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Seasonal smoke, high holidays, and getting back outside

We were having a delightful summer. Back yard tidied up enough to play outside. Regular cadence of farmer’s market on Saturday morning and playground on Sunday morning. Every weekend we’d also look up local garage/yard sales to walk to.

Then the smoke started to roll in on August 18th. Our cars and outdoor furnishings quickly developed a thin layer of ash and we had to stay indoors.

Admittedly, we’re getting off easy so far this year. I rarely smell the smoke, and the PM 2.5 AQI levels for wildfire smoke pollutants are regularly between 50-100. Still not what I want to expose the either the baby or the toddler to very much, but it’s not the directly unhealthy or dangerous range we dealt with last year. Still, we’re staying indoors a lot more, and that’s been tough. Adam doesn’t like being cooped up, and I’ve realized just how important all those walks I was taking with them are to my fitness and health. The air has started to clear this week, but there are still fires and if they flare up again and the winds shift, I will need to make sure I’m getting in some exercise again. Hello again, treadmill!

I wrote about getting my amateur radio license and my movie marathon, and honestly that’s all I’ve packed my free time with. Most recently I started watching the 1980s series Automan and then listening to the Continuum Drag podcast as they make their way through the series too. The podcast has definitely made watching the series a lot more fun and social.

I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to keep the kids engaged as we’re stuck indoors, and I’ve been delighted to see how quickly baby Aaron is growing and hitting milestones. In our cooped up period these past few weeks, he’s become quite the crawler! And he stands while holding things now!

I’m probably not fully succeeding in meeting all the needs of a mischievous toddler (honestly, who can?), which is how I ended up going through our trash can on a Tuesday morning. The night before we noticed that one of the baby monitors was missing. I figured Adam had just stashed it somewhere, but after essentially turning the house upside down on Monday night, I had to accept that he probably threw it away because he thought it would be funny. Thankfully, I found it in the trash before the trash truck came. It was gross, but after taking it apart, carefully cleaning it, and letting it dry, it seems to work fine.

Adam and I also are continuing to do art, but the other week we added baking into the mix (see what I did there?). First it was by making challah, and most recently honey cake for Rosh Hashanah. He’s only two, so obviously it’s me doing most of the work, but it’s been fun to include him as we measure and mix together the ingredients.

We also did some holiday-inspired art!

As for the holidays themselves, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were once again observed via live stream. It looks like a few people made it to the synagogue, masked and vaccinated, but hundreds of us joined virtually. It’s sad to not see everyone in person for a second year, but just like last year, it did make things a lot easier. A baby and a toddler don’t make leaving the house easy, especially for extended periods. Staying safe at home certainly was convenient.

We also took the afternoon on both days to visit parks. On Rosh Hashanah our au pair and I went over to the playground, where we bumped into the local Chabad chapter, and I got to socially-distanced chat with a Jewish mother in their community. On Yom Kippur MJ joined us and we all went out to Lake Chabot Park to soak in the sun and let Adam kick a soccer ball around in the grass.

With the clear skies, we’ve also spent the last couple of weekends going to yard and garage sales again. Mostly it’s because it gives us a safe destination for walks (helps me stay motivated!) but also because the kids do seem to like to see Things when we go out. Stuff-wise, I rarely buy anything, but we did snag a refrigerator toy last weekend that both the boys are really enjoying.

Work has been incredibly busy. We put on our flagship event for IBM Z last week, so August through September is a mad scramble to finalize the schedule, make sure the speakers are happy and have what they need, and handle all kinds of surprising logistics (even for a virtual event!). A non-trivial number of evenings I end up working after the kids go to sleep just to make sure everyone has what they need. Mix in taking a day off for Rosh Hashanah and another for Yom Kippur I really had my work cut out for me. We nailed it though, I was really happy with my track and the event did very well. The virtual Open Mainframe Summit is next, which I’ve been handling IBM’s presence for, and was taking up considerable amounts of time as I got the booth materials together and make sure we hit all the key deadlines. That’s coming up next week.

Today I got to enjoy another beer festival! This time Beers without Beards which had a beautiful assortment of beers, including Two Lights from Allagash, which I’ve wanted to try since it came out. Realistically, it’s tricky to fully take in these virtual beer festivals because I have a couple of little humans to care for during the day, but having the live stream on while we went about our day has been a nice change of pace. I really enjoyed the segment from Allagash, and it was delightful to hear about some of the history of our beloved Russian River Pliny the Elder. As for actually drinking, I can work my way through the beer collection in the evenings over the next few weeks. I’m enjoying the Two Lights right now, which is pretty great for a lager!

Pandemic-wise, I’ve hinted throughout this post how we’re still staying close to home. It really did weigh heavy on my heart to stay home during the holidays again, and MJ just canceled his plans to go to his cousin’s wedding in early October. I’m lonely, and I miss everyone. I am eager to see approval come through for vaccinations for the kids, because that is when I think we’ll be in a more reasonable place as we continue to evaluate our safety. In the meantime, we’re all doing the best we can over here.