Friday, December 13, 2013

Our arrival

We are now in Kansas!! I am now at my new job!!! Layla is in daycare!!! And the Studly Hubby is... looking for a job. But, he will find one, because he is pretty studly (he has already turned down one offer).

My report, so far:

1. Hot diggidy, it is friggin' COLD back here in the midwest
2. I am so BUSY!!!
3. Montessori (Layla's new school) seems to be a good thing, we think.
4. How did I get so BUSY??
5. It is soooooo nice that Derek did not have to start a new job right away
6. Our new house is still pretty empty - we have had no time to buy furniture
7. Dang, it is COLD!
8. It is fancy to be a professor. I actually wore my suit the other day, just as a regular thing (gave a talk for another department in Kansas City). I have an OFFICE, and bought a NEW COMPUTER and HIRED SOMEONE. Wow.
9. It was kind of extra cold that day I wore my suit.
10. Making lists is much quicker than writing whole paragraphs.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The pros and cons of Midwestern life

After being in Seattle for seven years, the Studly Hubby and I had really acclimated to the Pacific Northwest lifestyle. Moving back to the Midwest has provided a little culture shock - even though it's all still strangely familiar. I've realized I have missed a lot and also will miss a lot now that I'm back.

What I love about the midwest:

1. It smells good here. Did you ever notice this? It smells crisp, maybe it's the dry air?
2. Everyone is soooooo, so, so nice. And not sort of nice, or nice for the first five minutes you meet them, but sincerely nice. This trait in me gave me away as a midwesterner in Seattle, and I really missed it in my interactions with people around me.
3. Prime time starts at 7. I can't stay up past 9, so this is perfect for me.
4. It is CHEAP here. Seriously, gas is $2.95!! What in the heck?
5. The FOOD - like pizza, awesome ice cream, Mexican, cheap Chinese... it is everywhere here, and nowhere over there.
6. Small town/big city. Small midwestern towns (e.g. Iowa City, Madison, Champaigne-Urbana, Lawrence) are famous for being metropolitan, with amazing libraries, restaurants, a progressive culture (our recycling gets picked up more HERE than in Seattle!!!), and advanced art scene. Maybe it's the University influence? Or maybe it's the midwest!!

What I miss about the Pacific Northwest:

1. The FOOD - it took me a while to figure out what food is good in the PNW, but I finally did - it's 'PNW' food: fish, organically grown garden veggies and fruits, with good wine. SO YUM.
2. Prime time starts at 8. Now that I have a kid, and she goes to bed right at 8, it's actually kind of nice - and I never watch much anyway so who cares that I have to go to bed by 9.
3. Mass transit. The Seattle bus system alone has hundreds of routes, and there is also a lightrail, a trolley, a train, and another bus system that the county runs. Our tiny midwest town has one bus, 9 routes, and no other options. It sucks!
4. Water and mountains and old forests EVERYWHERE... ooooohhh myyyyy (as George Takai would say). Every view is amazing.
5. Fresh berries, awesome fruit, green veggies, blooming flowers, all over the city, all year round.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Moving to Kansas, Part II: GET SET! (with a brief story about the Crazy Lady in Fremont)

The movers came on Halloween, and the Studly Hubby helped them pack while Layla and I had our last day at daycare and work, respectively. The next day, Layla and I boogeyed down while the Studly Hubby and the movers finished packing and loaded up the van.

The 'mancave' full of boxes - this is where we stored the already-packed boxes before the movers came
A brief story about the Crazy Lady in Fremont
The day that the Studly Hubby packed and moved all our stuff, Layla and I were trying to have some fun in the next neighborhood over (Fremont) where we were staying with some good friends. We went with them to a coffee shop a few blocks away, and then they took a bus to a playdate while we walked back together to get our car and go on our own way. Unfortunately, Layla (understandably) had said good-bye to too many friends at that point and even though that particular friend was meeting up with us again later that evening, she still unraveled into a great big epic tantrum.
       Some of you already know that when Layla throws a fit, it's quite the event, so you might not be surprised to hear that we attracted some attention. Several folks in our path stopped to lend their sympathy, and one lady in particular stopped to try to 'help.' After a few minutes I realized her version of helping (by trying to engage with our totally unresponsive fit-thrower) wasn't very helpful, and we tried to move on. At that point the lady grabbed Layla to give her a stern talking-to, and that's when I realized the lady must be a bit crazy and we should focus quite hard on moving on - which required picking Layla up and carrying her down the street, even though she was screaming, kicking, scratching, and carrying on. The lady followed us, yelling weird stuff at us (again, trying to be 'helpful' but really not). I stopped at least 3 times to tell her to lay off, more and more aggressively, until somehow I found our friend's house and went inside. The lady wandered away before the Studly Hubby could get there. He pointed out we probably could have called 911 and reported an assault but I wasn't sure if it was that big of a threat since the lady was probably in her 70s. Afterwards, Layla finally understood what had happened and perhaps it was a good lesson to her to pay more attention to her mom than to her own fit-throwing when there's a danger alert (ever since, we have been working on a family protocol to follow when Mom or Dad says 'danger'). Anyways, I was a bit shaken by it all and definitely sore the next day.

Back to the Kansas move:
On Saturday, I took care of Layla again while the Studly Hubby and a friend cleaned up the house, repaired a few problems, shampooed the rugs, disposed of all our garbage (how do you generate SO MUCH garbage when you move???), and did a walk-through with the landlord. It was a very long day. In the process, we managed to spill a couple liters of laundry detergent in our friend's car (sorry about that!), trash their house with all our garbage, overflow their washer with said laundry detergent (sorry about that too!) and then we left town (see Hawaii post, below).

Moving to Kansas, Part I: GETTING READY

I posted earlier about our trip to Kansas to buy a house, followed by a flurry of other trips and business. When that was all over, and we landed back in Seattle, we realized something: it's time to GET READY.

We had a bunch of logistical stuff to do, like find and hire a moving company, decide to drive or fly and then arrange it, close on the house (which we did in Seattle), etc., etc. Then, we both had a bunch of work-related stuff to do - for me, that was organizing all my strains and stocks and files to be shipped to Kansas, transferring my grants and writing a few new ones and hiring a post-doc, not to mention all the normal stuff I had to do related to the job I still had in Seattle.

But what was really, really tough was saying goodbye to all our friends.

It started with a surprise visit from our most favorite neighbor L who gave us the sweetest note and bottle of wine. The note made me cry. Then our beloved baby group threw us a totally unexpected SURPRISE party - we unknowingly walked in on the whole group wearing matching t-shirts and bearing gifts and giving out hugs and passing around margaritas. It was possibly the first time we had ever ALL been together without kids. I cried and cried and cried. Then we had goodbye parties with other friends, each of our work groups, another neighbor party, more baby group parties, even people we didn't even know at the daycare were inviting us over. It was incredible. And a very welcome distraction from the stress of moving. Although, a little bit busy. In the end it got too busy and we had to cancel on one of the things we had planned. But we had a nice good-bye with most everybody and hopefully soaked up enough social interactions to last us until we could make some new friends in Kansas.

Our baby group surprise party - all 16 of us!
Layla's last day of daycare and my last day of work was Halloween. That was also the day the movers came to take our stuff. It was perfect timing - although Layla knew what was happening, she was too excited about Halloween to get down about it (or maybe, she's just happy like that - she's been a good sport overall). She cheerfully said good-bye to everyone at school, had a blast trick-or-treating in her WordGirl (superhero) outfit, and then we went to a friend's to spend a few days until we flew out to Hawaii.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hawaii trip!!

While our stuff was being transported from Seattle to Kansas, we went to Hawaii!!

We decided to go to Oahu, and stayed in a little 1-bdr cottage in a beach town called Kailua (about 30 min from Honolulu). We rented the cottage from airbnb.com, and had a great experience with them.

Our house in Kailua, the "Lilikoi Cottage"
The cottage was 2 blocks from the Kailua beach and about a mile from the Lanikai beach, one of the best beaches in the world.


Kailua beach

Lanikai beach, right next to Kailua beach
We were stressed from just having moved out of our house of four years and bidding tearful good-byes to all of our great friends in Seattle. It was a long flight with our ornery kid. It was the perfect place to land.

The first morning (Monday), we were all up at 4 am (only bad part about Hawaii - jetlag is a beast!). When the sun rose at 6 am we piled into the car and went to the beach. We were so excited we jumped in with our clothes on!

Kailua beach at sunrise

Layla and I, buried in sand
The next day, we went to Waikiki in Honolulu to ride on the submarine. It was pretty fun (we saw a sunken boat, and lots and lots of fish). It was slightly long and boring for a 3-yr old, and Layla had a hard time coping with being stuck there. But she was good enough that we could really enjoy it - I wouldn't have taken her any younger though.

We spent the rest of the trip visiting other beaches in Hawaii, including the North Shore (and delicious shaved ice at Matsumoto's) and Haunauma Bay (the Studly Hubby and I snorkeled while Layla watched or played in the sand, we all really enjoyed it there). We also visited the Farmer's Market in Kailua where we bought coconut and pineapple, and had the most delicious Lilikoi ice cream we have ever had (Lilikoi is the Hawaiian word for passionfruit).

Layla standing near the largest avacado I have ever seen, from Kauai

Layla having some of the most delicious Lilikoi ice cream

Layla and I at Lanikai beach
I was sad to leave on Thursday. We had a loooooong flight back to Kansas with an overnight in LA, and although the weather was nice in Kansas it was not like Hawaii. I hope we can go back someday.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Our fabulous new house in Kansas

We bought a house!!

It's a lovely 2-story, recently built (2006) suburban home on a cul-de-sack only blocks from a great elementary (and close to our new daycare!) and near a great ~5K 'urban trail' and bike route. We are about 5 miles from campus (only about 15 minute drive) and less than a mile from Hy-Vee (Hy-Vee! I have so missed you!). We have four bedrooms, and a fully finished basement and HUGE yard (seriously, you can hardly see the fence - I have no idea how we're going to mow it). It is a little bit bigger than our current 2-bdr, 800 sq-ft craftsman rental in Seattle.

My husband is staying on with his current employer and working remotely, so he will be claiming some space for a 'home office.' We have no idea what to do with the rest of it. Probably, we'll be so overwhelmed by all the extra space we'll all end up together in the smallest bedroom with everything else we own taking up about half of the next-smallest bedroom. Hopefully, we can decide on some furniture to buy or fill up the space with bouncy balls or something.

We also plan to make or buy a Little Free Library to put in the front yard. Won't that look lovely?



Fall is here!!

I saw a book on blogging at the library today and remembered my blog - boy it's been a while!!

After a totally fabulous summer, we were almost relieved that fall was here. Almost.

The end of summer was particularly busy: we went to Kansas to get ready for our upcoming move (and buy a house!). The next weekend, we went on a group camping trip by Mount Rainier, which was beautiful and very, very fun. I didn't quite make it through the weekend without showering but the Studly Hubby did (and was not very studly at the end). The weekend after that we went back to our favorite vacation destination, Lake Chelan, for a too-short weekend of awesomeness. We were only there two nights but actually left earlier than planned because we were all so totally worn out. In between all that BOTH grandmas made trips out to visit.

Fall has brought some rest, earlier bedtimes for all of us, a cleaner house (we are really clearing out now - and even packing!), and now we are in the final stretch - less than a month left - getting extra busy getting in final visits with all our great friends, planning the move, booking a fabulous trip to Hawaii during the week we'll be homeless (yay!!) and even throwing a few parties. Fortunately we've only been mildly sick while everyone around us is flattened by some horrible Seattle Daycare Germ and the weather has continued to work in our favor - beautiful long enough for a garage sale and some park time but rainy when we need to get serious and do some packing and cleaning.

And through it all we are doing as much visiting as we can with all our great Seattle friends and all the fun stuff we enjoy before we leave. We are sure going to miss Seattle!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Photo Books

One of my Summer Goals is to make another awesome photo book for Layla. For my last one I used Creative Memories software, which was totally rad. But, the company is going bankrupt so I'm looking for a new one. I just found this GREAT site that compares different companies and tracks printing deals and even has a bunch of tutorials and tips. On there I found out there are like 800 different companies that do this and probably a million hard-core digital scrapbooking fans (some that use a different company for every book depending on which one has the deal). I think if you aren't trying to be complicated you can put together a book in less than 2 hours but I can't imagine being that fast, like ever (it took me over a month to put together my last one, and I was working really hard).

After doing some online research, I went with Blurb, which isn't quite as cool as Creative Memories but about half the price.

Also while we're talking about photos check out these amazing photo cubes from Shutterfly:


Update: I found a more professional review of digital scrapbooking companies here.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Wallingford Kiddie Parade

Every year, our neighborhood has a parade and festival and a lot of businesses in the community get to march in the parade. Our daycare usually marches, and we had planned to go march with them. How exciting! Except, when we got to the start we couldn't find our group! We looked EVERYWHERE (we found out later they were one of the last to go, so they went to the playground while they waited to to entertain all the kids). So, we joined up with a local business, Family Works, where someone we know is employed. We have NO IDEA what Family Works even is, but they got a lot of cheers as we marched with them. They also gave us some awesome butterfly wings to wear (sorry I didn't get a picture)!!

About halfway through the parade, Layla's shoes became uncomfortable. We pulled aside and fixed her shoe while our "Family Works" group kept on going. I convinced Layla to hang out for a bit and watch (hoping maybe we'd find our daycare group). We had a lot of fun - we saw clowns, got some candy, heard a marching band and saw a dance troupe.


Then, a group from Layla's gymnastics place (The Little Gym) marched past. They all had super-cute matching purple T-shirts and a banner. We didn't recognize anybody, but Layla wanted to join them anyway (she LOVES her gymnastics class!).



So as they passed us, we ventured back into the parade and walked with them. We got a few startled looks from members of the group but nobody said anything. We were the only ones in the group without the matching purple T-shirts, and we didn't know anybody! (Although, I found out later there was someone there from her class).

We finally got to the end, where there were bouncy houses, food venders, lots and lots and LOTS of people, and more music!! We found our daycare friends (finally!) and had a blast until everyone was sunburnt and exhausted.

Some garden posts

There is a hippie gym down the street from us, called "Om Culture." The place is really fun and Layla and I go whenever we get a chance. In front of the building is a wild area that sometimes looks like a garden. Just this week some signs went up that indicate it is indeed meant to be a garden.




This last one explains the part that looks the least like a garden - it's a mess of different stuff on purpose!! I never thought of that. Maybe next time I don't get a chance to weed I can say "it's for the bees..."

Friday, July 05, 2013

SUMMER

This is our LAST summer in Seattle (boo!) so we are LIVING IT UP. So far it has been the Best Summer Ever. Here's why:

1) WEATHER - it's been in the 70s and low-80s almost every day for two months. This is definitely the best weather I've ever seen in Seattle or probably my whole life. Last summer we didn't see the sun or above-70s temps until mid-July.

2) TRAMPOLINE - our neighbor, who we unofficially share backyards with, bought a wicked awesome trampoline and lets us use it whenever we want. It's OVAL-shaped so easily accommodates two people so Layla and I can both jump our hearts out at the same time.

3) the BEACH - last year, we had a few weeks to scope out the beaches and wading pools, and this year we were READY for it when summer came - and we have been hitting the beach hard, sometimes multiple times a day. In Seattle you have lots of choices of different kinds of beaches (saltwater, sandy, shady, sunny, tidepools, on a running trail, near the soccer field, or even in the neighborhood) - we decide which one, then get the sunblock, sunglasses, towel, and GO whenever we can! I have found myself stashing swimsuits for the whole family on a quick run to the grocery store just in case - and then being glad I did!

4) ICE CREAM! Need I say more?

A few more good books

It's really fun to see Layla's taste in books develop. She cherishes her time reading with us every night and LOVES picking up new books from the library. Recently, she started 'reading' in bed by herself after we say good night (with our permission) - she picks out some books and flips through them in bed until she decides she's done, then she turns out her light and goes to sleep! It's amazing that she 1) likes to do this and 2) actually goes to bed within a reasonable time-frame (usually). One day when we opened up a new library book I asked if she had ever read it before and she said 'at night by myself but not with you.' So sweet!

Our baby group just created a 'wish list' on Amazon of all our kids' favorite books (each contributed ~4 suggestions). If you're interested, the link is here.

Layla's favorites these days are:

All the weird books by William Steig, including 'Sylvester and the Pebble' (about a donkey that finds a wishing pebbles and accidentally wishes himself into a rock) and 'Dr. DeSoto (about a mouse dentist that schemes his way out of getting eaten by a fox that's a patient of his).

"Ladybug Girl" by Jackie Davis

the "Pinkalicious" books by Victoria Kann

the "Berenstain Bears" books

"Iggy Peck, Architect" by Andrea Beaty

ALL of the Laura Numeroff books - especially the "Jelly Beans" books

"E-mergency" by Tom Lichtenfeld and Ezra Fields-Meyer. This is just about one of the most clever books I've ever read - and the genius is in the illustrations, which, amazingly were done by a high school kid (Ezra Fields-Meyer). The illustrator also happens to be the autistic subject of his father's famous book, "Following Ezra."

Books about TV shoes and movies, like the Pixar movie books, Curious George, Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies etc (she often likes the books BETTER than the TV versions, or has never even seen the TV version)

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Movie night

Layla's a bit too young to go to a movie theater, but she can watch a movie all the way through so when we saw this ad for a movie night at the community center in our neighborhood we were all in.


We went, and had a blast. Layla did great! We enjoyed dinner, popcorn, and even dessert with a casual group of neighborhood families and the volunteers that hosted it. Nobody cared that Layla had to ask us about every scene or announced 'They're getting MARRIED!' every time the mom and dad in the movie kissed. We went with several of her friends who did not fare so well (one fell asleep, the other asked to leave after the opening scene).

Now she is obsessed with 'super-herios' (the way she says it rhymes with 'cheerios') and wants to wear her cape non-stop. She says her favorite characters in the movie were Frozone (who skateboards) and the baby (who turns into a monster). We'll be looking out for more neighborhood movie nights (there are several outdoor neighborhood movies but since it gets dark at ~10 pm in the summer this goes a bit late for all of us!). Probably soon, when she responds to our suggestion to 'shhhhh!', we'll be able to take her to an official theater.

In the 'hood of Wallingford

We LOVE our neighborhood in Seattle, Wallingford. It's close to everything, super walkable, has a great community, wonderful shops (and ice cream) and is really family-friendly. But there are a couple of perks that are even better than all that.

We have the BEST FARMER'S MARKET in Washington!!! And it really is. It's in the greenspace of a beautiful park in the center of the neighborhood, with lots of room to spread out and a playground nearby. Plus there is DELICIOUS food, like ice cream (our favorite!), quesadillas, pastries, bagels, home-brewed soda, and lots and lots and lots of fresh fruit and veggies. If I had one complaint (or two) it would be that there aren't enough craft booths, or enough booths in general (they keep it small - and now that word has gotten out it's been quite crowded).

Folks waiting in line for ice cream at the Farmer's Market
Our farmer's market starts up after Memorial Day, and we waited somewhat impatiently all winter for the Big Day to bust out to it again - rain or shine. The second week the weather perked up and we were a little annoyed that the entire neighborhood showed up to share our find - yech. But, we found some friends and although the lines were extra-extra-long especially for the quesadillas we still had a good time.

Then, DAVE MATTHEWS SHOWED UP. (Did you know he also lives in Wallingford?)

Like the rest of us, he got in line for a quesadilla, then bought some veggies, took his kids to the playground (where we were) and complained to his neighbors about his yard while he pushed his daughter on the swing. 

I just about peed my pants. Actually, I wouldn't have even recognized him except that one of our friends pointed him out. Then, I stood staring at him with my jaw dropped until Layla noticed and demanded I resume pushing her on the swings... right next to Dave Matthews. To her Dave Matthews is no big thing.



Everyone else was also totally cool about it - after all, he lives in the neighborhood. I've heard that he is spotted everywhere - the grocery store, the bakery, the bars, and a colleague recently ended up having drinks with him late into the wee hours at a neighborhood bar. But I have never been so lucky - until now. Just in time, too!!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Spring cleaning

Ever since we thought we might be moving to Kansas, we've been planning how to get rid of stuff before we trek across the country. I think we kind of liked the idea anyway - it's soooooo freeing to throw out a bunch of crap (but also so much work!) and moving provides just the right incentive to do it.

To motivate myself I read the 'De-clutter your life' issue of O the Oprah Magazine cover-to-cover (which wasn't much different from the other issues except this time I took a picture to commemorate it).


We started off by skimming all the easy stuff out of our closets and Layla's shelves and hauling a whole carload of stuff to Goodwill. We all cheered as we drove away, but as soon as I got home I started making a list of the harder stuff: our storage area, the bookshelves, the garage, my sock drawer, the man-cave (and all of our college furniture!), Layla's precious collection of books, ugh, I'm already exhausted.

This weekend I got to work. I went through all of our books and recent magazines, and took some to Half Price Books to sell (they didn't even take most of them - definitely time to let them go!). After an hour wait I eeked out $40.


Then we went through all of Layla's baby stuff that I had put into storage. This was super duper hard. Are we going to ever have another one (oh don't even ask)? Should we keep the sentimental outfits? anything Layla might want someday? I deliberated a bunch, made some decisions, then went back and deliberated again. In the end, I gave a TON of stuff to Goodwill (most of it was really a lot more worn out than I remembered), filled up the trunk with the nice-but-not-sentimental stuff for a consignment shop (good advice from a friend: get some money for it now, then use the money to buy another used on when we get there, if we end up wanting it again). We kept just a couple of boxes out of the original 10 or so.


I also cleaned out my sock drawer. That was probably the hardest of all.

Afterwards, we went to Costco. There's nothing like buying a whole bunch of stuff in bulk right after you clear out a bunch of other stuff. Layla brought her friend A and they had such a blast together tearing the place up.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Potty update

Layla is making extra-fast progress on potty training this week. After going in the potty at home for the first time on Sunday, she held out a few days but went in the potty at daycare by mid-day Wednesday. She continued to wet the bed multiple times at night until Thursday night, when she only wet once, at 5:30 am. It was an early wake-up for all of us but we were hopeful that it suggested she was learning how to hold it through the night. The daycare agreed - they had encouraged us to take away ALL the diapers, including the night-time diapers, in the first place. Then, Friday night, she miraculously slept through - and stayed dry - until 7 am! It was the first night ever that she had stayed dry all night.

Layla's bed - nice and dry!


We know there will be lots of nights where she doesn't stay dry but we feel like we've turned the corner on all fronts and are now in the diaper-free zone.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dumpster-diving for sport

There's a GREAT bakery in our neighborhood called the 'Essential Baking Company' that distributes delicious bread all over the city and also sells it with coffee on-site. Many of us love to buy their bread at the grocery store but apparently there are a lot of people who prefer to find free bread behind the bakery in the dumpster. These dumpster-divers come from all over the neighborhood and greater Seattle, and many are just looking for a loaf or two but some will clear the whole place out, suffering the wrath of the other dumpster-divers who just lost out.

This whole dumpster-diving thing has taken on a fever pitch. I don't think I could do it but it does highlight the point that we are throwing away a LOT of good food. Why doesn't Essential Baking donate their leftover bread instead of throwing it out back? (apparently they also donate, so perhaps the pitched stuff is truly wrecked somehow? if so, then why is there so much, and why are people still eating it?) Is it fair for people who can afford bread to take this great opportunity away from the people who can't? (someone commented on a neighborhood blog post that it's disgusting to see rich hipster kids at the dumpsters when there are clearly hungrier people out there)

One thing is for sure: I'm glad I can afford to buy food at the grocery store.

Have you heard of these?

Little Free Libraries are popping up all over the place and I've been meaning to post about it on the blog. It's so surprising and clever!

Little Free Libraries are little cabinets people put in their front yard and fill with books that people can borrow, trade, or just stand there and look at. Apparently people all over are catching on to this. You can find one in your neighborhood on this map. You can also order one (they're a little pricey!) or make one for yourself!



There are a few in our neighborhood and I spotted my first one just the other day. I was surprised to find the books were in good shape (not dusty or moldy) and there was a great variety including a little section of children's books. I could easily see myself hanging out there for a while or even borrowing a book or two from it.

Little Free Libraries, or LFLs, are touted as neighborhood art, a community-building venture, and a way to share with your friends and neighbors your very favorite books.

Speaking of neighborhood art, there has been some weird stuff in our neighborhood lately. Someone moored a boat in a round-a-bout in an area called Tangletown. It has a traffic violation sticker with 'REALLY?' handwritten on it, and a blow-up doll in the driver's seat. Hmm!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Fancy wine

To celebrate Mother's Day last weekend, we went wine tasting in Woodinville, a mecca of WA wineries and wine-tasting shops. We haven't gone in about 2 years so it was quite an event!

We went to a new place to try a wine I had recently at a work-related dinner called Tenor. The maker also has a less fancy line called Matthews which some of you may be more familiar with. Tenor is the fancy version, running $50-$100 per bottle. They had two wine tastings of the Tenor wines (a 'spring' line and a 'fall' line). We completely hated the fall and loved the spring, which included the very well-rated (and most expensive) 1:1 blend.


We bought the 1:1, the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever purchased. We opened it when we went for our first overnight stay, at the Roaring River B&B in North Bend (about an hour East of Seattle, at the foot of the mountains). It was quite lovely!

Sometimes I think that it might be better not to even try the finer things because it ruins you for the everyday things. This wine was a little like that for me - although maybe it was also a good education on what all those crazy wine people have been talking about. I decided a while ago that since I only drink wine about once every two months I owe it to myself to drink good wine when I do.

Speaking of being ruined by the finer things, don't even try the shrimp sandwich from Paseo (a cuban restaraunt in the Fremont neighborhood).

We are moving to Kansas!

After 7 interviews this spring, and two job offers from great schools, I accepted an Assistant Faculty Position at the University of Kansas. We will be moving there sometime in November for a Dec. 1 start date. We are excited in particular about Kansas for a bunch of reasons - on my part, it's a good department with lots of really nice people, they have EVERYTHING I need and lots of stuff I don't even need, they have lots of internal support to help me ride through this economic trouble (really important in this field), a low teaching load, and nice lab space. With regard to the rest of the family, it's close to Grandparents, with most of them a 5 hr drive North and several more a 10 hr drive south, it's near Kansas City with LOTS of amazing job opportunities and an airport for easily getting around, and it's a super nice family friendly town just like the one we grew up in (with much cheaper cost-of-living than Seattle). Also, they have a great basketball team.



Some of you may be wondering what exactly it is that I'll be doing as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. This job is tenure-track, which means that if I work my hiney off for the next 5 years and they approve of me I'll get tenure and move into a secure position. Some Assistant Professor positions are research-focused, and some are teaching-focused. This one is in between, with more focus on research than teaching (which is what I wanted). I will be teaching a maximum of 2 classes per year with the rest of my time spent writing grants to get funding, mentoring graduate students, publishing research papers, presenting my work at meetings and seminars at other universities, and doing various 'service' related activities like helping with hiring, advising undergraduates, etc.

The interview process was very fun, but also very grueling. For each one I traveled to a place far away and had an intensely packed schedule with 15-25 meetings with other faculty, 2 research-related presentations, every meal and minute of spare time spent with members of the department, and a quick return home to my family where my 3-yr old had little comprehension of anything except how badly she missed me. By the 5th interview (which was Kansas), I was feeling pretty wrecked. The silver linings: I saw a lot of new and old friends on my many trips, including a particularly great trip back to Minnesota where I saw my Ph.D. advisor and lots and lots of old friends. Also, Washington pays for massage therapy treatment and all the travel warranted a lot of treatments (I had one after every interview).

So, we are now preparing for another big cross-country move, hopefully the last one we make, and we are excited!


Taking the potty journey with Layla

Below is a full account of Layla's recent success in potty training. It's been a long road; for over six months she has stayed dry but refusing to actually go in the potty (preferring diapers). Long story short, she turned the corner this weekend and started using the potty. All the nitty gritty details of how it went down are below.

About three months ago we sat down with her teachers at school and made a plan to expunge our house entirely of diapers, and bear down for a week or two until she caves and starts going in the potty. By coincidence the same weekend we wanted to start, we had scheduled a babysitter, V, to spend the night. We asked V if this would be ok and she was onboard.

The diaper-free weekend started Friday night. We had the 'diaper fairy' come and take all her diapers. I believe Layla's strategy, which she had total faith in, was to hold it forever. This lasted until midnight, when she finally let go. I think she peed at least a gallon. Fortunately she still has a rubber-covered mattress on her bed.

In the morning, after wetting the bed again, she went back to her plan. She didn't indicate any sort of discomfort until about noon, when she started getting mighty uncomfortable. She squirmed and resisted the potty again, but this time we were on her. As soon as she finally couldn't hold it anymore, I swooped in and relocated her to the potty where most of her pee ended up going. We acted like it was a success and gave her lots of cheers. She seemed kind of surprised.

A few hours (and no nap) later, it happened again. This time, she told us "I have to go potty!" and ran for the potty. She didn't quite make it on her own but we helped her out and again most of it ended up in the potty. We considered this an even bigger success and gave her lots more cheers.

We switched duties to the babysitter V after that. V used a similar strategy only this time when Layla indicated she had to go, V made her sit on the potty until she couldn't hold it anymore. All the pee ended up in the potty this time. The next morning, V switched it back over to us. It was then that Layla turned the corner - when she had to go, she told us, went in the bathroom and peed in the potty. A few hours later she pooped (which she had also been holding in), and then did it again about 10 more times throughout the afternoon and evening.

After the turning point, some funny things happened. First, Layla decided she needed privacy. Now she goes in the bathroom, shuts the door on us (and even says "go away!" and pees on her own. Second, Layla figured out fast how to use this to her advantage and when bedtime rolled around she suddenly had to go potty over and over again. At first it was funny but eventually we actually had to tell her we were all done getting excited about it each time.

So, we seem to have really rounded the corner. Hopefully this time will be for good..!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

All this travel

I have been traveling a LOT lately. I've learned a thing or two from all this travel, although I'm not sure if I've actually become any better at it. On my second-to-last trip, I actually left a piece of luggage behind at security, then immediately after I retrieved it I forgot my phone somewhere (which was also retrieved). On another trip my ID somehow slipped out of my purse somewhere and was turned in by a fellow friendly traveler. Fortunately most people out there are nice and forgiving.

Here are some travel tips I've picked up on the way:

1. Whenever you move, check that you have your things.
2. Dry cleaning really can be turned around in 24 hours, and it's well worth it. Spray "freshener" can only cover up so much.
3. If you forget a hairbrush and everything related to taking care of your hair, and don't realize it until 6:30 am the morning you are supposed to give a presentation, the 7-eleven sells combs and is open real early. You will be ok.
4. Time changes SUCK.
5. Don't talk to anybody important the day after you get back. My brain was totally, completely fried after the 3rd trip or so. I said such unbelievably stupid things to people that afterward all I could do was stare at them open-mouthed. The result did not reflect well on me.
6. It costs $50-$100 to get a babysitter to help the husband out while you're out of town, but the smile on both their faces when you get back is priceless.

Hopefully the travel season is winding down now. It's been a wild ride. I'm glad to be done. It was quite an adventure while it lasted but was a lifestyle I could never keep up with on a long-term basis. The Studly Hubby and kid are quite glad to have me back too, although I think they did some good bonding during all those times I was gone.

Computer crash!

On May 8, 2013 the J-Funk computer crashed hard. Not 36 hours earlier, I had a not-so-unusual thought that perhaps I should back up everything since it had been a while (2 years, to be exact).

I took the computer to the computer doctor who told me the hard drive died, and it needs a new one. A new hard drive means you LOSE EVERYTHING and they give you your old hard drive wrapped in a little plastic bag with an ID tag on it. The computer got a fresh new one and is now running fine but is like a young baby with no software or knowledge of my favorite websites or even a functional mail program. It also keeps throwing fits because it can't find certain things or forgets what we told it. We are working hard to get it back to its normal self. I took the old hard drive immediately up to the hard drive doctor. I was met with encouragement for a full recovery but they won't have time to even look at it for 2 weeks to a month. Arrrghhhh. I'm really wishing right now I had set up that time machine program everyone keeps telling me about.

Fortunately, I haven't lost anything super critical. This is because luckily I have been randomly backing up things that are really really important (like pictures of the kid and some of the work-related stuff I have going). But I have to go hunting around for each little thing which is a pain.

If you are in contact with me this week, and I haven't been in contact, this is probably why.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Layla teaching the parents to behave

One thing we really enjoy about our little one is when she uses our own tactics against us (not always logically). Here are some of the funniest examples:

Layla has been tracking favorite colors for a while, but it makes her profoundly uncomfortable if you waffle or if you try to tell her you have a second or third favorite. Tonight, she demanded her daddy change his second and third favorite colors and when he didn't immediately oblige she said 'this is the final warning! If you don't listen then I'm going to leave the room and go play by myself!!'

We often give Layla choices, and the other day she decided to try it on us. She said, 'mommy, you can either have some lavender or no lavender.' I said, 'oh! I would like some lavender please!' and she promptly replied with, 'NO! we are all out of lavender!'

When Layla has good behavior and gets ready quickly in the morning, she gets as a reward a few minutes to play on the iPad. The other day, she asked me to put on my shoes and I didn't hear her, so she said, 'mommy! you just lost your iPad privileges!!' I was so surprised I laughed out loud, and she stopped me and demanded that I cry instead. After I fake cried for a while, she told me, 'it's ok, you can try again tomorrow.'

A happy happy birthday Layla!

Layla turned 3 this month!!

For her birthday, her Grandma D flew out and spent the weekend preparing to party, partying and then recovering from a great party. First, Grandma D and the Studly Hubby (now: Studly Daddy) made the Most Amazing Cake Ever; a chocolate lady-cake with pink frosting and flowers (below, in the refrigerator before party-time).



In between party preparations, Layla and Grandma D ripped up the town - they went to the space needle, soccer practice (below), a scooter adventure around the neighborhood, got some sushi and watched movies and read books and played with all her toys. There was definitely no time for daycare!


We held the birthday party at the Seattle Children's Museum - we realized at the last minute that there were way too many people coming for our little house and the hippie place in our neighborhood (OmCulture) was already booked - so we thought up our other favorite places around the city and this quickly rose to the top of the list. The Children's Museum was great - they gave us a nice party room (below), and there was lots to do to burn off all the cake after the party. The only problem was, the St. Patrick's Day 5K ended there, at the same time, so we had to fight off 5,000 people and lots of closed roads on the way there - we actually arrived to our own party 15 minutes late!! But no worries, everyone else was 30 minutes late and there was nothing to set up.


The party was a success, the Grandma visit was also a success, and all in all it was a great weekend! Unfortunately, I caught a puking thing just before but had just recovered enough to enjoy a little cake.

Now that Layla is 3, she's like a whole new kid. We began to see a huge transformation a few months ago, when she moved up to the preschool room at daycare. At the same time, the Studly Hubby and I found an excellent child therapist/parenting consultant and learned a great deal from her special understanding of how to get the attention of a very fiesty young child. It not only turned our daily routine around, but also supplied us with an array of useful tools for the future (if you're interested, I put some below).

We are now completely having fun with our little girl - she tells us hilarious stories and funny jokes, sings us songs, engages us in really creative and unexpected imaginary play, and as always loves any kind of fun. She is now old enough to be in swim lessons and soccer, play with other kids and watch a whole movie (especially princess movies and Cars). She is learning the value of controlling her emotions and being polite and communicating her frustrations and feelings. One of the things I like the best is watching her play with her daddy - she adores him and he gets a kick out of her and they genuinely love doing things together, like scooting, cooking, wrestling, playing legos, and dressing up like princesses. Although I'm not sure how much the Studly Daddy really likes to dress up like a princess.


Some of the most useful things we learned (from above): 1) if you say no, be prepared to follow it through all the way to the most painful ending - if you're not prepared for that, don't say no. 2) motivate good behavior with rewards - that you can take away (it took us a while to find the right rewards that can also be taken away, and then re-pattern our day around these, but once we did that and allowed some adjustment time we found we no longer really needed the rewards). 3) (from the Love and Logic book, with our own modifications) give the kid the power to screw up and then let them realize the consequence - so they can make a better decision next time (the real challenge here is to be clear about the expectations and consistent in following through, which is point 1 and 2 above - but this is easier to do when you think about it from this perspective).

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Birthday season

Since we're part of a baby group that originated with a group of kids with close birthdays, now we have a 2-month window every year where we celebrate a birthday almost every weekend. We all decided to have a group birthday the first year and have done that ever since, but now many of us are also having our own birthdays. The first year, we had our birthday party at Gymboree, then second year it was at the Carousel Room at the zoo, and this year, the group birthday was at the Fun Zone (bouncy houses) at Arena Sports in Magnolia. It was fantastic - we went back the next weekend.


Today we had a birthday party at someone's house and next weekend will be another one at one of the neighborhood community centers. Whew! Lots and LOTS of birthday cake and tons of fun.

This means a certain little lady is having a birthday - and a birthday party! - next month. We are still deciding where but the theme will definitely be princesses. If you are coming to the party, you will get an invite once we organize the location, and we will specifically request NO PRESENTS (so Layla can focus on the cake and the venue). But for those of you who would really like to send a gift, here are a few suggestions and sizes specifics: Layla is a 5T in Gap and Old Navy, and a 4T in everything else, and a size 8 shoe. She likes Cars (especially Mator), Mickey Mouse (especially Goofy) and all of the Disney Princesses. She likes twirly dresses and fancy shoes and pretty jewelry. She loves doing any kind of art project especially gluing, cutting, stamping, and fingerpainting. She also really likes puzzles (esp princess puzzles) and Duplo lego sets. And she LOVES opening presents!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Tubing at Snoqualmie

When we were in Minneapolis, we learned that winter sports are taken very seriously by Minnesotans. Sledding, for example, was no sport for the weak-hearted. Only teenagers and other people who don't have a good grip on their mortality ever went out to the professional sledding slopes (e.g. where you can rent innertubes and fly down steep hills of hard-packed snow without regard for other people or wild animals that may get in your way, then ride a lift back up and do it again).

In Seattle, it's a whole different scene. Here, if you have a death wish you can find a black ski run just about anywhere, and use a snowboard if you really want to seal the deal. Hundreds or maybe even thousands of people do this every day all winter long so they have a pretty orderly way of doing it (although on a more serious note, and I will never get used to this, at least one person does die every year - usually not going down the black run but driving there or getting lost on their way back up the run).

Sledding is like the toddler version of a black ski run, and it's mostly toddlers who sled, so you can imagine that in Seattle sledding is a mellow event with groomed runs, people waiting politely for each other to go down and lots of hot chocolate afterwards. Today we experienced just that. Layla had a blast. We were quite pleased with both the runs and the hot chocolate. And since all kids are adorable in a snowsuit we almost died from all the cute, but other than that we stayed pretty safe.


The One Sandal

When I was little, a family friend Diane came to stay and left a pair of shoes behind on accident. She got in touch with us apologizing for the inconvenience and hoping we could bring her shoes back the next time we saw her.

It turned out, this simple task became a 10-yr long pursuit of a pair of very elusive shoes. Every year or so, we would find one of them. We would put it someplace 'safe' until we could find the other. When the other turned up, nobody could remember where the mate was put. It went on like this until we finally moved out of the place. Naturally, even then we could only find one of the shoes.

This summer, we had a similar experience with Layla's sandal. She is starting to be a bit finicky about which shoes she'll wear, so when she got attached to this one particular pair we were devastated when one got lost. We looked and looked, and finally gave up and hid the mate as it was turning the house into chaos every time Layla saw it and got upset over not being able to wear the pair of them. When we finally found the missing sandal, we couldn't find the one we had hidden. Remembering my traumatic past experience with this sent me into a panic. Luckily I found a similar pair at a used store and bought them with a sigh of relief. Immediately, we lost the mate to that one too. I believe it is just these sandals that are cursed, as we have been quite good at keeping track of her other favorite shoes. This week, as I was packing up Layla's old shoes to go to Goodwill, I found one of each of the two pairs of sandals and finally had to throw them both away.