Welcome Back Grandma and Grandpa

Today Amy and Tom are flying up to stay with us and watch the girls while we’re in Vancouver next weekend. We haven’t seen them since Christmas so it will be good to have them out. Hopefully they’ll be having lots of fun with the girls while Jess and I get some much needed R&R up north. They’re flying their own plane up here, which is very cool, and that gives them the freedom to stay as long as they like. I’ve still never seen Tom’s plane so maybe this time I’ll have to check it out. We’ve been telling Ava for several days about Grandma and Grandpa coming to visit, so she’s really excited to see them. Obviously Elise is still too small to understand something like that but I know she’s going to love getting time with them as well.

Last week was an especially crazy week for me at work because I found out that my good friend / co-worker, Garth, is leaving Amazon for a role as a Senior Software Engineer at Disney. Garth was the guy who originally interviewed me, and subsequently hired me, for the contracting role at Amazon that caused us to leave San Diego. Later, once I was hired full-time, Garth was my mentor, as well as a good friend. I think its safe to say that he’s been the most instrumental person in my career so far, which makes it really tough to see him go.

I guess you could say the news was bitter-sweet though, because at the same time my manager told me about Garth’s impending departure, he also told me that the next level for me as a web developer is within sight and is something I need to be preparing for. Generally the way it works at Amazon is by the time you’ve been promoted to a new role, you’ve already been carrying out that role’s duties for some time. For me that means now, and its something I place a high priority on.

We have a new web dev joining our team next Monday (which is the day Jess and I return from Canada), and I’ve already been told that I will be mentoring him. Even though I just got a new mentor of my own, I’m excited to be able to help onboard someone and bring them up to speed. Losing Garth means I am now my team’s most experienced developer, which comes with its own share of responsibilities and leadership opportunities.

The first of these new responsibilities arrived Thursday, which was the same day I got the news about Garth leaving. Although I can’t go into any details at this point, I can say that it comes all the way from the top and will be my first opportunity to create something that will be publicly visible. Can’t wait to post a link to it once it goes live! In order to keep up with all the high-priority work I’ve got going on right now I’ve had to put in extra hours at night and over the weekend. I expect these long days to continue right up until Thursday at 4:00pm, which is when I unplug from the world and begin our vacation.

Luckily I’m on Spring Break from school right now, making it easier to deal with everything at work. Once we return from Canada I’ll be back in school for my final quarter. Going to enjoy this week, maybe even get an extra jiu jitsu class in since the girls will always be accounted for, and get ready for the trip. Then I’ll be more than ready to get back in school for the final push. Plenty of updates coming soon.

Spring Break, 2014

I just submitted my final assignment of winter quarter, meaning that I am now officially on spring break. This one is special to me simply because its my last. I’m also excited about this break because I’ll be finishing it with a long weekend in Vancouver with Jessica. Not exactly your typical spring break vacation, but in my opinion this is infinitely cooler than some super cliche spring break trip that usually involves either being drunk on a boat in Lake Havasu, or cavorting around Mexico with a group of delinquents in search of sombreros and cheap tequila. I’ll take hockey games and shopping on Robson any day.

I’d be lying if I said both of us weren’t really looking forward to this getaway. As busy as I am with everything going on at work and school, Jessica might even be busier with everything she does with the girls. We’re definitely thankful to have Amy and Tom coming to spend some time with them. Elise has grown so much since they saw her at Christmas; they’ll hardly recognize her.

Having a new car for the past week has been awesome. No buyers remorse here. I forgot how nice it would be to be able to take the girls in either car (I got them matching car seats at Costco last weekend), and things like an adjustable driver’s seat, heated seats, a working driver’s side window, and power locks have all been very well received. Tomorrow I’m going to get the Honda cleaned up, photographed, and posted for sale. Hopefully it won’t take too long to get rid of it. Since my extremely generous mother refuses to accept the money we’ll get for selling it, we’ve decided to split it in half and use it to open savings accounts for the girls. Thank you Nana.

This weekend will be the first weekend I haven’t worked at all in about a month. We had a major deliverable on Monday and everything went extremely well. It was still a busy week but spirits were high, no more so for me than this morning when I received a little public praise from a senior manager for all my hard work on this project. That was pretty cool. I also had my first session with my new mentor at work this week. Amazon is really big on their mentorship program; they encourage everyone to get a mentor, to become a mentor, and to take advantage of the internal resources that are available to you. I definitely plan on becoming a mentor once I make it to the next level as a web developer, but for now I’m happy to soak up as much knowledge as possible from people who have been around for a long time. My new mentor has been with Amazon for 7 years, which probably puts him in the top 10% of tenure. Getting to learn from someone like that is an amazing opportunity so I’m glad to have gotten started.

I’ve been going to a lot of Jiu Jitsu classes at lunch lately. The exercise aspect of it alone is key, but being able to drop everything, clear your mind, and learn something new is great. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a couple extra classes in during spring break, but spending extra time with the girls is priority number one. This will be a little precursor to what we can expect this summer.

Jessica has tomorrow night off, and it’s the first time she hasn’t worked on a Saturday in months, so we’re going out for a night on the town. Laurel has been kind enough to volunteer to come over and watch the girls for us, so we’re going to bounce around to a couple different places. I think we’re starting off with raw oysters at Rock Creek in Fremont where our old friend Mike Duncan tends bar, then we’re going to visit Rico and see his new place Loulay. It was opened recently by the chef from Rover’s, which was probably our favorite restaurant until it closed last June. I guess this will be a little pre-cursor to our Vancouver trip in a couple weeks. Gotta take advantage of a free night when you can.

Elise has figured out a way to get around, although I’m not really sure what to call it. It’s not crawling, it’s more like land swimming, but it seems to work for her. Every time you set her down she’s on the move, and she’s developing such a cute little personality. She loves to laugh and enjoys watching her big sister running around being crazy. Ava continues to impress us with how good she is with Elise. The older they get the more fun and amazing they become.

Well, time to wrap it up and start enjoying this break. Jess is at work and the girls are sleeping so I guess it’s time to watch Top Gear and some basketball highlights. Perfect timing with March Madness going on. Until we meet again.

Long over due

It’s been over 2 months since I last sat down to write a post. It’s getting harder and harder to step away from the girls for even just a few moments these days. I swear no matter where Ava is playing in the house she can always hear me walk upstairs making me unavailable to her (due to a baby gate a the bottom of the stairs) and immediately she needs me for something. To say that she is going through a mommy phase feels like a colossal understatement. There is never a dull moment in the house and for the most part that makes life tons of fun but occasionally it feels overwhelming as well. When you live with a toddler you quickly get used to never having a moment alone. We do our best to stay busy with new activities but still maintain a routine so that we all have a little downtime. Some days I feel like I’m just “winging” it but I doubt I’m the only Mom that’s ever felt that way. I do the best I can and try my hardest not to judge myself against all the other moms out there who always appear to have things figured out a little bit better than I do. Our girls are healthy and mostly happy so we have the important things covered.

We have been making a point of going out and exploring something new every week. Some of our recent daytime adventures include two different indoor swimming pools, a bilingual play group, toddler story and music time, trampolining, park hoping and more. It’s a good way for us to get out of the house during the day and they are all fun ways for Ava to interact with other kids. At this point Elise is usually just an observer in the activities but it won’t be long before she’s jumping in the mix.

Ava is getting better and better everyday at expressing herself. She continues to add new words to her vocabulary everyday and loves to talk non stop. As we learn to communicate better with each other I can see her meltdowns becoming less frequent. Her current obsession is crayola wonder makers, paints and crayons. We’ll call this her artistic period. The new wonder makers by Crayola are the best. They only write on special paper and do not mark up the house or furniture. I have to give it to crayola they are a great way for toddlers to start drawing. Our biggest battle these days is getting her to put the art supplies away for the night so these are perfect. I literally just put her to bed with a marker in each hand which was a small victory since she usually insists on carrying 6 or 7 around at once.

Elise is doing so great and getting so big. She is already wearing clothes that Ava wore at 12 months. She is still not technically crawling but she can get around pretty well just by wiggling around like a fish out of water. She is about to get her first tooth as well. We’ve had about a weeks worth of rough nights because she is teething, hopefully the tooth is about to poke through so she starts feeling better. She continues to be an extremely happy baby. It is not uncommon for people to comment on her demeanor when we’re out. I’m constantly hearing “she’s such a sweet baby” or something of the sort. She is so easy going and thank goodness for it because I often have to abandon her to run off after Ava.

The two girls are becoming better friends with each day as well. Ava loves to make Elise laugh, (which isn’t hard) the two of them are starting to play together more than ever before and I have even caught Ava trying to teach Elise something new a few times now. It’s a proud moment for me to stand back and watch the two of them together. Life is good.

We Bought a Car!

Although my Mom’s old 96 Accord has been incredibly good to us over the last couple years, I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a new car for a little while. Since we’ve decided to stay in our current house for another year before buying something, I decided now is the time to find a new ride. I’ve been doing tons of research and shopping online, yet ironically enough, Jessica was the one that found our new car. It’s a 2004 Acura TL, and I honestly hadn’t planned on buying something that old, but it only has 24,500 miles on it. I don’t know how that’s even possible for a ten year old car, but it’s practically brand new!

The funny thing is, we actually went to the lot to look at an Audi A4 that we found online, but we knew that they also had this Acura TL with super low miles. I pointed the TL out right away but first went to check out the Audi. As it turned out, the Audi wasn’t in very good condition and just didn’t feel like a good fit. The Acura, on the other hand, just felt like the right car from the beginning. We really liked the way it drives, its been very well maintained, and there was plenty of room for carseats in the back.

I’ve always liked TL’s ever since my Mom bought a brand new one in 1995. Unfortunately she only had that car for two years before totaling it in an accident, but it feels good to have my own now. Its funny because this whole time I’ve been thinking about getting something German, but when it comes down to it I end up with something made by Honda. I guess I’m just a Honda guy. I have a Honda motorcycle, an Acura (which is obviously owned by Honda), plus I’ve owned 4 other Hondas in my life. I firmly believe that they make the best all-around cars in the world, especially when it comes to reliability.

The downside to all this is that I can no longer obsess over researching cars, but its all good. I’ve got plenty else to keep me busy anyway. Speaking of staying busy, work has been insane for me lately. I’ve been working 6 days a week for the past few weeks just trying to stay caught up. I don’t expect this to go on forever but we’ve got some very aggressive deadlines to meet and everyone is chipping in a little extra to make sure we succeed. Combining all this with the rest of my responsibilities hasn’t exactly been easy, but everything is going fine.

Tomorrow Elise turns 8 months old. Time has been flying and she’s getting so big. She’s still not quite crawling but she loves to roll around and play with her toys. Ava does so well around her that we really have nothing to worry about in terms of them being in the room together. Initially we were a little concerned that Ava might run into her or fall on her but so far Ava has been very cautious and sweet with her baby sister. Jessica will be taking some new photos of Elise tomorrow so I’m sure we’ll have those up soon.

Ava is working on potty training these days, although we haven’t actually had any success yet. She has her own potty, and a book about going potty that she loves, so I’m sure she’ll be there in no time. As usual, Jessica does a great job with her, encouraging her and showing lots of patience, even when she ends up with a mess on the floor to clean up. As you can imagine, potty training isn’t exactly the cleanest of endeavors.

We’re really excited to have the new car for our weekend in Canada next month. That’s going to add a whole new level of coolness to the trip. I can’t thank my Mom enough for giving us the Honda back when we lived in San Diego. It made the move up to Seattle with us and has been more than we could ever have asked for, but even she was very happy to see us upgrade. The Acura is much safer, more reliable, and is something that the girls will actually be able to ride in, which is something we were never really comfortable with in the Honda. Next step is to get more car seats I guess. Here’s a few pics of the new family whip. The lighting isn’t very good so its kinda hard to tell, but the car is dark green with tan leather interior. It’s a V6 putting out ~270hp so it’s got some getup. Haven’t been this excited about a car in a while.

Elise Nearly Crawling

It seems that our little(st) girl isn’t quite so little anymore. Over the past week Elise has taken strides (pardon the pun) towards crawling. She is currently able to scoot a bit, and even crawl backwards a step or two, which means its only a matter of weeks before she’s mobile. This of course will result in some changes in our house, especially since Mom is now going to have to chase both of them around the house all day. Having the luxury of setting Elise down and knowing she’ll be there when you return is fading quickly.

In addition to mobility, Elise is showing many signs of growth. She holds her own bottle now, and has even begun forming her own baby babble, which she has been all too happy to share with everyone on some recent car rides. Ava is becoming the natural big sister we knew she would, and has taken to consoling Elise when she is upset. It’s not uncommon for Ava to say “It’s okay honey, I’m coming” when Elise gets upset. She obviously gets that from listening to Jessica and I, but its still super sweet to hear her say it. The other day Ava walked up to Elise and kissed her on the forehead while she was playing. I think its safe to say that these two are going to be incredibly close.

Jessica has recently exposed Ava to swimming, which she seems to enjoy, and to coloring, which she loves. The funny thing with Ava though is that she’ll sit down to color but gets distracted by wanting to hold every crayon or marker, and ends up getting upset because she can’t hold them all at the same time. Although you hate to see her upset, you can’t help but find the humor in the situation. Once she gets over that and actually starts coloring, she has a blast. I was happy to receive my first piece of Ava’s art in my lunch yesterday and love the idea of her doing something creative. Although we had initially thought she might be left handed, it seems safe to say that Ava is a righty, as that is the only hand she uses for coloring.

Jessica has been keeping the girls busy with all kinds of activities lately. She has several girlfriends who have similar aged children and has been able to get together for swimming, trips to the zoo, indoor jumping, sand pits, and more. It’s tough to keep Ava occupied these days but Jessica does a great job. She’s been consistently working 2-3 nights a week, which works perfectly with our schedule.

I’ve been super busy with work lately, including about 27 hours of work on Thursday and Friday to prepare a new feature for testing on Monday, only to find out today that the feature isn’t going to be tested Monday. Oh well. Been going to Jiu Jitsu consistently 3 days a week lately, which has been awesome. I’ve only been back in it for two months but I’m already seeing a significant improvement in my game, and I’m getting back into shape. It’s so nice to have a hobby again; I couldn’t imagine not doing it now.

As always with this time of year I can’t help but think of my Dad. Tomorrow will be the 19th anniversary of his passing. It’s not even a sad thing anymore, it just feels important not to forget. I got a call from my Godfather Pete tonight who said he was pouring a vodka soda with a squeeze of lime in memory of my Dad. I thought that was pretty cool.

Jessica has been off on Sundays lately, which has been great. It’s the only day we have off together as a family so I usually do my best to make sure that no work or studying needs to be done on Sunday. Tomorrow we’ll be doing our standard Sunday brunch, maybe a little later than normal since Jessica is the closing bartender at El Gaucho tonight, then getting ready for the Oscars tomorrow night. We’ve made a point to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible this year and are really looking forward to seeing how things turn out. I always enjoyed watching the Oscars with my Mom as a kid so I hope she’ll be doing the same thing at her place.

Time to go gather Elise, who has scooted away in her quest for mobility.