Monday, November 20, 2017

11/21/17- Counting My Blessings

Last year a friend started a #GratitudeProject around the holidays, and she brought back the project for this year. The idea of the project is that a "purposeful study of gratitude, thankfulness, and mindfulness has many benefits, not the least of which is, it makes you a happier person!" So for 14 days, my friends leads a group of us in practicing gratitude, thankfulness, and mindfulness.  

Each day has a new exercise, and today's exercise was to count your blessings.  Here's the description of the exercise: 

Count your blessings.  Pick a time today and consider sustaining this every week where you sit down and write about your blessings-- reflection on what went right or what you are grateful for.  Sometimes it helps to pick a number-- such as three to five things-- that you will identify each week.  How many will you identify today? As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

I thought since I have a weekly blog post to do, Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I want to participate in today's #GratitudeProject, why not make my blog post about counting my blessings? I am not sure that I'll think of every blessing I have, but here are the blessings that are always in my mind and heart:

1) My son (love you Jack Jack!)
2) My husband (💓)
3) My friends (😊)
4) My extended family (shout out to my nephews Brady, Austin, Connor, and Parker and godson Colton!)
5) My pets
6) My education
7) My house (a roof over my head)
8) My eyesight (I may have RA, but so far, I haven't had to wear glasses)
9) Being born in the US
10) Science and the wonderment of scientific discovery
11) All the different options available for food and the ability to afford all the different options (can't eat gluten, no problem here in the States!)
12) Washing machines and dish washers (so thankful to not have to walk down to the river and do it all by hand)
13) Books
14) Shoes (not sure my delicate feet could handle walking around barefoot on the hot Phoenix sidewalks)
15) Writing
16) Funny GIFs and Memes (sometimes the Internet is shark, but sometimes it makes me laugh and brings cheer)
17) Starbucks and husband always "refilling" the Starbucks card
18) My car/having reliable transportation
19) A job that helps saves lives in some small part
20) Netflix

What are your blessings? Can you count at least a handful of blessings? Please feel free to share in the comments, and I hope most of your blessings will be gathered around you at your Thanksgiving fest. Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble, gobble, gobble!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

11/16/17- Thanksgiving Science Experiment: Hopping Corn


a clear glass container
popping corn
baking soda
white vinegar
food coloring (optional)


  1. Fill your glass container with water and add a couple drops of food coloring.
  2. Add your baking soda and stir well until it is all dissolved.
  3. Add a small handful of popping corn kernels.
  4. Add the vinegar and watch the corn start to hop up and down!

This corn will hop up and down repeatedly in your container for over an hour.  It’s so much fun to watch (mesmerizing would be the best word to describe it). The experiment creates a great opportunity to talk about gases, liquids, and solids with your child.

Basically, the science behind the activity is that when the baking soda and vinegar combine, they react to form carbon dioxide (CO2) gas.  The gas forms bubbles in the water, which enclose the corn kernels.  The bubbles lift the kernels up to the surface, and when the kernels get to the surface, the bubbles pop, and the kernels sink again.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

11/7/17- Every Once In Awhile, I Like My Job (Part 1)

About a week ago, I attended an engineering conference.  I attend this conference every year: it always reinvigorates me about engineering.  This year, I was selected to present at one of the sessions, and to my surprise, my company paid for me to go.  This is the first time in over a decade that they sponsored me, despite the facts that I've been attending this conference since I started working (for them), and I've been a speaker in the past.

Presenting on "Beautiful Oops!"

Of course, there were strings attached with having the company pay for me, such as recruiting at my company's career fair booth.  I missed out on attending other sessions at the conference all to pretend that it's a great place to work. Okay, it really is if you're an intern or a fresh out (of college), but for mid-career people, the great place to work becomes highly questionable.  Thankfully, I talked mostly to college students (there was one mid-level person that approached me, but an engineering manager stepped in; saved by the manager, phew). I absolutely enjoy engaging with the youngins.

Sure, we talked about my company, but mostly I got to talk about engineering with them.  There are some really impressive engineering students out there, so it's easy for me to roll my eyes at other "old people" when they say they're worried about the future and who's going to be running it ("get off my lawn!").  These "old people" just aren't hanging out with the right crowd.  They don't see what I got to see at this conference-- the smart, capable engineers of tomorrow (so "old people" hang out more at engineering recruiting events, and you'll be less worried).

Another other great part about this gig was seeing and spending time with my colleagues/friends from various companies.  We got to BAW (shark about work) with each other and call it networking.  Hearing my colleagues/friends stories about work gives me comfort and knowledge that I'm not alone.  Also, the ones that have reached the 20+ years that makes me think that I can reach that benchmark too.  Of course, I may have to change companies to make it to 20 years. 😆

My presentation was another highlight of the conference.  My presentation is based off Barney Saltzberg's picture book Beautiful Oops!  Beautiful Oops! is about helping children realize that a mistake is not the end of the world. When they make a mistake, they should think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful: a beautiful oops.  The book's lesson also applies to engineering. Many engineering innovations and scientific discoveries came about by accident (mistake): Post-It Notes, Penicillin, Cornflakes, Velcro, Anesthesia, etc. 

Sometimes as engineers, we get a little risk adverse, afraid to make a mistake or suggest the wrong solution. I hope that the engineers who attended my presentation took away that even if they make a mistake at work, that perhaps they can make something beautiful out of it (a lesson learned, an innovation, and so on).  Plus, I love it when my engineering career comes together with my children's author career meets my mom career: thank you "Beautiful Oops" for that. Also, thanks for the reminder that if I make or create something in writing or engineering, and I make a mistake while doing so, there's the possibility that I can still turn it into something beautiful. 

So every once in awhile, I like my current (engineering) job. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pointed Monster

Billy trembled as the angled shadow drew closer.  I’ve got to get out of here! thought Billy.  “Help, help! There’s a monster coming for me!” he screamed.  But it was pointless; the monster had already turned the corner.  “Please don’t eat me!” shouted Billy, tightly squeezing his eyes shut. “I won’t eat you,” kindly replied the monster. Billy’s shoulders dropped and slowly his eyelids lifted.  Blink. Blink.  “Oh,” said Billy, a wicked smile creeping across his face.  “That’s too bad for you because candy corn is my favorite,” Billy stated.  Crunch….

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10/20/17- The Ups and The Downs

I image that there's many, many people who have had a week like mine.  There were a lot of ups and a lot downs.  Good news and bad news. It was like being at both poles-- that is, the positive emotion pole and the negative emotion pole.  This isn't my first week where it was a roller coaster of emotions. I've had a few other times in my life where the week was filled with such highs and such lows.  Now that I'm older, at least I can drink a glass of wine while I simultaneously laugh and cry.


Where do I even start?   I guess I'll go chronological to show the sharking wave of emotion I went through this week.  On Saturday, I received notice that "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician" was a finalist for the 2017 IAN Book Awards.  Yay!  Then off to Air Xtreme for a birthday party, which was pretty fun.  Finish off the weekend with a nice and relaxing Sunday.

Then it's Monday, and I have to go to a job that brings no satisfaction.  Before I go in to work, my friend/co-worker texts me that another co-worker has passed away.  He died from a motorcycle accident.  This is our second co-worker to die from a motorcycle accident this year.  It's very, very sad.  I didn't cry though until today, when a colleague wrote to the whole team about missing his smile.  It was a great smile, one that was reflected in his eyes, and was very genuine and sincere.  Rest in peace friend-- we'll miss you in the hallways.

I don't really recall all the emotions of Tuesday, other than being a little stressed out for a customer meeting.  I think also the social media movement #MeToo also took place Tuesday, but that could have been Wednesday. It's heartbreaking to see how many people were affected, myself included.  The specific harassment stories that I recall of the top of my head are catcalling, creepy older men saying things to me as a teen, and male co-workers talking right in front of me about how short so-so's skirt was and how hot that made her.  It's a sharked up thing, and I believe it will get better as more awareness happens and good people are willing to stand up to it.  So that's Tuesday.

Then Wednesday morning, I have Jack drop off duty.  Which is all fun and games until I actually have to take him to preschool.  He tells me he wants to stay home with mommy, and shark if that doesn't just cut me.  Of course, once he's at school and playing on the school's playground, it's like mommy who?  I much rather hang out with Jack than go to a job I dislike.  Playing games, eating Mac n' Cheese and watching Mickey Mouse together is way better than my sharky job.

I did get to meet with my critique group during lunch Wednesday, and it was a good meeting.  My group likes my latest story, and it gets me excited to start submitting it to agents and editors.  The promise of actually making my living from writing is always exhilarating.  We saw family that evening at Flower Child, and hump day was looking pretty up.

Then yesterday happens.  All week my allergies are bothering me, and it's made me feel a little tired.  But nothing Benadryl can't fix.  It unfortunately adds to my sleepiness though.  However, yesterday my stomach gets upset, so after a good Wednesday, I'm back down again. Never fear though, today is Friday.  I'm happy that it's Friday because I'm looking forward to the weekend!  Pumpkin patches, science experiments, hanging out with friends-- it's going to be a good weekend.  Hope you all have a good weekend too!

I do also want to note, that when life hands me such a big swing of emotions in one week, I seek out professional help from a counselor.  While one glass of wine is a fun temporary fix, I find the best fix to regain a healthy mental state is to see my counselor. I know that the rational and logical sensibilities that most of us engineers have seems at odds with emotions and emotional well being (surely you can logically and rationally talk yourself back to a neutrally emotional state, right?).  However, if you think about it, doesn't it logically make sense to see a counselor when emotions are swinging up and down? It's like seeing a primary care doctor for colds and regular check ups. Oh, and a massage. That doesn't hurt either.

If you are wanting to take care of your mental and emotional health, but don't know where to start, I suggest talking to a trusted family member or friend to see if they have recommendations for a professional (counselor or therapist).  You may also ask a trusted Facebook group or other social media group you belong to.  You may also call your work's mental health hotline (most companies have some form of mental health help tied to your health insurance) or ask your primary care doctor for recommendations.  Here's what the US government offers: Take care of yourself and your emotions friends.  💙

Friday, October 13, 2017

10/13/17- Halloween Science Activity: Dancing Ghosts

I like Halloween and I like science, so I thought how do I combine the 2 to have some scienc-ween fun with Jack?  Luckily Pinterest exist, and I found various Halloween Science activities.  Most were vinegar and baking soda reaction experiments, which with black dye or something can make for some scary fun Halloween experiments.  Kind of mad scientists.

However, Jack and I have done the vinegar and baking soda reaction experiment multiple times, and while he does enjoy the experiment, I wanted to introduce a new science concept to him.  So I chose one that involves static electricity: Dancing Ghosts.

For Dancing Ghosts, you'll need tissue paper, at least one balloon (inflated), and scissors.  Marker optional (for drawing a face on your ghost).

Cut a ghost out of the tissue paper.  Then rub the balloon back and forth on your carpet or hair, creating the static electricity (as I'm sure you know), and then hold the balloon over the tissue paper ghost.  The ghost should move.  While the balloon still has a static charge move it back and forth, and the ghost should move back and forth too.  Here's my video of making the tissue paper ghost dancing:

Jack liked this science activity because he got to cut his own ghost.  He really likes cutting paper right now (they're teaching him in preschool how to cut straight lines and such), and he also likes ghosts, saying "oooooo" every time he sees one.  He also had his own balloon and got his ghost to dance once, but after that he just taped his ghost to the balloon and had the ghost ride around on the balloon.  Haha!  It was a fun and simple Halloween meets science activity.  Hope everyone has a Happy Hall-oooo-ween!

If your child is a little older and interested in what static electricity is, then consider watching this video while doing the activity.  It provides a great explanation to kids on static electricity.
How Static Electricity Works

Sunday, October 8, 2017

10/8/17- Kindness Rocks

Like many Americans, I was devastated by the mass shooting in Las Vegas a week ago.  Sad just doesn't quite capture my feeling, and I can only image what the victims and their families feel right now.  And this was on top of two really destructive hurricanes, Irma and Harvey.  

With the hurricanes, how to help is obvious to me, you donate to an organization that can provide supplies.  When a mass shooting occurs, I just never know how to help.  A wise friend pointed me to blood donation, but then I found out because of the medication I take, that I can't really give blood.  However, I came across this great website, and it made me feel a little bit less helpless:

I still felt like my small donation wasn't enough.  Reading about one more mass shooting in the US, it's the 1,500+ something mass shooting since Sandy Hook (check this yourself), well it was my breaking point.  I'm tired of seeing Americans die in this way.  And I don't care if this post is about to get too political for you, I just can't see the freedom of guns out weigh the freedom to live.  Enough is enough.  I don't know how any of us can watch one more mass shooting happen without taking some kind of political action. I firmly believe it's time as Americans that we implement some regulations on guns.

I'm not saying ban all guns, or that no Americans should get any; I'm saying we should implement specific regulations that the majority of us agree on, like no one with a mental illness can purchase a gun.  Or no one on the no-fly list can purchase a gun.  Or require background checks on private and gun show sales. Those are specific regulations that most Americans agree on, and it's time for our State and Federal lawmakers and politicians to take action to implement such regulations.

So for the first time of my voting life, I actually contacted my Senator, asking them to implement these regulations.  This is the first time that I've ever felt so strongly about something that I've contacted my Senators.  And I urge you, if you're so tired to the point of exhausted tears, not sure that crack in your heart will heal at the thought of hearing of one more mass shooting, then please reach out to your elected officials (find them and their contact info here) and let them know it's time for a change.  The Land of the Free should mean first and foremost, the right to live and not get sharking shot up while watching a concert.

And if that feels too drastic of an action for you to take, well, I think I understand. But there's other actions we can take to bring light into the a dark world. So I asked myself, "What more can I do when events like this happen?" And my was conclusion was simple yet profound: kindness.  Spreading kindness can be pretty easy to do.  Try paying-it-forward to the person behind you at Starbucks - everyone loves a free coffee.  Or you can share with the exhausted mother/father at the grocery store how great their kids are (even if they are acting up just a bit).  Or even try sending a friend a card on a non-holiday/non-birthday just to say how grateful you are for their friendship.  I remembered reading on a craft blog/Pinterest/Facebook post that a parent was going to do "Kindness Rocks" with their child.

The idea is simple.  You paint a rock, write something kind/nice on it (like a thank you, a peace sign, the actual word kind, hehe) and then leave it in a friend/neighbor/stranger's yard, hopefully brightening the person's day by the thoughtful message.  My kiddo really enjoyed painting the rocks, so it is a great activity to do with kids and a good way to talk about kindness.  It's also a great activity to just do as an adult.  Either way.

So in summary, let's do something and kindness rocks! Yes that was a terrible pun, but it is a good message after days like last Sunday.  I hope to live more by that message. Kindness rocks!  💓

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

9/26/17- My Second Writers' Conference

This past Saturday I attended my second writers' conference.  The first writers' conference I ever attended was the SCBWI LA 2016 conference, and I learned lots of useful information. And while the LA conference was cool, the Arizona conference (also hosted by SCBWI, which any aspiring children's book author should check out the org) was more intimate.  I really enjoyed being able to network with more authors, including the ones I consider friends, and the connections made at this conference feel like they are going to last longer (probably because most of us are local, unlike the LA conference, although I did make a friend or two at the LA conference).

There were also some great presentations from editors and agents.  Kat, from Feiwel and Friends, provided great tips on the business side of writing, including "Know Your Genre." That means read, read, read the books (especially current books) that are in the genre you write.  I'm hoping I can accomplish reading more Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Chapter Books, as Jack, Bobby and I read lots of Picture Books together.  It's hard to squeeze in reading time when you have like 4 different jobs.  But reading is fun for me, so I am very much on board with this tip.

Russell from Little Brown Books gave a really fun presentation about humor in picture books.  He gave us tips and suggestions for humor, but what I liked best, was that we had to implement these tips and suggestions through 2 writing exercises.  The engineer in me likes taking the subject learned and applying said subject.  I also want to thank Bobby for always sharing "Dad Jokes" with me (which I love by the way; most of them make me chuckle), as his jokes came in handy for the humor writing exercises.

Any budding writer/author should attend at least one writing conference early in their career; that's my advice to you all.  The connections you make with other authors and all the knowledge you learn about writing (the "craft") and about the publishing business are pretty invaluable.  Plus, you might win a door prize (I did, woo-hoo)! Happy writing to all (whether it's a blog, a book, or an office memo)!

Here are some tips from other sources if you are attending a writing conference for the first time:

Making the Most of Your Next Writers Conference

Do's and Don't's of Attending a Writers Conference

Specific Tips for a SCBWI Conference

Monday, September 18, 2017

9/18/17- Potty Training

Jack turned three, and it resulted in one major milestone for him. And for Bobby and me as parents. He learned to use the toilet (for per and poop)! Probably to some people, including some parents, that doesn't seem like a big deal. But it really is a big milestone in childhood development! Bobby and I couldn't be happier.  It means no more changing diapers!

It also means he is one more step towards childhood, stepping further away from the baby phase of life (so bittersweet). As proud of him as Bobby and I are, it took us over a year to potty train Jack. We started when he was two.  He seemed to show an interest in the toilet, pointing to it and trying to sit on it. What I didn't realize about potty training a year ago, it is like anything else a child learns-- it takes repetitive practice before the skill is mastered, just like walking and talking did.

We took a loose approach at the time, occasionally sitting Jack on the toilet. Sometimes we'd do it first thing in the morning. Sometimes at bath. And we'd always put him back in a diaper.  We were never consistent. I secretly hoped the few times he'd sit on the toilet, that it would just click. That he knew this place was where pee and poop goes. That he'd just start using the toilet on his own. That was a little foolish of me.

But one Saturday this August (about a month before Jack’s 3rd birthday), Bobby put Jack in underwear instead of a diaper. Then we consistently put Jack on the toilet every 1.5 hours, watching like a hawk him for any pee/poop signals (like a pee-pee dance that most kids have). He did well that day and had only one accident. The next morning, a Sunday, he asked for underwear. We were excited that he wanted to wear underwear—we were grooving now! But he peed in the grocery store later that day.  I thought that potty training was going to be put on pause again (boy, have we had a lot of starts and stops in potty training).

However, he surprised me the next day and refused to wear a diaper to daycare. So off he went to school, in underwear. Daycare/school was determined to help us train him that Monday, and the teachers sat him on the toilet every hour. He had just move up to the early preschool class, and maybe that class is set up better for sitting on the potty more frequently...aka repetitive practice.  Whatever it was, he did well that day at school-- no accidents!!!!

The preschool teachers even reported that the nap diaper (they were worried about leaving him in underwear at nap, so they put him in a diaper at nap time) was dry! They said, if he does that for 3 more day in a row, Jack could keep his underwear on for nap. If you haven't potty trained, dry after sleeping is a big deal. We knew Jack was headed towards mastery of the skill when he reached the day he didn't need the nap diaper (which did happen later that week).

Something Bobby and I learned during potty training is that our son is very reward driven. He will do any task for a fun size Snickers or roll of Smarties. He will also poop in the toilet for a small toy, like a Matchbox car. And like some kids, poop was a challenge for him (bet half the parents reading this post are nodding their head in understanding).  I don’t know what it is about poop, but the light bulb moment of poop (that poop goes in the toilet) just takes a little longer than the light bulb moment for pee with some kids.

Once Bobby and I committed to consistent training, Jack caught on to peeing in the potty within three days. But he refused to poop on the toilet. He would cry when we'd urge him to poop on the potty, and then he’d run away from us and the toilet, usually ending with him pooping in his underwear (sorry if that's too graphic for some readers, but it is the reality of potty training). We'd patiently explained to him that accidents happen, but the poop should go in the potty, not underwear.

The first time he pooped on the potty was about a week after our commitment to repetitive practice. We were so thrilled that we ran out to Target and bought him a Mack (from Cars) toy truck. He was of course pleased, as he is reward centered. He kept repeating to us that poop on the potty, I get Mack. Oops, we might have gone overboard with the reward thing because he kept asking for a brand-new toy after each poop and pee—Bobby and I envisioned a 21-year-old with a toy buying habit after using the restroom.  Lesson learned for me.

About a month after the initial learning phase of peeing and pooping on a potty, Jack went poop on the toilet all by himself. I was getting ready in my room (Bobby was already at work), and after a couple of minutes, I came to check on Jack in our family room. There he was, sitting on the training potty, pooping! No help from me. I don't care if you roll your eyes at this, but I couldn't be prouder! Jack has graduated from training to mastering! Bravo Jack! Now we must train Jack to read and write. No big deal.

Note: One resource that I found helpful, and certainly isn't the end all to potty training, is the book "Oh Crap! Potty Training" by Jamie Glowacki. Got your own favorite resource on potty training? Please mention it in the comments. Best of luck to all the parents who are potty training kids, congrats to the parents who have potty trained a child, and congrats to the rest of the adults who know how to use a toilet (did you ever think that potty training was a big milestone in your life?  I certainly didn’t!). We did something! High five!


Friday, September 8, 2017

9/8/17- Three

Cliche alert, but where does time go?!  My baby turned three this week!  I am having a hard time believing that fact because it feels like we just brought Jack home from the hospital. Figuratively, he'll always be my baby (like the book "Love You Forever"), but rationally, I know he's not a baby anymore. I mean, look at his little kid face:

See, no more baby face.  Not like this:

Or this:

Or especially this:

Goodbye baby face.  Goodbye baby phase.  You are a kid now, Jack! And the things that kid Jack can do, that he couldn't do last year, include (surely there are things I'm forgetting): pee on the potty (that's a big milestone to us!), pedal a bike, cut paper with kid-safe scissors, speak in 5+ word sentences, count past 20 (it gets iffy around 23), sing the ABC song, write the letter "J" (at least I think it's the letter J), julienne a carrot (I'm kidding of course), and memory read "Goodnight Moon." 

My rationale side is very happy to see him growing up-- Aging is a wonderful gift from Time. Jack's birthdays are always just a little bittersweet for me, and so, here is my cheesy poem to my son, Jack, about turning 3:

You're turning three!
You'll get lots of treats!
However, for me,
it's bittersweet!

Happy birthday Jack, Jack!  I hope you enjoyed your 3rd birthday kiddo! For the record (and memory's sake), the day had donuts, a classroom party with your preschool mates, dinner and presents with your 'rents (you got a scooter, games, Legos, and such), a visit to your favorite bookstore, and ice cream. Your dad and I love you so much, and of course we're ridiculously proud of the things you can do.  You are smart, you are kind, you are beautiful, and most important, you are loved.  

Now please excuse me, I have to go ugly cry...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

8/22/17- Reading List 4: Picture Books about Love

As I watched the eclipse yesterday, I couldn't help but think of all the people watching the same eclipse (yes, yes, there are some differences with weather and location, but it's the same event).  I thought about how we all have the same sun. The same moon.  The same stars.  The same Earth.  And maybe I'm just riding high on the good feelings from a weekend full of love, but the solar eclipse filled me with love.  I think we could all use a little bit of love right now, so I'm going to put some out there via this post. Without further ado, here are some (but certainly not all) picture books about LOVE. "There's a lot of love out there, man." 💓

1) My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund (obviously, I had to start with one that incorporated both the sun and love in some way!)

2) One Love adapted by Cedella Marley

3) Someday by Alison McGhee

4) Love Is by Diane Adams

5) All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

6) Wherever You Are by Nancy Tillman

7) Because of You by B.G Hennessy (out print but you may be able to find it at a library or used bookstore)

8) Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

9) The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

10) Always and Together (two books) both by Emma Dodd

11) I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

12) I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

What's your favorite picture book about love?  Or have a recommendation?  Leave a comment here or on social media and spread the love, man!

Monday, August 14, 2017

8/14/17- A Difference a Week Makes

Our air conditioner broke 10 days ago.  There was a crazy storm in Phoenix, and some parts on the A/C unit got damaged. It was in the evening, we had fans, and the temperature outside was in the 80's.  So we decided to wait until morning to call the A/C repair company.  We were going to be fine. Then 1:30 am rolled around, and the power went out.

Thirty minutes later, Jack woke up and was super sweaty.  We had to call an audible and go to a hotel. It was a good call, but it took Jack until 3 am to fall back asleep.  We were all a bunch of sleep zombies the next day.  Would have been fine if it was the weekend, but it was a week day.  Bobby and I had work and Jack had to go to preschool/daycare.  Jack didn't want to go to school because hotel's are fun, and he didn't want to leave the fun. The teachers were kind and paid extra attention to Jack that day, so he ended up having a good day.

The A/C got fixed. Thankfully, we only had to replaced a relay and capacitor; our A/C unit is from 1987, so there's always the chance that we'll have to replace it here in the near future.  And we had a good night's sleep that night. And things are going good. Oops did I just jinx us?  Hopefully not, but we had a great weekend with a pool party on Saturday and a birthday party on Sunday.

💙 Poor Little Guy 💙

And last week was really nice.  Wednesday night, Bobby and I picked Jack up from daycare together and went to dinner at Chili's.  We've watched a lot of "The Office" lately, and I may have been influenced on where to eat for dinner by the fact that the show had the staff go to Chili's a couple of times.  Anyway, after dinner, we went for ice cream and then visited our favorite bookstore.  I think I've mentioned this before, but Jack loves going to "Changing Hands Bookstore" because they have a train set (you know, the wooden kind).

We had a really hard time pulling Jack away from the train set.  And when we finally got to the car, Jack saw the ice cream place again and started, well, screaming for ice cream. I honestly think he just had such a fun time that he didn't want to go home.  And I don't blame him.  I had a fun time too; it's nice to break up the monotony of the work week. Such a let down to have to go to work the next day after such a fun night (Jack was fine going to daycare the next day, well I was not, haha).

What a difference in weeks.  Dealing with a broken A/C to ice cream and trains.  And really dealing with a broken A/C isn't that big of a deal when you live in a city with lots of A/C repair companies and lots hotels and friends (although I appreciate all the offers from friends, I still don't know if I'd want to wake you up at 2 am, so we that could crash with you. Thanks for offering!  Makes us feel loved). I can easily say that now, reflecting back, but a broken A/C isn't that big of a deal.  Especially when it's followed up by such a good weekend and then week.

Personally, it was a good week last week.  Ice cream, trains, Chili's fajitas (shark, they're still so good!) and I didn't even mention the baking of cookies and making of dough volcanoes; so much good times.   Hopefully this week will also be a good week for my little family.  But more so, I hope we all have a good week. So much shark seems to be going on right now that hopefully the difference of a week will be good for all of us. Take care and have a good week!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

8/1/17- The Book Festival

About a week ago I attended the Payson Book Festival.  This public and free event is a way for adults and kids to meet and greet dozen's of book creators from all over Arizona (and a few other states). Like other book festivals, authors sit at tables and spend the day chatting with readers and signing books. The Payson Book Festival was my first book festival as an author, and I want to share some of the things I learned as an author attending a book festival.

First, if you are indie/self-published, then you will have to register yourself for the festival you want to attend.  The registration process for the Payson Book Festival was relatively simple: I filled out their form, emailed it to the organizer, and then paid the fee through PayPal (most festivals have a registration fee for authors to have booths at their festival).  If you are a traditionally published author, your publisher may be setting everything up, including registering and paying fees.  However, if you're a traditionally published author attending a festival outside of what your publisher has scheduled for you (aka, you're going on your own), then you're going to have to register yourself and pay any fees yourself.

Second, you'll want to find out all the details about the event.  Like, are you getting a full booth, partial booth (sharing with an other author), do you get the whole day or just a time slot (2 hours, 3 hours, etc), is table and chairs provided or do you bring your own equipment, are you responsible for sales or will there be a bookstore or other 3rd party that will sell books for you, do you need to have a state and city vendor's license (in most cases, yes), are you responsible for tax remittance, is any food or beverages provided, how many people attended the event in the past and so on.

If your publisher is setting everything up, that's great.  If not, then it's really important to know how you'll be selling your books and what the set up is like and what you'll need to bring.  Tables and chairs were provided for the authors, and there was an independent bookstore that was willing to sell authors' books at the Payson Book Festival, so technically all I had to bring was copies of my book, many Sharpies (so important to have multiple writing tools), and myself (and Bobby; it is always nice to have a person helping you who is familiar with the book).

Third, sales expectations.  This information is probably some of the hardest information to find on the Internet (Bobby and I spent a couple of hours looking for what should I expect in sales). My guess as to why this information is hard to find is because sales are not high at book festivals.  Most people (readers) are there because it's a free event, and they have specific authors or books they're looking for, or they already have the book and are going to the event just to get the book signed.

From what I've read from other authors who have willingly shared this information (and from my own experience) is that you're doing really well if you are selling 1 (that's ONE) book per hour.  I sold 10 books over the 6 hours of the Payson Book Festival and that was considered really good (the Payson Book Festival has a couple hundred attendees).   I read another blog post from an author who attended the Brooklyn Book Festival, which has 10,000 people attend, and he sold only 4 novels.  Managing your own expectations regarding book sales is key to determining if the event was successful by your own measures.

And that sentence brings me to my final thought/lesson learned.  To me, the point of the book festival is to get your name out there and to connect with your readers.  People may not buy your book, but if you have a card or sticker with your name and book on it, when they go to the library or bookstore next, then they may want to ask the librarian or bookstore owner for your book.  Or they may want to look you up and find out that you do classroom visits/other speaker engagement events and ask you to come speak to their class. That is why it is a good idea to have free swag.

The Payson Book Festival was my first time as an author at a festival, but it was not my first festival. I've been doing science festivals and other such events for an non-profit engineering professional organization since 2004.  From those science festivals and outreach events, I've learned that people love free stuff.  I personally have too much shwag from conferences that I've stopped collecting it from booths, but people want free pencils, stickers, bookmarks, chapstick, pens, etc. for whatever reason.  I had some bookmarks (with my name and book on them) that I offered to people.  I didn't try to sell people on my book; I just said, hi, please have a free bookmark.  About 50% of the time, they'd ask me questions about the book and 5% of the time, they'd buy a book.  Another author at the event was handing out bags of dried basil and bay leaves, as her book was about holistic health. She got a lot of traffic at her booth.

Offering something for free draws people to your booth (of course so does a good looking book cover, but you'll have to Google to find posts on how to design a good looking cover). Kids especially love picking up stickers and bookmarks each booth, so it was a success to me that I only had 25 out of 100 bookmarks left. Potentially 75 kids now know who Annie Aardvark is!

If you're an illustrator, you can also consider selling some of your art or giving out small postcards with your art.  If you're the author, you can consider selling some other product that is associated with your book.  For example, the author I shared a booth with, she sold stuff animals that related to the animal characters in her books.  Just be aware that children (and their parents) might not understand the product or art is for sell, so it's a good idea to have a sign clearly stating a price.  If you're an author/illustration, you can consider selling both art and products. Make sure to check with the festival about selling things other than books (and also if you'll need a vendor's license).

Another idea that may sell books, is to offer a special festival only price.  Aka, a discount.  I offered a 25% discount on my book just for the festival (it could only be done at the festival, not online; although an all day online discount that correlates to the festival could also be considered).  I think the free stuff had a bigger impact on sales than the discount, but it's worth exploring if you're selling the book yourself (or can price it at a discount with the third party who's going to sell your book that day).

Finally, if you are handling sales at your booth/table, be prepared to accept as many forms of payment as possible. Square is one of many providers that makes it incredibly convenient to accept credit/debit cards.  All you need is a smartphone and the app, but if you plan ahead, you can get swipe readers for free from Square or you can pay for readers that can even accept Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and other contactless forms (know your customer).  But don't forget cash is still the preferred payment method for many customers as well.

In summary, I had a good time at the Payson Book Festival.  I always enjoy interacting with children and their parents at events, and the Payson Book Festival was the same. It's important to remember that the goal of the festival is the interaction with readers.  You are there to connect with your readers. It's also a good opportunity to network with other authors and illustrators.  I now have another author friend that I can ask questions and seek guidance from.  I highly recommend that any author (or illustrator), whether self-published or traditionally published, attend at least one book festival (or fair) in their writing career. The experiences and connections will at least make for some good writing fodder, but will also hopefully get your name out to the public.  Plus, it's fun!

If you have any further questions for me about book festivals (like what is this vendor's license thing I keep mentioning), please leave me a comment or reach out to me on social media (Twitter or Facebook).  Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

7/25/17- Monsoon and RA

Every July monsoon season blows into Phoenix.  The weather is mostly high winds, dark clouds, thunder, and lightning. A haboob might form because it is the desert (desert=dirt) after all.  The city usually just gets a threat of rain, but occasionally it will down pour.  The rain is great.  If you are a dry desert, going through a drought, then you really need the water.  However, the rain is not so great if you are a RA patient.

Thanks to all the monsoon rain Phoenix has received, I've had inflamed joints.  And really poofy, wavy hair. The hair is easy to deal with; just wrap it into a bun or ponytail.  The inflamed joints are a little more of a pain to deal with. Okay, it is pain.  I have re-acquainted myself with the Ibuprofen bottle. I've seen it more often than I've seen my own mom (she does live in the same city) this summer. Although the Ibuprofen helps with the pain and the inflammation, I also feel so worn down.

Mornings are so hard-- I just want to lay in bed the whole morning.  Eventually, I do get out of bed (before noon!), but I move so slooooow.  I'm achy and fatigued.  And the days I have to do daycare drop off... ugh. I really don't like doing daycare drop off right now.  Since I move like an 85 year old granny in the mornings, I can't get Jack to daycare before 9 am.  Even if we're up really early-- I'll just use that extra time to be more sloth-y (picture the sloth, Flash, from Zootopia; that's me in the mornings). Jack always misses morning snack on the days I have drop off.

Because I take so long getting us ready, Jack thinks he's staying home with me.  It's really hard to convince him to go to daycare.  Getting him to daycare and then saying good-bye at daycare involves a bunch of tears (insert joke about how Jack cries too). I feel riddled with guilt during this drop off ritual, and say to myself, "why didn't I just keep him home?"  Oh yeah, it's because I would need the whole bottle of Ibuprofen to take care of Jack if he stayed home with me (not a whole bottle, but you get the point).  In fact, Jack offered me medicine the other morning when I finally stumbled out of bed.  It was very considerate and compassionate of him (yay for toddlers learning empathy), but also a little heart-breaking for me.  I don't want to be the broken mommy.

Thankfully, I do live in a desert, and it will be dry again before I can figure out how to tame my frizzy hair.  Dryness is good for people with joint problems.  I'll be up and at 'em, like an old pug, before too long (that's better than a sloth, right?).  I won't be so broken.  Jack and I can spend all day playing together, and whatever else non-arthritic parents do. If only the dry season could happen a little sooner (thanks nature! I'd appreciate it!)...

I can't image living in a coastal city.  I'd probably never leave my bed. How do RA patients in coastal places handle humidity and moisture that is all the time?  They probably own stock in Ibuprofen companies (and maybe this is why places like Seattle are legalizing marijuana? So there's alternatives to Ibuprofen when rain cause joint inflammation?).  So in summary, rain great for the desert, but bad for my joints.  I want to wish everyone fair health and long-life this monsoon season! May you not have to take Ibuprofen for the next couple of month!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

7/11/17- Reading List 3: Non-Fiction Books for Adults

As a child, I read a lot during summer break.  A lot.  I'd go to the public library and check out a stack of 12 books at a time, and a couple of weeks later, turn those 12 in for a new stack. Call me a nerd if you must, that word is a compliment to me (as an adult), but I wasn't a bored child during the summer.  That's for sure.

So to me, summer time equals the perfect time for reading. Really, any time you can squeeze in a book as a busy adult is a good time, but summer for me means it's the perfect time to squeeze in lots of reading.  And that's why this reading list is dedicated to us adults (past reading lists for preschoolers to 2nd graders and teens).  Let's squeeze in sometime to read, follow adults!

1) "Why Not Me?" by Mindy Kaling
First, it's funny and pretty quick to read.  I read it a few years ago, and then suggested it to a book club last summer-- I was re-reading it for the summer and started sharing excerpts with Bobby, and he thought those excerpts were so funny, that he asked if we could read Mindy's book together.  Second, this book has some good career advice in it.  Also, if you're in an industry where there's an over representation of a certain demographic, this book may provide comfort (it did for me).

2) "It's Not Rocket Science" by Mary Spio
Mary is a satellite engineer turned entrepreneur, so of course I wanted to read this book (a female engineer whose crushing it, shark yes!).  This book is really about how to become entrepreneur, but Mary does share some of her own personal story. She was an immigrant from Ghana and she became on engineer with patents, which lead to her starting her own company.  Hearing her story was the part I liked best and very inspiring.  Her entrepreneurial and changing-the-game career advice is on the optimistic side, so I think this a good read to give yourself a boost if you're down in the dumps about your career.  Sometimes we just need the positive message. 

3) "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler
This book made me laugh and cry so hard.  Amy talks about everything from her childhood, to just starting out in the comedy business, to marriage, kids, and divorce, to working in a male dominated field, and to moon hunting (you'll have to read the book to find out what that is).  And she wrote it all in a way that made me relate and empathize with everything, even though I've never done stand-up, worked for SNL, or been married to Will Arnett.  I have enjoyed all the books on this list, but if you forced me to pick just one for you to read, "Yes, Please" is the one I'd recommend.

4) "Lean In" by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg
There's a lot commentary on this book- a lot of its bad, but a lot of its good.  While I didn't agree with everything the authors wrote in this book, it is still a good book for both men and women to read to start to understand the issues working women have.   

5) "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly
I've already written a review of Hidden Figures, which you can read here, but its a great book to read during the summer and to read in intervals.  If you've seen the movie and found the movie inspiring, you will also find this book uplifting.  I also enjoyed reading about the Civil Rights movement and wars that were happening in parallel to Katherine, Dorothy and Mary.

6) Bossypants by Tina Fey
Again, a really funny book.  And again, Bobby and I read it together and laughed much at Tina's words.  In Tina's book, the career advice isn't so straight forward as Mindy's or Amy's.  If I remember correctly, Tina writes somewhere in the book that she doesn't want to give straight out career advice (because each of us have unique situations or something along those lines), so it's kind of more just work stories. Those work stories are very entertaining though, and you might even find yourself going, yep I've had one of those moments.  

That's it for this list-- I'll have more adult, teen, and kid reading list soon enough.  And since you're smart, you recognized the pattern here for this list: autobiography/biography or person sharing career journey/career advice and all written by women.  If you have fiction book recommendations or other career and biography book recommendations (written by both women and men), then please share these recommendations in the comments!  I'm always looking for a new book to read.  Happy summer reading everyone! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

7/3/17- Hello Impostor; I See You've Failed

I thought I was done feeling like an impostor; 13 years into my job as engineer, I do not doubt my engineering skills anymore. I doubt the place that I work, but I do not doubt that I've got something to offer as an engineer.  For the first 5 years of my (engineering) job, I doubted my engineering capability.  Being sick and discovering I had RA, made those feelings of impostor and fraud linger a little longer than I felt they should have. But as soon as my health issue was figured out, and I got project experience under my belt, I no longer felt like a phony.   Every couple of years, I'll acknowledge that there are engineers who are smarter than me (on my team), but I am not a dummy; I know the work and how to do the work. I can do it in my sleep now (ugh, sometimes I dream about analyzing completing systems reliability tickets).  So I  have said good-bye impostor syndrome.

Or so I thought.  Two years ago, I decided I would write a blog.  And then I decided I would write and publish a children's book.  I've done just that-- I published a children's book.  I have also published pieces with Highlights and STEM Media and guest blogged for Tech Love.  Technically, I am a published author. But I don't feel like one. I feel like I am another silly, stupid, and annoying person who thinks she can write in the same school (not class) as great, amazing, best selling, and world-renowned authors.  But I'm not one of them.  I am not in the same class as them.

I'm pretty sure I don't belong in the writing and publishing industry.  After all, I'm just an engineer-- what right do I have asking to be in the writing and publishing industry?  I have no degree in writing, my only formal (college level or higher) writing classes were English 101 and 102, and technical writing does not equate to creative writing.  I haven't toiled for decades in perfecting my craft to finally land a book deal. How can I, after just a couple of years of playing around and pretending to be a writer, expect to get an agent/book deal/traditionally published book?  I am naive and stupid in thinking that.  I don't belong here.  I am an impostor in the book/writing/publishing industry.  And I feel like such a failure. A big, fat failure.

It doesn't matter that people have bought my indie published children's book.  It doesn't matter that friends and family share with me that they book the book and how much they like the book.  It doesn't matter that I get photos of smiling kids reading my book.  It doesn't matter when bloggers and book critics write positive things about the book.  It doesn't matter that the book got featured on podcasts.  It doesn't matter that my book has received a couple of awards.   I still feel like a failure.  I feel it's time to hang up my author hat, pat myself on the back, and tell myself, you tried, but now it's time to move on.  Time to stop fooling yourself and others; time to acknowledge that you are an impostor.

This irrational feeling of failure and impostor, well, I know it's irrational.  I never expected to make the New York Times Best Seller list, and my selling expectation was in the low hundreds (which close at 85 sells so far).  I also know it takes a long, long time to find an agent and get a book published traditionally, and  I knew indie publishing my book wouldn't bring agents and publishers knocking on my door.  I just knew that I loved the story and had the means to share it. All I could hope for is that others would it love too.   And when the rational voice in my head is speaking, I know that my hope, of others loving the story, is true.

All the stuff I said above that doesn't matter, well, rational voice knows that it does matter.  People liking/loving the book, the awards, and the best part, photos of happy kids reading my book, that all matters.  I'm so appreciative of all that; those things are huge and wonderful accomplishments.   When I let the rational voice talk, and remind me of those huge and wonderful accomplishments, I don't feel like a loser, a failure, an impostor.  If I truly look at it, I've accomplished some pretty cool things in the writing world.  And I have so many other stories I want to share.  No way am I done yet with this industry.  I'm here to stay.

I just have to keep working at this writing thing and to tell the irrational impostor voice to shut the shark up! Impostor voice, where you see failure, I will embrace the mistakes and see a chance to learn and grow.  Where you say I've accomplished nothing, I see many kids enjoying the book and great reviews.  Where you say, it's time to quit, I remind you that writing is fun and that you have another story to write. Where you sing Beck's "I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me", I change the lyrics to "one day I'll kill it".

One day (hopefully sooner rather than later), I will kill it in the book world, and stop doubting my capability as a writer, and my impostor syndrome will subside again. Until then, hello impostor, I see you've failed (in making me completely doubt myself). So shut the shark up already! I have writing to do!

Need more info on the impostor syndrome, check out this:

And this:

Monday, June 19, 2017

6/19/17- Marshmallow Catapult

Happy Summer!  Have fun building this Marshmallow Catapult and googling tension, torsion, and gravity, which are the forces involved when catapulting an object.

7 Wooden Skewers
1 Rubber Band
1 Plastic Spoon
Masking Tape
4 Large Marshmallows, plus marshmallows for shooting

1) Use 3 marshmallows and 3 skewers and form a triangle for the base.
2) Use 3 more skewers and 1 more marshmallow and form a pyramid.
3) Tape the plastic spoon to the end of the remaining skewer.
4) Loop the rubber band around the topmost marshmallow.
5) Insert the spoon and skewer combo through the rubber band.
6) Connect the skewer and spoon combo to one of the base marshmallows.
7) Put a marshmallow into the spoon and shoot.
8) Try shooting the marshmallow again, but this time pull the spoon further back.  Did the marshmallow go further? Did the marshmallow go higher?
9) Try other adjustments to the catapult. How far can you get the marshmallow to go?  How high can you get the marshmallow to go?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

6/14/17- The Women Whose Shoulders I Stand On

I finally finished reading the book "Hidden Figures" (by Margot Lee Shetterly in case you didn't know).  I started reading the book back in March; it took me a long time to finish.  It's not because the book isn't great; it is.  It's not because I didn't like Mary, Dorthy, and Katherine; I immensely admire them. It's not because I thought the writing awful; I though Margot had perfect prose for a historical narrative book. It's not because I found a historical narrative book boring; I was deeply fascinated by the history.

It's because I have about 30 minutes a day for reading (that's a lot for some working parents, I know, be jealous). And sometimes I read op-ed or news articles instead of books.  And sometimes I read things on Facebook or Twitter and get really annoyed and wished I had read the next chapter in "Hidden Figures" instead.  If you are like me, and don't have much time, books like "Hidden Figures" are perfect for you.  I could read one chapter, and if it was many days later until I could read the next chapter, I didn't feel lost at what the plot was. I think it's also a reason I liked Mindy Kaling's "Why Not Me?" and Amy Poehler's "Yes, Please."  If I couldn't come back to the book for a few days, no problem.  I wasn't going to loose my place or forget what had happened in the plot.

But I digress.  If you've seen the movie, "Hidden Figures," then I highly recommend you read the book.  If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend you read the book.  Another reason I really liked the book is that it was a historical narrative.  The movie really focused on the 3 women, Mary, Dorthy, and Katherine, and had dialogue between people and Hollywood suspense (check the numbers as count down happens! Yeah, that didn't happen in real life; it was at least 3 days prior to the space flight). The book does focus on these 3 awesome women, but more in a bibliography way (remember reading and writing those in elementary school?) where you get this sequential telling of their lives with some emotional insight and direct quotes from them (no dialogue).  

You also get a bibliography of what is happening at NACA/NASA--their testing planes during wartime, adhering to presidential employment orders to hire people of color, and other chronological order information.  You also get what is happening in the country's history (USA)-- Rosa Park's refusal to move to the back of the bus, Dr. King's "I Have a Dream," Virginia's stupid and sickly stubbornness to integrate schools. I enjoyed learning about the background of NASA and the USA, the good and the bad. 

There's definite low points (some shark stuff the USA did) in the integrated stories of these women, NASA, and, the USA, but it is a story of  inspiration.  As Margot puts it "It's a story of hope, that even among some of our country's harshest realities-legalized segregation, racial discrimination- there is evidence of the triumph of meritocracy, that each of us should be allowed to rise as far as our talent and hard work can take us."

I do not understand what it was like to be a black, female engineer back in the 1950s and 1960s, nor do I fully understand what it is like to day to be a black, female engineer. I do have empathy, and that empathy fills me with a hope-- minorities, females, minority females will be allowed to rise as far as their talent and hard work can take them.  I promise to pay forward the benefits that I have reaped for standing on the shoulders of these women, Mary, Dorthy, Katherine, and all the female engineers who came before.  My accomplishments are in part because I stand on your very strong shoulders. Sincerely thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

6/8/17- Main Street Electrical Parade

Phew! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for my family and I.  We went to Disneyland, I participated in Susanna Hill's "Would You Read It Wednesdays?", Jack started swim lessons, I got multiple rejection letters from agents, magazines and publishing houses, somewhere in there was the day job, I got elected Vice President of a local non-profit, we all saw Boss Bay (Jack sat for most of it-- can't wait to take him to Cars 3!), family photos, Jack punching and kicking Bobby and I as he got a haircut, a follow mom shared Annie as part of blog post about children's books that have math concepts in them and some other stuff I'm sure I'm forgetting. There are so many stories I could share, but I'm going to talk about our latest Disneyland trip.

I'm not a Mouseketeer, Mousehead, or whatever you call Disney mega fans, but going three times to Disneyland within a 6 month period might suggest otherwise (one time was for a  conference, and the other times for family vacation).   It's just that Jack is still free, Jack loves Disney movies, and clever and sly Disney saying, hey 40% off our hotels!  Then next thing you know, you book another Disneyland vacation.  D'oh!

This time we stayed in one of the Disney hotels, The Grand Californian, and at the club level.  Club level means access to this room that has food, a patio to watch fireworks, movie rentals, and a couple of other perks.  Jack enjoyed going into that special room every day, and not going to lie, so did I! We rented and watched a movie every day.  The staff is so helpful and nice in that special room, and really in all parts of the hotel. The pool at the hotel was one of Jack's favorite things, although the slide wasn't ready/open when we stayed there. With all these perks and the pool, it was hard to convince Jack to leave the hotel for the park (Disneyland).

It was also great to go directly from the hotel into the park. There's still a security line, but it's much shorter. We also ate at one of the restaurants.  While it was good food, it was slightly on the too fancy side for a toddler, meaning an hour is too long for dinner (when you're a toddler).  There was a family next to us that had a four year old, and Jack and him became friends, so that helped a little. We also did character dinning at the Disney Hotel, which Jack loved.

Okay, okay, so at this point it sounds like we spent a lot of money on this vacation.  Club level in a Disney hotel is usually expensive, but remember, we got 40% off.  This trip did cost more than the last Disneyland trip, but it was not more than some our past trips (before Jack).  Bobby and I agree we really want to stay at the club level in the GC for our next visit (I swear it will be a couple of years this time, unless another awesome deal is offered). It really made this vacation pretty awesome, especially since Jack had such high-highs and low-lows at the park this time (he liked the rides and characters, but really disliked the crowd, sun, and any line over 5 minutes).   But there's no way we could do club level again unless there is a great deal. Or we win the lotto.

Besides the club level thing, there was one more thing that really made this trip special for me.  Like I said, Jack seemed to be happy one minute in the park and then cranky the next. On our previous trip, he was pretty mellow, but had just turn 2. He was still a young toddler.  I think he's entering the stage that most parents dread, the terrorism threes, so I think that was part of the high highs and low lows. He was pretty content and mellow for all the time we spent at the hotel (we had a half day at the hotel when we arrived, a rest day in between the park, and also a half day before travel to another hotel/home (we break up the drive by staying in Indio or such)).

So the last night we were at the park, he was pretty much done. He kept asking to go to back to the hotel as we stood waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade to begin.  I think we had been waiting about 15-20 minutes, and I was torn-- see the parade or go back to the hotel.  I really wanted to see the parade, as it was one of my favorite things at Disneyland as a child, but I also wanted a well rested and happy toddler for the next day. Then the lights dimmed, and we heard the music. If you've seen the parade, you know the music.  That synthesized bee sound.

Then Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy, come around the corner on a lit up train, and Jack screams, "Train! Mickey! Train!"   And I absolutely lose it.  I'm just crying and crying, in the middle of Main Street at Disneyland, during a really fun light parade with horrible (or is it awesome) synthesized music!  Bobby's all, "Are you alright? What's a matter?"  I can't even speak.  Jack's still watching the parade, ignoring his sappy mother, and Bobby put it together (he knows me well), "Are those happy tears?"  All I can do is nod.  I was so sharking HAPPY!  To be able share something I loved so much and made me so gleeful as child with my own child and seeing how gleeful it made him, 30 years later.  It  just made me so sharking happy!

I could have died happy in that moment. So sharking special-- I hope to remember it forever and ever!  I'll be on my death bed, and be like, remember when Jack saw the Electrical Parade just like I did, and I totally bawled my eyes out because of how happy that made me to share the parade with him? (Of course if his kid sees it 30 years, on my death bed it will be instead, remember how much Jack Jr, Jack and I loved the Electrical Parade?) And yes, I'm tearing up just writing about it.  I'll just "zzz, zzz, doo, doo, doo"  myself out now; zzz, zzz, doo, doo, doo!

Monday, May 29, 2017

5/29/17- Happy Memorial Day

In the States, it's Memorial Day.  A day to remember those who have fallen-- I know it's day for fallen soldiers, but I also think of the children and other civilians that have been lost to war.  Being able to spend this day with my child, and him being free of the burdens of war, unlike some other children around the world, is humbling.  It's something I take for granted too often.

And on that very serious note, here's a Memorial Day/Flag Day/July 4th/Labor Day craft project that I did with Jack (probably not where you thought this post was going; I didn't think it was going that way either).  It's really easy to do, and Jack liked it.  All you need is access to a printer and Microsoft Word (or related product), paper, scissors and paint (washable is preferable with young kids 😁).

In Word, go to the Insert tab, then Shape.  Guess what shape I just inserted?  A star!  Yep, I made a printout star that Jack could paint.  I printed this star 8 times.  Then I let Jack go to town painting them. Alright, Bobby and I also painted a couple of stars (the flag one is Bobby's; it's so impressive 😃) because painting is fun, and it's hard to resist fun. Let the star dry.  Then cut the stars out and hang up wherever to decorate.

We used Crayolas Washable Finger Paints 
that we found at the grocery store. 

Sure, the painting part only took 10 minutes, but Jack was super excited to paint (because painting is fun and messy, things toddlers love!).  And it's 5-10 minutes of prep time. It's the perfect craft for a short attention span toddler and a not so Pinerest parent.  Although I give props to the Pinerest parents who make shooting glitter and real sound effects stars. These stars will be up until Labor Day;  it's festive decorations to cover all the summer holidays (hence the Memorial Day/Flag Day/July 4th/Labor Day thing above, haha)! Happy Memorial Day!

Easy and Festive!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5/18/17- The Mentors

A few weeks ago I interviewed my former manager as part of a series I'm writing for STEMedia.   It was a little surreal to be asking her questions about how she became an engineer, her past life (she was a dairy farmer for 13 years before studying engineering), advice for others studying STEM disciplines and so on.  She probably doesn't know this, but I've long considered her a mentor.  I never formally asked her to mentor me-- I just watched her outstanding ability as a manager, and hoped that one day when I was a manager, that I'd be able to follow her example.

She really cares about her employees and their careers/career happiness. She was the only manager I've ever felt I could be completely honest with and that she'd really listen to me. Even people who didn't report to her sought her confidence and advice.  She also made work fun-- a Halloween party with a Thriller flash mob dance is not something too many managers would coordinate.  That's the kind of manager I'd like to be. I probably won't have the opportunity at my current work place to be a manager, but one day I won't be there, and at the new place, if I'm responsible for people's careers, I'm totally modeling my management style after her.

She also has a pretty amazing and inspiring story of how she became an engineer, reinforcing my belief that engineers come for anywhere, and a child just needs to know that the opportunity exists for them.  Maybe you're curious now about her story, and for that you'll just have to wait for the STEMedia piece to come out. That's what writer's call a hook. :)

STEMedia already has one of the interviews I did up on their website, and the person I interviewed for that story is also a mentor.   I also don't think she knows that, but I totally look up to her as well. She's the person that I daydream and scheme with, and part of why I've dabbled in children's books. We both want to encourage and inspire girls in STEM.  In face, she started her own company to inspire girls, particularly minority girls, in STEM, and I really admire her for taking that chance. Starting your own company while still working as an engineer is pretty awesome (to me).  How could I not look up to this person?  And her story is totally already up on STEMedia, so I encourage you to check it out.

Of course there's many more people in engineering that I admire, and you'll soon be reading about them. Most likely on STEMedia, but maybe also here on my blog.  On the days I feel like shark (from the RA, annoying workplace, and such), I forget some of my blessings.  Having great mentors is a blessing, and I'm so thankful to these women for teaching me so much.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tell me who your mentors are and why you admire them in the comments!
Here's the link to STEMedia:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5/14/17- Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!  This year marks my third Mother's Day, and it was a good day.  Jack sleeps until 7:30, 8:00, and Bobby usually takes care of Jack in the morning because of my RA, so getting to sleep until 8:30 wasn't anything new, but is still really nice (apologies for the long run-on sentence). Then Jack brought me my Mother's Day cards (one from him, one from Bobby) and while I got to read the one from Bobby right away, Jack wanted to put the card back into the envelop.  Then pull the card back out.  Then put the card back into the envelop.  That went on for 15 minutes, until Jack determined he had mastered the skill of envelop stuffing. :)

Knowing that we might be chasing Jack at a restaurant, and that I'd prefer a relaxing day, which includes how I eat my meals, Bobby and I talked before hand about just getting take out for the Mother's Day Brunch and eating at home.  Bobby went and picked up food from one of our favorite breakfast places, Wildflower.  We got to eat slowly at our table while Jack played with his toys and watched "Toy Story 3."  Seriously, quoting another mom, "Mother's Day Brunch is for mom's with adult children"-- eating take out at home was awesome and I recommend it for any mom with children under 18 (it's okay moms to just ask for that; it's supposed to be our day after all)!  :)

Jack and I called my mom/granny to wish her a happy day (she's in Colorado right now, living the snow bird dream) and Bobby, Jack and I visited his mom/Nana yesterday, so I've got to spend the day doing want I enjoy most on a Sunday: chilling at home. OH YEAH.  Happy Mother's Day to me! Hope all the other moms out there have enjoyed their day as well!


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

4/25/17- The Daycare

Choosing a daycare was a difficult decision for Bobby and I (I don't think most parents are like, yes, I do want to hand my child over to a stranger).  But as parents who needed, and wanted, to work outside the home, we had to choose childcare for Jack.  We didn't have family nearby who were able and capable to watch Jack, or else family would have been our first choice.  My mom really wanted to watch Jack, but she has such bad arthritis and prone to falling.  Telling her thanks, but no thanks, that was painful, but the right safety decision.

Some people are able to ask a friend, and we kind of had that option.  We have a friend who watches a couple of other children, but she lives 20-30 minutes away from home and work. She's really awesome, and if it wasn't for that pesky location thing, she would be Jack's caregiver while we work. We also know a stay-at-home dad who was willing to, but again, location, location, location! So the friend option was out.

It was on to finding an in-home daycare or a daycare center. We choose a daycare center.  Look, I know a couple of people that have lucked out with a stranger who runs a daycare out of their home (it was based on friend's or friend of friend's recommendation).  But I just could not put Jack into a home where I did not know the person before hand.  Fault me for having trust issues, but my comfort level of leaving Jack with complete strangers was at a facility that had tons of other adults, kids, and the occasional state inspector.  Just because my level of comfort was with a state inspected daycare center doesn't mean it has to be yours-- it's cool if we have different comfort levels, and this will sound hippy, dippy, but your instinct on which daycare is right for you, it will be there. Just trust it.

So Bobby and I went from daycare to daycare center within a five mile radius while I was 32 weeks pregnant, interviewing the directors and teachers of each facility.  That might seem really early to some people, but daycares in our neighborhood, especially ones that take infants, fill up fast.  Plus Jack came 4 weeks early, so that moved up our need date for a daycare.  If you're new to this finding a daycare or preschool thing, then talk to some other friends that have kids and that live in your town/city.  You'll get a feel for 1) what the various daycares are like and 2) when you need to start looking and register.

Happy Jack at Time Tutor; picture text messages during the work day are the best!

So Bobby and I got the good feels off of 2 places.  There was a 3rd where the infant teachers seemed great, but the preschool teachers, not so much.  We definitely wanted a place that Jack could grow at and potentially graduate preschool from there (nope, not even thinking of when he goes to kindergarten; he still has 2.5 years; he's still a baby, la,la,la). When interviewing in-home caregivers or daycare centers, we used a list to ask questions about the centers' rules and practices. I can't find that list now, but this one from Child Care Aware is similar.  So these 2 places both checked off most of the questions on the list, and we overall liked these 2 places.

One, let's call it Horizons Bright, I liked slightly more, but it was way more than what we wanted to pay.  So number 2, let's call it Time Tutor, won out.  Jack's been at Time Tutor for over 2 years now, and he's made some friends, learned some things, and overall seems content.  We like that he gets feed there (we don't have to pack lunches or snacks, which is really nice as a working parent to not stress over what to pack in his lunch), that we can easily talk to the teachers and directors about fixing issues, that he gets to paint, read, tumble, play ground, craft, sing and other learning activities, that they send electronic updates throughout the day (see picture above), that he's made friends, and that he seems content most days there (separation anxiety on both sides comes and goes).

Of course there's been some hiccups.  The first week leaving him there, I was a complete wreck, crying everyday.  Maybe it was more than a week; I don't fully remember at this point. Then one of the aide's was forgetting to write down bottle feedings, so we thought 10 month old Jack wasn't being feed. Let me tell you that we talked to the director about that and that the director fixed that right away.  Then there was the time, around 18 months, that Jack seemed to be picked on by another kid in the one year old class. We also raised concerns about the bullying (not sure what to call it when toddlers terrorize each other), and the kid got moved.  Of course, then there was the time that Jack was the bully (shortly after his bully was moved).  That got addressed too, and happy to say we haven't gotten a biting/punching/pinching report in over a year (knock on wood).

The point of all that no daycare is perfect, but a good daycare knows how to address issues and concerns.  I'm pretty sure 18 month old Jack would be biting me if he stayed home with me. And that he'd be crying at daddy leaving for work/having separation anxiety.  I hear all the stories from friends about their daycare experiences, and they've had their hiccups too. Of course there's a difference between hiccups and big issues that won't get fixed.  For example, forgetting to write down a feeding vs. forgetting feedings (on more than one occasion) is a big issue.  Repeated bullying where the director doesn't address it is a big issue.  Anytime we've had a concern, it's been addressed and fixed. Big issues are hardly ever fixed.

Any daycare provider worth a shark will answer your questions and address your concerns.  If the daycare provider can't calmly talk you through "well, this is kind of normal, but I understand your concern, so let's talk and work through it," then red flag, red flag!  If you have that nagging little voice in the back of your head that it's time to leave, then leave. Sometimes it is hard to know when you're just being a narcotic, sleep deprived parent and when you're right that this place sharks.I think it's when the same concern never leaves your head; that it keeps coming back to you/you keep dwelling on it. I haven't dwelt on any of the above once we talked to the teachers and the issue got fixed.  As Bobby and I kind of get the hang of this parenting thing (I don't think we'll ever have a complete hang of it, haha), we kind of get a better feel for what works.  And to any parent trying to find daycare out there, you will too.  You'll know which kind of daycare works for you and your family.  Your instinct on which daycare is right, it will be there.  You'll just know.

For more clarity and help on the "you'll just know": it will be a warm fuzzy feeling where you can picture your child talking fondly of Ms. Olsen or eating ice cream with grandpa or hugging teacher before leaving or making all kinds of baby friends or painting pictures with his/her tiny hands while your friend/caregiver sings "Wheels on the Bus" and so on.  It's where you can envision your child spending his/her days, growing into a smart and beautiful jellybean and donning that adorable mini-cap and gown for preschool graduation. You'll get a little misty eyed when you have that vision, and you'll know, this is the place. My final thought here: I am so glad that I don't have to look for a daycare anymore (I hope never again, but things can change). No jealousy loss there.  Happy daycare/preschool wishes to us all-- may we all have wonderful daycare/preschool experiences!  

Here's practical advice versus my hippy, dippy "you'll just know":