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Summer fun and chores, chocolate, cars, and fish

The first Tuesday in August is National Night Out. I seem to recall it was held at the BART station last year, and we stumbled upon it accidentally while passing by the setup earlier in the day. Now that I’m more hooked into the local parent groups, I’m starting to discover these activities quite a bit earlier, so this year I actually made plans to meet up with our friend (and sometimes caretaker for the boys) Rebeca at Lake Chabot for the edition of it this year.

They had police horses that Aaron gathered the courage to pet, firetrucks that Aaron could climb up in, all while Adam explored the large grassy fields, marina, and generally enjoyed being outdoors in a park we haven’t spent a ton of time in.

Another evening Adam was rummaging around in my stuff in my home office (hey!) and found the Linux license plate that Compaq gave out back in 2000. I wasn’t the original owner, but it has been kicking around my office for some time without a home, and he excitedly told me that we should hang it up. Sounds good!

We did.

We wandered around the house replacing light bulbs and batteries another night, and the air filters for our HVAC system and air purifiers another. It actually turned these chores that had been piling up into a more fun and present experience. Instead of the boring manual labor of doing this tedious around-the-house work, I had a couple pint-sized helpers who would follow simple instructions like “bring me the screwdriver” or “bring me that trash bag” and enjoyed doing it.

One evening while out in the yard I even fixed the irrigation sprinklers. We had a monthly gardener for a while last year and on one of his visits he clipped one of the sprinkler heads and caused it to crack, which made the whole system unusable. Now, we don’t actually use it, so fixing it seems a bit silly, but the heads are less than $3 each and replacement is easy. Why not fix it? Plus, it was hot out, so it might be fun for the boys to play in the sprinklers!

Well, I quickly learned why we don’t use pop-up irrigation sprinklers with little kids. The damage a gardener did once was nothing compared to what a soggy kid who wants to clean his Cozy Coupe will do to a sprinkler head. I started with one broken one, and ended up replacing three. Oops. Though I guess I should be grateful that it was so easy to fix and they didn’t break anything more severely.

One of the reasons I’d been so eager to get out on a weeknight, or have more activities like fixing things, was that Adam hadn’t begun TK yet, and we had a (wonderful!) babysitter filling in while we were between au pairs for a few weeks. Unfortunately, due to the large price tag of hiring an hourly babysitter for what was effectively full time, we had her precisely cover while I was at work, not a moment more. That meant I had a bit more time with the boys than usual on weeknights, and that meant coming up with more activities to keep them engaged. At 2.5 and 4.5 years old, both are maturing in the direction that they can do solo play for longer stretches, so I’ve been able to get more chores done while still caring for them (and sometimes a little more work), a fact I was especially grateful for while juggling so much each day.

The week we matched with our new au pair, we went out to a local book shop to pick up some locally themed gifts and discovered the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Factory Outlet over in San Leandro. Having played tourist in San Francisco many times at the founding location that isn’t actually a factory now, it was a lot of fun to park in the lot for the actual current factory and enjoy their new ice cream parlor that opened up inside. The boys and I shared a brownie sundae.

Afterwards, we had dinner at The Original Mels Diner just down the street, which is the cousin of Mel’s in San Francisco, which we used to go to relatively frequently. The boys got their dinner in little paper cars, which I was pretty envious of until the amazing cornbread that went along with my turkey dinner arrived.

The first full weekend our new au pair was here turned out to be quite an eventful one. First was the Castro Valley Cruise Night. The town doesn’t shut down roads like for some of our annual festivals, but the boulevard is packed as people from all around the area make loops down the road in their classic and exotic cars. “Cruising” is frowned upon in most places, illegal in others, but for one night a year it is fun to get out with the rest of the community and enjoy seeing cars.

The next day we went up to San Francisco and showed our new au pair some of the classic tourist spots. Earlier that week we had ventured up to the city to check on some things at our condo, and ended up at Fogo de Chão where we made the surprising discovery that kids eat free there (though only Aaron was really into the whole experience). Our weekend visit was a much more exciting one though. We started off doing a near round-trip on the California Street cable car!

We got off near Grace Cathedral and walked down to the Cable Car Museum, which I was a bit worried would be too loud for my sound-sensitive kiddos, but Adam surprised me and spent the rest of the day asking to go back.

After the museum, we did the steep but thankfully mostly downhill walk down to Pier 39 where we had lunch and visited the sea lions. The big adventure for the afternoon though was visiting Aquarium of the Bay. Aaron loves fish and other swimming things, so I’ve been wanting to take him to an aquarium for months. With our half off discount via the Oakland Zoo membership, this was the perfect opportunity, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s not a huge aquarium, but it has some wonderful fish tunnels and overall Aaron had a blast there.

Our final stop was to to the Musée Mécanique, which was quite crowded and everyone was getting tired at this point. I think the boys would have enjoyed it more if the circumstances had been different, I’ll have to keep it in mind for the future. From Fisherman’s Wharf, we hopped on a vintage street car and made our way back to BART to go home. A fun day, and a successful one of showing off how the Clipper cards and public transit around San Francisco works to our new au pair.

Living in beautiful-all-year California, the end of summer is kind of a vague thing, but with work getting busier, Adam going to TK, and generally some things changing in our household, these adventures actually did feel like a close to summertime.

I finally came home with an IBM Selectric II

I have a small collection of vintage typewriters. Until very recently, they were all completely mechanical and I’d avoided getting anything electric.

But since I work at IBM, I routinely get asked if I own an IBM Selectric.

The Selectric used to be ubiquitous in offices in the US, and it is memorable because it uses a “ball” to type with. The machine is still rather mechanical, but it has a motor drives the ball mechanism which is considerably more complicated than the traditional key slug design that traditional typewriters use. As an interesting bit of history, the USSR also bugged a series of US-based Selectrics in the 1970s in what may be considered the earliest keylogger.

I wasn’t going to get one. I’ve been advised that they’re incredibly complicated, take specialized expertise to fix them, and when they go wrong, they can really go wrong. But that nagging feeling was there, and when I saw a lonely IBM Selectric II for sale for $19.99 at a local thrift shop, I scooped it up and brought it home.

It was really loud when I plugged it in. But hey, the motor still worked!

Over the next few weeks I watched some videos about how they work, popped the lid off to see if I could identify the problem. I was able to pull out some super gross padding on the bottom and so it started to smell a bit better, and it is fun to poke around with.

Ultimately I had to admit defeat though. If I had more time, I may have tried harder to fix it myself, but the truth is I wasn’t actually enjoying the fix-up of this machine, like I have with the simpler fully mechanical ones. There were too many things going on, and when I noticed Berkeley Typewriter’s website has a “We Specialize in ALL IBM Typewriters” line front and center, I decided I wouldn’t delay any longer, and I should just take it in to have the experts. $400 later I had a repair receipt and a promise that it would be done within a month.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post our four year old son Adam came with me to the shop. Pretty much the most adorable thing to come out of all this was that the shop owner gave him a gutted President typewriter as a toy, and when he realized it was non-functional, he decided to try and fix it …”like mom does.” He popped open the top and started poking around inside with his toy tool set, an activity that took up a ton of time for several days. I’m so proud.

After a couple weeks I got a call that it was ready, and as soon as the weekend rolled around Adam and I piled into the car and went to pick it up. It turns out that it needed several parts replaced, so I suspect I would have struggled some in my attempts to fix it myself unless I went part hunting (again, with more time maybe I would have been up for it!). While I was there, I also decided to pick up an additional typing ball – this time in Script, which he sold to me in a beautiful little red IBM ball holder.

After browsing some listings, I’m certain that I’m going to end up collecting Selectric typing balls for use, it’s the only typewriter I have that you can change the font in!

Now safely at home and living happily behind me while I work, it’s actually quite lovely to use, and it’s been a huge hit with my kids. The keys are much easier to use than on any of my mechanical typewriters, so they can swiftly punch out a whole line without much effort, which they’re really enjoying. It’s a lovely little machine, and I am actually glad it joined my collection.

But really, this is the last one!

Critters, typewriters, and cable cars

Our summer adventures have continued with a lot of trips to the zoo. We got an Oakland Zoo membership a couple months ago, and I quickly learned that our boys love going to the zoo, and since it’s less than 20 minutes away, it makes for a nice late afternoon getaway if I leave work a little early. It also makes for a simple outing on the weekend, which is what we did recently and went to the petting zoo part of the zoo for the first time.

Sadly, the rides on the outside of the zoo are not included in the membership, but with free parking it’s still an inexpensive activity that makes them very happy. Plus, we can pop into the zoo too! On one small day trip on a very hot day, the boys enjoyed a couple of the little kids rides, and then we took the gondola inside the zoo up to the top and right back down again before heading home.

In other animal news, we also spent one Saturday morning visiting the Sulphur Creek Nature Center. The only one of us who had been there before was Adam, who went with his first au pair back before the pandemic! They have a lot of birds that are being rehabilitated, as well as some rabbits and at least one coyote, and an indoor discovery center where Aaron really enjoyed visiting the snakes. Definitely a place to go back to.

I’ve recently taken some modified advice from my therapist and started taking the boys out on separate adventures that cater to their specific interests. It can be stressful to take them out together, since they have very different ways of experiencing outings. At the zoo Aaron loves to stare at the animals, where Adam would rather run through fields and quickly inspect each unfamiliar symbol on the zoo map. When they’re out with one parent, it can be tricky to cater to both, and even when we go out as a whole family, we find ourselves dragged from one thing to the next rather quickly to keep them both happy. I’m sure it’ll get easier as they mature and can each better cope with doing what their brother wants to do, but for now it’s sometimes just easier to take them out separately.

In the spirit of this, I took one weekend this month and did an Adam day and then an Aaron day.

Adam likes typewriters, and I wanted to get my IBM Selectric II cleaned up and repaired. So I decided to take Adam for a drive up to Berkeley Typewriter. It’s a 25 minute drive each way, so there was a bit of a risk, but I didn’t have to be worried. I got my estimate and turned over my typewriter, and then we spent a half hour exploring typewriters in the store portion of the repair shop. Adam delightfully went around to various typewriters writing his name.

And I got to see the typewriter that Tom Hanks donated to the shop! Tom Hanks rather famously collects and uses vintage typewriters, and I first learned about his shop donations after he donated a typewriter to Philadelphia Typewriter. It was a delight to learn that he had gifted one to my local shop as well. And it’s a beautiful red IBM Selectric at that!

As a bonus, we brought home a professionally gutted typewriter that the boys could use as a toy. Adam now regularly plays typewriter repair shop, where he tries to “fix” it with a variety of tools. It’s adorable.

On Sunday it was Aaron’s day! He’s been asking for MONTHS to ride a cable car. He knows about them because I like cable cars and some of his books about San Francisco feature them. In general, my little two and a half year old likes public transit anyway, so my goal with him on this beautiful August morning was to take BART (train #1!) up to San Francisco and take him on some public transit downtown. First stop, a cable car!

I made the mistake of going to Powell, somehow forgetting that at the height of summer there’d be a huge line for the cable car on a Sunday morning. Instead of waiting in that line, we hopped on a vintage street car to the less popular California Street cable car line. I was quickly reminded how tricky it was bringing a lively two year old, a folded stroller, and a diaper bag onto crowded public transit by myself. People are incredibly kind, and someone even gave up their seat for Aaron on the street car, but it was an ordeal. Once settled in, we did have a nice time on the street car though!

As expected, when we arrived at the California Street cable car stop we were able to hop right on board. Due to having a stroller, we had to sit inside, but it worked out well for his first cable car ride. He could walk around a little inside, and we did the full length of the line, and then took it back to where we began.

From there we walked past Ferry Building to where the MUNI Metro line surfaces and took that down to the Giants baseball stadium, which he enjoyed seeing. We then ended up with brunch at one of our old favorites, the Delancey Street Restaurant.

It was a long morning for Aaron, but ultimately a very successful one. We took the MUNI Metro back to BART and made our way home after brunch, wrapping up our weekend adventures!

TK and childcare

Back in May we welcomed our third au pair. I noted at the time, “it’s a tremendous relief to have an end to childcare troubles in sight.” Well, it’s true that there were none in sight, but it sadly didn’t mean that they didn’t arise. The arrangement with that au pair lasted just a couple months as a cascade of issues arose that we ultimately couldn’t work past together. It was the first time we’ve had this experience, and I’m certain it’s going to be a blip in out experience with the program, but it was a stressful couple of months.

It also reminded me how challenging the childcare question is in the United States today. Our children are our most precious pieces of our lives, and yet I have to find it in myself to trust another person to care for them for 40+ hours a week so I can pursue my career. It’s what I wanted, but I guess I didn’t expect that I’d be leaving a chunk of my heart at my office door every day, or how painful (in addition to inconvenient!) it is when the childcare situation is not going as you’d like. It’s also left entirely up to brand new parents to figure this all out. We don’t have support from our government to find or secure safe childcare, and while there are a lot of options, many are expensive or so wildly exclusive that they take months or years to enroll. Ultimately, it’s a source of low-level stress even when things are going well.

But life goes on, and I’m hopeful that we’re on the path to a more settled time moving forward with a new au pair. With that, Adam transitioned from the program he was in to Transitional Kindergarten! He’s now going to his local elementary school, which just over a half a mile from home, allowing us to walk him to and from school most days.

Sign made by one of his former au pairs on his first day!

Moving to a school district schedule will definitely take some adjusting. We spent most of our adult lives traveling when it’s cheapest and taking vacations during unusual times. Now that we’re bound to the district schedule, we’ll be going with the pack. Even our visits back to Philadelphia will be more limited than before and during traditional break times around holidays, but it’s my hope that we can spend a nice chunk of the summer there most years. I guess we’ll see! With the last few years disrupted by so many unforeseen changes, including a pandemic, I’m reluctant to make too many definitive declarations of plans. It’s exciting though, our first little one is going to school!

Remembering Jim Fisher

On Thursday I woke up to the terrible news that my long time friend and mentor Jim Fisher had died suddenly.

The day before a friend of mine had been contacted on Facebook to see if anyone knew about his whereabouts. I passed along the message to his local HAM community, but I didn’t think much of it (because Facebook, right?). His death came as a tremendous shock to me, and I spent moments here and there throughout my day on Thursday talking to my friends in ##phillyhams. Sharing in grief helps a little.

I met Jim when I joined the Ubuntu Pennsyvlania Local Community team in the mid aughts. He was active in events and finding new communities for us to be engaged with. He had many connections throughout the region and was eager to get Ubuntu-based computers in the hands of folks in need. As a result of his outreach, he worked with everyone from computer recycling organizations to non-profits that helped young people. It was a real golden age for the promise of desktop Linux that had been renewed by the development of Ubuntu. Jim was a whirlwind of welcoming energy at all these events, making sure newcomers were seen and encouraged, and encouraging us all to try new things.

He also always made sure we were all fed. His day job was for a bakery and so he’d bring goodies to all our events, and had the inside scoop to venues that would be good for Ubuntu release parties all around Philadelphia. As I was looking through photos on Thursday (which I’ve collected here), I was reminded that even for events he couldn’t participate in, he’d drop off some pastries and cake for us to enjoy. I fell in love with those Oreo cakes, and even once I moved to California, I could depend upon him bringing one to the annual FOSSCON event in Philadelphia, which I almost always attended.

I don’t recall the precise timing of when he joined the amateur radio community, but once he did, we all heard about it. He brought even more enthusiasm to that community and my visits to Philly kept seeing more and more of my technical friends getting into or resurrecting their interest in amateur radio thanks to his encouragement and excitement. Even I succumbed to it, getting my ham radio license had always been on my to do list, but I am not sure I ever would have prioritized it if not for Jim’s encouragement. In the summer of 2021, I passed my test with him right there with me (virtually, pandemic times). As I read through the AJ3DI – Silent Key posts on the The Phil-Mont Mobile Radio Club mailing list, I could see that his involvement and encouragement of others was tremendous.

From Linux to radio, Jim encouraged countless people to be fearless, and to tinker and fail. Then he was right there with us to celebrate our successes, and immediately jump into our next challenge. As someone who tends to be a careful perfectionist, his voice was what I needed at key points in my life, even on matters that were a lot more personal. We kept in contact via IRC, so I was still chatting with him a couple times a week, even though I moved to California over a decade ago. The last conversation we had was just last week about my kids, and some of the challenges I was experiencing. His wise words of acceptance were, once again, exactly what I needed to hear.

I will be a bit unbalanced without his humor and guidance when I start taking myself too seriously, there aren’t many people in my life who throw out raw wisdom like he did. I already miss him.

Big screens and new TVs

The last time I was inside a movie theater was in the spring of 2021 when we rented out The Chabot Theater here in Castro Valley for our 8th wedding anniversary, and did a private screening of Star Wars: A New Hope. Prior to that, I have to look all the way back to May of 2019 for the last time I saw a commercially released movie in a theater when I went out by myself to see Captain Marvel. I’ve never been huge into movie theaters anyway, but it’s 2023 now, that’s a long time even for me!

So last week I jumped on the Barbenheimer bandwagon and went to the movie theater twice.

The first outing was the easiest, heading back to The Chabot Theater to see Barbie. The theater is within walking distance of home, and it’s a pretty standard length movie. I took a Sunday afternoon and walked over to the theater for a 2PM showing while Aaron was napping. I was back home with MJ and the boys shortly after 4PM.

The theater was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it, there was even a line going out the front door when I arrived at 1:45! But I got my ticket and candy, and settled in for what turned out to be a much more emotional experience than I expected. As a working mother, the movie definitely spoke to me, and I admit that there were some serious tears a couple times during the movie. It was also visually extraordinary and a lot of fun, I’m very glad I went, and it was a great movie to break my theater drought.

Oppenheimer took a bit more planning. First of all, it’s a 3 hour movie, which is quite the investment of time. And as much of a fan of historical docudramas as I am (The Manhattan Project looms large in our country’s mythology), I probably would have skipped it in the theater if it wasn’t for a simple fact: it was filmed for 70mm IMAX format, only 30 theaters in the world were playing it on this format, and one of those theaters was less than 20 minutes from our house, in the random suburb of Dublin, California. How could I miss this opportunity? I couldn’t! Which brings me to the second matter of logistics. The first showing I had my sights on sold out, so I had to adjust my plans and ended up with tickets for a Wednesday showing. My seat wasn’t great due to how close to the screen I was, but I was mostly centered and my seat reclined, so it was a pleasant experience.

It was a good movie, though I think it would have been more IMAX fun if they had more explosions, it was a movie about The Bomb, after all.

In other screen news, we recently bought a new TV. I wasn’t entirely on board with this plan, partially due to just how much is on our plates and I wasn’t keen on The Whole Project it would be to move the TVs around so we could finally replace the failing plasma TV in the family room. It’s just showing cartoons and baseball! Who needs a perfect picture? Well, ultimately even I had to admit it was getting quite bad, and the other day we even had some major audio distortion which rendered it unwatchable. We got this plasma TV in 2010, and it was fine for a few years until we replaced it with a much lighter, cooler, 4K TV. The plasma went into a box until four years ago when we pulled it out to use in the family room, and ultimately mounted it on the wall.

Our new OLED TV arrived last week, but we didn’t yet have a plan to install it, until an opportunity presented itself. Our two former au pairs reached out to ask if they could take the boys to the beach on Saturday morning! We quickly agreed and suddenly we had some child-free time that could be spent moving around huge TVs! Our plan was to take the plasma TV off the wall and pack it up. Then move the TV from the living room up to the mounted spot in the family room, and install the new TV on the TV stand in the living room.

It took a few hours.

As is often the case with these projects, we encountered several bumps in the road. Where was the plasma TV base, which we needed to return it to the box? Where are the spare screws from the mounting kit? Thankfully, we were able to find everything we were missing, and there were no panic trips to the hardware store, or worse. Taking the plasma TV down was no small feat though, did I mention it’s heavy? It’s very heavy.

The rest of the project went rather smoothly, just a bunch of manual labor in the form of lifting TVs and twisting screws.

Unfortunately my current lifestyle with two little kids and a full time job means I don’t have a lot of time for watching TV. Hah! But it’s nice that Shaun the Sheep is being reliably presented the correct colors now. I actually found myself with some time the other night when I was ready to sit down and watch some TV downstairs, but I had a snack and fell asleep to a podcast instead. Sorry TV, I’ll meet you some other night.

Beaches and boats in San Francisco

We haven’t brought the kids to San Francisco very many times. The pandemic put a damper on a lot of city outings, and then we were just juggling a lot and bringing a couple little kids to the city was a bigger challenge than we were prepared for. Things have calmed down a bit now, and this month we decided we were in a much better position to bring the kids on little trips to the city.

The first adventure was a long day with both a trip to the zoo, and a visit to the beach. It had been over a year since we’d been to the San Francisco Zoo, so Aaron was only a year old when we were last there. Adam seemed to remember it somewhat, but he definitely seemed more interested in the gardens and running around than the actual animals. That’s OK though, there was plenty of both for everyone to have a good time!

We got there in the morning and stayed for lunch, and then made our way across the street to our second destination of the day, the beach!

The last time Adam was at a beach was when we were in Florida all the way back in 2019. Aaron had never been to a beach! But they’d both seen them on TV plenty of times. They knew about the sand and water, building sand castles, and were pretty excited about the prospect of going. I wasn’t sure it would live up to their expectations, especially with how cold the ocean water is in northern California. I had nothing to worry about, my little California boys basically want to live at the beach now.

Little Aaron was definitely feeling the chill of the ocean water, but even through shivering, it was hard to get him out. Logistically, I think I was the only one who struggled a bit with it all. Sand gets everywhere, and there was so much stuff to clean. Plus, beaches are 45-60 minutes from home, depending upon traffic, and that’s a lot of time on the road for a beach visit. I think our next step is to find some non-ocean beaches closer to home. And as a bonus, non-ocean beaches will have warmer water!

The following weekend was spent with another trip up to San Francisco, this time to attend a birthday party for one of my friends in Golden Gate Park. It was great to see him and I’m glad we went, but MJ and I were the only parents there wrangling kids among a crowd child-free San Franciscans, so that was a little awkward for me.

When we wrapped up at the party, we took the kids over to see the bison paddock, and then what turned out to be the big event of the day for the kids, paddle boats! I had never done paddle boats as an adult, and I always kinda wrote it off as an expensive, silly thing, but it was actually a lot of fun, and now Aaron asks to go on boats all the time. Maybe next we’ll do a ferry in the bay.

At this point we were getting into “long day” territory and we had to decide whether to drive home, or visit the San Francisco sushi place we frequented when we lived in the city. We went back and forth a little, but decided to push on forward and get dinner in the city. It was a delight to see the owners and sushi chef who we used to see on a weekly basis, and this was their introduction to our kids! But just like the party in the park, it was a jarring experience to be socializing with people who had known us before kids, and suddenly our conversations and situation were so different.

Still, we go to enjoy a bunch of our old favorites, and even managed to find food on the menu that the boys would eat so they had a healthy dinner.

It was fun driving into the city, but I think our next visit will be via BART for a visit downtown. The Adam hasn’t been to Pier 39 since he was very little, and Aaron has never been, I think a stroll along the Embarcadero will be a lot of fun for all of us, and maybe a visit to the aquarium, given how much Aaron likes to watch fish.

Summer 2023 by the Bay

It’s been very summer over here with the boys.

Living in northern California means that most of the year is pretty great for outdoor adventures, but we still technically have seasons, and with summer break it does seem like there are a lot more events this time of year. Plus, it is a bit more pleasant to be outside most days.

So first up on our reel of fun, there was a summer fair at the library recently! It was on some random Thursday morning, and I happened upon it while looking for weekend plans. As fate would have it, I had very early calls that Thursday, which gave me some leeway with my schedule and I was able to accompany our au pair on a walk over the library. It was a small affair in the library parking lot, but more than enough for us!

One afternoon after work, I also decided to indulge in the interest in kites the kids have developed. I’m certain it comes from watching cartoons that have characters flying kites, so I wasn’t sure how it would pan out in reality for a two year old and a four year old. So I did a quick search of a local place that sold inexpensive, no fuss kites, and whisked the boys out to pick them up at our local hardware store. As for actually flying them, it turned out better than I expected. We had to go to a park, since our back yard is small and our front yard has too many power lines, but it actually went quite well once we were out in the wide open spaces of our local park. It wasn’t very windy, so we only got the kite up briefly a few times, so the boys swiftly lost interest, but it was fun while it lasted and we got to spend a little time at the playground.

As for weekends, plenty of our weekends are filled with adventure but for the most part we’ve stuck to our usual routine, which includes the local farmers’ market, our usual restaurants for lunches, and a garage sale or two. I had been focusing on garage sales that I could walk to with the boys, but I recently convinced MJ to start coming along with us, after deciding to drive to a handful myself after all. I’m 100% the flea market/garage sale person of this family, and I wouldn’t say he’s completely shifted to my way of thinking, but a few deals here and there have softened him to the idea of second-hand purchases.

In early June, MJ was in Seattle for a work trip, and during his absence I brought the kids to the Oakland Zoo. That meant he hadn’t gone with them to the Oakland Zoo in quite some time! We decided to rectify that with a visit over the 4th of July weekend. As members, we can get in at 9AM (an hour before general admission) and since it was quite a warm day, getting in early was a wise move. I had only intended on staying for 90 minutes or so, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed such a short zoo visit in my life. The visit quickly turned into multiple hours and we even ended up having lunch there.

It quickly became apparent that the boys enjoy the zoo very differently though. Little Aaron is totally enamored with the desire to “see animals!” while Adam takes a much more map-focused, analytical approach to zoo visits and keeps us moving at a swift pace. It’s nice that they each seem to get a lot of out if, I see more Oakland Zoo trips in our near future, we only live 20 minutes away.

On the actual 4th of July we didn’t really have plans. Indeed, pre-pandemic we tended to spend the 4th of July where it all began, Philadelphia! The stars just didn’t align this time around and there were too many blockers to planning a summer trip this year. We made the most of it by taking the opportunity to use our day off from work and school to enjoy another family day by driving out to the nearby city of Dublin to enjoy a morning at the park and then lunch at a local brewery we go to from time to time. The park was a huge hit, it has a large playground AND wide open fields, and everyone enjoyed all of it (though, as usual, Aaron preferred the playground and Adam preferred the gardens and fields).

The day after the 4th of July I took the train to the city to meet up with my friend Mark, who I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic. I’m slowly reconnecting with people in-person post-pandemic, but with two small children at home I can’t fully put blame on the pandemic for my loss of social connection. Fortunately for me, the friendships I’ve cultivated are the sort where you can go a year or more without seeing someone and then pick up where you left off, with a bit of social media filling the void in the meantime.

I joked before meeting up that my move to the east bay effectively made me a tourist to San Francisco, and I totally latched onto that by visiting Ferry Building before meeting up for a ride on the California Street cable car, stopping by the Cable Car Museum, having a pizza lunch in North Beach, and then checking out the new Central Subway, starting at the station I hadn’t seen yet in Chinatown. It was great to catch up, and on my way back to the suburbs I took a vintage street car, putting me at 4 different types of public transit for the day!

On my way out of the city I also dropped by the Market Street Railway Museum to pick out a t-shirt for me and a toy streetcar for the boys, which just happened to be the same one I saw outside the museum just moments before, and snapped a photo of.

Getting out of the house with a friend to visit some of my favorite places, activities, and foods, was exactly what I needed. It doesn’t cure the exhaustion or feelings of overwhelm I have as a working mother of two young children, but it helped me feel like my old self again, which was a welcome change for a few hours.

+25 pounds

I weighed in at 212 pounds this morning. I’m not pleased about that, but it’s worth writing about.

Two years ago I wrote a blog post titled 50 pounds. In it I chronicled the path I walked to lose 50 pounds from my high point of 237 pounds just prior to my second pregnancy in 2020. At the time, I acknowledged my belief that the magic bullet was breastfeeding, since that bought me a 500 calorie deficit every day without changing diet or behavior. I was right. If I look at my weight over the past two years, it started climbing up from 187 when I stopped breastfeeding at the end of 2021. For all of 2022 I was hovering around 205, and this year it’s been around 210. They say that most people have a “set point” where your body kind of naturally settles, and for me that seems to be at 210. If I eat decently and do my regular clean-the-house-and-chase-kiddos-around exercise routine I stay around 210. If I eat excessively or make other bad choices about my diet, it goes up. If I make major positive changes to my diet, it goes down.

Still, I don’t like this set point and I’d like to change it. I liked how I looked and felt when I weighed less. As I squeeze into my jeans and frown at how Medium unisex shirts hang on me now, I’m unhappy. It’s also not healthy for me, I am at high risk for Type 2 Diabetes, and that’s nothing to play around with. My A1C levels are OK for now, but that could change if I’m not diligent about my diet and exercise level.

But mental health plays a role here too. I am a stress/comfort eater. I love white rice and sugar. Carbs are my best buds. I still crave soda. I have a better grasp on how these things impact me. White rice? Sends my blood sugar through the roof! And yes, I know how much sugar is in a soda. But in the moment, it doesn’t really seem to help. I really, really want that piece of cake. It does lift my mood slightly, and in those tough moments when I’m really struggling, it’s a shortcut that I have been taking a little too often lately.

Having a look at that blog post, there are a few other things I’ve been leaning a bit too far into.

I started adding in fast food sides again, because french fries and jalapeno poppers are tastey! But honestly they aren’t that good and I should probably switch back to healthier sides, or no sides at all.

Soda. I haven’t gotten to the point of buying it for home, but I’ve come close, and I’ve had it while eating out a few times recently. I just need to put a stop to that. I have my flavored sparkling water and Hop Tea!

I keep eating too much. I need to stop when I’m satisfied, not when the pizza is gone. Do I want that slice of cake? Cool. But I don’t need to finish it if I’m feeling better! And news flash: I can throw it away if it goes bad and I haven’t felt like eating it.

Speaking of cake, there’s been too much dessert. Moderation, lady! Bedtime cookies are not necessary, and easy enough to skip and just go to bed without thinking about them again.

If I do all of the above, I think I can put a stop to my weight continuing to increase. From there, I can tackle the weight loss question again, if I find I need to.

Honestly, what I’m most hoping for is an improvement in my mental health. My life is overloaded with responsibilities right now, and I feel like I’m drowning all the time. Staying disciplined with a diet that doesn’t necessarily help my mood has proven impossible under these circumstances.

Cars, baseball, and the rest of Father’s Day weekend

At two and four, both of the boys are finally at ages where they can really enjoy family outings for what they are, so it was really fun to go into Father’s Day weekend recently with a bunch of family plans.

The first event of the weekend was the Castro Valley Car Show. We go every year, and they shut down Castro Valley Boulevard for several blocks to showcase individuals and organizations bringing in all sorts of classic cars. We met up with a friend of mine around 3PM after the boys got up from their naps and had a lovely afternoon strolling along the boulevard.

After the show, we all went over to enjoy some Indian food for dinner. Adam is a bit of a picky eater, but we found a butter chicken (chicken makhani) a while back that he enjoyed, but was sadly discontinued. But we keep trying similar dishes and trying different restaurants. Aaron chowed down on the chicken makhani, but I think we’ll have to keep searching for Adam. And we all enjoyed the rice and naan!

Sunday was the Big Day as far as Father’s Day goes. We went out to an Oakland A’s game! In 2021 we went to a couple games, but made a big event out of it by bringing friends and renting a suite, but this time we decided to get seats in the stands. They were playing the Phillies, which was fun for us, and caused us to have amusing split loyalties in our gear; Adam was all decked out for the Phillies, while the rest of us wore green for the A’s. Truly, we all love both teams, so it was bound to be a fun game. Execution-wise, we took BART to the stadium, and agreed that we’d split up or all go home if it got to be too much for any of us (kids running off, troubled by too much noise, etc).

We made it through the game though! It wasn’t stress-free, sitting in the stands for long periods is definitely a struggle for them, and going on such a busy day meant that leaving our seats meant fighting our way through crowds, which was unpleasant for all of us. I think if we tried sitting in the stands again we’d go on a less busy day, or maybe even go to San Francisco where there are peripheral activities for the kids if they get bored of the game.

I think what really made the day was the end of the game when kids got to run the bases! Apparently this is a Sunday tradition that some parks follow when there isn’t a home game the next day, but it’s not something we’ve ever experienced. The line for it was incredibly long and patience was wearing thin, but it was worth it. MJ took Adam around the bases and I took Aaron, and we all had a lot of fun.

As a bonus it meant that we didn’t have to wait in line to get on a packed BART train to get home, we were able to leisurely walk to and wait for the train, and all got seats on the trip home.

We skipped naps for the boys to attend the game, so Aaron actually fell asleep in the stroller on the train, and I found Adam zonked out on the couch right after dinner, so we enjoyed a relaxing evening for the rest of the day.

Gift-wise, I’ve struggled to find something MJ would actually use, so in addition to a small gift the boys picked, I went the route of getting a piece of furniture that belonged to his grandparents fixed. During one of the moves (apartment, storage, pod, garage…) the top became detached from the base, and we weren’t confident in our ability to fix it ourselves without doing damage.

I contacted a local furniture restoration shop and they picked it up, got the top re-attached, and dropped it off! I then spent the next couple of days cleaning it, which was a transformation unto itself, and then got a pair of tight-fitting tablecloths that cover the remaining blemishes.

The table replaces the big, plastic folding table that we had in our upstairs entry way, so the chairs are re-united with their table now! It’s a smaller table, but it looks much nicer in the space, and less space for stuff to collect is probably for the best anyway.