Thursday, April 29, 2010


Yesterday, Ethan started to run a pretty high fever. In between doses of Infant Tylenol, he spent the rest of the day refusing food and crying weakly whenever he was off of me. It was strange to see my normally active toddler lying on the couch so listless and uncomfortable. His fever was hovering around 102.5 all day and night, with periods where it got higher and then times when it dropped down to about 100-101, usually right after he took his medicine. It was a little scary, at times, to feel how hot his little body could get. He was like a furnace, just exuding heat from his head to his toes. He and I spent the night out on the couch so that I could keep an eye on his fever and keep him as cool as possible. I slept maybe half an hour all night, and I'm pretty sure he didn't get much more sleep than I did. Poor thing! He was just so miserable... The morning started off without much change in his disposition, but at least his fever appeared to have dropped down to manageable levels. Then, just a few minutes ago, when I sat down to start typing this, I heard a thump and looked around to find that he had thrown his entire dish full of strawberries into his lap, the stroller, and all over the ground. My baby's back!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Talk To Me

Ethan is starting to talk more and more every day. And by talk, I mean babble. His vocabulary, besides high pitched squeals and random sounds, currently consists of the following words:

- Mama
- Dada
- Down
- Up (but he says it "puh")
- Bye-bye
- No (more like, nononono...)
- Duck
- Bah (it means "bath," okay?)
- Woof
- Quack (well, it's closer to "kah" if you want to get specific)

And.... that's about the gist of it. He can say "more" in sign language, but not verbally, so does that count? Joel and I are starting to wonder if he's taking his sweet time in the language department, because he's got about ten words at sixteen months old. The expectation for an eighteen month old is fifteen to eighteen words, so... let's get a move on, kid! No, but seriously, I'm sure there are things we can do to help him add to his vocabulary. I just ordered the "Teach Me To Talk" DVD with strategies for helping your toddler learn to speak, and hopefully we can start working on that soon. You know, right before I leave to go work 12 hours a day. (sigh)

Of course, there's always non-verbal communication to help us get through the next year or two!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Coffee Cake

I just found a recipe for the most delicious, moist, awesome coffee cake I've had in a long while... It's made using the Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix in the box, which makes *my* life a whole lot easier. It takes about five or so minutes to throw together, and then around half an hour to bake. PERFECTION! I made it last night, and as you can see, it was a big hit... not much left for today. Guess I'll have to make more this weekend!

Coffee Cake-sm

The only thing I'll do differently next time is reduce the sugar a bit, both in the batter and in the amount of topping used. To make up for the lack of sweetness, I'll add in some cinnamon to the batter, and maybe some other flavoring (vanilla? rum? tee hee) to help kick up the tastorifficness. Can't wait!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My New Love

I don't know exactly how it happened, but it did. It wasn't a gradual sort of thing, a love that took years to deepen into something beyond friendship... No, it was sudden, immediate, and took my breath away. I don't know what it is about this love that makes it different and special, but for some reason I can't get it out of my mind. I laugh more. I smile more. My spirits are lifted up and I can't stop grinning. Is it real love, though? Can it be, when it's about a TV show? Who can really say... All I do know is, this is the most hilarious and awesome thing I've seen in a long time. Definitely for mature audiences, but man oh man-- it will have you busting out in laughter in no time flat. To quote one of the reviews, if you like Space Ghost, Venture Brothers, or Harvey Birdman, you're going to love Archer. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


So, it looks like I'll be starting off my job with a monster commute. Although eventually I'll be based in Livermore, for now I will start my training at the main center in Oakland. That's right, Oakland. Hey, at least it's not over the Bridge, right? But this is the reality of the commute I'll drive with thousands of other people every morning and evening:

Driving directions to Oakland, CA
81.4 mi – about 1 hour 23 mins
(up to 1 hour 50 mins in traffic)

View Larger Map

I can tell right now that I'm going to hate that commute. Hopefully Joel gets work soon and we can find a place that's affordable in the Livermore or Pleasanton area. I just can't see doing this for too long... at this point, I will be leaving the house by 6 AM, driving 1.5-2 hours through the morning rush to Oakland, working eight hours, then driving back another two hours during the worst traffic slot possible. By the time I get home, it'll be 7:00-ish, which means I'll see my son for approximately half an hour before it's time for him to go to bed. I'll eat dinner, crash, and start the whole cycle again the next day. Because we don't have daycare yet (and may not be able to afford it), Joel will probably end up scheduling computer jobs for when I get home from work, so I will see him less and less as well. Sounds highly appealing, doesn't it?


I'm sad.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Child Labor?

This boy, I tell you... he just loves doing yard work with us! I hope that's a good enough answer if the good folks from CPS come calling one day, after getting numerous complaints from neighbors that we are making our toddler do all of our gardening. I swear, the minute we get outside, he wants to grab a rake or broom and go to town on the yard. Sometimes, he even skips the tools and just starts picking up the seed-pods by hand and carrying them to the edge of the sidewalk, where he proceeds to toss them into the street. He's just trying to save some pedestrian from twisting an ankle on those little miniature death-traps.
CIMG2894 (Medium)

But seriously, doesn't he do a great job with the broom? It's bigger than he is, but he just used it to push a big pile of those seed thingies past the car and towards the gutters. Encouraged of course, by my running commentary of "Go to the street! Get out, seeds!" while he works. We all need cheerleaders to keep us going sometimes, right?
CIMG2895 (Medium)

Good kid. Now, if we can only get him to use the vacuum, we'll be set on the outside *and* inside the house.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Adrienne!

You've come a long, long way, baby sister. Thirty years ago, a little girl entered our family...
ARB_002 (Medium)

... and stole our hearts!
ARB_010 (Medium)

No matter how grown up you get, I will always remember this girl, and her absolute zest for life. I'm so proud of you and how you have conquered many of life's challenges without becoming jaded or negative. You are an inspiration to me! Can't wait to celebrate with you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Skandi-boy

Julie's Random Ethan Pics 061 (Medium)

Just remembering when Ethan was this small, such a short time ago; how quickly it flits and flies. Doesn't he look vaguely Scandinavian, like some tiny Northerner about to burst into speech that is chock-full of consonants and a sprinkling of vowels with lines through them? Those eyes, that hat... he used to love his Pooh bear hat, and wore it all the time. He wore it until it didn't fit his noggin anymore, in fact. Now he won't let a hat sit on his head for longer than five seconds before yanking it off and tossing it to the ground. What's up with that? How can things change so drastically in such a short time? I love hats, just wish I could wear them more often. Burning Man 2009 was probably the first time in my life I wore hats on pretty much a daily basis, and it was pretty cool.

Joel and I found these cowboy-type hats at Target for a great price, and they were perfect for keeping the sun off our necks-- and you could wrap a scarf around them and then over your face to keep from breathing in the sand, too. Very handy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Positive, The Negative, The In-Between

The thought of finally going back to work is laden with both the positive and the negative...

The UP Side:
- Steady income that won't run out, whereas unemployment checks will eventually stop
- Health insurance!
- Making new connections to other adults in the workplace
- Feeling like I'm contributing to the community again through my work
- Ethan will get to socialize with more kids once he gets into daycare
- Possibly moving towards the Bay Area, which means:
> more job opportunities for Joel
> closer to SF for day trips and such
> better bike paths and walking paths
> nicer weather than Modesto (i.e., cooler)
- Moving closer to certain friends and family

The Down Side:
- No longer being able to spend every day with my son... this is HUGE for me
- Moving away from my mom & dad and sisters, as well as other family and some close friends (and my BFF!)
- Moving, in general-- YUCK! The packing, the hassle, the headache, the cost
- Commuting at first to Oakland, which is 1.5 hrs away without traffic and up to 2.5 during rush hours.. U.G.H.
- Having to find all new friends and babysitters and so on wherever we move
- More expensive rent (up to $500/month higher than we're paying now)

Anyway... I'm trying to stay positive and think of the good side, but those first two issues (missing Ethan and leaving my family/friends) are pretty tough ones. Will try to keep my thoughts focused on my goals: Surviving and thriving for and with my family. We can do it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hubba Honda

CIMG2898 (Medium)

Joel really likes his Honda. And by "really likes," I mean loves. And by "loves," I mean he thinks it's great and all but can't wait to get a slighter bigger one someday. Ah, the fickle nature of man.
CIMG2900 (Medium)

He just changed the handlebars to lower them and make them more like a cafe racer. And the lights, and a few other things... all I know is, it looks great. And Ethan thinks it's awesome, too. He absolutely loves getting up there and playing around with the various buttons and knobs and controls on the motorcycle. And he can spend forever just tinkering around the bike, touching the shiny chrome and finding out where all the dirtiest parts are. Never a dull moment, as long as there are gears and metal pieces and tools and mechanical bits to play with. Like father, like son!
CIMG2902 (Medium)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mission: Get A Job-- COMPLETE!

So, on Wednesday the 7th I went up to Oakland for my second interview. I thought it went well, until the very end when the head of the interview panel told me some interesting news. It seems that they were just finishing up with the 2nd interviews, and were going to start another round of first interviews the following week. What?! To me, that meant that they hadn't found the person they were looking for yet. Otherwise, why bother with yet another round of first interviews, possibly continuing on into second interviews? I left there thinking that I was just going to have to continue my search for employment elsewhere...

When I got home on Wednesday, I found out that Joel had been chosen to participate on a jury for the next couple of weeks, which would mean we'd need to find daycare if I actually was offered the job and they expected me to start before the 23rd of April. Oh, well, we'll worry about that when it happens, right? So I get a phone call from the lead Family Advocate, asking me to call her back and answer a few questions "before we can proceed." Hmm... now things are definitely looking up again. I thought she might have some concerns about whether or not we'd move up there or something like that, so I contacted her and left my info again so that we could chat. Well, she finally gets back to me Thursday afternoon and this is what happened:

Her: "Melanie, I have a few questions that the interview panel would like to ask before we go forward; I know that you've spent the past several years as a supervisor, and I'm wondering how you would feel about working in a position where you wouldn't be supervising anyone? Would that be a problem for you?"

Me: "Absolutely not. Honestly, supervising others was not my favorite part of the job; it was working with a great team of colleagues and collaborating to reach our goals. I enjoyed supervising, but I also really enjoy working as a team member, and have always worked well with my own supervisors. I would have no problem whatsoever with being in a position that's not supervisory."

Her: "I didn't think that would be a problem. So, I have one more question: Are you still interested in the job? Because I'd like to offer you the position."


Friday, April 9, 2010

King of Malls

We took a family trip to the Westfield Valley Mall in San Jose last weekend. What a cool place! Huge, and maze-like, but with so much variety that it makes up for constantly being lost and having to use GPS and spidey sense to find your way around. Here's an aerial view:

Pretty neat. I'd love to go back sans-bebe so that we can look around more and do some actual shopping. We had a very tasty lunch there, too. We had fish 'n chips, clam chowder, and shrimp cocktail from Ivar's. It's fast food, but quite yummy. Ethan loved to eat the little shrimp, and (of course) noshed on the fries with gusto.

My craving for seafood lately has been out of control; later this week I'll be making shrimp with red pepper and angel hair pasta, a recipe I stole off of Gordon Ramsay's new cooking show. I only wish he'd include ingredient measurements; it helps, when cooking.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


20100401131850(3) (Medium)

Last year, we had a crazy-bad windstorm that resulted in several large branches littering our yard. Rather than chop them up and toss them in our green waste for the following two months (there were that many branches), Joel decided to reduce, re-use, and recycle them-- as yard decor! He used two large ones to sort of cordon off the cactus garden, which was useful when the baby was smaller; not so much now that he has decided he has climbing-monkey skills. He then used several of the medium-sized branches to build a sort of rustic trellis above the calla lilies and across the wisteria, with an arch leading to the side of the house. The wisteria vines climbed all over the branches, and when the begin blooming every spring (usually in mid-March), they form this beautiful canopy of purple blossoms outside my window. Every time I look outside, I feel a smile creep across my face... how uplifting to the spirits these simple flowers are! This insect appears to share my opinion.

20100401131850(2) (Medium)

(Doesn't Joel take gorgeous photos?)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Interview: Out of My Closet, Part 2

I have been called back for a second interview at the Alameda job! Keeping my fingers crossed and hoping I can do well at this one. The day after I interviewed last week, the director called me and said that they were all very impressed during my interview and wanted to know if I could come back up for a second interview. Of course, I said that would be great, and so we set the date for Wednesday, April 7th. When I got a chance, I told her that I was glad she had called because I wanted to thank her and the rest of the team for such a great experience during my interview; I told her it had been very positive and warm, and that I appreciated the opportunity to meet with so many members of the team that day. She said, "Well, the feeling is mutual. After your interview, the panel was unanimous in saying 'Bring her back!'". How cool is that? It's so nice to get positive strokes every so often.

Anyway, here is what is coming out of my closet for Wednesday's interview. Most of my work-related clothing comes straight from the Kohl's juniors section. Yes, I still shop there, apparently breaking a cardinal rule of the "over-30" set.

The top is a Candies shirt, in pink. As you can see, I just want to keep the color coming; I find gray and black so depressing, and can't see myself dressing for gloomy news. I'll dress for a celebration, instead!:

The pants, also from Kohl's:

And the shoes, which I love dearly but can't remember where I got them:

In another sign of favor from the heavens, the rain will miraculously clear up by Wednesday, unlike last time-- when it started just before I walked out of my car and across the huge parking lot to the building. Luckily, Joel insists that I carry an umbrella in my car, so it turns out I didn't make the kind of first impression that gets sent in to America's Funniest Videos.

PS-- The Interview is TODAY, at 1:00 p.m. CROSS YOUR FINGERS!! (Say a prayer, light a candle, meditate, whatever; just send out your positive vibes!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hair-Razing Experience

So, I tried to cut Ethan's hair the other day, and learned a valuable lesson: It's almost impossible to cut a toddler's hair without completely butchering it, UNLESS (and this is a big point) one of the following conditions is met:

1) You are a trained professional, i.e., beautician with monkey-wrangling experience,
2) Your child is somehow in such a deep sleep that a buzzing set of hair clippers near their face won't wake them up, AND they are sleeping in a position that somehow exposes their entire head of hair and yet keeps them gently supported at the same time.

Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, neither of these pre-requisites was fulfilled when I began my work. With all of the turning, yanking, running, shoving, and other calisthenics going on, he's lucky he didn't end up with a bald spot over each ear or an off-sided mohawk. Instead, he got what we were calling "The Lloyd," as in the character from Dumb and Dumber with the bowl-cut:
bowl cut

Luckily, he only had to go through one day with that beautiful piece of work. Earlier today, we "fixed" it as much as we could, and came up with this:
CIMG2888 (Large)

By the way, in the above picture he is sitting in his favorite place: the portable highchair seat, which we attached to this carved wooden chair that we happened to pick up for $2.50 at a neighbor's yard sale. What a deal! Especially because he LOVES that chair, and will just go and sit in in throughout the day whether or not he's eating. Just hanging out, chillin' in his seat... it seems pretty comfy, probably because Joel moved the seat cushion onto the back of the chair, so now Ethan has a nice cushy head rest. I'm kind of jealous!

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Beautiful Family

We were lucky enough to spend time with some dear friends of ours early in March at a combined birthday party for J, C, and B. At the party, they were so kind as to provide the services of a photographer to take some portrait shots and spontaneous pics throughout the day. We got these lovely pictures to commemorate the event; what a great gift!

All wrapped up in each other...
Julie BBQ pics 066 (Large)

Catching a free ride with Daddy...
Julie BBQ pics 074 (Large)

And finally, Ethan reaches his limit with the posing and such. He wants to go play, and tells me so fairly clearly: "Down!"
mel_ethan031210 (Large)

Thanks, Mom!
Julie BBQ pics 207 (Large)

Ain't love grand?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Interview: Out of My Closet

I had an awesome time at my interview on Monday. I truly enjoyed meeting and getting to know the team, and felt comfortable, confident, and welcomed the entire time. Preparing for it was actually the hardest part, not the least of which was deciding what to wear. I ended up choosing this outfit, which was semi-conservative and professional, but still youthful and unique, or at least not the usual dour gray and black combo that seems to be the norm.

The outfit:
I went to Kohl's and got the bulk of my outfit. The shirt (below) was in aqua, not white; I wanted to have a little bit of color in my wardrobe.
intvw-shirt in this: intvw-Aqua

The skirt I absolutely adore, but I do have a slight problem: Somehow, when I tried it on at home, it was suddenly a size too big! What the heck? Guess I'll have to get it tailored somewhere.

The shoes were basically like these, only matte instead of shiny patent. At least they were comfy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When Good Interviews Go Bad

In honor of April Fool's Day, and to commemorate the fact that I made it through an awesome interview on the 29th, here is a worst case scenario that one should try to avoid when interviewing for a job:


And definitely, whatever you do, don't ever say anything even remotely close to this:

In fact, if you feel like you *might* say something like that, do everyone a favor and call the authorities immediately. Thanks for playing, and Happy April Fool's Day!