Enzo Turns 2 Months

Today was a really fun day. A couple weeks ago while visiting at Kristy’s house we were invited to go roller skating at a local rink today. Apparently this has become Madi’s new favorite activity, and although we weren’t exactly sure how the girls would take to it, we decided to give it a go. Neither Jessica or I have been on skates in at least 25 years, but we both thought it would be fun to get out there. As it turned out, everyone had a lot of fun and got a good workout in the process.

I used to play street hockey on rollerblades as a kid, plus I have fond memories of rollerblading on running trails with my sister Dana, but as I just mentioned, its been quite a while. Well, as it turns out, it’s not much different from riding a bike. Although my stride and balance were a bit compromised at first, it all quickly came back to me, and the same can be said for Jessica. Before we knew it we were both cruising pretty quickly around the rink. We even held hands and did a ‘couples skate’ for a while. The whole thing had a definite 70’s vibe to it, but we had a blast.

More importantly, we were excited to introduce the kids to roller skating in hopes that they would enjoy themselves. We weren’t expecting Elise to get out there, but we were wrong. We started off the morning with a big breakfast in order to provide plenty of skating fuel. We’ve been telling Ava for a few days that we’d be going roller skating this weekend, so this morning she was super excited. She kept saying “I love roller skating” during breakfast, even though she had never actually done it at that point. We started Ava off on skates right away when we got there, but she wasn’t really into it. She struggled with her balance and quickly got frustrated.

Since Jim, Brenda, and Kristy were seated with Elise and Enzo, we took Ava over to them to play air hockey and video games while Jessica, Madi, and I went skating. A bit later Ava gave it a second try, but the outcome was basically the same as her first try. Even though we had a rolling frame for her to hold onto, she was intimidated and wasn’t having fun, so we took her back to play some more with the rest of the family. Later, while Jessica and I were taking a break, we decided on a whim to let Elise give it a try, so we put Ava’s skates on her and took her out there. She did surprisingly well and seemed to be having a really good time. Not surprisingly, seeing Elise out there having fun on her skates made Ava that much more motivated to go back out for round three.

As it turned out, the third time was a charm because Ava really started getting the hang of it. She held onto her rolling frame and did several laps around the rink. At one point we even went into the center with everyone and did the hokey pokey dance, which Ava really got a kick out of. I was surprised that even though I didn’t know hardly any of the songs they were playing, Ava actually knew the words to a couple of them. She was totally singing along and skating. I’ve never felt so old and outdated!

Ava was having so much fun out there that getting her to come in for a break was quite difficult. One of the funnier moments came when they announced that everyone had to exit the rink so they could do a ‘speed skate’ session. By that point I felt quite comfortable on my skates, so I decided to participate. I started flying around the rink, but after two laps one of the employees flagged me over to the side. When I got close to him he said “Sir, this is for girls only.” Needless to say I was pretty embarrassed, but in my defense, I wasn’t the only guy out there who didn’t get the memo. The next speed skate session was for guys, so I got my fix.

Based on how much fun everyone had I think its safe to say that we’ll be doing this again soon, so we owe a big thank you to Kristy, Madi, Brenda and Jim for bringing us along. I’m definitely looking forward to the next time.

After skating we went to Costco for our monthly trip. The girls were exhausted, so by the time we were halfway done with our shopping both girls had passed out in the cart. It was actually pretty cute, causing multiple strangers to stop and comment. Our whole monthly Costco shopping experience thing is actually really funny to me. To an outsider watching us shop we probably look like a family who lives out in the middle of nowhere and has no choice but to stock up on everything. We’ve gotten to a point where we need two carts just to get everything we need, and we’ve got everything from clothes to groceries, dog food, paper towels, you name it. We buy everything there, mainly because its nearly impossible for Jessica to go shopping with all three kids on her own. It’s just too much for one person to handle, and now that I’m working more hours the last thing we want to do is go shopping as soon as I get home from a 12 hour day.

Jessica and I have a little game we play while waiting in line to checkout at Costco where we each guess how much the total will be. Sometimes we’re incredibly close, and I still revel in the time that I came within one dollar. I was cracking up this time though because not only did Jessica and I make our own guesses, but so did the two Costco employees who were ringing us up and boxing up our stuff. I kept thinking to myself, you know you’ve got a lot of stuff when the Costco employees are guessing how much you’ve spent. It’s just better this way though because we won’t have to go grocery shopping for a month, which leaves Jessica one less thing to worry about when I’m away.

As the title of this post suggests, today Enzo turned two months old. A couple days ago he went to the doctor for a checkup, and we were pleased to hear that he has already gained four pounds. That may not sound like much but at his age its actually quite a bit. When you consider that he was 8 pounds at birth, you realize that this is a 50% weight gain for him. The doctor was very pleased with him, however Enzo wasn’t so pleased to receive three shots during his visit. It’s all good though; he’s doing great and growing fast. He’s also starting to show some personality in the form of the sweetest little smile from time to time. I’ve been looking forward to that since the first time I saw him.

The girls are also both doing great. Ava is keeping busy with day care, art class, music class, and soccer. I’m sure it won’t be long before Elise’s schedule is just as busy, but for now she seems quite content to stay home and cuddle with Mommy or Daddy as much as possible. She’s usually more than happy to sit with me and watch concerts on TV. This morning while watching a bunch of amazing guitar players she looked at me and said “I like guitar.” Obviously I was thrilled; then she proceeded to say the same thing over and over. Maybe we’ve got a little musician on our hands. Either way I just love how willing she is to curl up on the couch with me. Ava generally doesn’t like to sit still for long so its nice to be able to spend that kind of time with Elise.

This was a big week at work for me. On Tuesday we launched a new service called Azure App Service. I was the main developer responsible for creating all the web pages describing each portion of the service (Web Apps, Mobile Apps, API Apps, and Logic Apps), and everything went off without a hitch. The launch was super successful and our team received lots of praise from some very senior managers for the work we did. It felt great to make an impact like this so quickly, but as expected, there wasn’t much time to sit around and revel in our victory. We’re already onto the next big project, which is full of several unique challenges of its own.

I’m continuing to enjoy taking the Microsoft Connector bus to work everyday. I’m getting tons of reading time in, meaning that this week I was able to finish ‘Strange Beautiful Music’ by Joe Satriani, then switch gears and read a book called ‘The Council Of Dads’ by Bruce Feiler. The title caught my attention, for obvious reasons, but the subject matter was a bit heavier than I was initially expecting. It’s the true story of a father of young twin girls who finds out he has bone cancer in his left leg. Facing the grim possibility that he may not be around to raise his daughters, he decides to assemble what he calls ‘The Council of Dads’ to help raise them. Each ‘Dad’ was selected to represent a particular quality of their real Dad. Based on my own personal experiences I was able to relate to the story, so it was certainly worth my time. It’s not the type of book I normally read, so most likely next week I’ll get back to something more familiar like another rockstar biography, but its nice to switch things up from time to time.

Since today was such a busy day for us, tomorrow looks like it will be the exact opposite. Our good friend Laurel is coming over to visit, so that should be nice. The girls love playing with her, and we’re looking forward to hearing about her recent travels. I’m hoping to wash the cars, mow the lawn, and of course get some quality guitar time in. Here’s some recent photos of the kids, including Enzo’s second monthly photo.

Enzo at 2 Months
Enzo at 2 Months

Opening some early Easter gifts
Opening some early Easter gifts

Ava and Uncle Jim
Ava and Uncle Jim

Sold My Motorcycle

For the first time since June 2008, I don’t own a motorcycle. Yesterday I sold my 2007 Honda 919, and strangely enough, the guy I sold it to lives in Fairwood, which is the neighborhood I grew up in. It seems fitting that my bike would end up in the area where I grew up. I made the decision to sell my bike several months ago, but decided not to sell it until now because I figured the chances of selling it in the middle of winter in Seattle would be slim to none. I received a fair amount of interest in the bike, but as it goes when selling anything on Craigslist, you have to deal with lots of flakes before you find a legitimate buyer.

It feels weird not to have a motorcycle, mainly because of all the memories Jessica and I have created going on rides over the years. Whether it was riding my first bike (a 1982 Yamaha Seca 650) through the mountains and into Eastern Washington, or the long rides we took on my 2008 Yamaha FJR 1300 to Hurricane Ridge, Seattle to Reno in a single day, Reno to Las Vegas, Vegas to Los Angeles, L.A. to San Francisco on Highway 1, or when we rode it from Seattle to San Diego in preparation of moving there shortly after getting married in 2010. Even after I traded in my FJR for the Honda 919 we had fun riding around San Diego and La Jolla taking in all the amazing scenery. So many great times were had going on rides, but there was one thing we had in common throughout all of them – it was just the two of us.

Once we had Ava it seemed pretty obvious that going on motorcycle rides was going to be a thing of the past, and that feeling only became more and more of a reality as our family continued to grow. It quickly got to a point where the only time I would ride the bike was when I was commuting to and from work. It’s not like I’m going to ditch my family on the weekend to go for a motorcycle ride, so for now getting rid of it was the right thing to do. I was a bit sad to see it go, but I fully plan on owning another bike somewhere down the line when the kids are pretty much grown up. By then we’ll probably be that old couple you see touring in style on a decked out Gold Wing. Something to look forward to I guess.

The good news is that I was one of the fortunate ones who never got in an accident and never got hurt on their bike. I never even used to worry about that kind of thing, but over the past year I couldn’t help but think about the danger I was placing myself in. I’ve got a lot more to lose now than ever before, and as I’ve said many times since having my first child, becoming a parent makes you more aware of your own mortality than ever before. I couldn’t stand the thought of getting injured (or worse) and putting Jessica and the kids through an unnecessary hardship. It just wasn’t worth it.

In other family news, everyone is doing great. The kids have all gotten through their colds and runny noses, so that’s a relief. I haven’t been able to go running all week due to a bad shin splint in my left leg. I’m also having pain in both of my knees, so I can’t help but wonder if this is the right form of exercise for me. I already made the decision that I’m not interested in running road races or anything like that. My only goal is to get consistent exercise, and I’m worried that the constant impact on my joints might be doing more harm than good. I’m starting to explore some other options for exercise, and since Microsoft gives me an annual fitness reimbursement allowance, I think I’m going to get a rowing machine. I like the idea of getting more of a full-body workout that includes lots of cardio with little to no stress on my joints. I couldn’t believe it when I found out about the fitness reimbursement allowance Microsoft gives us, mostly because Amazon would never do something like that, but I’m very appreciative of it and can’t wait to start using it. Microsoft’s commitment to the health of their employees is just one of the many nice benefits that come with working there.

Speaking of work, I just completed my third week and everything is going great. We’re getting ready to launch a new service this week called Azure App Service, and I built all of the web pages describing each part of the service. I’ll put out a link to the pages I built once the service goes live this week. There’s still a lot for me to learn, and it will continue to be that way for months, but I’m really enjoying it and am happy that I made the move.

Last week was also interesting because I started taking the Microsoft Connector bus to work everyday. They have a pickup about 5 minutes from our house, meaning I’m putting practically no miles on my car and get to spend an hour each way reading my book. I quickly finished my Stevie Ray Vaughan biography and started a new book called ‘Strange Beautiful Music’ by guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani. Looks like I’m going to start cranking through the books, so its good that I have quite a few queued up to read. The only downside to taking the bus is that I’m gone for a full 12 hours each day. Because of this I’m thinking that I will start driving my car on Wednesdays. This will allow me to go into the office a bit earlier, and then leave earlier. I like the idea of splitting up the week and getting more time with my family on Wednesday nights.

There isn’t too much else to catch up on around here. This weekend has been pretty relaxing. Yesterday I took Ava to her third soccer class, which she enjoyed very much, then we attended a birthday party at an indoor trampoline place and the kids had fun bouncing around. This morning we ran a few errands, which included a trip to Home Depot to start looking at flooring, paint, and a few other things related to some house projects we plan on doing this year. We found some bamboo flooring that we’re pretting interested in, so we’ll have to do some research on that. Time to get off the computer and help Jessica with a few projects around the house. Here’s a few recent photos of the kids.

Family, Friends, Soccer, and a new guitar

It was another busy weekend for our family, and for me personally it was one to remember because I made the final addition (at least for the next 5 years) to my guitar collection. More on that in a bit, but first, lets talk about all the fun stuff we did with family and friends, as well as Ava’s second week of soccer.

Friday night our good friends Leon, Jodi, and their son Miles came over to our house for dinner. Leon and I have been buddies for about 15 years (going back to my early days at El Gaucho), and although we have both lived in various places during that time (Him in Costa Rica, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Minneapolis. Me in Las Vegas and San Diego), we have always remained close. Fortunately we both ended up back in Seattle at about the same time, and his son Miles was born only 3 weeks before Elise, so getting our kids together to play seems like a no-brainer.

Since I had to work all day on Friday and I knew there wouldn’t be time to get home and make a fancy dinner, I decided to keep it simple by making spaghetti and meatballs. I made the sauce the night before and let it simmer all day until dinner on Friday. It was probably the most reduced (and darkest) tomato sauce I’ve ever made. I thought it was pretty delicious, although I burned the meatballs a bit in the skillet. We also had salad, and Leon was nice enough to make a homemade apple pie, as well as pear sorbet for the kids to enjoy. Most importantly, we all had a great time hanging out. Jessica and I don’t have that many ‘couple friends’ so getting some quality time with them was really nice. Plus the kids had a blast playing together. The funniest part of the night was when Ava opened the front door during dinner, and without anyone noticing, all the kids wandered outside. Luckily Jessica noticed the door open pretty quickly and we rushed outside to find all three kids playing in the driveway. It was pretty cute.

Saturday morning I took Ava to her second soccer class. She was excited to go from the minute she woke up that morning, and by the time we arrived at the field she could hardly contain herself. Unlike our first week when the weather was beautiful, this week we had to deal with lots of clouds and rain, but she didn’t care one bit. We worked on dribbling again, and like last week we got to score a couple goals. I took several short video clips and merged them into a funny little montage of her in class, which can be found on YouTube by clicking here. I’m just glad she is enjoying herself and getting exposure to new things. Hopefully this will continue to be fun for her, but if not there are plenty of other things we can try out as well. Seeing her so happy out there is what its all about, so I’m already looking forward to her next class. The rest of the day Saturday was pretty relaxing for us. We didn’t do much besides hang around the house and watch movies. We knew Sunday was going to be a busy day, so we were all content to have a relaxing Saturday at home, particularly with the weather the way it was.

Sunday morning the five of us headed out at 10:00am and went down to Kristy and Madi’s house in Des Moines. Although the weather wasn’t ideal on Saturday, it was actually considerably worse on Sunday. It was pouring pretty hard, so we had no choice but to stay inside throughout our visit. Earlier in the week Kristy and I had kicked around the idea of taking the kids to a park, but that just wasn’t an option based on the weather. It didn’t matter though; we all had a great time catching up and watching the kids play. Jim and Brenda arrived shortly after we did, and they were very excited to finally meet little Enzo. Brenda obviously has the grandmother’s touch because he slept so soundly with her for quite a while. As always, Madi was great playing with the girls, and Jessica and I were happy with how well they listened and behaved. Ava is also eating a lot more now, which makes me happy. The poor thing was sick for a couple weeks straight, and she lost three pounds. That may not sound like much, but it’s 10% of her body weight, and it was noticeable. She really seems to have her appetite back, and we’re constantly encouraging her to try new things.

Elise seems to have made a full recovery from the cold that was ailing her last week, but poor little Enzo is still dealing with a lot of chest congestion. He gets so much phlegm in his chest and throat, but doesn’t know how to deal with it, so more often than not he swallows it, which ends up upsetting his stomach and causes him to throw up. Unfortunately Kristy found that out that hard way. He was coughing so hard the other day that Jessica had to hold him upside down and hit him on the back several times just to get everything out. Hopefully this won’t go on much longer, but there isn’t much we can do for him. He’s certainly not big enough to be taking any medicine, so we’re trying some naturopathic approaches recommended by my sister Dana.

Jim and Brenda are getting ready to head to Las Vegas on Wednesday for a visit with my Mom, Bob, Sandy, and Terry. This is technically their second trip to Vegas, but the first one was all about Aunt Lisa when she was hospitalized, so this will be their first ‘real’ trip to Vegas. I’m excited for them, and I know my Mom is really looking forward to it. As usual she’s been killing herself trying to get the house ready for visitors. Obviously this is completely unnecessary, but she can’t help it; I just hope everyone has a nice time. They’re going to see Elton John on Wednesday night, and Jersey Boys on Friday night, so it should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to hearing all about it once they return.

The plan after leaving Kristy’s house was to stop by a music store in Seattle called Dusty Strings so that I could order a custom guitar. I had it all picked out in my head; I was going to order a relic’d Bill Nash Stratocaster. When I say relic’d I’m referring to a popular trend in new guitars where you’re getting a new guitar that looks and feels like a vintage guitar. They’re a bit beat up and worn in, but they feel and play amazing. Bill Nash is a local guy down in Olympia who is recognized nationwide as one of the premier relic guitar manufacturers. I had my mind set (or so I thought) but while I was waiting for help, I started playing a different relic’d stratocaster that was hanging on the wall. It was made by a company called King Bee guitars, and although I wasn’t familiar with them, I instantly fell in love with the guitar.

I spoke with a sales guy about the idea of ordering a Nash, but what I thought was going to be a 2-3 month wait was actually going to be more like 6-8 months. I would have been willing to wait, mainly because I had to promise Jessica that I wouldn’t buy another guitar until my 40th birthday (which is about 5.5 years away), but the King Bee was just so nice that I couldn’t justify waiting so long for the Nash when I had the perfect guitar already in my hands. I realize that most people reading this probably think I’m crazy and can’t understand why I would need another guitar. I can’t really explain it other than to say that I just really love playing them, looking at them, and obsessing over them. Each one feels different, plays different, sounds different, and looks different. From a musical perspective, the kind of music that I’m devoted to playing is Texas blues, and my main inspiration is Stevie Ray Vaughan. One of the primary characteristics of that sound is that they play stratocasters with single-coil pickups. I was able to justify it (to myself at least) because I don’t have a guitar with single-coil pickups. All of my other guitars have humbucking pickups, so I can’t get that Texas blues tone that I’m looking for. When I looked up King Bee guitars at the store yesterday, I loved the fact that the guitar, and the single-coil Amalfitano pickups in the guitar, are all hand-made in East Texas. When I plugged it in I couldn’t help but grin because it had the exact tone that I was looking for. Plus, from a looks perspective, its a classic design: Olympic white with a maple fretboard. This style of stratocaster became famous when Jimi Hendrix played one at Woodstock.

Although I was thrilled to be going home with a new guitar, I knew there wouldn’t be much time to play it last night. We needed to give the kids a bath, run to the grocery store to pick up dinner, plus I wanted to work out and shower. I had just enough time to get the guitar mounted on the wall, then spend the rest of the night relaxing with the family and watching a movie. At 5:30 this morning I eagerly jumped out of bed and went downstairs to play my new guitar for 45 minutes before getting ready for work. I took the Microsoft connector bus to work for the first time this morning, which gave me plenty of time to continue reading my latest book, which is a biography on Stevie Ray Vaughan. I opened up to the page where I had last left off, and immediately read about a time when SRV was at some big music event and saw Prince sitting at a table surrounded by bodyguards. Stevie snuck up behind him and whispered in his ear “You may be the Prince, but I’m the King Bee.” I had to smile based on the realization that I had definitely purchased the right guitar.

Here’s a few recent photos of our family. Hopefully you enjoy the video collage of Ava’s second week at soccer. My favorite part is when they’re all huddling together and the coach is talking about teamwork. When it comes time to do a team cheer, Ava may not know what she is supposed to say, but she’s still the loudest one. Then, when they’re supposed to go give the other ‘team’ a high-five, she just runs off on her own in the other direction. She’s hilarious.

Aunt Brenda and Baby Enzo
Aunt Brenda and Baby Enzo

Sleeping Beauties
Sleeping Beauties

Ava the Artist
Ava the Artist

Elise having breakfast
Elise having breakfast

Enzo, just hangin' out
Enzo, just hangin’ out

My new King Bee Strat
My new King Bee Strat

My first week at Microsoft

Well I survived my first week at Microsoft. It wasn’t exactly an easy week, mainly because there is so much for me to learn, but overall I’m very happy with how things have started off. I like my team, and I really like the fact that I’m working on a big website. For comparison’s sake, all of the projects I’ve worked on over the past few years at Amazon and Scrollmotion were applications (web and mobile), so this is a bit different, but in a good way.

Although I’m going to try to keep the comparisons between Microsoft and Amazon to a minimum for now while I get up to speed, there is one observation that already seems fair to make: my new team at Microsoft is more organized than my old team (and the other teams I worked with) at Amazon. The general process my new team uses is to have a weekly meeting with the engineers (towards the end of the week) to discuss what each of them will be doing the following week. When you come in on Monday morning, all of your tasks for the week have already been assigned by a project manager in an online tool. Each task has a priority level associated with it, along with an estimate of how long the task should take to complete. Obviously new things can pop up throughout the week, but for the most part, this is what you’ll be doing this week, so you can plan accordingly. Further, time has been allocated for certain engineers to review your work and provide feedback. I love this format because its so much more organized than what I became used to at Amazon.

At Amazon my team didn’t have a project manager. My new team has three. Work wasn’t tracked very closely, and priorities were always an estimate. Plus they never allocated time for code reviews and feedback. Consequently we would regularly have ‘fire drills’ where something urgent needed to be done immediately. This led to lots of peaks and valleys in terms of your effort, and there just wasn’t a lot of foresight. Obviously I can’t speak for the entire company, but that was my experience both as a full-time employee, as well as when I was a contractor.

I love the fact that I know exactly what I’ll be doing each week, and what my priorities are. There’s no question that a lot is expected of me, and I’m planning on working considerably more hours now than I ever used to, but that’s the tradeoff I was willing to make. For example, yesterday I worked 12.5 hours in order to stay relatively caught up. This means that I put in 50 hours my first week, but that’s fine because its exactly inline with what I was expecting. Like Amazon, the bar is very high at Microsoft, but unlike Amazon, no one really talks about it; its just implied. At Amazon they constantly toot their own horn about how high their bar and standards are. At Microsoft its just a given.

Enough about work. This morning Ava and I attended our first Saturday morning soccer class. The class is held at a nice park about five minutes from our house, and its designated for very young kids like her, as well as their parent(s). Its only a 30 minute class, and its entirely focused on the fundamentals. Today we practiced dribbling the ball (aka Little Kicks) to various landmarks on the field. At the end of class each kid gets to dribble up towards the goal and give it a Big Kick to score a goal. It may be too early to tell but my initial observation is that Ava’s biggest challenge will be paying attention and staying engaged. From a physical perspective, I couldn’t believe how well she did. She seemed to have a lot of natural talent, and I don’t think I’m just saying that because I’m her Dad. As long as she’s enjoying herself I’m happy.

I accidentally made the mistake of parking the car next to the kids playground, so getting her engaged in the soccer class was a bit difficult at first. Throughout the class she kept asking me if she could go play at the park, so once we were done with soccer we headed over to play on the jungle gym and go down the slides. Soon enough most of the other kids arrived to play, so I got a chance to chat with a few of the parents. There was one little girl in Ava’s class who was all decked out in a full Adidas soccer suit, complete with shin guards and cleats. Personally I thought it was a bit overboard, but after class I chatted with her parents for a bit and found out that her name was also Ava, she’s three months older than our Ava (although much smaller), and they live fairly close to us. I remember as a kid that my parents became friends (or at least friendly) with the parents of other kids that I played sports with, so I’m sure that will be in our future soon enough. The class goes for another five weeks, then we’ll have the option to move up to a new class.

It seems like everyone has been sick around here lately. A couple weeks ago Ava had a bad stomach flu that lasted about a week. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, but she powered through it like a champ. We thought we were in the clear with her, but then this week we got a new surprise. Wednesday night around midnight I woke up to the sound of Ava screaming and crying. I went into her room to check on her and saw that she had a very high fever. Jessica came in to take her temperature but then realized that our digital thermometer was broken. I got dressed and jumped in my car to go buy a new thermometer. I went to four different drug stores but all of them were closed. Finally I was able to find a Safeway nearby that was still open, and luckily they had thermometers in stock. When I got home and took her temperature, it read 103.8. This was very concerning so we called the on-call physician at her doctor’s office and explained what was going on. He told us to give her some children’s tylenol, keep her well hydrated, and keep a close eye on her.

The next morning her fever was gone so we thought we were in the clear, but then that afternoon around 4:00 I got a text from Jessica saying her fever was back and was up to 104.6! This was pretty alarming, but she said they were already on the way to the doctor’s office. I left work about 20 minutes later with a plan of meeting them at the doctor’s office, but traffic was so bad that I was still 15 minutes away when Jessica called me at 5:15 saying the doctor had diagnosed her with an ear infection and had prescribed her liquid Zithromax. Today is her third day on antibiotics and she seems to be back to normal. We’ve still got two more days to take it, but that should be about it. Unfortunately now Elise is sick, plus Jessica and I woke up this morning with sore throats. It’s always something, but at least Enzo hasn’t come down with anything.

Jessica injured her ankle, most likely from running, and hasn’t been able to go lately. She’s been doing yoga at home instead but is hoping to get back out there once her ankle heals. I’ve still been going running regularly and am enjoying it. I’ve come to the conclusion that running is the exact opposite of drinking alcohol. With alcohol, you feel good up front, but later you feel like crap. With running, however, its the other way around. You go through the hard part up front, but then later on you feel amazing. The only issue I’m facing right now is that with me getting home from work later than what I’m used to, its not always going to be feasible for me to run in the evenings. I guess tonight is daylight savings time, so that should help me out a bit, but still, after I’ve been at work all day I’m looking forward to coming home and spending time with my family.

Consequently I’ve decided to start running early in the morning before work. Tuesday morning I got up at 5:30 and went on a 4 mile run. It was only 25 degrees outside and I didn’t have gloves on, so by the time I reached the entrance to my neighborhood my fingers and ears were numb. It took about two miles before they came back to feeling normal again. By the end of the run I was going by cars parked on the street that were completely frozen over and I was confused because to me it had warmed up considerably, but obviously that was all due to the run. As it turned out it was still only 27 degrees.

Even on the mornings that I’m not running, I’m committed to getting up at 5:30 because it gives me some quiet time to take a guitar lesson online, practice guitar, or read. The early morning is pretty much my only time to do my own thing, so I’ve come to embrace it. The flip side to that coin though is that I’m exhausted by 9:00 every night. I think its worth it though.

I know that was a long update but its been a very busy week. Oh one more thing; Jessica and I bought plane tickets to go to Austin, TX in November. We’re going the week before Ava’s birthday because Amy and Tom will be in town to watch the kids. We’re looking forward to checking out a new city, seeing some live music, eating out, etc. I told her my only requirement was that I get my picture taken with the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. Other than that I’m wide open. I’m currently reading a biography on SRV and its turning out to be quite the story. We’ll be there for five days, four nights. Neither of us have been to Austin before, so it gives us something to look forward to. Here’s a few recent photos of the kids.

20 Years

Today was a significant day for me for a variety of reasons. As the title of this post suggests, today is the 20th anniversary of my Dad passing away, but on a more positive level today was also my first day at Microsoft. Strangely enough, March 2nd was also my first day working at El Gaucho back in 1999. When you consider the fact that the only reason I got the job at El Gaucho to begin with was that I was Elmer Pellegrini’s son, it makes things even stranger. I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for a while, mainly to pay tribute to my Dad, but I’m going to save that for last. First, here’s a breakdown of my first day on the new job.

I spent the first half of the dat at NEO (New Employee Orientation). As you can probably imagine, there is a lot to go over when joining a big company like Microsoft. Although the orientation is very similar in format to the orientation I attended at Amazon two years ago, there is no question that today’s orientation was much more interactive and fun. They really went out of their way to make sure that everyone was engaged and enjoying their time, while simultaneously gathering all their much-needed information about their new role. I came away from NEO really impressed with Microsoft; the benefits they provide to their employees are world-class, and the commitment they have towards making positive change in the world wasn’t lost on me. It was definitely a good experience, and a very nice way to start my career with Microsoft. I’m sure that is exactly how they intended it.

After NEO I met my manager for lunch. During that time we got to catch up, talk about the team I’m joining, my new responsibilities, and get to know each other on a more personal level. He mentioned having kids, so I asked him how many kids he has. Usually when people ask me this question and I tell them that I have three kids they say “wow!”, and that was exactly what I said when he told me he has seven children! Seven kids is no joke, plus he mentioned that his wife is out of town right now due to a health issue with her Mother, meaning he is caring for all seven of them on his own. That’s impressive.

After lunch we headed back to our building and I was able to start setting up my desk and computers. There’s lots of software to install, accounts to create, etc. I spent about four hours working on all of this but I’m still not done. Looks like I’ll be basically done with all of my setup work tomorrow morning, meaning I should be able to start working on assignments sometime tomorrow afternoon. I also got a chance to meet all of my teammates today; everyone was really cool, and one of them is ex-Amazon, so we chatted about that for a bit. There’s another engineer starting next Monday who will be sitting right next to me, plus there are two other guys on the team that started within the past month, so we’re all basically in the same boat. I’m glad to not be the only new guy on the team, and I’m excited to get to work with such a talented group.

The best analogy I can make to my day today is that it’s just like the first day of school. You don’t know where anything is, and there are lots of unfamiliar faces. In our case, the Microsoft campus is enormous; there are over 100 buildings on the main campus alone! Because of this you need to either drive or take a shuttle in order to get across campus in a timely fashion. One of the things that stands out to me immediately regarding the difference between Microsoft buildings and Amazon buildings is the quality of the decor and furnishings. Microsoft is a high-margin business, and because of that they can afford to spend extra money on fancy artwork, beautiful furniture and lounge seating, huge cafeterias, etc. Amazon is a low-margin business and they simply can’t afford to do these types of things. Don’t get me wrong; its not like the Amazon buildings are a dump. Far from it, but they don’t go the extra mile the way Microsoft does. Luckily we are encouraged at Microsoft to bring our families to campus for things like lunch, family movie nights, etc. I can’t wait to bring Jessica and the kids there to show them around. Based on her experience with interior design I’m sure Jessica will appreciate it even more than I do.

Obviously when you start any new job there is a ‘honeymoon phase’ that lasts for a while, so it’s going to take me some time to give it a realistic comparison to Amazon. Right now everything is a bit over-the-top and impressive. I’m certainly not under the delusion that everything will be perfect at Microsoft, but I can say with confidence that I’m happy with the decision I’ve made, and I’m already proud to represent them. Plenty more updates on this coming soon. Coming home from my first night was also a nice treat because Jessica prepared a delicious Seared Ahi Tuna dinner with roasted Brussel Sprouts and Mashed Potatoes. We enjoyed dinner with some nice local wine (after all it is Washington Wine Month) and I got to tell her all about my big day.

Now I want to pay a little respect to my dear old Dad. In one respect it’s hard to believe that he’s been gone for 20 years, but when I really think about all that has happened in my life since then, it makes perfect sense. At this point I’ve lived considerably longer without him than I did with him, yet all of his little sayings and stories stick with me. One thing he always used to tell me was “Stay focused on what you’re doing. Don’t think about playing baseball when you’re in math class, and don’t think about math class when you’re playing baseball. Presence of mind and awareness are very important.” Another thing he always used to tell me, which was probably my favorite of all his sayings, was “Moderation is the key to life. Too much of anything is no good, but a little bit of poison won’t kill you.” As a kid I used to wonder why anyone would ever intentionally take poison. It wasn’t until I got a bit older that I truly understood what he meant.

One of my favorite qualities about my Dad was the way he always put other people first, even people he didn’t know. For example, we would drive to the grocery store and he would intentionally park in the back of the parking lot even though there were open spaces up front near the entrance. When I would ask him why he didn’t take the spot up front he would say “Leave that spot for some old geezer that needs it. We can walk.” Meanwhile by that point my Dad was in his 60’s and could easily be considered one of those old geezers he was referring to, but he didn’t see it that way.

Another time, my parents went out to dinner at the Metropolitan Grill to celebrate my Dad’s birthday, and my Dad wore a beautiful new tie that my Mom got him as a birthday present. While they were out they ran into some friends, and one of them said “Elmer, what a beautiful tie! I’d get married in that tie.” Well, my Dad took the tie off right there on the spot and insisted that he take it. I asked my Mom if him doing that upset her but she said no, you couldn’t be upset with him because that’s just the way he was. He was generous to a fault.

It seems like every time I meet or speak to someone who knew my Dad they always have something very nice to say, or a fun story to share, and hearing all those great stories always makes me feel really good. He truly was one of a kind, and although I don’t have any regrets about our relationship, I certainly do wish we’d had more time together. I never got the chance to spend time with him as a grown man. I’m sure there are plenty of stories he would have shared with me once I’d grown up that simply weren’t appropriate for an adolescent boy. Now that I’m all grown up and married with my own kids I would love nothing more than for him to be able to meet Jessica, Ava, Elise and Enzo. Unfortunately he was only able to meet Kallan, his first grandchild, before passing away a month later. I know he would be proud of everyone though. He always used to tell me that all he cared about was that my Mom, my sisters, and I were all happy and healthy. Nothing else mattered to him. Considering the love and compassion he showed to complete strangers, you can only imagine how he felt about his own family. He always used to tell me “Don’t do what I do. Make something of yourself and do better than I did.” I know he would be very happy with how the lives of all his children have turned out. We each have families that we love more than anything, and for my Dad, nothing was more important than family.

Enzo at 1 Month
Enzo at 1 Month