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.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 7

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Solar System Mobile
One of the presents Jake got for Nathaniel this Christmas was a box of Space Exploration projects. It wasn’t until Nathaniel asked him to help do some of the projects that he opened the box and realized how complicated each project was.

But he’d already promised to help.

So the boys got to work. They picked one of the simpler projects: a solar system mobile.

First they got a piece of yarn and put all the labels for each planet through. Then they tied a picture of the planet below each with a thread. Then, they blew up a yellow balloon to represent the sun. It sounds simple in the three sentences but these steps took quite some time. And then we had the challenge of where to put the finished project.

Jake and I took it upstairs very carefully and looked around Nathaniel’s room to find the perfect spot. As it turned out, we got lucky. We hung it right over his desk.

While the project is lovely, what I love most about this little story was watching the two boys work together. I love seeing how they are both so focused in the photo above. I love how Nathaniel’s not deterred by the difficulty of the task. I love how he wasn’t bored or didn’t get distracted and walk away. And, of course, I love what it taught him about science.

(I learned something, too. I had no idea how different the sizes of each of the planets were. And how much bigger Jupiter is than the others. )

I really enjoy watching the two boys play together and I love playing with them myself, but there’s something special, for me, in watching their dad play with them. Maybe it’s because it’s a father-son moment or maybe it’s because I love them both so much. Either way, these are special moments for me and I cherish every single one of them.

I love you so much, Nathaniel and Jake.

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

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 6

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Traveling to Zurich
When I joined the Transit Team, Holly said it would probably be a good idea for me to visit Zurich sooner than later. I knew she was right, but I was reluctant to and worried about leaving the kids for a week. As it works out, because the flight there takes such a long time, it’s not really feasible to leave for less than a week.

So a week it was.

I booked my flight but immediately started dreading it. Even up until the very last moment, I was not looking forward to it. But, alas, the day came and it was time for me to get on the plane.

The boys drove me to the airport and gave me big hugs goodbye. The plane ride was long, but uneventful. And, before I knew it, I was in Zurich. I found the train to the office relatively easily and the awesome Google Transit directions got me right to my hotel. I took a quick shower and headed off to work.

Even though the first day was a bit awkward and disorganized, the next three days were extremely helpful and very busy. I spent all my days in meetings, coming up with lists of things to do, and connecting with all the engineers.

I spent my nights getting organized, winding down, reading, and resting.

The first three days, I woke up no later than 3am. I was very jet lagged but I still managed to get through the days without a problem. Later in the week, we even went out at night for some socializing.

All in all it was a fantastically worthwhile trip. I felt a lot more connected to the team and good about my job. And the boys? They did wonderfully. We chatted a bit each day and, while I missed them, I was too busy to really worry about anything.

As with most things, the idea of this trip was much worse in my head than how it all worked out in reality. Note to future self: Stop worrying, things always work out.

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 5

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Learning to Play the Guitar
David, I know I’ve written about the guitar before. I’ve made a layout about it even but I also know that it still makes me so very happy to think of it and I want to write more because I am not sure whether you will keep this up or not, but I still want to remember these awesome days.

Right now, you’re learning so many songs thanks to your awesome teacher and you love them all so much because they are all songs you’re interested in. You started with Eleanor Rigby which was so hard for you and now not only can you play it but you can sing along as you play. You can also play a few really hard songs. You asked her to give you the notes for Paul McCartney’s Christmas song and for the Avicii song that I like because you know I like it. You’re learning On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons because you love them so much and I know you’d love to play all their songs.

The other day, I was upstairs with Daddy and you were downstairs practicing and singing with Nathaniel. Daddy was so surprised that it was you playing because he hasn’t heard you as often as I have and he had no idea how incredibly awesome you are at it.

I know I always bug you to practice more but it’s only because I can see how much better it’s making you and how each time you play, I can see your eyes shining a bit brighter and I can see you being proud of yourself.

David, I have no idea how it is that I got to have this kid who’s kind, smart, loves reading and physics, and crafting with me, and music. How is it possible that you’re so good at so many things? You, my son, never ever cease to amaze me. Your tenacity, your ability to absorb new information, your willingness to learn, your excitement and joy. It’s all contagious my sweet boy.

I don’t know if you will end up sticking with guitar. Part of me hopes you will and that you continue to fill our house with wonderful music every day. But even if you stop, my love, I want you to know that you were awesome and it was just a pleasure to get to listen to your playing and your singing for as long as we got to. I want to thank you for filling our lives up with such wonderful joy.

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

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 4

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Saying Goodbye to Chrome
I started out in the Chrome team around 2008. It’s hard to nail down the exact date because I worked for Sundar for a while before that and there was no official transfer date. One day I was on the Mac team and also supporting Gears and next thing I know I was the PM for Mac, Linux and ChromeFrame.

I remember joining Sundar’s org and hearing about Chrome day and night and feeling like it was Sundar’s special baby. I used it and I didn’t think there was anything special about it. I remember wondering why he thought it was all that magical and why he thought it was going to be so important.

And he was so right.

As it turned out, Chrome is awesome. I mean the single best product I’ve worked on so far in my life. I’ve loved the product, the team, the management, the users, the work, all of it. Of course, there were many things I didn’t like. Many things I didn’t understand and likely never would, but still, I’ve loved Chrome for such a long time, now. It’s been something I’m incredibly proud to be a part of. Something I’ve felt a strong sense of belonging with and something that’s felt so very familiar.

And yet. The last few years have also had a lot of tough moments. I’ve had times where I felt I was no longer learning, I was no longer inspired by my own work, I was feeling frustrated and trapped. And I don’t want to feel any of those things. I was scared to move. I knew how special Chrome was and I knew there was a high chance I’d regret moving. But the things I wanted to change weren’t really going to for a long time. So since they were here to stay, I had to figure another way out.

So I made the tough decision to finally say goodbye. It mostly fell on my lap. It started with an email from Caesar, went to Ryan and then randomly ended up on Holly’s lap. And I churned and churned and followed an instinct that I am still not sure of but it felt brave. (Let’s see if it still does a year from now or if it will feel stupid.)

It was time to move on but I know I will miss it dearly and I am so thankful to Chrome.

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

Stories of Twenty-Fifteen - Week 3

Here’s this week’s story:

Title: Breast Stroke Ribbon
I remember the first time we ever took you swimming, David. You were five years old and I was worried that we’d waited so long that you would be completely scared of water and never want to go in. All of my friends had taken their kids swimming for years but we’d listened to our pediatrician who said to wait till you were five.

So we did. But even though I listened to him, I was still worried that somehow I’d messed up and you’d be permanently scarred from my mistake.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. You went to your class, saw the pool and jumped right in. You played with the teacher and all of his toys. You had no problem going under the water. You had the time of your life.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was watching you have so much fun. Once we started, we never stopped having you take lessons. Even though, you’ve only had a 30minute lesson shared across four people, once a week, you still slowly managed to progress through each of the strokes.

You started with freestyle and then moved on to backstroke, which I think is still your favorite. And then you began learning breast stroke. At first, it felt so weird that you said you’d never be able to figure it out. It was so different from the other two. You didn’t kick in the same way. It seemed tough to coordinate your legs and hands at the same time. Since Daddy was the one who took you swimming each week, I never really got to see your progress; just the words you said when you came home each week. And you’re not known for being the most optimistic one in the family.

So I had no idea how close you were to actually getting your ribbon. And of course, it ended up coinciding with a day where we were in a rush and had to leave early. You were devastated not to get to pick it up after having done so much work. But, after the party we were committed to, we went back to the swim school and not only did you get your ribbon but you got to have your picture taken, too.

I love seeing that huge smile on your face, my son, I am so proud of you!

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