays, my friends. Whatever you celebrate, I hope you have an enjoyable time and a happy new year.

A week of chores

I don’t know how other people with full time jobs and young kids do it. Is it normal to take a week off from work just to catch up on chores and tasks around the house? This will be a bit of an unusual post by getting into boring details of tasks everyone has to do, but I wanted a record of it to remind myself what this part of our life was like. I tend to focus on outings and events and highlights of our adventures, but sometimes I’m just at home sorting closets.

I’ve been incredibly busy with work these past few months, including a couple work trips (first in AGES!) and things at home just kept piling up. The kids have outgrown their current sizes of clothes, that cluttered pile near the kids’ art center is growing menacing, I haven’t put away the non-perishable groceries from 2 days ago, oh and there’s a problem with the car registration. Did I mention that there are 3 birthdays coming up, and Hanukkah? My evenings are already packed with making dinner for the kids, dishes, trash, and all the other random things required to keep a house going. I’m exhausted by the time they go to bed.

When we returned from Philadelphia after our last visit, I surrendered and took the week off from work to catch up. I actually had it planned out, MJ was traveling for work and our au pair was traveling back to her home country for a week to visit with family, so I was at home with the boys for the week. We had a new babysitter coming in through a service for 4 days, but there are complicating factors so I’d still have to be close by in case she needed anything. Plus I still had to do school drop off and pick up for Adam, which our au pair usually handles. Actually working that week would have been a stressful and tiring endeavor, but it was perfect for getting all these household tasks done!

I started with some cleaning. We have a housecleaning service that comes twice a month, but there’s always a ton of Cleaning Projects to do, usually related to organization. Is anyone else drowning in boxes from monthly deliveries of necessities? I mostly stay on top of it, but not lately, and little collections of miscellaneous delivered things had started piling up and I needed to set aside a chunk of time to tackle them all and put things away, which also required tidying up some cabinets and closets. We’ve also been dealing with our primary kitchen refrigerator not working properly, so we’re living out of a large mini-fridge and brought the small chest freezer upstairs so we’d have easy access to our active frozen food. The freezer takes up a prime bit a real estate in the laundry room, so for this exercise part of my work was finding a new home for all the stuff we needed to move, including all our wrapping paper and gift stuff. I also needed to do a full clean-out of the downstairs room where Aaron sleeps over night, as the room is not part of our regular cleaning service.

The garage also needed some attention. Things just get piled up in there, and it was becoming a real problem for finding things. With the small chest freezer living upstairs for now, I moved some filing cabinets that recently came into our possession into that spot, and took the opportunity to reorganize some of the shelves down there. We’ve also managed to collect a bunch of boxes that were simply filled with packing material. At one point it had been useful, and a small amount still is, but we really had too much and I managed to get rid of a few boxes and bags of it. The garage still looks like an absolute disaster, but this amount of tidying allowed me to get to the clothes I needed for Aaron (Adam’s old 4T clothes!) and move the giant, broken-ish old plasma TV into the garage, so I could set up the train for Hanukkah – two more things unblocked!

Truly, kids grow up very fast. The rotation of clothes to the next size has to be one of my least favorite tasks, as it involves laundry, digging through the garage, packing up and labeling old clothes, and in the case of our eldest, buying new clothes. The small amount of joy I get in picking out cute new t-shirts is so wildly overshadowed by the rest of this process, and I don’t even get that satisfaction when it’s just moving Aaron into the next size up. Did I mention it’s also expensive? Don’t even get me started on buying shoes, and how quickly they destroy them.

Laundry. There’s always laundry. First, I had to fully unpack from our trip and get everything cleaned. There’s also the special laundry that piles up, like that sweater from Halloween that has delicate care instructions so it’s been sitting on the valet for over a month. And the covers we have for the dining room chairs, which get cleaned… sometimes? Or when there’s a horrible spill. It was sometime. In short, even the laundry load this week was bigger than normal and required extra attention. I also wanted to go through the mail that had come in while we were traveling and before.

I was able to leave the house a couple times. My new prescription glasses had come in, and so I was able to take a detour prior to a school pick-up to get them. I also had to sort out that car registration I mentioned, which was a multi-state ordeal. You see, we keep a car in Pennsylvania, but you can’t register a car in Pennsylvania unless you have a Pennsylvania driver’s license, even if you own property there, so it’s registered in California. Unfortunately there was a California-emissions related recall on the car, which put a hold on our registration until that was fixed. Fortunately, the timing of our Philly trip worked out so I could take it into the dealership while we were there to get the recall handled, and then come back to California to complete the registration with AAA. But that’s not all! Because it’s emissions-related and only California cares about such things, the dealership in Pennsylvania didn’t have the paperwork I needed to bring to AAA to get it registered, so during this precious week I had to go to a friendly dealership in California who could look up the work from the other dealership and provide the paperwork. Phew. It all worked out, and I have never been so relieved to conclude a vehicle registration renewal in my life.

All these exhausting tasks weren’t all that were on my plate though, I had some fun stuff! I got photos of the boys printed so I could prep and send out 40+ holiday cards before Hanukkah. And then Hanukkah prep! I’ll get into the details of this in another post, but there were lights to put up, a train to set up, and presents to wrap. No small tasks here. Finally, was prep for Aaron’s birthday party. MJ was arriving home on Aaron’s birthday, and our au pair was returning the day after, when we hosted his little birthday party with some family friends. I had already ordered is adorable Gecko’s Garage cake topper and some decorations, but I had some last minute balloons and party products to pick up at the dollar store on the way home from a school pick-up (Adam helped!) and to actually pull everything together and decorate for the main event. I love our small, family birthday parties, but I do wish they weren’t all roughly in within a month of each other, spanning December and January.

I did pause a little to take some time for myself though. I promised myself that I’d make time to finish one book, go to the newly opened Philz coffee for a mint mojito iced coffee one morning, and finish the last few episodes Doctor Who season 14 so I could watch the new specials. I succeeded! And I got in a few episodes of The Gilded Age too. I wish I’d done more to recharge, but I also would have felt bad if I’d let the other tasks slip.

Unfortunately, I also developed a cold. By Friday both Aaron and I were consumed with coughs and sniffles, and that was the day we didn’t have a babysitter. I had hoped Aaron and I could do a little adventuring while Adam was at school that morning, but instead we stayed home and watched too many cartoons. Aside from being sick, it was nice to just chill at home on that last day and relax in the satisfaction of having a slightly less chaotic home. For now. My hope is that as the kids get older, I can do a lot more of these things while I’m also responsible for the kids, but kids under five require a lot of attention and supervision.

Thanksgiving with the family in Philadelphia

We spent the week before Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving week itself at our townhouse in Philadelphia. Since this is just another home spot for us, we were both working most of the time, and the usual laundry, dishes, and house stuff. A few days into our trip, the dishwasher stopped working, but thankfully it had just come unplugged, and we were able to pull it out and swiftly solve the problem. There was also a drawer in the kitchen that and been badly installed and broke on our last family trip there, and we spent some time fixing that as well.

The last big thing to “fix” was taking down the play pen that MJ built all the way back in 2019. It took up nearly half the living room, but the pandemic rendered most of it’s useful life irrelevant. I’m not sure it was age-appropriate for even Aaron when we visited for the first time in 2022, but they had both definitely outgrown it now. It’s disappointing that we got so little use out of it, but we couldn’t have anticipated that a global pandemic would keep us away for over two and a half years.

Work-wise, it’s the time of year where we’re all putting a lot of work into finishing major milestones in our projects and looking forward to the next year, but I was able to squeeze in some time to present at a Philadelphia area Linux Users Group (PLUG) meeting. I hadn’t been to an in-person meeting since before the pandemic, indeed, they’ve only started resuming them a few months ago. It felt like a wonderful opportunity to see some old friends and meet some of the new folks that have since joined the group, or would come out of the woodwork for a talk about open source on the mainframe. Nearly 20 people attended, and I was able to put together some fun, historical Renaissance-themed slides with my topic, “The Open Source Renaissance in Mainframe Technology” (slides here). Since I had some familiarity with the group, I was able to shift into a very casual mode for the presentation, which lasted longer than the hour I had allotted. Following the meeting, several of us went to a nearby restaurant to continue discussions, including my close friends Danita and David who I was delighted to see had come to the meeting.

I took off from work on the first Friday we were in town since we had shuffled up our au pair’s schedule a bit for travel and she was entitled to a three-day weekend. It worked out well, since the day was unseasonably warm and gave me to opportunity to take the boys out to the Philadelphia Zoo! I drove them down in the morning so we’d have a chance at making it back for lunch and Aaron’s nap – which we did! We only shift the schedule by one hour while we’re in Philly, so that helps with a lot of things that open later and we usually can’t squeeze in before nap time. Aaron got out of the stroller as soon as we entered the zoo and got to exploring. For half the visit, Adam was in the stroller, glued to the map and hoping for a zoo train that I was 90% sure wasn’t running. Once he accepted that it wasn’t running, I was able to coax him out by suggesting that he could take pictures of animals with his phone. It worked like a charm! He delightfully spent the rest of the visit taking pictures, while Aaron and I enjoyed the animals and found things to climb on.

That night, Danita and David came by to visit and have dinner. Danita brought her tiny dog Blackie, to give the boys an opportunity to visit with a dog in a safe, controlled environment. They haven’t really been exposed much to dogs and tend to be a little fearful of them, so it was a nice experiment. By the end of the evening Aaron was giving him treats without hesitation, and after they left he told us, “I want a dog, that dog.” Later in the trip when we drove past the steakhouse we had dinner at, he mentioned the dog again. He left quite the impression! Before dinner, we also got to use MJ’s old telescope a little. I had brought it out for the boys a few nights before, but my own inexperience shone through and I couldn’t get it adjusted right to see anything. David had a go at it and got us pointed at the moon, unfortunately it’s missing some pieces and won’t stay in place, so every time the boys barreled toward it, it got knocked away from the moon again. I’ll have to see about getting more familiar with it myself and see what I need to do to fix it up.

I already wrote about the type-in we went to on Saturday. On Sunday we drove out to New Jersey to meet up with MJ’s cousins Phyllis and Jack. It was their first time getting to meet littler Aaron! We met them at their apartment and visited for a while, while Aaron got to feed his second dog of the trip. We had dinner at a nearby diner that we quite like and has some pretty delicious desserts. A dinner social visit was also made to a couple of MJ’s friends from back in his school days who I hadn’t seen in over a year.

For this trip we decided that we should host Thanksgiving for the extended family at our place for the first time. This made us finally buy a proper dining room table, since we’d long since outgrown the 4-person Ikea folding table that I bought for my apartment in Pottstown years ago. I knew I wanted to get one and we’d discussed furniture shopping, but it wasn’t until I had a few minutes before an appointment to get the car serviced and a popped into a furniture shop that we made a decision. The table was delivered on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

On Tuesday evening my mother, sister Annette, and nephew Xavier drove down from Maine to visit. Annette and Xavier came down for the winter holidays last year, but my mother had never met Aaron before, and the last time she saw Adam he was only a baby! Unfortunately, it was raining and they had to contend with holiday traffic, so the drive down the east coast ended up being longer than it should have been, but they made it and we had a pizza delivery timed for their arrival so they quickly got nourishment as well.

On Wednesday I took the day off from work to spend the time with my family. We enjoyed lunch at a Jewish deli where we were picking up some brisket and gravy, stuffing, green beans, pumpkin pie, and a loaf of challah. It was a pretty chill day though, I went to the mall with my sister and Adam, and then we all went out to dinner at Toscana 52, our favorite local Italian place.

On Thanksgiving we picked up the rest of our catered Thanksgiving meal from a nearby diner, so we could complete our meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, corn, and dinner rolls. We also totally rearranged the living room to make room for a couple 6′ tables we rented. We pondered buying a couple folding tables, but chairs were the real problem, so MJ looked into rental options and came upon Karley’s Rentals which worked out beautifully. Their prices were quite reasonable, their facility was clean, and their staff was incredibly friendly, helpful, and efficient. MJ and I drove down to the northeast to pick them up, and then drop them off again on Friday morning, which ended up being better than waiting for uncertain delivery/pick-up times. Bonus, everything fit in our SUV with a single trip!

Around 4PM folks started to arrive and I began heating up all the food. In addition to my family, MJ’s father and his partner, and her adult children with their own children who we’ve grown close to. It was a loud, chaotic Thanksgiving with all the kids, but isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? I also discovered that I love hosting. It should come as no surprise, it’s the kind of defined role with tasks to keep me busy and kept me away from awkward social interactions that arise when I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing (yes, even with family!). I didn’t even mind all the setup and cleanup, I like staying busy.

We had so much food. It’s what you want from Thanksgiving, but we were flying home just a day after Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t optimal to be left with a ton of leftovers. We ate some of it, and made sandwiches for the plane, but barely put a dent in what was left. Thankfully our family has keys and promised to clear out the refrigerator after we left to make sure as little as possible went to waste.

Friday was our last full day in town, and with my family, so we decided to spend the afternoon down at The Franklin Institute. After returning aforementioned tables and chairs, we loaded the boys in the car and my mother, sister, and nephew followed us in their car and made our way to the parking garage. We skipped the stroller, which was quite the gamble! But I had a feeling the boys could handle it. Still, the whole outing was kind of a gamble. We hadn’t really taken the boys to a place like that before, and with crowds and noise and unfamiliar settings, I’m never quite sure how things will go. Thankfully, it was great. Our first stop was the giant heart.

We were there for HOURS. They happily ate at the museum cafe, engaged with loads of exhibits, and didn’t show any signs of tiring until they both fell asleep in the car on the drive home. It was the first time I’d ever gone with kids, so I saw the whole place through a totally new lens. It’s also different than how MJ experienced it, because he grew up with this museum, he WAS a kid there at one point! I only ever saw it as an adult, with other adults. It was absolutely delightful to explain so much science stuff to the boys, even if they can’t quite appreciate it yet. And I loved seeing them have so much fun with their cousin, who was happily helping Adam through the neuro network “Neuro climb” and so much more. They’d enjoyed playing with Xavier the whole visit, but my hope is that this science museum trip is one that he could honestly enjoy too.

Saturday was spent packing and closing up the house, and it was a stressful one for me. I don’t know how it takes us so many hours to do this, but there always seems to be a huge list of things to do on our last day, even when we’ll be back in a few weeks. But we were ready when our ride for the airport arrived at 3:30PM. We didn’t get back home in California until 1AM Pacific, which we may have to re-think in future visits. The boys suffered from quite the sleep disruption that lasted several days due to that late flight. At the very least, we’ll have to see about making sure they eat enough in-transit so we’re also not trying to feed them dinner before we tuck them in to bed at 2AM.

We weren’t sure we’d do this trip at all due to how much it takes out of us to make the trip, and knowing we’d be back again for three weeks at the end of the year, but I’m so glad we did. Timing worked out for so many visits with friends and family that would have been impossible over the winter holidays, and it decreases the stress we’ll have on that second visit about getting all our social visits squeezed in. It was a wonderful trip.