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Saying goodbye in Florida

Everything was coming together. I had just finalized travel for my first couple weeks of work and our new au pair was getting into the routine of caring for little Adam. It was then that we received the terrible news that a close relative of MJ was unexpectedly in the hospital. He passed away soon after.

We immediately made plans for all four of us to fly to Fort Lauderdale to be with our family and for the funeral on Monday. My soon-to-be boss was incredibly understanding when I asked to push my start date out by a day and had to change my travel plans. Our au pair was fantastic about the abrupt trip, and was incredibly helpful whenever we needed her.

It was a sad trip. There were tears, hugs, and love, and everything you’d expect from the funeral of a man who was beloved in his family and community and was so suddenly taken from us. I’m grateful we could be there, and while it wasn’t the way I expected to introduce Adam to the rest of the family, having him there did lift spirits some. And regardless of the circumstances, were were in a beautiful place and we had a little one to keep happy.

On the way there, Adam finally got his American Airlines wings.

We were fortunate to be there for the conclusion of Passover, which we observed with family. Our 6th wedding anniversary also landed during that weekend, but we simply enjoyed our time together instead of partaking in any grand plans.

On our last full day there, we took some time to introduce Adam to the ocean, which I think was a bit scary for him, but I made sure he got his feet wet.

All things considered, it was a good trip and I’m glad we could make it work. On Tuesday we parted ways. I flew to Atlanta to start my new job, and MJ, Adam and our au pair flew home.

Wrapping up maternity leave

These past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ll discuss my recent work trips in more detail soon, but for now I thought I should write a bit about my last few weeks of maternity leave. As I wrote previously, we welcomed an au pair into our home last month. She’s wonderful and I’m happy to say that it’s going well so far. MJ was able to use some of his paternity leave to get her settled in, and I was able to spend three full days getting things done on my own as she took the reins for Adam’s routine daily care.

Adam and I did a bunch more walks. The four of us heading out to Lake Chabot Park one afternoon.

Another day I walked with him to the library and discovered a path that took us up to the boulevard.

We also celebrated our first Passover with little Adam. We went to San Francisco to partake in a second night Seder with the rest of our congregation.

The weather started warming up in April too, with temperatures soaring into the 80s some days and making me grateful that we’d finally installed air conditioning. On the house side, MJ has also been chatting with various solar companies to get traction on our solar panel project as well. Our yard is the next big project on my radar. It seemed like it would be low maintenance when we bought the house, but the mulch is no match for the weeds and it’s gotten a bit out of control. With an infant and so much else going on right now, it’s pretty clear we need help with it, my feeble attempts at weeding every few weeks when I can make time aren’t even putting a dent in it.

I started work at the tail end of April, and have been pretty much non-stop since. A trip across the country for a funeral, two east coast work trips. The weekend in between trips was spent attending a memorial and celebration of life for Rabbi Larry Raphael and minivan shopping.

Losing Rabbi Raphael this year was difficult for me. He was my first rabbi, having taught the introduction to Judaism class I attended before MJ and I got married, doing our pre-marriage counseling, and later sitting down with me to talk through my thoughts on God. He was a wonderful teacher, and his fondness for books made me eager to work with him and read every book he recommended and loaned to me, I was still in possession of one of his books when he passed. I still remember when I asked him how to reconcile competing religions all claiming to be The Truth and why I’d choose one over the other, he told me that they were all just different paths to God. I don’t think he’d suggest that the details didn’t matter, but there is more to faith than just picking a religion off a shelf when you decide you want it in your life. There’s culture, connection, family, and a lot of other squishy human stuff. He will be missed, but I’m grateful we could take time to celebrate his life with the rest of our congregation.

And then there was the minivan shopping. When we rushed out of town for the funeral of a relative in Florida, we happened to book a minivan. It was the right choice after squeezing the four of us into our 3-row SUV along with all our luggage, and Adam’s stroller. We don’t pack light, especially when we have to bring formal clothes, and Adam had a whole big suitcase all his own. Plus, I also had to pack for a work trip I was leaving for directly from Florida. Fitting everything was no problem for the minivan we rented. The sliding doors were actually quite nice too. As a car fan, I wasn’t proud to admit entering this part of adulthood, but it did convince us that we should send the Santa Fe to our place in Philly (the lease on our current car there runs out in October) and get a minivan as the family car here. We haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet, but we’re pretty sure we know what we want now and will likely come home with one pretty soon. And fun fact: Maserati is owned by Fiat Chrysler so the infotainment system in the Maserati Ghibli is the same as the Chrysler Pacifica. It’s so weird.

Working Mother

Motherhood can be a tricky topic for working mothers in the United States. People have strong opinions about leaving a child with alternate caretakers. Since I chose to return to work, I have a pile of books written for working mothers that I’ve been working my way through over the past couple months. These books all agree that being a successful career woman and a mother is hard, but possible with enough support. At first I was incredibly intimidated by this. I don’t want to be Super Mom, I just want to be me, with a family, and a career I love. As I bonded with my son and started getting ready to start my new job, I realized that both are exciting enough to me that I want to excel at both, and that is what will give me strength to be the best mother and the best professional I can be.

I also put a lot of thought into what I get value from. I started my new job on Tuesday with a trip to Atlanta for an event. I missed little Adam terribly, at one point I nearly cried while walking past the baby aisle in a CVS. Out at dinner with a friend and colleague, we spent almost the entire meal talking about our kids. But I also felt great. I was so happy and fulfilled to be back at work. This tug between parts of my life can be best described by Emily Oster, as she so honestly wrote in her recent opinion piece in the New York Times:

I work because I like to. I love my kids! They are amazing. But I wouldn’t be happy staying home with them. It isn’t that I like my job better — if I had to pick, the kids would win every time. But the “marginal value” of time with them declines fast… The first hour with my kids is great, but by the fourth, I’m ready for some time with my research. My job doesn’t have this nose-dive in marginal value — the highs are not as high, but the hour-to-hour satisfaction declines much more slowly.

Sidenote: The article was adapted from segments of her recently released book Cribsheet which I pre-ordered after loving her pregnancy book so much. It was released last week and I have almost finished reading it. It’s so good.

Being on this firm footing privately has left me in a great spot, but I’ve also been trying to figure out how public I want to be about my family. There’s a meme that went around that, when referring to working mothers, “At work, you have to pretend you don’t have kids. With your kids, you have to pretend you don’t have work.” This speaks to the career penalty that many women suffer, and negative judgement from people who don’t believe mothers should work full time. It bothered me. Not just because it’s unfair, but on a deep level I’ve always been very public and genuine. Hiding the fact that I have a child from my professional life would not be consistent with who I am. It’s also not what I want. I bring my whole self to my job, and my whole self now means that I now also identify with being a mother.

And many of the skills I’ve developed and discovered in this new role as mother will serve me well. I thought I was pretty good at multitasking before, but motherhood has bumped that to a whole new level. I thought I knew tired and sleep-deprivation given my work and international travel schedule, but it’s difficult to compare to the first few weeks of having a newborn at home. I think the difference is there was always an end time with work and travel, a time when I could crash and sleep for a whole weekend without having to worry about anything. No more! Even when I did have times of more sleep when MJ or my aunt would take over, I would have to wake up to pump, or just because my brain decided I should check on the baby. The mantra “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it,” could easily be narrowed down to say “If you want something done, ask a working mother to do it.” For me, I feel like I’m a better employee because I now have this experience. I value my time more and am considerably more strategic about how I spend it.

In keeping with this openness, the other day I took to Twitter to see if I could find a hotel room for an upcoming conference. The opportunity to attend came too late to book a room near the conference venue, and I was hoping someone knew of a last minute room cancellation that I could take advantage of. My request got a lot of attention, especially when I disclosed my reason for needing a close hotel room (bringing along my infant, who I am feeding breast milk). But being honest about that caused me to pause. Was I sharing too much information? Was asking for this “accommodation” going to hurt me? Of the people who responded, there was an overwhelming amount of positivity, support, and problem-solving to make pumping and milk storage work at the event. Shining a giant spotlight on my situation was scary, but regardless of the outcome, I’m glad I spoke up and asked for help. Maybe other women who feel less privileged than I will also feel more empowered to speak up, and the stigma around everything related to motherhood will slowly fade away the more we talk about it. Right now I worry that many mothers are instead just making the choice to stay home when they’d rather work, switch their child to formula sooner than they’d like, or put a pause on career advancement when they really don’t want to. I’d really like to see support for working mothers improve in this country, both culturally and legally.

I expect the next several weeks as I settle into my new job to be a tiring time, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and opportunity. I’m excited about my work, I already enjoy working with my colleagues and a technology that’s partially new to me. I spend less time with Adam, but I’m happier and more energized about quality time together when I get it.

Clouds, Microservices, and Mainframes

TL;DR: Mainframes are cool and I’m joining the IBM Z team to tell everyone why.

I started attending Linux Users Group meetings in 2002 when I was just dabbling in Linux as a hobby at home, but you could say my career in infrastructure when I landed my first systems administration contract gigs in 2006, and subsequent full time job as a junior systems administrator in 2007. I’ve played with unusual architectures as a hobby, including MIPS on an SGI and SPARC64 via an Sun Ultra10 that I still own, but most of my actual work has been on standard x86 machines.

At my first job as a full blown systems administrator I used homespun KVM + DRBD + Pacemaker to build a series of small, redundant clusters. I spent four years working on the OpenStack infrastructure team, during which time I also wrote a book OpenStack and ended up with my own little OpenStack cluster under my desk. From there I joined a company specializing in microservices via containers, with a focus on Apache Mesos (and another under desk cluster!), but also increasingly with Kubernetes thrown into the mix. All of this ran on commodity x86 hardware, but gave you the option of using your own servers or building your clusters in the cloud, and with containers it was easy to move your workloads between providers as you saw fit.

Through all of this, I encountered a dizzying array of deployment types across companies, but one thing that often surprised me was the continued presence of mainframes. This was merely an intellectual curiosity for me until I started talking with the IBM Z team late last year.

Like many people, I had a particular view of what mainframes were. The words “historical” and “legacy” were often floating around when I thought of them. I knew modern mainframes existed, but assumed they were merely around to support customers who needed to run their old COBOL programs. When I pictured a mainframe? It looked something like this:

Computer History Museum 10
IBM 1401, announced in 1959, photo courtesy of Michael Fraley (source)

Truth is, I hadn’t really put much thought into what modern mainframes are or what they provide. IBM has. New mainframes like the IBM z14 Model ZR1 just slide into your data center like most any other rack, but bring you over half a century of technical leadership in everything from virtualization to encryption to data integrity and processing. Plus, they can run Linux.

IBM z14 Models (source)

Upon talking to the the IBM Z leadership, engineers on the team, and pouring over some recent talks and slide decks at open source and infrastructure events I was convinced: mainframes have a place in modern infrastructure decisions. They solved virtualization and data storage and processing problems decades ago that the newest infrastructure tools are still figuring out. The cost is competitive for a large swath of the market. The tooling for Linux on mainframes has a lot of open source, much of it contributed directly into the Linux kernel by IBM and their Linux distribution partners.

With my open source heart warmed, ultimately what really sealed the deal for me was hard core geek love for infrastructure. Mainframes still drive a significant amount of the data processing in the world, and I knew very little about them. I was so focused on the cloud verses on-premises discussion that I’d pretty much ignored anything that wasn’t a fleet of x86 machines, and I believe my expertise in infrastructure is poorer for it.

So I’m delighted to say that in a week I’m joining the folks at IBM Z to spend the foreseeable future with them as a Developer Advocate!

I’m looking forward to blending my current knowledge of the latest and greatest x86 infrastructure tooling with the latest mainframe innovations and decades of experience the IBM Z brings to the table.

And while I probably won’t have a mainframe “under my desk,” I look forward to getting to work with them in data centers!

Outings with Adam

Since our return from Philadelphia I’ve been settling in to routines with little Adam as I enjoy the final weeks of the time I’ve taken as maternity leave.

With the improved weather, we’ve been taking a lot of walks around town. It’s been really nice to get out of the house for these simple outings, and he seems to enjoy it as well. We’ve walked all around the village together, gone the the post office. Had his first visit to the comic book shop.

And the library!

And the farmers’ market!

We also spent one afternoon going up to San Francisco. The goal of this visit was to go to the San Francisco Railway Museum & Gift Shop to pick up some of the new streetcar stickers they are selling (also available at https://transit.supply/, along with enamel pins!). This would also be his first BART ride. So I planned a couple days out for this adventure, made sure his diaper bag was well stocked and we were on the right end of the eating/napping schedule, and we were off! I made it to the museum to get my stickers, and then over to Ferry Building for a lobster roll at MarketBar. Fussiness set in as we waited for our train to head home, but in all the trip was a successful and happy one. I’d like to push myself to do these trips more, the more I do it, the less stressed I’ll be about adventures with my little sidekick, and getting out of the house to do things I love does wonders for my overall mental health.

In the house, I’ve certainly been busy these past few weeks too. I’ve tried to find a happy balance between baby-baby-baby and actually getting things done around the house while he hangs out nearby. One project has been to go through stuff in the garage so we can figure out what needs to stay here and what needs to be sent to storage. It took a couple weeks, but I was mostly successful, and going through MJ’s piles of old computer stuff gave me something interesting to tweet about and engage with the broader geek world in a way that I haven’t done a lot of since my maternity leave began. It felt good. Over the weekend we rented a van and MJ did runs to the storage unit so now we finally have free space in the garage!

Now, what prompted this storage sorting is also a story. I’m starting a new job at the end of the month (details forthcoming) and I’ll need to go into the office once a week, which is 40 miles away by car and there are no reasonable public transit options. Since our au pair will need access to the family car during the day, we’ve known for some time that I’d need my own car. Now, I love cars. I have a celebrity crush on James May and subscribe to Car & Driver magazine. I wanted something I would enjoy driving. I succeeded. I’m now leasing a car I’m absolutely in love with. But we only have two parking spaces in our driveway and the street parking situation is complicated. We want to actually park my car in the garage, so we needed a spot for it. Garage clean out!

I won’t get into the car itself (come ask me privately if you’re curious and we can geek out about it). However, the process of getting it was another baby adventure. Since we had Adam in tow, we had to juggle milk and pumping timing, as well as his general mood and nap schedule. Plus, test drives had to be done separately so someone could stay with the kiddo at the dealership. It was stressful, and there was a baby wardrobe change needed, but we made it through, and again, pushing myself to get out of the house is important.

The other big project was getting our HVAC system replaced. The heaters were loud and over-sized for the house, and we didn’t have air conditioning at all, which was fine for most of the year, but a real struggle on the hot days, especially since I mostly work from home. New ducts were run, compressors for the AC are now sitting in our back yard, and the upstairs furnace was moved from a closet in the hallway into the attic, so we got a new closet too! It was a whole week of work, but so far I’m really pleased with the results.

Finally, we’re welcoming our au pair into our family tonight. I’m looking forward to getting to know her, and I’m thrilled to be able to have in-home care for Adam with her help. I know going back to work would be difficult if my first task of the day was dropping him off at day care. With that concern tucked away, I’ve been reflecting on how valuable this time spent physically healing and spending time with the kiddo has been to me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want from life and work, and it has allowed me to pause and get some perspective about what I want from my career at this stage.

I’ve also learned that while I have certainly taken to motherhood, I would definitely struggle with being a stay at home mom. Almost all of my friends were met through involvement with various technology projects I’ve worked on throughout the years, and without work I think I’d have trouble maintaining the social bonds I need to avoid feeling isolated. I’ve also put a lot of work into building my career and I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from it. As much as I’ve gotten from these first few months with little Adam, it would be difficult for me to bring my whole self to our relationship and home if I wasn’t working. I’m glad I learned this about myself, even when things get difficult to juggle, I can remind myself that going back to work was a choice I made willingly and happily.

Adam’s first trip back east

We spent the week before last in Philadelphia, for what was a series of firsts for Adam. His first time on a plane, out of the state, and visiting a whole slew of family and friends in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Thankfully, he was an absolute dream on the plane. Snuggled up in his car seat and enjoying the vibration and noise of the plane, he slept for most of the flights there and back, only waking up a couple times to eat.

Upon arrival my father-in-law picked us up at the airport to whisk us off to the townhouse. We were greeted with a pile of boxes which had arrived that day in anticipation of our visit, mostly products for Adam that we decided to wait on during our last pre-Adam visit, over Thanksgiving. The changing table and crib were all set though, and that was all we needed immediately. That evening we met family for dinner at Samarkand for some delicious Uzbeki food and baby passing around. When we got home we met with MJ’s cousin, who brought along her gift to us – a chair for Adam’s room! As someone who works in a furniture store, I had texted her in a panic the week before realizing we had no chair for his room, since I didn’t appreciate the importance of having one and just how much time we’d spend in it with him. She came through and brought the chair over that night, giving us a comfy spot to feed him while we’re there.

Our next family visit was a drive out to New Jersey on Sunday for dinner at Short Hills Restaurant & Deli, our favorite deli Cherry Hill. Much to our disappointment, a fire took out the restaurant a few years back, so it was a happy surprise for us that it has returned. And of course family joined us there as well to get their first chances to meet little Adam. Plus, I got my pastrami on rye.

We lucked out with nice weather while we were in town too, which temperatures reaching 70 one day and causing me to go out on my first long walk in the neighborhood.

A date night in Philadelphia was secured for MJ and me on Thursday when Adam’s grandfather and partner came over to watch him for a few hours. We went down to our Philadelphia favorite, The Continental, down by Penn’s Landing. It was nice to spend a bit of time together on our own and enjoy some martinis.

Adam also got to meet our friend Walt, and Matti came into town for the final weekend to finally get some one on one time with him, and afford me a bit of a break. One afternoon I even was able to step away long enough to see Captain Marvel in the theater!

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to California. We took an evening flight on Monday.

In all, the trip went very well. One of the reasons we bought the townhouse was so we could visit family and friends on the east coast often, especially once we had a child. I was a bit nervous about the logistics an whether it would be worth it long term to haul ourselves across the country with the kiddo, but it all worked well for this trip. We’ll probably go back again in the early summer, at which time I’ll also be back to work and we’ll have an au pair with us, but I’m hopeful that these things will even things out, even if it does make certain aspects of logistics a bit more challenging.

Rainbows, Shabbat, and San Francisco

One of the great things about getting so much rain in California this winter, aside from the reduction in risk of wildfires later in the year, abatement of drought, and beautiful green hillsides for once, is the rainbows! Caught outside my living room window one afternoon, this one was quite the crowd-pleaser.

In February I also had enough time to finally make some challah. After moving last year, I never unpacked the breadmaker I use to make the dough, so with my aunt’s support I dug it out of storage and took the time to prepare the bread. Bread in hand, we properly observed Shabbat for the first time since bringing Adam home.

In addition to being able to do things like make bread from scratch while my aunt was still in town helping us out, we got to sneak in a few major chores and some couple fun. The big thing on our list was picking up the closet doors we ordered for the house. There was no chance they would have fit in our truck with Adam’s car seat in the back, and even then we we had about half an inch of space to spare once the truck was fully loaded up. I’m pleased to report the doors are now sitting in the garage waiting to be painted. Unfortunately I probably should have taken it easy when unloading, I realized after some back and neck pain set in that between the pregnancy and recovery, I hadn’t done any heavy lifting in over eight months. Whoops.

In couple outing fun, we did a few dinners here and there, and I tagged along to a conference party one night for a conference MJ was attending in San Francisco. I hopped off of BART at Embarcadero, where I was welcomed by the number 56 California Street cable car all decorated for the Chinese New Year. From there we were off to the Exploratorium for the party. I have been to the museum several times, so it was really about the social aspect for me, seeing some familiar faces and also meeting some of MJ’s industry colleagues. It was so refreshing to talk tech, chat about the job I’ll be starting next month, and generally geek out with folks a bit for an evening. It also reminded me how much I miss conferences already, and working!

The Sunday before my aunt departed, we decided to have a fancy dinner in the city and made reservations at Jardiniere. It’s one of my favorite French restaurants, and they had some amazing specials on the menu that night, so we had an incredibly satisfying meal and enjoyable time together.

Since my aunt’s departure, there’s certainly been less sleep and more stress, but we’re also settling nicely into routines, even if the little one likes to mix things up frequently. I’m getting better at taking him out places with me in the car now that I don’t have someone to watch him, and we are slowly figuring out our meals now that we’re not going out to dinner as often. The days are continuing to fly by as they’re filled with feeding, cleaning, and playing and sitting with him.

Some days I feel a bit bad about not getting much else done but keeping us alive and our household humming along, but the experience of cultivating this new little life is rewarding in its own way. I am getting a little reading done here and there, and continuing small tasks where I can for open source projects I’m involved with. I was disappointed to miss the recent Southern California Linux Expo, but I followed UbuCon and Ubuntu booth tidbits via tweets, and was thrilled by all the container track tweets that I saw scroll by, duly proud to have been part of putting that track together. I also did some more organizing of my desk, and bought a Roku for my second monitor so I have a “TV” option there in my home office, something I found massive value in when my aunt was visiting and I am sure I will moving forward as our life has expanded beyond just the two of us.

This week we’re in Philadelphia to visit family and friends, giving many of them their first opportunity to meet little Adam! So far it’s been a busy and satisfying time, looking forward to more visits as the week goes on.

Winter in California

It was raining when we went to the hospital, and on the night Adam was born, and it’s pretty much been raining ever since too. In fact, this has been the soggiest winter I’ve experienced in California so far. It wasn’t just soggy though, over night the temperatures have dropped into the 30s Fahrenheit, and sometimes colder up in the hills, where we were treated to extremely rare accumulation back on February 5th!

Of course it didn’t last long, the hills were green again by the next morning.

In keeping with this winter theme, we also had our gas fireplace serviced. I actually called for service back in December, but it was predictably the busiest time of year and I wasn’t able to secure an appointment until early February. The fireplace worked fine when we moved in, but after sitting unused for several months the pilot light went out and we discovered the ignition switch was faulty, only working intermittently and not allowing me to actually get the pilot light lit again. We had a full cleaning and inspection done of the unit, as well as getting the ignition switch replaced, and wires organized. The fireplace not only works now, but I’m confident in the usage now (it wasn’t fully intuitive) and we’ve now been assured that it’s working properly and safely.

We also finally had a door put on the master bathroom. It’s hard to describe what a relatively small thing has done to improve livability of the master suite. No more wandering across the house in the middle of the night to use a bathroom that has a door! Mornings are easier! The shower steam doesn’t wander into the bedroom! Next up is getting closet doors installed. When we moved in, none of the bedroom closets had doors. We started the ordering process for them in December, and they should be in next week. We’re hoping to get them painted in early March so we can install them.

Of course not all the work on the house was planned. We’ve had a leaky faucet in the kitchen for several weeks, but it turned into an actual problem the other day when a leak sprang under the sink, causing us to shut off the water to it and hit the home improvement store to pick up a replacement. Replacing it was not fun, but MJ was able to get it done with the help of a few more tools that are now part of his toolbox.

Beyond the house, we did make it out for our first Valentine’s Day as parents. My aunt looked after Adam as I took the train to the city to meet up with MJ at Town Hall for a lovely dinner together. MJ showed up with a beautiful rose-filled bouquet and I finally indulged in a nice Prosecco, an Old Fashioned cocktail and some Tawny Port with dessert, all of which I had been coveting during the pregnancy.

Otherwise, I’m starting to get longer chunks of sleep (3 hours!) as Adam starts sleeping a little better over night. My aunt is here to help out for another 10 days, so hopefully the trend will continue so I will be in decent shape when I fully take over. Still, it remains tough to get enough rest when it’s broken into such increments, and it feels like every time we figure something out about the kiddo, he switches things up and we have to adapt. I certainly now have a better understanding and appreciation for why taking time off for a new child is so important, even with the help, there’s very little I’ve been able to accomplish outside of his care and keeping household things running each day.

Updating this blog has been a priority so I don’t lose this experience to foggy, sleep-deprived memory, though every post I’ve written since his birth is stitched together the course of a few days. I also have been pitching in on small tasks I can complete in under an hour, or on my phone as I’m sitting up with the little one, for Partimus and Xubuntu. I’m also spending some of my precious, most awake time doing some tech-focused reading so I’m prepared when I conclude my maternity leave and return to full time work at the end of April. The days are flying by though, and I’d be surprised if I spend more than an hour per day on everything I just described.

Four Weeks

Adam turned four weeks old today!

It’s a total cliche to say that having a child changes you, but I am starting to understand it now. In these four weeks since Adam was born I feel like I’ve unlocked this whole world of knowledge and experience that I never knew existed in adulthood. Having kiddo chats with the fellow who came out to give us a quote on work to the house was not what I anticipated, but you suddenly find this parenthood connection with strangers. And as someone who will be the first to admit that I’m “not a baby person,” the adjustment to being a mother has opened up new, fascinating parts of myself, even if it will take some getting used to.

I recently read a piece in The Atlantic about what happens to a woman’s brain when she becomes a mother, which opens with:

The artist Sarah Walker once told me that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live.

The article was valuable as I strive to understand my moods and new feelings, but that opening quote in particular really connected with me. I am still very much me, even in my sleep-deprived, do-everything-for-newborn, hormone-driven state, but there’s this new thing too. I make time and space to snuggle up with Caligula and have my dozing son in my arms or nearby, and a book in my hand. I never quite realized the value of the Kindle app on my phone until I was suddenly trying to do so many things with just one hand available. It’s a shame I recently started making the shift back to paper books!

It’s far from poetry and blissful motherhood discovery though. These first few weeks have been incredibly difficult, even with MJ on paternity leave and my aunt here to help. I am the only source of food, so I’m awake at frequent intervals, leading to some frayed nerves and a lot of exhaustion. Still, having my aunt here has been a tremendous help, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten much done at all this month if not for her, and I certainly wouldn’t have had as much sleep. Her help has also allowed MJ and I to go out to a few meals together, which have been great for my mental well-being. As far as that goes, I’m doing OK. There were a few big cry moments in the first couple weeks where I was adjusting to motherhood and worrying about everything. I am still struggling a bit, but most days are good and I have a lot of support when the waves of hormones and lack of sleep start getting to me.

I have managed time to do a few little projects and some big ones. Before Adam was born we ordered window blinds for the whole house, and they all came in last week, so we were able to get those installed. I’m really happy with how they turned out and how much more comfortable it’s made living here already.

We then discovered the guest bathroom toilet had a cracked tank and was leaking, so ended up getting a big chunk of plumbing work done in the upstairs bathrooms. In addition to the replacement of the guest bathroom toilet, that bathroom also had a glass door on the bathtub, which we typically like, but it’s too difficult with a small child so we had it removed and replaced with a shower curtain and rod.

This week brings a little more work on the house, with a door being put on the master bathroom on Tuesday (it totally lacked one!) and our gas fireplace inspected and tuned up on Friday. We also got an unhappy surprise this weekend when my aunt discovered that the kitchen faucet was leaking. It had been dripping for some time, but this was a real leak which triggered a visit to the home improvement store to buy a replacement.

In smaller, more fun projects, I got my Nintendo systems (Switch, Wii, SNES Classic and NES Classic) connected to my second monitor in my office. Of course I don’t have a lot of time to actually play games right now, but at least now when I do they’re all set up for me to grab a controller and go. I also got the computer rack in my office set up. Both the media and backups server are in need of new hard drives in their RAID arrays, but working on them when they didn’t have a real home was near impossible. Now that they’re plugged into a KVM in my office, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to carve out some time to fix them up some time in the next few weeks.

Also managed to get out with my aunt to get our hair cut at a local salon, and made my way up to the Lake Merritt BART station to get some BART socks. Aside from meals out, that has pretty much been the extent of my adventures out of the house over the past month.

And now it’s time to wrap up this post, scoop up the kiddo to feed him for the tenth time today, and maybe see if I can get a nap.

Adam Stanley Joseph

On January 6th in the wee hours of the morning I gave birth to our son Adam Stanley Joseph!

Like much of the pregnancy, the delivery was a bit complicated and we had a few rough days the first week, but I’m happy to say that as we enter our third week together, little Adam is doing well. In many ways, my own recovery post-delivery has gone well, I am much more mobile than I was late in the pregnancy, but I certainly am still healing.

Our fluffy son Caligula isn’t quite sure what to make of the new addition, but he has had his moments of curiosity about the new animal we’ve brought home.

As the first week progressed, we started having family arrive into town. First was my Aunt Elaine, who will be spending several weeks with us to help us adjust to life with a newborn. MJ’s best friend arrived next, followed by his father, my grandfather, and my mother on Friday the 11th. Four of them stayed with us here at the house, proving that without even much creative use of space, we could actually expand Hotel Joseph to accommodate a bunch of single adults staying with us.

The family visiting was of course to meet the little one, but also to celebrate with us. On the 13th, 8 days from birth, we had his bris and baby naming at our synagogue in San Francisco. In addition to family from out of town, several local friends joined us as we enjoyed a catered lunch from Wise Sons and then were able to share some words about the origin of Adam’s name, segments of which come from his maternal grandfather and paternal great grandfather.

The week that followed was full of firsts. I learned that newborns aren’t particularly bothered by noise, so he’s now been out to two meals with us at kid-friendly restaurants we enjoy, Knudsen’s Ice Creamery for dinner one night, and Doug’s Place for brunch this past Saturday. He slept soundly through both outings. Of course we also spent a lot of time just visiting with family, and rearranging our limited furniture so that we could gather together in some previously unused common spaces in the house and to make sure Adam could be out with everyone as much as possible, even if most of his time was spent sleeping.

There’s been a fair amount of take-out consumed these past couple weeks, but my aunt is also keeping me well-fed with fresh fruit salads and snacks as I need them. In fact, her help can’t be understated. So far she has kept laundry and dishes flowing, helped keep family schedules intact as we juggle guests and adjusting to life with a newborn, and has been pitching in with the endless cycle of feeding and diaper changing, most recently relieving us in the early morning so we can get a few hours of undisturbed sleep here and there. I’m so grateful to have her here.

As I wrap up this post, I want to pause for a moment to talk about privacy. I don’t share everything in this blog and online, but I am a pretty public person. I do my best to protect the privacy of those close to me, often asking permission for sharing things when there is an expectation of privacy, and holding back when needed. When it comes to our son, for now we’ve decided to extend that privacy expectation to him. We’ll share photos of him directly with friends and family, and may even do a paper family photo card for the next holiday season, but for now we felt it would be prudent to exercise caution regarding what we share in public.