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Vacation at home, 2021 edition

I really needed this week, but a week definitely isn’t enough to fully recharge when you’re still getting up at 6:30AM with a baby every day and there are still so many chores to do each day. I think about that article from The Onion a lot, Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean, and in this case I didn’t even leave home. But with our au pair watching the kids during my normal working hours, I did still have an unusual amount of time to myself for a few days. I had a lot of time to read, even watched some TV as I relaxed for a couple afternoons. One day I took a nap! And with the exception of one day, I even managed to get over 7 hours of sleep every night.

Monday and Wednesday were mostly chore days. On Monday I rotated out all of Aaron’s 12-18M clothes for the 24M clothes and did a ton of laundry. After Aaron’s morning nap, we loaded the kids into the truck and took them to their annual pediatrician exams, complete with vaccinations. When we got home, I started the process of deep cleaning Adam’s car seat following the latest car sickness mishap. I also cleaned out the cooler, which was still full of ice packs and drinks from the party on Saturday (and it was all still cool!). Having the day time to do chores was a help too, especially since the weather wasn’t cooperating. I was able to get all the trash and recycling taken out before it got dark, so while it was still a soggy job, it wasn’t a soggy and dark job. With all the chores done when I’d usually be working, in the evenings all I really had was cleaning up after dinner and then I could relax.

Wednesday morning I did the weekly grocery shopping as usual. Mid-day I went to my neurologist to see about the path forward for migraine treatment now that I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding. From there, I had to swing by two Targets (one didn’t have our whole pick-up order), buy a few more pieces of clothing for Aaron. I don’t enjoy shopping, or visiting the doctor, but it was nice to get out of the house on my own for a while. On Thursday MJ and I were able to spend a nice lunch together in the fancy alleyway they have set up with tables next to The Cannery in town. From there, I dropped off holiday cards at the post office and then swing by the comic book shop, which I hadn’t had a browse through in quite some time, as I usually just pick up my subscriptions and depart. When I got home, I made pumpkin pie! It didn’t turn out to be as good as the one I did earlier in the season, I think I needed to bake it longer. Still, even if it’s just the recipe on the back of the Libby can, I actually preferred the spices used in it to the one we got at the diner for Thanksgiving. This was a surprise to me, since I’m usually quite happy with store-bought pumpkin pies.

Adam and I also had a little time to decorate a couple cookies with Aaron and their au pair on Thursday. The IBM offices are still not fully open, but they sent out holiday gift bags for kids, which included the cookies and a few small crafts and activity books. I continue to be impressed with how thoughtful and family-friendly IBM is as a company. Employees with families aren’t merely tolerated or required to act as if our personal lives don’t exist, to a great extent I feel like we’re actually supported and respected.

We also celebrated Caligula’s 18th birthday. These past few months we’ve been going through various treatment plans to help treat his arthritis and lack of appetite. I’m pleased to say his weight is back up where it needs to be, but his age is definitely taking it’s toll. Still, he does seem to enjoy our company, and spends most of his day in the family room with the kids. He tolerates their heavy-handed petting, and even being grabbed at now and again. It’s really nice that he’s not hiding downstairs or in our bedroom like he was wont to do a few months ago.

Caligula enjoying his birthday treat

Personal project-wise, I got a little done. I was able to upgrade most of my Debian servers to the current stable. The only one left is my monitoring server, which tends to be quite brittle and always need a lot of love when I do upgrades, so I’ll have to do that one when I have a chunk of time some evening to work on it. I also fiddled around with my SPARC Ultra 10 to figure out the next steps in getting it running. I learned from NetBSD docs for Sparc, that you need a working NVRAM chip battery in order to netboot, which I’ll need to do for installation. I looked up some tutorials on how to “replace” the battery in my NVRAM chip, but it would have required more time than I have. Instead, I hit eBay and ordered a refurbished one, which was due to arrive on Saturday but instead got here Friday. That gave me time to install it and boot my system, I finally had a MAC address and no more NVRAM warnings! Alas, that’s as far as I got. I’ll continue project Twilight SPARCle some other time.

The punch card wreath on my office door got a seasonal switch. I took down the Hanukkah garland I put on it and replaced it with some little lights to observe New Years and generally offer some light and warmth to the winter time. I used some cheap, coin battery operated lights, and I think it came out nicely!

My last big project thing was developing a plan for making my IBM System 360 jewelry from the SLT card I bought a few months back. After inspection of the board, MJ and I determined that a proper desoldering tool was the best way to make sure we don’t damage the parts when we remove them. Of course we don’t need the parts to be physically working, but I do need them to look nice, especially the aluminum SLT covers, which will be a central piece in one of my planned pairs of earrings! We really want to make sure we get all the solder off these components and so the amount of lead that remains is as small as possible, since I’ll be wearing these earrings. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a desoldering tool, but one will arrive next week! Another project I’ll have to continue in some future evening time, but at least I’m on my way.

On Friday I was split between relaxing a lot with TV and books, or going to San Francisco. Relaxing was a compelling option, but reading and watching TV are things I can do in my evenings. Going to San Francisco during the day is a much trickier endeavor, and very well-suited for my last day of vacation. So, with the encouragement of a few friends who helped me decide to go up to the city, I hopped on the train and went. I only spent a couple hours there, admiring the bay and stopping for lunch on a patio of a restaurant on the Embarcadero. It was chilly, but beautiful, and reminded me how much I love San Francisco. I took pictures of street cars like I used to do all the time, enjoyed oysters for the first time since the pandemic began, and got to admire the beautiful bay. I think I need to make visits to the city a more regular part of my life.

Ultimately, it did all help. I am feeling better. Having my evenings to relax was a bigger game-changer than I expected. I’m hoping that once the kids are vaccinated we can have someone come in periodically to do some of this work. Most of it isn’t overwhelmingly time-sensitive, as long as it’s done regularly. The ability to relax each day and have some time to myself, or to work on something with MJ or watch TV together is something I’ve really been missing.