Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 17

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Early Morning at Cafe Borrone
Saturday morning I found myself awake at 5:46am. As I was lying in bed, trying to decide whether I should go back to sleep or get up, I heard Nathaniel go to the bathroom. Since Jake looked like he was going to stay asleep, I decided to sneak out of bed and go downstairs to meet Nathaniel and ask him if he’d like to go to Cafe Borrone together. He said, “Yes!”

We looked up the Cafe’s hours and found out that even though they don’t open until seven am, they serve coffee starting at six. So we grabbed our books, got dressed and drove to Borrone. There were no other customers, so we had our pick of tables. I got some coffee and Nathaniel got some ice water and we sat inside by the windows.

We spent the next hour working on different problems in Nathaniel’s second grade workbook. We did some science and then we learned about telling time. We even played math bingo. By this point, it was past seven, so we got up and ordered a strawberry tart for Nathaniel (his favorite) and a warm croissant for me (my favorite). I tried to get some photos of him working but Nathaniel, being his sweet, silly self, made funny faces, laughed, and then laughed some more, so all my photos are blurry and silly. But I love them.

I love them because they were the perfect ending to the perfect morning. They are such an excellent reminder of Nathaniel’s sweet, kind, and silly disposition. All in all, we were there for a little over an hour. It was the very best way to start my morning. We got a little work done, we ate some tasty food, we laughed, we hugged and we spent time just the two of us. And I will likely cherish this ordinary Cafe Borrone morning for weeks and weeks to come.

Yet another example that ordinary moments are what make life so extraordinary. That these are the moments I live for and strive for every day in my life. This is what I want more of in my life: little moments of connection. Small ways to carve time to spend with the people I love so very very much. I am so glad I chose to get out of bed.

Thank you, my sweet boy, for bringing so much light into my life.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 16

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: My New Planner
I blame Christy Tomlinson. Or maybe I should blame Stephanie Howell because Christy wasn’t even in my Instagram but Stephanie was and she posted a photo of some beautiful planners Christy was giving away. Then I added her account to my feed and, within a half hour, I was shopping for my own planner. I haven’t even owned a planner since 1990s and I have no idea why I suddenly had the unstoppable urge to own one.

After pondering it pretty much full-time for two days, I decided to bite the bullet and get one. The gold one was on sale for 50% off so I decided it would be a good first test to see if the planner thing would actually work. I bought the planner and even though I knew it wouldn’t arrive for at least a week, considering it was coming from Australia, I started stalking the mailman.

I spent my waiting days buying smaller but fun planner goodies, some a4 paper, and thinking about all the inserts I want to have. I designed five different kinds of inserts. Each day, my anticipation grew and grew and the planner could not get here fast enough.

Finally, this Friday, the mailman showed up with the planner in his arms. I almost kissed him. It was as beautiful in person and I’d anticipated. I spent most of my day making the inserts, the dividers, filling the pockets and making a fun but personal dashboard to remind me of what I want this year to be about.

I’ve only had it for a day and a half, so it’s too soon to tell whether this solution will work for me long term. The planner is definitely thicker and heavier than the Moleskine I was using before so we’ll see if it’s sustainable but, for now, I am enjoying it. Even though I probably didn’t need another obsession in my life.

All joking aside, it has been really fun dreaming up different ways in which I can organize and track my life. The colorful pages of my planner make me happy and give me hope that it might be able to help me get my life back on track.

Here’s to hoping it’s not just pretty but also effective.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

It's time to Learn to Love Travel Again

Here’s a page I made for My Mind’s Eye for April.

And here’s the full journaling:
I’ve now worked at Google for almost nine years. In those nine years, the only travel I’ve done was a short trip to NYC over eight years ago. In the Chrome team, there wasn’t a lot of reason to travel so it didn’t even cross my mind. However, since I took the Transit team job, I knew travel would be a part of my new position. Even though I was nervous about how it would work out, I was prepared to take the chance in order to get to experience working for a different team.

Since taking the job, not even six months ago, I’ve already flown to Zurich twice and NYC once. And there’s probably at least one trip to Seattle and another one to Zurich on the agenda before this year is out. That’s five trips in a year, three of which are international. Insane compared to my one in the last eight years.

I remember packing for my first trip to Switzerland in December. I was so worried about everything. I had no idea if I would find my way to the hotel (I did.) or from the hotel to work (I could see the work building from my hotel.) I wasn’t sure if the team would be nice (They were.) or if I would get along with them. (Yes, I would.) I had no idea what to pack. (I packed too warmly. It’s way too hot in the office.) And most of all, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trip. (It so was!)

Those were just my worries about work. I also had a collection of concerns about back home. I had no idea if Jake would be able to handle the kids for the whole week I would be gone. (He so could!!) I had never left them for more than a day.

I was very anxious. I dreaded leaving. I whined and whined until the moment I got on the plane. But, of course, once I landed, I was completely focused on work. I did spend time chatting briefly with the kids each day but, for the most part, I wasn’t anxious at all once I was there. I went to meetings, I talked to my team mates, and I worked hard to not let jet lag get to me.

Each of the three trips came with dread but each of them was also incredibly useful, productive and completely worthwhile. I came back from each trip with a long list of work that excites me, tighter connections with my team members, and inspired to get to work.

I will admit that I still am not a fan of the time spent on airplanes and I would much rather be with my kids and sleep in my bed. But if a few weeks of traveling means I can continue to work from home, I think it’s a great deal. Even if I am out of town three weeks of the year, it still means I get to spend the other 49 weeks, at home, able to drop off and pick up my kids from school. I think that alone is worth all the travel I’ve been doing.

I know that, like most things, over time, I will find a way to make this whole experience more smooth. I will worry less. Who knows, I might even start looking forward to these trips one day. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch for now, but, at least, I get to bring back lots of delicious Swiss chocolate. Can’t beat that!

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 15

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: A Day in Santa Cruz
During the ski week that the kids get off, we were supposed to go to Los Angeles. Before I decided to book David’s surprise trip, this was planned to be how we celebrated his birthday. We hadn’t booked a hotel or made any specific plans but it was our intention to spend the early part of the week in LA.

After we got back from the Orlando trip, I was very tired and overwhelmed and wasn’t sure if I really could deal with going away again in less than a week. I though about it some and stressed about it some and then finally had a talk with Jake. I asked him if we could do something a lot more low key. I really didn’t want to sit in the car for six hours. I really didn’t want to do anything taxing at all. I asked if we could do day trips instead. Maybe a day in Santa Cruz, a day in the city, and another day filled with something local but fun. He said okay.

So Monday morning, we woke up and got on our way to Santa Cruz. It was early enough that the boardwalk wasn’t open yet so we went bowling instead. I did abysmally bad but the boys did well. Then we went to the arcade and played games for a while. I walked around with Nathaniel and Jake spent time with David so they could play the more mature games.

After a while, we took a break and walked on the boardwalk, got some food and ice cream and decided it would be fun to play mini golf. The place in the boardwalk is really nice and even had a section that has a lot of fluorescent paint and some black light. We didn’t keep score but I am pretty sure Daddy would have won.

We then went back to video games and played a whole bunch more. The kids were watching this couple play for a while and on their way out, they gave us all their tickets, which was awesome!! By the end of our time, we had enough points to buy two light sabers, a huge pen, a few stickers, and a little ring. Pretty great.

We walked the pier to see the seals and then got a slice of pizza before heading home. It was a really lovely day full of much joy, adventure, and family time. We all decided that we need to go to Santa Cruz a lot more often.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 14

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Valentine’s Day Cards
One would think that, as someone who is into crafting, I would like making Valentines for the kids’ schools. But it’s never been one of my favorite things to do. Though I also refuse to buy them when they are so easy to make. As the day approached this year, I was dreading coming up with a plan.

About a week before, we got an email from David’s teacher explaining that they were planning to do something different this year. Each kid would only make a Valentine for one other kid. It would be more personal and it would be hand made and it had to have three things specific to that kid. I loved this idea! I wish all the grades did exactly that.

Alas, not Nathaniel’s class.

So as we scoured the internet for ideas three days before his party, I kept thinking we were going to have to go back to our idea from a few years ago when we made little paper airplanes. I wasn’t looking forward to hand folding forty airplanes again.

Then we found these cute printables that used googley eyes. I remembered that I had bought googley eyes for David almost five years ago when he and I were doing our year-long crafting project. I dug in the closet to see if I could find them and was overjoyed to find that not only did I still have them but that they would be perfectly sized for these Valentines.

Nathaniel picked the printables he liked the most, we printed and cut them and then glued the little eyeballs on each of them one by one (so thankful for glue dots!) And then he stamped his very long name on each of the cards and we were done!

All in all, the project took us maybe twenty minutes. And I think they turned out very cute. He said that everyone in his class enjoyed them.

I feel like this year might go down in history as one of the most painless Valentine prep years ever. Three cheers for fun, easy, and cute!

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 13

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: David’s Tenth Birthday at Universal Studios
When David and I first talked about his upcoming tenth birthday, he wasn’t sure how he wanted to spend it. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to do something special. He was turning two digits. Two digits. I can’t even believe it.

After some talk back and forth, he mentioned he would like to go to Harry Potter Land. He loves the books and he had heard it was wonderful. I did some quick math and quickly realized that the vacation to the other end of the US would be relatively expensive for all of us and told him that we likely couldn’t do that. He was sad but he understood. So we made plans to go to Los Angeles instead. About a week later, I was still thinking about our conversation and feeling bad that I couldn’t do what he wanted for his birthday. The more I thought about it, the worse I felt.

And then I had this idea: what if I could take him to Orlando on his actual birthday for just two days? just him and me. I asked Jake if he would be okay with it, and he was. So I told myself to not overthink it and, within the hour, I’d booked a plane and a hotel room.

I decided not to tell David anything. The plan was to pull him out of class on Friday and go right to the airport. I was a little worried about how Nathaniel might react but I knew we couldn’t tell him until right before we took David. It was hard work to keep it all a secret but I managed just barely.

When the day finally came, Nathaniel was a total champ and said okay. We flew off to Florida (despite the four hour delay, which is a story for another day) and spent two magical days just David and I. We saw all of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and we even managed to go on several rides all over Universal Studios. In the end, David enjoyed the Terminator and Transformers and Men in Black rides almost as much as he enjoyed all the Harry Potter loveliness.

All in all, I hope it was a wonderful birthday, for you, my sweet boy. I am so very grateful to you each and every moment of my life and I hope that every single one of your dreams, small or large, always comes true. I love you with all my heart.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 12

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: White Rabbit Party
Last Spring, after reading several emails on how the school was still looking for a chair, I decided to volunteer for this year’s Spring Benefit. This was an exceptionally odd choice for me because, even though we’ve been at the school for almost four years, I’ve never actually been to the Benefit before. I had no idea what it looked like, what all the moving parts were, or even what the job would entail. I am not exactly sure what prompted me to even consider it.

But I did.

Right before I decided to do it, I emailed an acquaintance who’d been involved in previous years. I didn’t know her that well but I knew she was nice and I figured not having to do it all by myself would be a good idea.

It wasn’t just a good idea; it was a great idea.

Kerry and I have been co-chairing the event and it has been absolutely wonderful to have her. She is so easy to work with, so very nice, and such a great benefit in all areas where I struggle. I am so grateful she was up for doing this together.

This week, we had a big kickoff event to build some excitement for the Benefit, which is coming up in April. The idea was to make a bit of splash and see if we can get people to donate some parties, maybe volunteer some and hopefully get a few solicitations. I wasn’t very optimistic about potential turnout. But it was quite great.

Parents showed up. They signed up for donating parties, they chatted and got excited over ideas. There was a bunch of chatter and even some solicitations. All in all, it was a definite success.

There are still three months, three crucial months, before the event and I am quite nervous about how well it will all come together but this was one little step in the right direction and yet another example of what a great decision it was to work with my friend Kerry on this party. I am thankful for great partners.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Sweet Nathaniel

This is a layout I did for My Mind’s Eye for March.

The right side says: sweet Nathaniel: Today was such a lovely day. We spent the morning together and you made me smile and laugh. You are one of my favorite people in the world. I love you!

Journaling says:
Sweet Nathaniel. This morning, we both woke up really early. 5:46am. I usually spend Saturday mornings surfing the internet and not getting anything done. But this morning, I wanted to spend some together time with you. So I asked you if you’d like to go to Cafe Borrone and sit there until they start serving food. And you said, yes, of course. You always says yes!

I can talk about all the work we did while we sat there and went through your workbook, but this story is not about what we did. It’s about who you are. We sat at Cafe Borrone for ninety minutes. During that time, we worked hard on things you didn’t know but instead of getting tired, you were happy and upbeat the whole time. You joked, you laughed, and you even danced a bit.

At some point, I took out my camera and tried to take photos of you working and you started giggling. Then you started making silly faces. And then you started moving around while giggling and laughing and making faces. You just got happier and sillier with each click.

My first instinct was to tell you to be quiet and sit so I could get a serious photo. I even said “Nathaniel, let me get one normal one and then you can be silly.” But you were so busy having fun that you hardly heard me. That’s when it dawned on me that you were being normal. There was nothing wrong with the way you were being. You weren’t disruptive, you weren’t throwing tantrums, you weren’t bothering anyone. You were being your sweet, happy, funny self.

You were being you.

Nathaniel, one of the best things about you is how full of joy you are. When others’ look at you they can’t help but smile because you’re overflowing with happiness. You’re always so sweet and bouncy and happy that it infects those around you. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve come up to me and told me how awesome you are. And, they are so right. You are awesome.

You are awesome.

In that moment, when I was taking photos and wishing that you were quieter, more still and subdued, I realized that if I got that photo, it wouldn’t be a photo of you. It would be a posed photo of this kid in my head. The one who’s not nearly as interesting or lovely as you. The one who would pale in comparison to the rainbow that you are. The photo of the quiet, working boy would be such a small sliver of the story of who you are that it’s not even worth telling.

The best part of your story is these blurred photos that burst with energy, joy and giggles. They are what makes you, you. They are what makes us wonder what we did to get so lucky to have you in our lives. I love you with all my heart, my sweet son.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen – Week 11

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: A Day in Diamond Peak
As the winter started approaching, Jake and I made some plans to go skiing. We originally had planned to go the first weekend in January. We had our room booked and location picked out and we were all excited to go.

The night before we were scheduled to leave, Nathaniel walked into our room at midnight and said he wasn’t feeling so well. As it turned out, he had a fever of 104. We canceled everything and spent the weekend at home. A week later, he came down with an ear infection. So we waited a bit longer.

The third week of January, we decided it was finally time to try again.

David has tennis lessons that end at 5pm Friday so we decided we would leave right after his lesson. That was mistake one. Not surprisingly, traffic is quite bad on Friday afternoons. It took us two hours to get out of the Bay Area. A few hours into the trip, we stopped to get some quick food and the boys wanted some ice cream. That was mistake two. A few hours after the ice cream, Nathaniel woke up and got sick all over the car. Since this is not something our kids usually do at all, we were poorly prepared. We pulled over, cleaned and changed him and then got back on the road.

Another few hours later, the whole incident repeated itself. And since we were only going away for two days, this meant that Nathaniel was now wearing the last of his spare clothes. The car was smelly enough to make the rest of us sick and what was supposed to be a four and a half hour drive took us seven hours.

To make things even more fun, there was very little snow on the mountain so many of the runs were closed. But all four of us still got a full day of skiing in and had a great time.

Instead of spending half a day on the road, we decided to brave the drive back that same night so we could sleep in our own bed. Fourteen hours of driving for six hours of skiing. This will go down in history as the quickest trip to Tahoe and hopefully the next ones won’t be nearly as painful.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 10

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Gratitude Journal
When David was six, he and I both started our own gratitude journals. He was learning how to write his letters and I had read a lot about the advantages of keeping a gratitude journal so we each started one. Even though, he’s since fallen out of practice, I feel that the regular writing exercise and having a daily focus on something good was really valuable for him.

Now that Nathaniel is approaching six himself, I decided it was time for him to get his own journal. As I was buying David his graph paper notebook for math this week, I got Nathaniel a notebook with wide lines. I got him one that was bright green because green is his favorite color.

On Tuesday, he started writing daily gratitudes. So far we have: I am grateful for the swings (at school.) I am grateful for the spiderweb ( a climbing structure at school.) I am grateful for cakepops. I am grateful that I went to the movies with my friends. We missed a day so we decided to just skip it and keep going.

I was worried that Nathaniel would rebel or whine or complain but he hasn’t done any of it. He always starts with picking his item, then writing “i am grateful” and then for each word, we first spell it out loud and see what all the letters of the full word are. Once he can easily repeat all the letters, he writes the word down by himself and then we discuss the next one and on and on.

Even though he’s not falling behind in any way, I want to make sure some of the attention stays on Nathaniel’s progress. We’ve been focusing a lot on David lately because of the Tech Challenge and middle schools, etc. So this project is my way of ensuring Nathaniel gets daily writing practice.

I will also search for some math work for him and I hope to convince him to read on his own more often, too. He can definitely read now and he just needs practice. Around this time, I did the daily reading with David so maybe that’s what we need here, too. Anyhow, one step at a time and, for this week, this journal is a wonderful step forward. Three cheers for Nathaniel!

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 9

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: The Tech Challenge
Story:On Thursday evening, I get a letter from a friend of David’s mom. “Is David doing the Tech Challenge?” she asks. Instead of going to bed, like I usually would, I decide to google it.

And then the world speeds up.

Next thing I know, I am emailing parents to see if they’d be willing to advise kids. I am reading the rules. I am talking to David. I am registering them and I am in the middle of forty-seven emails and twenty-three phone calls. All in the span of twenty-four hours.

Here we are, a mere two days later and I’ve committed David to spending two late nights and seven extra hours a week on this crazy project. I’ve also committed my own time with the kids once a week. I am reading documentation, trying to wrap my head around what all this means. Buying supplies for the kids to get started. Looking at my calendar and doing the math over and over again on how all this is going to fit into our already overflowing life.

And yet.

And yet we do it. David’s excited, motivated and looking forward to the adventure this is going to be. And isn’t that what life is all about? Working hard to support him in all the adventures he wants to take? Isn’t this what I meant when I picked brave for my work this year? Doing things despite the fear and worry. Stepping up. Showing up. Having faith that my instincts are faithful guides on this journey I’m taking.

So here we go. We stepped up for the challenge. Let’s see what unfolds from here. Let’s see if the boys really come through. Let’s see what we learn. Let’s see how much fun and struggle and learning this will result in. Let’s see what we don’t know yet. Let’s see where this journey takes us.

Bring it on.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 8

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Practicing Basketball
David’s class started their basketball practice and games in November. From November to March, they will have practice and a game each week. As opposed to many other boys in his class, David doesn’t play any basketball (or other similar sports) outside of school. This means that the weekly practice is all he gets.

In hopes of giving him a little more time to practice, Jake took both the boys to the park this week. As the boys practiced, I worked on my computer. Jake was shooting hoops, trying to teach David how to steal the ball from right under the net. I asked them if they could take a little break so I could take a photo of David shooting.

They were willing to accommodate me so David grabbed the ball and gave it a shot. It was the very perfect moment because David threw and it went right into the basket!

I am not a sporty person. I have never played any sports I wasn’t required to. I am way too clumsy and uncoordinated to be good at anything. Even when skiing and skating (the only two sports I can do) I am cautious and therefore not very good. Sports is just not my thing. It’s never been and I don’t think it will ever be at this point.

Which is exactly why I love watching my kids play. I love it when Jake takes them out there and works with them to improve their balance, their skills, and their dexterity. I love watching David try again and again. I love that he’s willing to keep going. I love that he’s getting to experience playing a team sport. I love that he keeps trying relentlessly.

I love sharing the things that I know how to do with my boys. It’s special for me to pass on my own joys and learnings. But, what I love even more is watching them do things I never could. Watching them ride bikes. Watching them sing or play an instrument. Watching them play sports. I haven’t done any of these things. I get to experience them for the first time through them. I get to see how amazing it feels to have your kids be better than you. To be more. To do more.

It’s a magical feeling.

Stories of Twenty Fifteen is a project for 2015. You can read more about it here.