Thursday, December 29, 2016

12/29/16- Cover Tease and Happy New Year!

I'm too excited to not share the mock up of the cover for "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician" (please excuse the low quality paper that I printed the mock up on)!  Annie is coming January 2017!

I wish you all a very, very happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

12/17/16- Holiday Activities with My Two Year Old

The holidays are upon us, and I am much looking forward to a week off between Christmas and New Year's.  Poor Jack got sick this week (3rd cold/virus this fall/winter) and then he slipped off of a stool.  I caught him, as I was standing right next to him, but not before he bit into his lip.  We took him to urgent care, and luckily, he only needed a butterfly band aid.  But phew, what a week for our little guy.

Leading up to this week, we been having some fun, doing various holiday activities.  He's a little too young for some holiday activities and traditions.  For example, that sharking hammerhead "Elf on a Shelf."  Bobby and I never remember to move the darn Elf, Jack wanted to touch it the first day, and Jack has completely lost all interest in it.   I didn't want the Elf in the first place because I knew we'd never move it, but it made Bobby excited.  I can't crush Bobby's holiday spirit; I'll never get the presents wrapped without him. ;-)

Here are the holiday activities that we are doing with our two year old in no particular order:

1) Phoenix Zoo Lights-  Jack enjoyed seeing all the  lights.  The line for Santa was short at the event, and Jack hammed it up for the photo.

2) Holiday Baking- Jack has always been interested in cooking and baking, so we let him mix the cake and cookie batters. He also gets to cut the cookies into shapes and put sprinkles on said cookies.  He also enjoys this.

3) "Elf on a Shelf"- Jack doesn't care right now (and Chaps thinks it's a chew toy).  Maybe next year.

4) Disney Tsum Tsum Advent Calendar- Jack likes opening the door and seeing which Disney toy he gets, but then all interest is gone. It's also on the kitchen counter, as he wants to open all the doors at once. This activity is the one that caused him to slip out of the stool.  Perhaps we need to put it on the ground for the door opening. :-/

5) Painting and Coloring Paper Holiday Placemats-  Jack and our 4 year old godson/"nephew" Colton have been enjoying coloring and painting these paper holiday placemats that I bought at the Target after Christmas sale last year.

6) Decorating the Tree- Of course he got the paper, plastic and cloth ornaments to put on the tree, and those are the types at his level.  I'd say he enjoys taking the ornaments off of the tree more than he likes putting them on.

7) Reading Holiday Themed Books- His favorite is "I've Seen Santa" by David Bedford.  We read it at least twice a day, and he is now exclaiming "Santa!" every time we see a Santa.

8) Seeing the Lights in Our Hood- We walk the dogs around the block almost every evening, and Jack likes to point out the various Christmas Lights and blow ups.  "Baby elephant!" "Snowman!"  "Mickey, Minnie!" "Yoda!"

9) Shoe String Decorations- Another Target find (we may shop at Target it a lot, and they aren't paying me to say that, although I'd totally take a gift card Target for endorsing you, cough, cough). Jack gets the string through one hole, says "I did it!" and then takes another string and wears it as a necklace. I'll save the kit for next year.

10) McCormrick Railroad Park- this activity was great to do with him last year (at age one), so we're doing it again this year.  Lights, Santa, hot coco and riding trains, does it get any better as a kid (maybe your birthday party tops that)?

Of course we'll go to Christmas Eve church service (to be honest, the only time I enjoy church), and I'm sure take turns chasing him like we did last year.  Then we'll have to two big "roast beast" feasts with our family in Tucson and our family in Phoenix.  And get together with friends through out the week to celebrate our friendship and another year.

Leave a comment on the activities and traditions you do with your family for the holidays!  I'll be taking a little blog break for the next couple of weeks, so until the new year, Happy Holidays and May Your Cup Be Overflowing in the New Year!  xoxo!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

12/8/16- One, Two, Eleven and Twelve

Yay! Woo hoo!  It's been 1 year (plus 3 days) since I started writing this blog.  Happy Birthday blog! It's also my friend Carrie's birthday, Happy Birthday Carrie! Life is full of wonderful ups and horrible downs, but all I can say is hammerhead, isn't it grand to know your life can be forever captured, in binary form on the Internet?  Ha!

As I look back at my first ever post: The Intro, I've learned I need to continuously improve my editing skills.  I've also learned that writing is not a mundane job for me.  Here it is a year later, and I'm still posting on this blog and planning to release a picture book (Annie Aardvark, Mathematician coming in January 2017)!  I've attended a children's writing conference and critic groups- I have learned so much about the children's book industry.  It's been exciting (not boring at all).

It's also been 2 years since I've returned to work from my maternity leave.  I've learned that the feelings I had returning to work, well those feelings never really left (Separation Anxiety), just the reason for those feelings has changed (so much more fun to hang out with Jack than do my day job). I've learned though that I don't have to suffer through my boring job.  I can change my job situation-- either with a new job or a new career.  Personal change is coming, and it will be good for me (the country's change in January, I'm not so sure will be good).

The other anniversaries that I'm celebrating this month are my work anniversary.  It will be 12 years at the same old, same old job on December 13.  And then it will be 11 years since Bobby and I had our first date. December 22, 2005 was our first date, and part of it involved going to the Phoenix Zoo Lights (the other part was having dinner at Lo Cascio).

Jack with the Santa at Zoo Lights 
(Bobby and I didn't capture the fateful moment because it was before the time of selfies)

We recently went to Zoo Lights with Jack, and it was nostalgia at its best.  See 11 years ago, I told Bobby that wanted to ride the carousel (during our date at Zoo Lights), and Bobby was game. He was willing to have fun despite looking like a fool. It's one of the qualities I love best about him (if you keep a list of qualities I want in a potential spouse, make sure willing to have fun while looking silly is on there).

So we rode the carousel 11 years ago, and it was magical. It was even more magical riding it with Jack last weekend. Nothing like reliving your first date experience with your child (see told you it was nostalgia at it's best). Tear.

Anyway, happy anniversaries to me! To quote Jack, "I did it!" 1 year of writing, 2 years of being a working parent, 11 years of dating Bobby, and 12 years as an engineer in the industry. I'm totally having a glass of champagne this weekend! I hope you'll join in me in toasting to your own life's milestones.  Because if we can't drink to our accomplishments, then shark it all, I don't want to live forever in 1's and 0's!  Cheers, here's to us (and our digital immorality)!

PS: The it's been one year since I started this blog, triggered this song. You're welcome.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

12/3/16- Separation Anixiety

You'll hear it from your doctor, your daycare provider, your friends, your family, and random stranger- that your child will go through periods of separation anxiety.  What some people may neglect to tell you is that you might also experience separation anxiety.  Of course, if your child is throwing a tantrum of epic proportions, dropping the child off at daycare is a little easier (at least for me).

But then there's times when the child is so sweet. Lately Jack and I have had such fun playing together before work and daycare, that I get really bummed after dropping him off (at daycare).  A chocolate croissant from Starbucks helps ease the transition a little, but once that's eaten, all that is left is a a snoring Pug and engineering tasks that have been the same since 2010.  I much rather watch "Captain Jack and the Neverland Pirates", shouting yo-ho and waving empty paper towel tubes around (as swords) with Jack.

That's how this week has been for me.  Days filled with all things Jack.  He had croup and had to stay home from daycare Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  And of course last week was Thanksgiving, so no daycare then.  In October there was Disneyland and another cold, so my cup runneth over of Jack (in a good way).  Going back to the reality of my monotonous (all though well paying and stable) job was blah.  I kept thinking about the fun I could be having, and so, I felt sad and empty at work this week.  I just didn't want to leave Jack at daycare.

Of course this week wasn't the first time I've experience separation anxiety (from my kid).  Going back to work after maternity leave really taxed me.  Those 12 weeks with a new born were not all happy and pleasant, but returning back to work after just 12 weeks felt like the leave was cut short. It was way too short of time (for me). And Jack, he was so little.  He was just shy of 3 months.  All the other babies were 5-6 months.  It felt way too soon. Like someone (cough, cough, place that I worked) had ripped my baby from me.

Look how little he was! 

I cried every day for that first week back at work, and I know I cried the weeks following that first week (just not every day).  Ugh, and the dream I had about returning to work is still vivid.  In the dream, I return to work, and then they tell me because I was gone, they're going to lay me off (they were laying other people off in the dream too, but the reason they chose me was because I had been on leave).  I told them, "shark, no! You don't make me come back before I'm ready just to lay me off!" Then I demanded a 6 month severance package, and they gave it to me.  At least I got a small victory in the dream, and of course 2 years later, I'm still working there, but that was the level of my separation anxiety back then.

The separation anxiety I feel now, isn't necessarily that I need to be with my baby (not like the one I felt 2 years ago). It's that my child is way more fun than my work, so I much rather be with him. Sure it doesn't help that he gets upset when we leave for daycare, but as soon as we're at daycare, he finds the toys or morning snack, and it's see ya later mommy.   Jack's separation issues also seem rooted in don't interrupt my fun.  But at least when he's at preschool, he's having a good time (see exhibit below).  I, on the other hand, am not having a good time at my job.

Happy as a calm climbing on the jungle gym at daycare

I do plan to change that though.  I think a new engineering job, either within my company or external, could bring on challenge that I need. Something new would break up the monotony of what I currently do (seriously I've had the same exact tasks for at least 5 years now).  I think also the release of "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician" will also bring a new exciting adventure to my work life.  And of course, if all else fails, I can take a sick day and play with Jack.  The point is, I don't think I will be stuck in a rut and feeling sad every time my child leaves for school because there are exciting things on the horizon for me.

I believe I can change these circumstances.  I've done it before, and I can do it again.  That's the thing I know about myself-- that I'm a dreamer and a doer, so my dreams can come true. (Sidebar alert-- I got Campaigner from this personality test, You should take it; you didn't need to work/watch child/sleep today anyway.)  Let's just hope the dream that comes true is not one the one with a lay off (although I'm sure if I really wanted that dream to happen, I could, haha).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

11/22/16- Gratitude

Gratitude, I've heard that word a lot lately.  I think with Thanksgiving around the corner (2 days!), many people start to reflect and think about what they are thankful for.  I'm no exception; I'm one of those people reflecting on what I'm grateful for.

Before I start my list of gratitude, I have to say 2016 has been one sharky year for me, and it seems for the world as well.  Wars, conflicts, floods, earthquakes, record high temperatures, legends lost, clowns running countries, and probably other sharky things I'm forgetting (personally this year, there's been illness and broken bones and emotional trials, blah).  It's a wonder that anyone is in a thankful mood right now.  But ever the optimist (although old age sure is trying to beat that out of me and make me a COE, cranky old engineer; you know the stereotype), I do realize there are still some wonderful things in my life.

The first thing I'm grateful for is my friends and family. Thank you so much to everyone who reads my blog.  Hearing that you take time out of your day to read my blog means so much to me.   They like me; they really, really like me!  :)   Even if you don't read my blog, I'm so grateful for the care and support my friends and family give me.  Big hugs!

Some of My Wonderful Friends <3

Second, the Cubs winning the world series.  The Cubs winning made my husband (life long fan) so happy, and shark it, if we couldn't all use that kind of happy right now!  Sure, it could be a sign of the 4 horsemen riding, but that was one of the most amazing (sport) wins I've seen.  If we survive the apocalypse, that is one thing we'll still be talking about as we cage fight for food and water Mad Max style.

That One Time at Wrigley

Next on the list, the pug.  It was almost 10 years to this day that Bobby and I went to the cargo hanger at Skyharbor and picked up 2 dogs. They were both shaking in their crates from what I can only image to be the most crazy experience of their dog lives. They had lost their owner, my aunt, a few days before, and then were packed up into dog crates and flown all the way from Atlanta to Phoenix in the belly of an airplane, only to be greeted by 2 strangers and taken to a strange home that already had a dog occupant.

It was one of the best and worst Thanksgivings of my life, so I can only image for Chaps, the Pug, and Gomez, the Shih Tzu, what that Thanksgiving was like for them. Gomez is no longer with us (he passed away a few years ago), but Chaps is.  He is the sweetest dog I've ever had and was Jack's first best friend (okay, Jack's first best friend might have been the ceiling fan).  Chaps, you are getting a whole Turkey in celebration of your adoption birthday! I mean YOLO, right Chaps?

 Pug in 2006

To lighten the mood a little, the next thing I'm grateful for is Bobby and mine's Thanksgiving and Christmas tradition of watching holiday movies.  First movie up will be Trains, Planes and Automobiles. Even though I've seen that movie 20+ times, I still laugh. "Those aren't pillows!" And Christmas Vacation. And Home Alone.  And dozens others.  These movies just make me happy.  And seriously, a good laugh right now is something I think a lot of us can use, so queue up the holiday movies!

Finally, one of the things I'm most grateful for, and it's probably obvious, is Jack and Bobby. Even when they annoy the hammerhead out of me, the next minute their making me smile with a silly face or funny joke.  They also keep me going at work. When I want to quit (almost everyday), I think of how our family needs my income (I know that is so practical, but sometimes the practical reasons are good reasons to keep working).  I also think about how I'm setting an example for Jack. Jack needs me to be the working woman in his life if I want him to truly understand what equal rights in the workplace means (*opinion alert! opinion alert!*).

<3 Three's Company <3

And better than being a part of the motivation to work, Jack and Bobby are part of my inspiration to follow a dream.  After Jack was born, I knew I wanted to create more beautiful things in the world (Jack is the most beautiful thing I've created, but to keep him humble, let's keep that between you and me :)).  I believe with engineering that you can create and make, but the engineering job I'm currently in is all about maintenance (which is important too, but really not challenging me). There is no creating and making with my current engineering job.  So for me to create and make, I decided to write a picture book.

The first picture book was inspired by Jack, observing him being curious about the appliances in our house and how they work.  That manuscript is currently "in the drawer" (as author's call it).  Shortly after that first manuscript, I came up with an idea to write female animal characters performing STEM jobs, in hopes of encouraging children, especially girls, to pursue those careers (assuming the slightest hint of interest, of course).  Bobby helped me form the idea for the first animal character (an aardvark), and he's been a big support in getting the book to print.

That's right, the book is coming to print!  Bobby and I hope to release "Annie a Mathematical Aardvark" in January of 2017!  I'm so excited, happy and grateful to go on this new journey (publishing a picture book) with my guys. Jack and Bobby have been an endless well of support and inspiration, and I'll be celebrating that this Thanksgiving!

Introducing Annie!*

I know 2016 was a rough year for a lot of people, but if you think of something you're grateful and thankful for this year, please leave a comment.  I'd love to hear about the good things that have happened to you.  Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble, gobble! :)

*Update- I totally forgot to give credit to the illustrator, Davina, "Viv," Kinney for Annie!  I'm thankful that Viv and I connected and for all the work she's doing on the book!

Friday, November 18, 2016

11/15/16- Less Than, It Has Happened To Me

I am feeling very introspective right now.  Mostly because I want to yell at a lot of people, to lecture them, to educate them.  But that is not what I need right now.  I need inner reflection. I need to empathize and listen. I have to start with myself. I need to tell myself what has happened to me, so I can empathize and listen when others share their stories or voice their emotions.

Self, do you remember that time you were at the Costco parking lot in college? Yeah, that was like decades ago. It was only one decade ago. Okay, but do we have to talk about that out loud?  Isn't it better to think the world is good?  Just because it happened to you doesn't mean the world is a bad place. Okay, I guess I'm ready to talk to you about it, Self.

I was packing up the groceries into my parents' Buick, when a white male in his twenties with light hair approached me.  He asked me if I wanted to take a survey for a radio contest.  I really just wanted to go home, so I politely said no thank you.  He replied, but it will only take a few minutes. Again, I say no thank you, I need to get home.  Then he starts to get pushy, talking real fast, listing these reasons why I need to come take this survey.  I'm losing my patience, saying a terse no, I have to go. I also start having an uncomfortable feeling in my chest as he continues rambling.  This isn't sitting right with me.

I yell, "Leave me alone!  I don't want to take your fucking survey!"  Then he turns from pushy to ugly in a second, "You cunt!" He yells more things at me that I've blocked from memory (cunt stays with me to this day; it's a hard word to forget).  Two tall, dark-skinned men approach and ask, "Miss are you ok? Is this guy bothering you?" Before I say anything to these men, the guy leaves.  I thank the men and get in my car, not even sure what just happened, just that I'm upset and crying.

So you were harassed?  Yes, I was harassed in a Costco parking lot in the middle of the day. If it weren't for the other two men jumping in, I'm not sure where it would have escalated.  Does it make you mad that your 2 polite no's should have been enough for the 20 something male to say, okay, thank you for your time and walk away?  Yes, of course! Again while I'm thankful for someone interfering and helping me, I struggle as to why my no's weren't enough. That should have been enough.

Do you think this harassment happens to other women? Other women that you know?  Yes Self, it does.  Do you think it's happened to another friend, and she just hasn't told you? Yes Self, it does.  What do you think you can do about it? Just share my story with my friends and family to show them that harassment happens closer than they think it does. That it happens to someone they know.  Why haven't you shared it before? Because I am scared of what they say to me, that it's some how my fault, or I'm whining or complaining (that I'm being a "crybaby"), but most of all because I can't burst my own bubble and admit that I wasn't in control of the situation. To admit that to myself, is to admit that I'm weak.  I'm not weak, I'm strong.

When harassment has happened to me, I have been afraid.  I recognize that I didn't have control of the situation. It made me feel LESS THAN.  I would rationalize it to myself, compartmentalize, tell myself I'm overreacting.  I don't believe I'm alone in this rationalization.  I think that other people who have been harassed are scared, that they downplay the situation. "I'm not weak."  "Harassment happens to other people, not to me." "Others will look down upon me." "If I say something, it could impact my career."  And so on. 

Whether its feelings of shame, fear, denial, anger, each individual who has been harassed has their reason for why they might rationalize it.  It's easy to downplay. It was for me.  It is hard to accept that the world can be bad.  It's difficult when you see the worsts in people when you know that there are good people.  It's difficult when someone makes you feel LESS THAN, even though you know you are not. It's cognitive dissonance at its finest-- you saw the world as good, people as good, yourself as good and then those few minutes (or longer) of harassment crashes that all.

Self, I want you to know, it was okay to be afraid and scared. However, those feelings will pass because I know that no more will you succumb to fear, hate and harassment of others.  I know that you choose to rise above. I do choose to rise.  I choose to be BETTER THAN how someone might see me (a "cunt"). 

I choose to help someone else who is being put in a position of LESS THAN.  I will not be quite when someone is being forced into LESS THAN.  I will take action when someone is being pushed into LESS THAN. We are BETTER THAN. My fears, my shame, they can be replaced by hope when we are being BETTER THAN. 

Got it, Self?  Yep I do.  I am BETTER THAN.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

11/11/16- Happy Veteran's Day, Remembering My Grandpa and Thanking My Dad

As I am processing my own feelings about the election results (hurt, sadness) and working to understand others' feelings (happy, excited, scared, apathetic), I was reminded on social media that today is Veteran's Day.  I am not a veteran, but I do know some, and I want to say thank you and Happy Veteran's Day.

It's been a reminder that I am a descendant of a veteran.  My grandpa Charlie was a veteran.  He fought in WWII.  But those facts had escaped my memory.  How could I forgot that he was one?

Grandpa Charlie and Grandma Ruth (she was a working woman as well)

I forgot because he simply was grandpa to me, not war veteran.  I don't recall every seeing him dress in uniform (in person; photos yes). I don't remember him sharing war stories with me. I do remember him sharing an ICEE with me at the Walmart in Lexington, Nebraska while walking around and picking out Barbie dolls and fishing lures.  I remember him teaching me about gardening and how he ate green onions straight.  And watching Jeopardy and cow auctions together.

I do remember one 4th of July where he was running for a local town position on the Democrat ticket.  I don't remember him winning or many other details, but I do recall handing out pencils with his name on it (the things that stick with you, huh?).  Grandpa Charlie is my mother's dad, and her side of the family has a long line of Democrats. On my father's side, a string of Independents.

These Two Guys!

I also come from a family of strong working women.  My grandpa Charlie had 4 daughters, no sons (unless you count through marriage), and all four daughters went to college.  And I think they all got master's degrees. These daughters traveled the world and have been in the workforce since the day I was born.  Two of them worked while raising kids.

My dad, well he's not a veteran.  He would have been a veteran of the Korean War, but he had asthma and couldn't serve (that would probably be different today with new medicine/treatments and military medical requirements).  He did serve his country in his own way though; he worked on many military and government projects as engineer and researcher.  I also work on a government/military project as an engineer.  I come from a short line of engineers as well (as far as I know it's just me and dad, and we're literally short in height). :)

Like Father, Like Daughter

This line of engineer, veteran, Democrat, Independent, strong working woman, that is my history. It is a reflection of who I am, and well not all of my family history is good and happy, I am thankful for what these two men did so that I can be an engineer today (20% of engineering students are female, Women LeavingEngineering, if you're interested in stats).

Dad and grandpa, thank you for repeatedly telling me I could be anything I wanted to be.  That you thought I could go to college (or okay, stated that I was).  That you thought I could be an engineer (or vet or marine biologist or latest idea).

Thank you for never saying I belonged at home or that I was ugly or fat or that my only worth was in my looks. Thank you for encouraging me to use my mind and smarts. Thank you for your support of me in math and science (especially when I was unsure of my abilities in those subjects). Thank you both for raising strong daughters (side shout out: thank you to my mother and aunts for being role models).

Dad and grandpa, today I thank you for being that kind of man, for being my equality champion. Thank you for all that you did for me.  I will continue to make you proud by being the smart, strong, hard working, female engineer that you believe in.

And Uncle Denis, Jack's Bopa, family and friends who also served, thank you for your service.

(And if your curious who my old white male of a father voted, it was for Hilary.  Thanks dad!)

This picture might embarrass them, but shout out to my male cousins for being equality champions too!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

11/3/16- The MS

In the writing world, MS is an abbreviation for manuscript.  In technology, MS is an abbreviation for Master's of Science.  In the autoimmune disease realm, it's Multiple Sclerosis.  I know all 3 abbreviations well, but the one that has impacted my life the most, is Multiple Sclerosis. My friend Emma had Multiple Sclerosis.

It's been 4 years since Emma passed away, and I carefully choose my words when I talk to others (who did not know her personally) about her.  I tell them she lost her battle to MS. That is the truth.  It's the why.  I feel that in those couple of minutes conversation that is all they need to know- that I lost a good friend to MS.

But it is not the how.  Emma was struggling with MS and decided in January of 2012 to end her struggle.  She committed suicide and left a note to her parents, citing she wanted peace, to escape the unending pain of MS and the resultant depression.

I believe she was 24 when she received her diagnosis in 2007 or 2008.  It's hard for me to remember the details of her diagnosis because I was going through my own medical struggles from end of 2006 to beginning of 2008.  My own RA diagnosis came in  spring of 2008.  And in a way, Emma helped me get a diagnosis.

She came to a party that Bobby and I had in  late 2007 or early 2008 (again that time is blurry for me).  I told her at the party how I felt like I had the flu every day. I told her I was so fatigued and nauseated, but frustrated that the doctors (I've seen so far) couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. She told me about her own symptoms and how a doctor at the Mayo clinic diagnosed her with MS.  She suggested that my symptoms sounded similar to hers (the extreme fatigue) and that I should get a MRI to (hopefully) rule out MS.

I called an imaging place that performed MRI scans.  They asked me who the doctor was recommending this test.  I sheepishly said no doctor had ordered it, that it was me, but I really needed to know.  I was asking for this test before the act in Arizona where you, the patient, can order your own tests (at least blood tests, I'm not sure about MRIs).

I must have given a good speech because the worker said she'd assign a doctor to the test; one that they normally worked with.  I got the MRI, which lead to meeting the doctor (who the imaging place assigned).  He told me that everything was good/looked normal in the MRI. Then, we talked about my symptoms, and he tested me for Mono, Valley Fever, and RA.  I had Mono and a high RA Factor. The diagnosis of RA happened shortly after.

Emma gathered us for the Phoenix MS Walk in 2010

But I am digressing.  I am not angry at Emma for taking her own life.  I know how a disease can turn your mind dark. I battled my own depression while I struggled to figure out what was wrong with my health. Often thinking what I had was a mental illness- that I was making it all up.  Often wondering, at least when I die here shortly, they can perform an autopsy on me and find out what I have.  Days of just sleeping on the couch during the day. Not going to work.  Not doing anything. But getting lost in my own thoughts.

I know what it's to have an autoimmune disease and the depression that can follow, and I'm angry at myself for not recognizing her internal battle.  We had meet 2 weeks prior to her death, and she shared how she wanted to be more social; that she was feeling lonely.  I encouraged her to come to more SWE events and that I'd love her help with SWE outreach activities.  She said she didn't think she could because she was no longer an engineer (she had been fired by her company months before). I said, of course you can still be a part of SWE, because why else would SWE offer retired or unemployed memberships?   We later made plans to do dinner again, and she said she'd sign up to volunteer for one of the SWE events.

I feel that I failed to really hear what she was saying. That she was lonely and that she was hurting. My anger at myself is not as large as it was in 2012, but it is still there, broken tiny pieces residing deep in my heart. Then I feel disappointment in myself for being angry- well her death isn't about you! Tsk, tsk, as I scold myself.  After all, it's about her, and what she needed.  She needed peace.

The thought of knowing she found the peace she was looking for, it breaks my anger and guilt into even smaller pieces; the thought does comfort me. Then, I am able to remember all of our good times together, the memories floating happily in my mind, and the wonderful things about our friendship are there on the surface of my heart, overshadowing the anger and guilt.  You brought me joy and happiness my dear friend Emma, and I wish you the same.

In loving memory of Emma, I'm participating in the Phoenix MS Walk on November 5, 2016.  To learn more about MS, please visit:  What to learn more about Emma?  Her blog (which to my delight, I found was still up and have enjoyed re-reading) is here:

Phoenix MS Walk 2015

Thursday, October 27, 2016

10/27/16- Mickey's Halloween Party

As part of our trip to Disneyland in early October, we went to Mickey's Halloween Party.  Mickey's Halloween Party is a special event from early September until end of October that includes trick-or-treating, Halloween-themed attractions and Character Greetings, special fireworks spectacular, and a spooky parade that starts with the ride of the Headless Horseman.  It is a separate cost from the regular park ticket, but you can enter the park 3 hours before the the Halloween party starts. (And remember, your child under 3 is free, even for the Halloween party!)

In my post last week, Bobby and I concluded that we could have skipped going to the park in the morning (the extra rest to for all of us to treat-or-trick until the party closed would have been good) and just done the early party entrance.  We still did plenty of rides and saw characters when we attended the party.

We got to the party around 5 pm, and there was a decent line to get in (first security and then actual park gate; Disney-line continues!).  I've heard that the line for parking is also long for the nights that of the Halloween party, so if you are driving, make sure you plan for extra time spent parking.

Bobby and I were excited to read that costumes are encouraged (check the park website for rules about costumes)-- we were going to go as The Incredibles and Jack would be Jack, Jack!  And of course when we go to put him in his costume, he refused.  Such a toddler!  It really didn't stop any of our enjoyment at the party, and it was fun to keep getting told that we looked incredible (from park employees). I love puns.

We started with dinner in the park, and Bobby and I both liked the grilled cheese and basil tomato soup; it felt like the perfect fall/Halloween meal.  Jack had a kid's meal, and only ate the carrots and drank the milk, which since he was about to eat candy, we were not upset about.  We could have packed food, but that's not our style. :-) Then we headed to Tomorrow Land for his favorite ride, Buzz Lightyear.

After the ride, I made the boys stand in our first trick-or-treat trail.  The line for the trail looked long, but it moved pretty quick.  The way the trick-or-treating works is that there are designated rides that become a treat trail. You go through the trail and get candy.  Each trail has about 3-4 candy stops. After the first candy stop on the trail, Jack was excited to hold out his treat bag and even started saying trick-or-treat.

We gave him a miniature candy bar and some M n M's when waiting in line for the next ride. Disney also hands out apple slices and other healthy snacks with the candy.  Jack did eat apples later that night when we headed back to the hotel.  But of course, he liked the candy.  I enjoyed seeing his excitement over experiencing the taste of chocolate.  No, it wasn't his first time having chocolate, but he made it seem like it was, which was totally funny (I should have taken a picture, d'oh!).

We saw the character villains and Mickey Mouse and friends in costume, but since we had pictures with characters from earlier in the day, we skipped the lines to get pictures and autographs.  We watched the special fireworks, which Jack ooh'ed and ah'ed over (he might have been quoting me). The loud noise didn't upset him, as we had practice with fireworks from 4th of July.  We missed the Halloween parade because Jack (and us) wanted to do rides instead.  We did see some daytime parades, so don't feel too bad for us.  I've heard the Halloween parade is cool, so if you go, you might want to check it out.

Overall, we all really liked Mickey's Halloween Party.  I liked the special decorations, fireworks and trick-or-treating (so pretty much all of it), Jack liked the rides and chocolate, and Bobby liked the special decorations and seeing characters that you normally don't see. We all recommend going at least once if you plan to go to Disneyland September or October.  It was spooktacular (told you I love puns)!  Happy Howl-o-ween!  ;)

Check out these websites for more info:
Disneyland- Mickey's Halloween Party
Undercovertourist- Disneyland Halloween Time

Thursday, October 20, 2016

10/19/16- The Land of Disney (with a toddler)

Phew! What a whirlwind the past 3 weeks have been.  Jack has either an allergic reaction or an infection around his eye, my mom had a kidney stone removed, and Bobby, Jack, and I went to Disneyland! Despite all the downs, there were ups, and I feel lucky for the ups.                              

Back to the Disneyland mention-- we took Jack to Disneyland for the first time! Some said we were crazy. Some said we'd had fun. Maybe it was a little crazy to take a toddler to Disneyland, but it was worth the smile on Jack's face.  We had so much fun!      

Bobby and I went into this trip with the bar set low.  We expected tantrums, freak outs over seeing a giant mouse, and impatience with long lines. And that was just Bobby and I.

We knew that we'd be spending hours away from the park for naps.  We knew that meals inside the park would be expensive (although we found a decent kids lunch in Toon Town for 6.99; not bad). But there was hope, however little it was, that Jack might like it.

He likes the train ride at the mall and enjoys watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so why not a train inside Disneyland?  There was hope that all the bad things a toddler could experience at a large amusement park would be outweighed by the fun and lasting memories. Plus, children under 3 are FREE.

His free entrance was totally worth it, as Jack's excitement and happiness while at the Land of Disney blew all of the negative expectations away by the first day.  Sure there was still a melt down or two when we had to leave the park at the end of the night, but it was because he didn't want the fun to end.  Sure he didn't want to hug any of the characters, but he still got super excited to see them, pointing and exclaiming, "Mickey!  Donald! Minnie! Pluto!"

I think what made this adventure to the "happiest place on Earth" successful for our family was the prep work we did before.  Research and planning go along way; I highly recommend you do some if you're planning a first visit.  Below are some of my tips for a potentially happy toddler at Disneyland. Please share your own tips in the comments!

1) Expect crowds, long lines, and cranky people (including yourself).  You know your child and yourself best in crowds, so having contingency plans (think plans B and C for stressful situations) for Disney-LINE (as Bobby nicknames) is a good idea.  Maybe it's the engineers in Bobby and I, but using worst case analysis and coming up with possible solutions to WC, I think made the experience smoother.

2) Read the blogs and websites dedicated to Disneyland, specifically toddlers at Disneyland.  I liked  the Disney Parks blogs, where you could search on the topic of toddler.

3) Choose a hotel within walking distance.  If you're child naps in a stroller/your arms, great, then you can stay at the park all day.  However, Jack requires a bed to nap, and a short walk (after lots of park walking) to go rest was awesome.

4) Consider a multi-day pass.  We did a 3 day park hopper pass (for Bobby and I; Jack didn't need a pass as remember FREE) and knowing we didn't have to cram everything into one day was nice.  We also did the Mickey Halloween Party, and if we had known that we could get into the park at 3 pm (we missed it in our research), then we would have done 2 day park hopper pass plus the Mickey Halloween Party ticket.  (I'll review Mickey's Halloween Party in a separate post, but preview, we all liked it!)

5)  Down load the park APP!  We used to it to: find toddler friendly rides (you can filter in the app); book restaurant reservations (restaurants in the park and Downtown Disney fill up fast!); find when the parades and firework times are; see if a Fast Pass for a ride was available; and most important, see what ride waiting times were.  Cutting down the wait time for ride lines with a toddler, that was priceless (the app is free, so literally no price, haha).

6) Get Fast Passes.  If you're unfamiliar with a Fast Pass, it's basically a ride reservation.  You get a ticket saying to come back to the Fast Pass line between such and such a time. You may wait a little in the Fast Pass line to ride the ride, but the wait is way shorter than the regular line.  Short waits so important on toddler clocks (see use of app above).

7) Book your entire vacation through Disney (*I am not getting any endorsement for saying this*).   Unless you're a very savvy saver, which I am not, the price to book our vacation through Disney felt fair. We got the hotel, 3 day park hopper passes, souvenir pin and photo, and coupons.  You can also pay in installments.  It was just so convenient and easy to get everything/whole vacation in one place. Plus, the vacation info comes to you in a very cute booklet (gets you and child all excited)!

8) Bring a stroller (or stroller like device).  It was nice to not have to carry Jack everywhere when he didn't want to walk, as well as it was storage for jackets, snacks, water, sunscreen, hats, blanket, diapers, souvenirs, etc.  If your kid is ain't stroller type of kid, try a wagon or one of those toy push cars with a handle or tricycles with a handle.

9) Bring snacks, water, sunscreen, hats, jackets, etc. Bringing these items were part of our backup plans to help Jack and us when number 1 above happened. Disneyland lets you bring in outside food and water (and I think even juice and milk), you just have to go through security (so yeah there's a long line there too; Disney-LINE for a reason).

10) Go with the flow and have fun (because do you have your backup plans just in case the shark hits the fan)!  Sure riding Buzz Lightyear or the Ariel Underwater Adventure ride 7 times started to wear on my nerves, but Jack loved those rides so much.  Seeing him have such fun on those rides, time after time, brought me back to happy.

Witnessing Jack's awe, amazement, enthusiasm and happiness over the rides, parades, characters, and fireworks made it feel like the first time all over again for me.  His excitement was so contagious that I almost forget we had plan B's.  All the worry over whether he'd enjoy it or not melted away in those moments. Such wonderful, happy family memories made forever.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

9/29/16- The DIY Bracelet

What weird week-- I had a cold, a follow female engineer on my project retired (by choice; I'm sad to see her go but also really happy for her), spent 1-on-1 time with Jack before school today (which was fun and thus hard to focus on engineering and writing later), found out I'll be a speaker at a conference in February (yay, I'm excited!), and Bobby and I made bracelets.  Yup, you read that right, we made jewelry. And it was lot of fun.

Both Bobby and I enjoy DIY (Do It Yourself, for those who may forget or have not seen that acronym before).  Maybe it's the engineer in us, or maybe we need better hobbies, but we like DIY. My DIY preference is on the craft side, and his is on the home improvement side.  I dream of making really awesome crafts-- sometimes I make pretty stuff, and sometimes it's not so pretty.

So I was really excited when I came across Brit + Co, a site that sells DIY kits and the promise that your DIY projects will come out pretty.  And before I go on to rave about the bracelet kit I bought, I want to make it clear Brit + Co didn't pay me to talk about them or that they gave me a free kit to try (although seriously, I would love a free kit). I stumbled across their website when shopping for a friend's birthday gift. I wanted to get my friend a cat shirt; their website had one that said "purr-rito" with a cat wrapped in a tortilla (because you really needed to know that).

It's taken me 6 months to purchase one of their DIY kits.  I kept saying I didn't have the time or that the kits were too expensive.  Then Brit + Co had a 50% off sale, so I finally purchased a kit. I chose the make your own wire bracelet kit. I thought it looked easy enough for my first kit, and I love bracelets.  I knew the kit/bracelet was something I'd used.  It came in this cool box that you get to color (they send you markers!).  Jack was also really into the box and helped Bobby and I color it:

Opening the box I found almost everything I needed to make a wire bracelet: pliers/wire cutters, brass wires, a bracelet bending tool, and instructions. They suggested a ruler too, which did not come in the box, so you'd have to provide your own (I had one of course).  You can kind of eyeball where you need to make bends and cuts, but for the precise, you can use a ruler.  It came with instructions that had pictures, and you can also find additional instructions/information on the Brit + Co website. They give instructions for 3 different type of wire bracelets: zig-zag, crescent, and letters/words (so it spells out hey or such).

I got to work on the zig-zag design after dinner (of this Tuesday).  It took me about 15 minutes to complete (with an assist from Bobby). I had planned to cut the zig-zag bracelet to fit my wrist, but Jack got super interested in what I was making and took the bracelet and pliers from me before I made the cut.  I took back the pliers and let him play with bracelet.  The next night I made the crescent shape bracelet, and Bobby made a letters one.

This time it was after Jack went to bed, so I got to cut my bracelets and fit them to my wrist.  It was a fun activity to do together as a couple, and we've talked about purchasing another kit for the future date nights in (can't go out? date nights in are a close substitute; I'll list some ideas for you in another blog).   We've made 4 out of the 6 bracelets that the kit has and plan to finish the other 2 sometime later this week, maybe with a bottle of wine.  Should be a good time. :-)

We both also realized how much fun Jack had pretending to make the zig-zag bracelet (when he was playing with the bracelet on Tuesday, he tried to twist it like he had seen mommy do). Bobby and I talked about making pipe cleaner and plastic bead bracelets with him in the next week or so. Piper cleaners are easy to twist and string beads on, so there'd be many variations for him to create a unique piece of jewelry.  I am really excited to be able to craft, build, and DIY together as a family.  Being able to DIY together warms my heart-- we're a DIY loving family, what can I say?

Leave me a comment on your favorite hobby, individually or with family and friends!   And check out the final product below. No "Pinterest Fail" this time, haha!  Happy DIY, or what floats your hobby boat, to all!

Link to Brit + Co DIY Kits

Thursday, September 22, 2016

9/20/16- Failing

It was fall 2001, and the weather starting to cool down in Phoenix.  So it was 95 degrees for the high versus 110 degrees (I realize I like to talk a lot about how hot it is here, ha).  I was in my sophomore year at Arizona State University, studying electrical engineering.  I had just received a letter from ASU.  Not unusual to get mail from the school you attend, but this piece of mail was different.  It had "open now" or "urgent" marked on it. As I anxiously opened it up, my stomach sank to my feet.  I was failing Physics III.

I had received my first ever midterm warning.  All through high school, I had never received a midterm warning. In fact, I was a straight A student.  But studying electrical engineering at college was stressing my GPA. Freshmen year I ended up receiving 2 B's and 2 A's, averaging a 3.5 GPA.  I reluctantly accepted that I wasn't an A student anymore over the first summer break.  I continued on to sophomore year a little disappointed, but a 3.5 was acceptable.  I wasn't defeated.  I was determined to continue on.

I felt immense shame reading this midterm warning letter.  I had never failed at a class before.  I had gotten B's in Physics I and II, and even aced Physics in high school.  I should not be failing, I remember thinking.  I also recall thinking that my parents are going to be so disappointed in me. Looking back right now, I can't even tell you why I was failing.  But I was, and it made me doubt myself.  I thought, maybe engineering isn't for me.

I had dinner, or maybe it was lunch, later in the week with my parents.  I was dreading this meal with them because I knew I had to tell them that I'm failing. Sure, I could have withheld the information, but I knew deep down they'd find out eventually.  They were paying my tuition, so my line of thought was they'd put it together from the tuition bills or something like that.  Them finding out on their own was probably a small risk, but not one I wanted to take.  Better to tell them I thought. I don't remember how I told them, if it was a gradual build (I've done well so far, I'm studying hard, but also working, etc.) or if it was blunt (blurted out, I'm failing a class!).

To my surprise, my dad, also an electrical engineer, responded that it was okay.  He also came close to failing some classes and ended up as a C student in his undergraduate program (he did better in his graduate program, to note).  I was a little shocked to learn that my dad, someone who I consider very smart and successful in engineering, had been a C student in college.  It almost immediately changed my perspective on grades and on what it meant to be an engineer.  I didn't have to be a perfect A student to be an engineer.

I worked hard, and by the end of the semester, I got a C in Physics III.  If I remember my other grades correctly from that semester, I got a 2 A's and B.  By time graduation rolled around, I had 3.1 GPA. Not too shabby for someone in danger of failing a class and potentially being put on academic probation.  My husband has his own wonderful (yes wonderful) failure story as well.

Hi College Me! Keep it up!

He failed Calc I (or maybe it was Calc II) TWO times and was on academic probation.  His academic adviser even "advised" him that engineering is not for you and that he should switch majors.  He was on the verge of changing majors until his brother said, come on dude, don't give up (I'm paraphrasing).  He passed Calc I the third time.  He told me it finally "just clicked" the third time around (3rd times a charm :-)). He's now a successful (in my biased opinion) manager after many years of being a mechanical engineer.

The reason I'm sharing my story, my dad's story, and my hubby's story, is I want you to know that we weren't perfect engineering students. That we struggled and failed.  If you meet us today, you might think to yourself, Suzie, her hubby and her dad are doing so well at work and engineering comes easy for them.  Engineering was (and at times still is for me) a struggle for us.  I know other engineers that struggled as well and whose stories could fill another post.

I want you to know that if you are struggling, you're not alone.  If there is even a tiny little bit of desire in you, don't let some bad grade, some adviser, some bad performance review, some manager, and so on STOP you. One of my favorite lines from Galaxy Quest is, "Never give up, never surrender,"  and it is very applicable to our stories of failure.  We failed, but we never gave up, never surrendered.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

9/14/16- Jack Turns 2!

Jack turned 2 the past week, and I only freaked out a little bit.  By freaked out, I mean I balled my eyes. I cried most of August 28th.  August 28 was when his preschool/daycare moved him up to the next class. It was a few days before his actual birthday. And seeing him the next level up really hit me hard.  It hit the hubby hard too.  I was very melancholy and sad that whole week.  Bobby called it a week of nostalgic reflection (that sounds so much better than sad).

I was nostalgically reflecting that week because my baby is no longer a baby.  Of course metaphorically speaking he always be my baby, but physically, he no longer looks like a baby or acts like a baby. Seeing him in room full of toddlers was so shocking.  I think 2 has hit me harder than 1 did. At 1, he still looked like a baby and had baby needs.  Sure I was reflecting at 1 as well, but my excitement trumped any melancholy. With 2, there was mostly just nostalgic reflection.

Also here's a tip for you. When performing nostalgic reflection about how your baby is not a baby anymore (or any other type of nostalgic reflections), do NOT watch TV shows that have sentimental values (it was The O.C for me). Or listen to "Landslide."  Or read "I Love You Forever."  I have a love/hate relationship with that shark book.

With work (which I also have a love/hate relationship with), Jack's party (no crying this year from birthday boy, so success!), and the nostalgic reflection, I did not blog (blog is a verb now, right? Just like google?).  I had also planned to make this awesome slide show that had a picture of each month Jack's been a live, depicting the change from baby to kid. And it was going to either be set to Stevie Nick's "Landslide" (see nostalgic reflection don'ts above) or Jack's favorite song "Skidamarink."

So that awesome slide show did not get made. We'll just have to settle for a newborn pic, 1 year old pic, and 2 year old pic. Settling is always good. Homer taught it to Bart, and I'll teach it to Jack (sorry had to make Simpsons reference/joke). (And I apologize for all the parentheses in this post.  I think I'm still nostalgically reflecting.)

Just born!

1st birthday

2nd birthday

Leave a note in the comments or Facebook about any nostalgic reflection you do, including shows, books, songs, movie that help you in your reflection.  "See" ya next week!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

8/31/16- Lip Balm

I was at a pool party this weekend, and a fellow engineer was excited to talk STEM activities with me.  Every February, our engineering org goes to the AZ Science Center and performs a STEM experiment/activity with the kids and adults in honor of Engineers Week.  My fellow engineer was talking about ideas for a new activity, mostly centered around rockets (because rockets are cool).

But that made me realize it's time to post another STEM activity here on my blog.  School has started again, so what better time to get your STEM on than with the start of a new school year?  Below is how to make your own lip balm.

You may ask, what's lip balm got to do with science, but the answer is straightforward: make up companies hire scientists, engineers, and doctors. STEM professionals are needed for creating the make up formulas, adding/manufacturing the chemicals (or natural elements) in the make up, and testing the products.

Just look at the ingredients of any make up product, and you'll see compounds, minerals, and chemicals, the basis of chemistry right there on the label. Read on to learn more and to have fun creating your own lip balm!

Title: Make Your Own Lip Balm in 5 Steps
Author: Suzie Olsen at

Materials Needed:
  • Pot
  • Pyrex measuring cup
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Whisk
  • Water (for pot)
  • Chapstick/ Lip Balm Containers (To-Go Condiment Containers work too)
  • Pot holder/hot pad
  • 3 tsp of Bees Wax
  • 4 tsp of Cocoa Butter                                     
  • 5 tsp of Sweet Almond Oil
  • 2 tsp  Shea Butter
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Optional natural fragrance oil and food coloring
1.  Use a stove and the pot to boil some water.  As a safety precaution, check with your parents or guardians first before using the stove top to boil the water.

2. Add the Bees Wax, Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, and Sweet Almond Oil in Pyrex cup. Put the Pyrex cup into the boiling water; this technique is called a “double broiler.”

3. Mix the ingredients in the Pyrex cup with a whisk until completely melted.  When completely melted, add the honey.

4. Use the pot holder and take the Pyrex cup out of the pot. Pour the melted ingredients, which will be a liquid, into lip balm containers.

5. Wait fifteen minutes for lip balm to harden and cool.

Optional experiment: 
Add natural fragrance oil of your liking between steps 4 and 5 to flavor the lip balm.  Extracts used for baking, like vanilla and peppermint, can be used to flavor the lip balm as well. To color the lip balm, add a few drops of food coloring; gel food coloring will have a stronger color, while liquid food coloring will be more pastel.  Play mix and match with flavors and colors.

Fun facts relating to lip balm:
Chemical engineers can become cosmetic chemists using the knowledge of chemistry and the methods of engineering to extract, create and design new compounds and make-up. Engineers are problem solvers and can be given the task to find better anti-wrinkle cream or a more glossy lip balm.

Women in Ancient Egypt used crushed insects and toxic seaweed paste to redden their lips, whilst the Mesopotamians used the dust of semi-precious jewels and fish scales to add color and luster.1

The primary ingredients found in lipstick are wax, oil, alcohol, and pigment. The wax used usually involves some combination of three types—beeswax [just like we used], candelilla wax, or the more expensive camauba. Wax enables the mixture to be formed into the easily recognized shape of the cosmetic.2

Some lipsticks also intentionally contain skin irritants such as capsaicin, the molecule responsible for the heat in chili peppers, to cause temporary swelling of the lips and give a ‘lip-plumping’ effect. 1

Thursday, August 25, 2016

8/25/16- Patience

While I have not been writing blog posts for almost 2 weeks, I have been writing.  I've been drafting query letters and revising my picture book manuscript.  It's been 3 (or maybe it's 4?) weeks since I attended the Society of Children Books Authors and Illustrators (SCBWI; they pronounce every letter, to which I wonder what's the point of an acronym) conference in Los Angeles.  It was a great experience for me, with lots of knowledge (to the point of almost overwhelming) and friendships and professional contacts made.

I wish I could say that I signed on with an agent, or better yet, a publisher declared right then and there they'd print my book, but alas, that did not happen.  I was prepared for that to not happen though. It was a reoccurring saying to first time conference attendees, "do not get your hopes up."  Along with, "this business is subjective."

There were positive messages too.  Like authors who shared how long it took them to get published (decades), but they finally did.  "So stay determined, don't give up, believe in yourself."  There was also, "we need diverse books," which really resonated with me, as I'm passionate about diversity in engineering.  I do lots of STEM outreach with children, promoting diversity in engineering.  It's great to hear that there are people in SCBWI who are passionate about seeing diverse characters and diverse authors in the children's book industry.

So with these positive messages weighing more on me then the negative, I have used the opportunities presented to conference attendees.  One of these opportunities is to submit directly to editors at major publishing houses.  For the uninitiated, the author usually cannot submit directly to publishing houses, as most require that agents submits on your behalf. No unrepresented solicitation basically.  And thus why the past few weeks I've been working on query letters to editors.

I submitted these queries yesterday, and now it's wait and see if they write back.   It is hard for me to wait.  I want to know now. I'm so hopeful  that I'll get positive feedback, that I cannot wait the six weeks or longer it might take to hear book. Or they might not ever write back.  Then my hope is left dangling there for eternity.  I'll take polite decline with feedback/critic any day; it's better than not hearing anything at all.

Also, my son Jack is now a full toddler.  No trace of baby left in him. The baby face gone, the hours of rocking him gone, and the sweet baby personality gone.  It's miscommunication (how are Bobby and I supposed to know that daddy was potty; it sounded so much like daddy), refusing to eat what is on his plate, and tantrums.  However, it's also him using imagination when playing, giving kisses,  and saying I love you (I think; see miscommunication above).  I know some of the negative associations with toddler hood (like tantrums) while get better and fade away; it's a matter of both sides learning and growing.  But  right now, in the moment of him being a toddler, I need patience.

That's this week's word, patience.  I need it for my writing, and I need it for my son.  It's skill I haven't developed well.  It's a skill though, like the other skills I do have, that can be learned.  I have some ideas on how I can learn this skill: perform yoga or mediation; take deep breaths when son (or whoever else for that matter) is frustrating me; write the emotion down; and make it through Paw Patrol without making a snarky comment.  I'd love to hear other ideas on how I can learn or practice patience.  Wish me good practice, dear reader, as I (and Bobby) enter this stage of life!

Patience? Or maybe I just need to be more like a samurai

Sunday, August 14, 2016

8/14/16- First Bee Sting

This week we traveled to Park City, Utah.  Bobby had a conference there, so Jack and I tagged along. Overall, we had a good time.  It was a nice 80 degree, which after a 110 in Phoenix, was a much need relief from the heat.  It was beautiful too.  I see why the Olympic Committee choose Salt Lake City/Park City for the 2002 Winter Olympics.  Park City is the idyllically mountain town, worthy of postcards.  The resort and lodge we stayed at had the picturesque scenery, coupled with some of the best service I've ever received at a resort.  

Unfortunately, the resort and lodge also had bees (now I know why Utah is nicknamed the beehive state; bees seemed to be everywhere).  And a bee stung me while there.  It was my first bee sting.  Yep, in the 34 years of my life, I had never been stung by a bee.  Until now.  It was painful.  It was like a student nurse drawing blood for the first time, just gabbing the needle in.  The pain wasn't even the worst part-- Jack was with me, and there was more than one bee.

Jack and I were killing time as the maids cleaned our room.  We were climbing up and down the stairs near our room, as that is one of Jack's favorite activities right now.  Each landing has a wooden deck.  As we had climbed the stairs for what felt like the 20th time, Jack was ready for a break.  It was nearing his nap time, so we stopped on the deck above our room.  He wrapped his blanket around him (we hardly go anywhere without "blankie") and stared down at the water fountains below. He enjoyed watching the water hit the surface of the pond.  

I started rummaging around my bag, looking for a wipe to clean Jack's dirty hands with.  The dusty rails he used to steady himself up the stairs had coated his hands. I found the wipes and started wiping the dirt off.  As I was doing so, a flying insect landed on my head.  I waved it a way with my hand and continued on with my task.  Then the flying insect touched down on my knee.  I looked down and saw it was a bee.  Then I heard the buzzing.  I looked around and saw at least 10 bees.  They were coming out of the cracks on the wooden deck.

At that moment, the bee on my knee stung me. Seeing the handful of bees and getting stung happened with in a 10-15 window, and just as fast, my brain processed that I had to get Jack out there.  That these bees could swarm us.  I had just yelled an expletive from being stung, and now I was yelling for him to "come to mommy!"  In stead of coming to me, he started crying, which I understand his reaction.  But I didn't have time to be empathetic and give him comfort because the buzzing was increasing in frequency.  I grabbed his hand and fireman dragged him to the top of the stair.  At the stairs, I picked him up and carried him down the flight of stairs.

Once I realized the bees were not following us down, I collapsed at the bottom stair, cradling Jack to me.  I tried to offer him some reassuring words, as he was still crying, but I was too shaken up to give him the comfort he needed.  I texted Bobby that I just got stung by bee and to help.  Then, I broke down crying; loud sobs with tears streaming down. My crying only further upset Jack.  Luckily, Bobby was close by in a conference room and was able to make it to us with in minutes, taking Jack from me and giving the poor kid the reassurance and comfort he needed.

I wasn't crying from the pain.  I was crying because of how close Jack come to being swarmed by bees.  It could have been much worse than one bee sting (that had the swelling go away after just a couple of hours).  That is what scared me so much, and still upsets me days later, about how much danger my son was in.  Stupid bees, putting Jack's safety at risk.  See if I ever help you out again when you're drowning in our pool (ok, I know I shouldn't let one bad experience ruin my relation with all of you bees).

It's crazy to me how ingrained those protective parent instincts are. I could only think about Jack's safety and getting him out of that situation (and if truth be told, getting myself out of there too).  I'm glad I have those instincts and can react quickly in threatening situations, ensuring my son's safety. However, I really hope I don't have to use those instincts again.  Having your child's safety threatened was one of the worst feelings I've ever had, so never again, do you hear me universe?  Thanks universe, your friend, Suzie.

It was not all scary moments in Utah.  We all had fun at the Olympic Park, watching skiers practice and climbing on their playground.  We enjoyed delicious food along Main Street.  And we loved the cooler weather, surrounded by beautiful scenery that is Park City.  

Jack at the Olympic Park; he had such fun there!

The lovely view at the resort and lodge

Yummy dinner at the restaurant Zoom; the service was great here t!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

8/4/16- The Sleeping Baby

Jack is a good sleeper.  He usually sleeps 10 hours straight through the night, unless he's teething or sick (and then medicine, natural remedies, or rocking can lull him back to sleep).  He's actually been a good sleeper since about 2 months old.  I hazily remember the period before he started sleeping through the night.  It's hazy because neither Bobby or I got more than 3 hours straight of sleep in those first 2 months. When we were sleep deprived, we just don't remember things very well, including that period.

But we do both remember being shocked that first time Jack sleep through the night.  We woke up at 6am, after Jack's last feeding at 11pm, and asking each other, "did you feed him last night??" "No." "I didn't hear him cry out."  "I feel bad if I slept through his cries."  We thought it was a fluke.  Then he slept another 6-7 hours straight the next night, and the next. Jack was sleeping through the night, and if you haven't experienced a new born, insomnia, or other sleep issue, this was a HUGE deal! Yay for us!  Yay for sleep! Yay for not feeling like a zombie (I mean, I still crave brains, just kidding).

And if you ask me, "what was your secret, your trick, to getting him to sleep through the night?" Honestly, I don't know.  I think it was all Jack.  That he was in the 50th percentile for sleep (that's not a measurement pediatricians use by the way, but there was a study done on sleep and babies, that found 50% of babies sleep through the night by age 4 months. Here's the link: Sleep and babies).

But what if your baby is 4 months old and is in the 50th percentile of babies NOT sleeping through the night?  I can only imagine that you're desperately begging Google to unlock the hidden  tips, tricks and secrets to help your baby sleep. Well, today's your lucky day, as a discussion in one of my parent groups was just about tips, tricks and secrets for helping baby sleep (that's how this post came about), and I felt these tips might be better shared with the whole of the internet.

Here's the first (perhaps not so) secret: every baby is different, and this includes their sleep schedule. Yeah, I know that is not a helpful secret when you (parent/guardian) are sleep deprived, but I think it was brought up in our group to help us (parents and guardians) understand that this sleep thing might be out of our control.  So even if you exhaust all tips and tricks and your baby is still NOT sleeping through the night, try not to mark down as a failure (as a parent/guardian).  I mean, your kid isn't going to go to therapy because you couldn't get them to sleep through the night at 4 months; they're likely going to therapy for all the other shark you're gonna do.  (I kid, I kid.)

First tip: there's lots of books out there about sleep and babies.  These are the books recommended in my  parent group:
1) "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child"by Dr. Wiessbluth
2) "The No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley
3) "Becoming Babywise" by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam (note,in our group, the person just said babywise, so my interweb intuition says it's this book)

Now if you're like me, you don't have time to read books on sleep because you have to read fifty different reviews on sippy cups instead (and if you have time to read chapter books instead of reviews, you should probably be sleeping).  So here are the "straight-to-it" tips and tricks for helping baby sleep.  I want to note that these are just tips and tricks other parents have found useful (remember? I lucked into the 50th percentile of good sleepers). I haven't hired a team of researchers to run a year long study on what is the best way to help baby sleep, and I didn't have all of that data all plotted out neatly in graphs and charts (I know, I see the disappointment on your face that I didn't use scientific method :p).

Nonetheless, I thought that these tips and tricks were worth sharing.  Surely, one is likely to work on your child *crosses fingers*. These are just tips and tricks passed from one parent to another until you maybe find one that works for your child. Just like our parents did before us and before the Internet. I forget what those are called, Oral Traditions, other something like that (maybe I'm thinking of stories passed down from one generation to the next, but it's like that).  Maybe it will comfort you a tiny bit that at least these tips and tricks passed along come from a parent group full of engineers; or maybe that will make you stop reading right now. Alright, alright, the tips:

1) Try swaddling
2) Try swaddling after a different activity (for example, you usually swaddle them right after eating; try changing diaper, then swaddle, then feeding)
3) Try a red bulb for a night light (instead of the white/blue)
4) Keep baby next to you/nurse in bed
5) White noise (like a fan or a noise machine; just be sure it's below 50 dBs so it will not harm baby's hearing)
6) Only change the diaper if it's a poopy diaper (once you discover the magic of the 12-hour "night time" diapers, you will never go back)
7) Don't talk to baby in the middle of the night (although for us, a soft singing to an upset Jack seemed to comfort him, but all babies are different)
8) Finally, sleep when baby sleeps

Yes, I bet if I surveyed parents/guardians, that I'd find 99% of them have heard the "sleep when baby sleeps."  I admit, I found it hard to nap on maternity leave.  I wanted to get so many things done when Jack was napping/sleeping in the day. However, I did usually take a nap almost daily.  Sometimes it was just 30 minutes, but it did re-fuel me.  Also, Jack loved the car, so I'd drive to Starbucks, go through the drive through, get coffee or tea for myself, and by the time we're home, he'd be asleep (this only worked if he hadn't previously been napping).

If you're back at work, those naps are hard to find, but I've seen people nap in their cars. Some places have nap areas (or a nurses station, it's cool to say you need to lay down for a headache or such, haha).  And as a new mother, I used the nursing room.  Sure I was pumping, but I used that time to rest with my eyes open.  I rarely tried to work when in the nursing room.  It helped a little with any tiredness (which feels double when a new parent and RA patient).

Although blessed with a good sleeper after age 2 months, Jack hasn't always slept through the night over the past 2 years. We've had to deploy our own tricks when he was teething or was sick.  White noise and rocking are the two I remember he liked best.

We've had to rock him in old faithful (a hand me down rocking chair) for 30-60 minutes, 2-3 times, during those nights that brought him misery.  Then it was a careful act of not waking him up as we put him back in the crib (shark! why did the dog just shake his collar).  Jack really responded well to motion to fall asleep, and will still fall asleep in long car rides. Not every kid likes motion though, which all goes back the number one secret: every baby is different.  Ok, all this talk about sleep, it's very suggestive.  I'm off to nap.  Sleep tight everyone. ;-)

*This link was also posted in my parent group, if you'd like some additional reading, I mean resources: Sleep Problems By Age, Newborn.  And this link came to me via The Bump Newsletter: 6 Ways to Get More Sleep Now That Baby is Here

I'm sure I've left out some tips and tricks, so please share what worked for you in the comments below.  Thanks!