March Madness

Not only is it March Madness for the sports world right now, but it’s also March Madness at Microsoft. Our fiscal year ends on June 30, which means we’re just about to begin our 4th quarter. One thing I’ve learned working for large publicly held corporations over the past few years is that Q4 is always crazy. It’s your last chance to drive annual revenue before reporting to the shareholders, and in the world of Azure that means unveiling a bunch of new cloud computing services, as well as supporting broader company initiatives.

Microsoft’s annual Build conference is going on in San Francisco March 30 – April 1. It’s the biggest conference we do as a company, it’s aimed at software developers, and the Azure website is doing a lot to promote it. We’ll even be streaming the event live the whole time it’s going on. There’s obviously a lot of work to be done in order to support this, and I’ve basically insisted to our team leaders that I take on the majority of the development work required to support the conference. This ain’t my first rodeo, but it is how you earn your stripes. I’ve learned over the last few years that becoming more senior in my field is more about your growth as a leader than your growth in technical skills. Hopefully these next few weeks (and months) will contribute in that respect.

A couple weeks ago, on March 2nd to be specific, I had my one-year anniversary at Microsoft. I won’t say it’s hard to believe it’s already been a year, because it’s been so busy since I started, but I will say that my first year has gone by very fast. As I’ve shared in many previous posts, March 2nd, for whatever reason, has been a pivotal day in my life. Yes, it’s the day that my Dad passed away, but it’s also the day I started working at El Gaucho, as well as the day I started working at Microsoft. You can imagine the joy I had when I realized that Jessica’s first night serving tables at El Gaucho Bellevue was, of course, March 2nd.

Speaking of Jessica, I enjoyed reading her post last week, mainly because many of the observations she shared were as new to me as they would be to anyone outside our direct family. For example, it’s impossible for me to know how Elise acts when Ava is gone at school because I’m always working at that time. I don’t even know where Ava’s new school is for that matter. So it was fun to hear her perspective like that in long form. After reading her post I was inspired to do the same thing in my next post. Although I certainly don’t get as much solo time with the kids as she does, I still get my fair share (every Wednesday & Thursday night to be exact), and it’s reasonable to think that my perception of the kids as their father would differ at least somewhat from Jessica’s.

I’ll start with Elise, my little Daddy’s girl. The first word that always comes to my mind when thinking of Elise is ‘sweet’. Everything about her is sweet to me. She’s got the sweetest little smile, the sweetest little voice, and the sweetest little ponytail. When she hugs you, she wraps completely around you and basically melts into you. She simply embodies that word in every way for me. She’s also our most emotional child, and considering that she is now going through the terrible two’s, that means there are plenty of emotional outbursts to deal with. Whereas Ava’s way of dealing with the TT’s was to be downright mean at times, Elise tends to internalize things (like her Daddy) and it all comes out of her in uncontrollable waves of emotion. I’ve found she’s not that hard to console though. If you hold her, take her on a short walk, and give her your undivided love and attention, she’ll snap out of it pretty quickly. It’s probably fair to say that Elise isn’t quite as graceful on her feet as her big sis, but it usually comes off nothing shy of endearing. The other night she fell down the final four or five stairs leading into our living room. Jess and I were sitting there watching a movie and Elise basically did a cartwheel down the stairs, except rather than using her hands to brace herself, she just used her head. For a couple milliseconds she was literally standing on her head on the 2nd step, before crashing to her feet on the hardwood floor. Not something you want to see as a parent, but she’s a tough cookie and she bounced back pretty quickly. We couldn’t help but laugh later once we knew she was okay. Never seen anything like it. Love you so much Weese.

Enzo is approaching 14 months old and he’s doing great. He’s still waking up most nights, which is something the girls grew out of much earlier, but he’s been quite advanced at basically everything else. He was our earliest crawler, our earliest walker, and now our earliest talker. We’re just getting into that exciting phase where his vocabulary is growing noticeably on a regular basis. He’s got beautiful big eyes, although I still don’t know what color they are. Jessica thinks they’re green but I think they’re brown. Enzo’s favorite activity these days is climbing, so if you leave him alone for any length of time you can expect that’s what he’ll be doing when you return. He also loves to get into everything, and I do mean everything. Like his Daddy, he loves playing with pots and pans in the kitchen, but if that’s not an option he’s more than content to simply unload everything from every drawer he has access to. Like his big sisters, he’s a very sweet kid with an infectious smile. And he’s my little boy. I love him to the moon.

Ava is the leader of the group, and sometimes I think she thinks of herself as the leader of the whole family. She has a strong personality, an incredibly natural sense of humor, and fierce determination. She’s also the toughest little kid I’ve ever seen, and I love that about her so much. Other kids are naturally attracted to her, and she always rises to the top as the leader of the group. I don’t have that quality but I admire it in her so much. I’ve already seen it time and again, yet she’s not even 4 and a half years old! Going through the various phases of adolescence won’t be easy with Ava, due to how strong-willed and determined she gets about everything, but hopefully getting through something with Ava will mean it’s all downhill with Elise and Enzo. She’s showing an interest in playing music, which I’m thrilled about, but regardless of which direction she chooses in life I know she will be a success. She’s got a special spark and I love her so much.

Jessica told me something funny yesterday, which was that she and the kids were at the park enjoying the sunny weather, and they came across another family with a daughter named Ava and a son named Enzo! Can you believe that!? What are the chances!? I thought it was the craziest thing. Jessica said she overheard their Mom talking to the kids and simply had to go over there and introduce herself. I told my neighbor about it and he said I should run out and buy a lottery ticket. Too bad I’m so anti-lottery.

What I did go out and recently buy, however, was another electric guitar. I know, I know. What could I possibly need another guitar for? I’m not going to waste anyone’s time trying to justify it, just rest assured I’ve justified it to myself, and more importantly to Jessica. In all honesty it was the least expensive guitar I’ve purchased since high school, and since giving one away to Kallan for his birthday I’ve just felt like something was missing. The best part about it is that Elise loves it! Although it’s official color is Transparent Amber, Elise has already started referring to it as “my orange guitar.” Of course it would be. It’s her favorite color (orange) and it has stripes like a tiger. I asked her recently if she would like that one to be hers someday and she said “yes, that’s my favorite orange guitar.” Guess we know where that one will be going.

I was listening to one of my podcasts this week and heard a great interview with Warren Buffett. The interviewer was asking him why we’re so enamored with rich people and wealth. It turned into a deeper conversation about money and happiness, but then Buffett said something that really struck me. “I could have 20 houses but I wouldn’t be as happy as I am living in the same house I purchased in 1959. I could have 20 cars but I wouldn’t be as happy as I am with my one car. The problem with having lots of possessions is that they begin to possess you.” I loved that statement so much, but also instantly realized that there was a lesson for me to learn there, particularly when it comes to guitars. I’m certainly going to enjoy this new one, but it’s going to be a good long while before my collection begins to grow again.

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about my fascination with this year’s presidential campaign. At that time I was in more of an exploratory mode and wasn’t completely sure which candidates I was in support of. Well, a lot has changed since then, and although I’ve waffled internally about whether or not to share my opinions in our blog, based on Jessica’s encouragement I’ve ultimately decided to do so. I would never write anything political on social media, mainly because I wouldn’t expect the hundreds of people I’m ‘friends’ with to really care about my political perspectives, plus I feel I’m much better conveying an idea long form rather than short, but this blog has a much smaller audience, and therefore has a better chance that someone reading it cares a little bit more about my opinion than someone I haven’t seen since high school. I fully realize that whenever you share your political opinions, it’s a guarantee that someone who reads it will disagree, but that’s a good thing. Some might even call it your birthright. I think it’s what part of what makes us great.

I came into this presidential campaign season fairly certain that I’d be voting for a Republican candidate. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-Obama in any way. I actually think he’s done a remarkable job considering the situation he inherited 8 years ago. I remember how tough those times were for many people, but besides all that, these past 8 years have been the best 8 years of my life, both personally and professionally. In that time I met my wife, had 3 amazing children, got my college degree, bought my first home, and changed careers, so it’s been a very good stretch for me. However I’m a big believer in the pendulum of life; doesn’t matter if you’re talking about politics, sports, music, whatever. The pendulum keeps on swinging, so it seemed natural to me that after 8 years with a conservative leader like George W. Bush, we would shift to Obama, who has been the most liberal president of my lifetime. Now that we’ve had 8 years with Obama, it once again seems natural that we would swing back to the conservative side, and I have no issue with it at all.

Early on in this race I even said to myself “There’s no way I’m voting for Hillary Clinton for President” because she was, in my opinion, the embodiment of the establishment. As it turns out, however, there was one way… One very specific way. As someone who was considering an allegiance to the Republican party I have to admit that the overall buffoonery that has been displayed thus far by the GOP has all but entirely pushed me away. It’s unfortunate too because I thought several of the candidates had some very interesting things to say, but unfortunately Donald Trump has ruined it for me.

I have to admit that when Trump first got into the race I was intrigued. Jessica most certainly was not. She saw right through him from day one, but I’ll admit it, I drank the Kool Aid for a bit. I remember thinking to myself “Hmm, this guy isn’t worried about being politically correct. I kind of like that. He’s also not a professional politician; he’s a businessman, and a successful one at that. He’s got his own money, so he won’t be in the pockets of all the political pundits out there.” Based on those reasons I decided to start paying more attention to Trump, although I quickly realized how short-sided my argument really was.

Quickly the red flags started popping up. Initially all I wanted to hear from Trump were some policy proposals, but he kept not giving them. I quickly grew tired of hearing that we’re going to be great again and we’re going to win so much we’ll be tired of winning. What does that even mean? When did we stop being a great nation? It’s funny because I hear all these people mimicking Trump saying we’re going to make America great again, but I certainly didn’t hear any of them saying we weren’t great before Trump came along with his stupid slogan. All he wants to talk about is building a wall between us and Mexico, and having Mexico pay for it. That’s not a policy proposal, it’s a construction project, and a ridiculous one at that. That was the first red flag. The he says he’s going to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Another red flag. Then he says he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose any voters. Another red flag.

Then came the rallies, and that is when my general attitude towards Trump turned from malaise to disgust. I saw him telling his security to kick protesters out into the freezing cold and not give them their jackets. I heard him encourage his crowd to be violent towards protestors, and even offer to pay their legal fees. Since when is it acceptable for grown men to push and shove teenage girls? To spit in other people’s faces? To punch people in the face because you don’t agree with them politically? I kept asking myself “Aren’t we better than this?” If this is our path towards greatness then our definition of greatness has been skewed.

Overall, I can’t vote for Donald Trump because he’s not presidential. I’m not one of those people that wants to elect a president that they would be comfortable sitting down and having a beer with. I know plenty of guys that are great to sit down for a beer with and none of them (myself included) are anywhere nearly qualified to be president. I want my president to act presidential; I want him to take the high road when someone takes a cheap shot at him, rather than fire back with some sophomoric double entendre. I want someone representing us that the rest of the world won’t mock us for electing. Can you even imagine how our reputation would suffer globally if we elect that guy as our leader?

It’s too bad too, because I think there were some interesting candidates for the Republicans this year, but none of them were able to grab headlines like Trump, and apparently that’s what it takes these days. I’m still a big fan of John Kasich, but at this point he has been mathematically eliminated from receiving the nomination, even though he is still technically in the race. I love his message based around unity, rather than Trump’s message which is based on division and segregation. I nearly lost it the other day when I heard a leader from a white supremacist group say that if you’re not going to vote for Trump you should be forced to renounce your citizenship.

I’m not overly concerned though because I feel quite confident that Trump will not win the presidency. I hope we’re all ready for President Hillary because it looks like that’s what we’re going to get. In all honesty I’m not sure that I am ready for her, but at this point it definitely feels like the lesser of two evils. What is more concerning, however, is that even though Trump isn’t going to be president, you cannot deny the fact that he has struck a chord with millions of people throughout this country. Their frustrations are real and should not be overlooked. When Trump’s campaign is over, all those people will still remain, and dealing with those frustrations needs to be a high priority of our next president. The system needs a shakeup in my opinion, I just hope we can find nonviolent ways of doing it.

On the positive side, I’ve used the last couple months to figure out which issues matter most to me. I used to complain about taxes, but that was the easy way out. What I’ve realized is that I don’t mind paying my share of taxes, I just want them to go to the right places. For me, the basis of the issues that matter most to me is the safety and well being of my family; and those issues are gun control and climate change.

As a parent of young children who will soon be entering the school system, I’m concerned for their safety. The fact that I’m scared for my kids’ safety at school is ridiculous, but that’s the world we live in. Or should I say the country we live in? When I was a kid we did earthquake drills, now they’re doing active shooter drills. To be clear, I have no problem with people owning guns, even though we personally do not and never will own guns. I have several family members who own guns and one thing they all have in common is that they all did it the right way. They registered for a license, went through a background check, and attended training courses. They also keep their guns locked and safely stored in a safe. That’s how it should be done. If someone wants to own a handgun for personal protection and target shooting, I’m totally cool with that. I also have no problem with someone owning a rifle or shotgun for hunting.

What I do have a problem with is civilians owning assault rifles. Those types of guns are designed for one thing and one thing only – to kill humans. So I can think of no good reason that civilians should be allowed to own them. I also think that there should be no loopholes in the law when it comes to purchasing a gun. If you want to buy a gun you’re going to have to go through a background check. Period. If you’re a felon, or you have any form of mental disease, I feel you shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a gun. I realize there are other (illegal) ways of obtaining guns, but it doesn’t change the fact that stricter gun control has already been proven in a number of countries to lead to a reduction in gun-related violence and death. Why do we have to continue to learn our own lessons the hard way? Why can’t we accept the proof that is already out there? Sometimes I feel we’re too hard-headed as a nation, and this is a good example of why.

Regarding climate change, I took a science course at the University of Washington many years ago on this topic, and even then the evidence was overwhelming. The increase in burning of fossil fuels is damaging the ozone layer, and causing severely negative effects on our planet. Global temperatures rise and set new records year after year, yet we do so little. There’s no debate to be had. Anyone that doesn’t believe climate change is real simply needs to educate themselves. Remember, people used to believe the Earth was flat and wondered where the sun went every night as well. I will admit that even though I’ve never doubted the effects of climate change, it wasn’t always a top political priority for me. For a while there my political agenda was almost entirely based on finances, but then I put my views in the context of my family, specifically my children. Obviously I want my kids to live long lives, to have children of their own, and eventually grandchildren. If the longevity of your family is a high priority for you, then how can climate change not be a priority as well? This is why I loved it when Leonardo DiCaprio said in his Oscar acceptance speech that climate change is the biggest threat we face as a species.

So there it is – that’s where I stand. Once again, I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I’m glad it’s okay that we’re allowed to disagree. You know where you’re not allowed to disagree politically? The Middle East. Is that what we want to become? One of my favorite quotes from this campaign season came from Chris Christie. He said “If you’re looking for the candidate that you agree with on every single issue, the only place to look is the mirror.” What’s been most important to me over the past couple months is that I’ve been able to narrow in on what is most important to me politically. Although I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, I would hope that at least no one could question my motivations. I write about them constantly, in fact I’m writing this directly to them (as always), and I want them to understand not only what is important to me, but why.

Must. Play. Pac man.

Sunday lunch with our favorite bugs

Swing fun

Visiting an old friend at the park near our house in Bellevue

My sweet little Elise (and Pippo of course)

Weese playing her orange tiger-striped guitar

It’s all about the kids

Now I remember why I do not make New Years resolutions. I declared writing a post a month as my pseudo resolution and it is now March 10th and I neglected to write anything for February. I would like to say that it is because last month was so incredibly busy that there was just not enough time. The truth is last month was very mellow for us; in a good way. I’m just not that good at taking the time to sit down and type something out. Its too hard for me to sit at the computer and turn everything off enough to concentrate on forming more than a few sentences. It’s the same with returning emails and phones calls. I always have great intentions but I let the kids get in the way and I need to take more opportunities to step out of the room a bit more or find time to myself. I always go back to a quote from Ava’s first pediatrician when I’m feeling like time is slipping away. When you have small kids, he said, “the days seem to drag on but the months fly by.” As soon as he said it, it rang true and I come back to it all the time.

I thought I would write about something a bit different for this post. I want to take some time to preserve the kids, as they are right now. Things move by so quickly and I find myself forgetting the small day to day kidisms; the funny things they say and do. Preserve them for how they really are now. Truthfully.

I’ll start with Ava, because that seems to be the natural place to start since she is the oldest. Even if she were not the oldest just being Ava is likely enough to make her the starting point. She is literally the reason that I get up everyday. I have no need for an alarm clock, unless I should need to wake before the sun (like Michael). Without fail Ava wakes up every morning at or before 7:15. She starts each morning off with a demand for her choice of drink and breakfast. After about 30-45 minutes of waking up time she does not loose steam or slow down until its bedtime. She is a natural leader and does not back down for any of her peers or me. She is becoming a teachers pet at school, I have been told that she loves to remind her classmates of the rules of the class when they forget or act out. Her status within our house has lead her to believe that she is the boss of most any child she comes into contact with. The other day at the gym as we were leaving she says “good bye friend, now its time for you to play what you want.” It’s not uncommon for her to answer for either of her siblings when they are asked a question. She is constantly trying to delegate what little work or responsibility she may have, “Elise, come and pick up these toys now please,” after I have just asked her to pick up the toys and Elise is in the other room. She wants to do everything first and believes that everything belongs to her. She is also an eternal optimist, with undying enthusiasm. She takes great pleasure in encouraging her siblings in whatever they do, be it good behavior or bad. She has a burning desire to help you do anything possible. Mommy can I help you sweep, do dishes, brush Bella, get a diaper, etc. It comes in extremely handy in a lot of situations but it can cause problems at times as well. Envision two little hands trying to reach in to help you wipe up a dirty but.

She is tough as nails and plays rough. Constantly jumping all over the furniture even though its not allowed. Running from room to room, and spinning. There is a lot of spinning these days. She dishes out I love yous and kisses all day long. When I say “Ava, I love you to the moon.” She says “Mommy, I love you to the sun.” The first time she said it to me, I said, “well, that’s a lot farther. I like that.” her reply “yep, it’s a lot more”. She is learning to write and we have started to talk about sounds and letters a lot more. Her new favorite thing to do is to list off words and ask what letters they start with and what words have the same first letter. She wears her rain boots 6 out of 7 days of the week. She can not pass by a puddle without jumping in. At 4 years old I am still carrying around extra pants for her because of this habit. She is obsessed with Dinosaurs, Octonauts and sparkles. She answers to Aves, Goose and Ava P. Her favorite color is purple and she like to wear her hair in a braid like Elsa. She is a fierce little lady and an awesome big sister.

Thank goodness for our sweet Elise or Weese as we say most of the time. I know that all throughout our lives Elise will be the sweet, loving and nurturing daughter. She loves to be held and hugged and kissed. All the time. Every morning she needs to be carried to the couch or my bed to lay for a little bit while she wakes up. If you do not pick her up and carry her you run the risk of ruining everyones entire day. She is extremely sensitive and emotional these days. When she is having a rough day we all pay for it. She does not want to do anything or go anywhere, she’ll walk around the house “I’m sad, Mom. I feel really sad.” She’ll sulk away to a corner or her room for some private time. If she really wants you to come and get her she will sit and yell at you and cry and cry and cry until you pick her up and fix her. To fix her, she usually only requires a good squeeze and to be held. When she does smile she has the cutest little dimple and as Michael likes to call them little picket fence teeth. Her baby, Pippo is like a 5th limb. She does not go anywhere without him and is always very aware of how others are treating him. She frequently makes me give him kisses or hold him while she is busy with something else. She follows her big sister around like she is a goddess and is infatuated with anything that Ava likes. You’ll usually find her carrying multiple toys at once (generally about 3 more than she can handle), my theory is that she is afraid that Ava will take them if she is not holding them. Sharing is a big issue, daily. She is the most adventurous eater of the 3 kids and likes to try whatever is on Mom or Dads plate. She will not drink milk unless you call it chocolate milk. It does not necessarily need to contain chocolate. She loves to sit in my lap, or most anyones lap. She thinks all babies and “so sweet and adorable.” She loves tigers and cats and her favorite color is orange (we may need to keep a watch on her, for fear of her developing into a crazy cat lady). We’ve been taking a lot of walks while Ava is at school the past month and Elise loves to takes her time and listen to the birds, search for a perfect stick, skip and hop and swerve all over the side walk. When she doesn’t have her older sister to follow after she is usually pretty quiet and a stop and smell the roses sort of person. The other day I asked her to quickly get her shoes on so we could go, her reply “I’m finding my perfect, favorite, most special shoes, just a minute Mommy.”

Then there’s Enzo. Oh my goodness, he has already forced me to turn up my “mom game” on many levels. This kid is into everything. We’ve always kept the main cabinets and drawers in each room baby proofed but never all of the cabinets and drawers. He has managed to figure out which ones he has access too and on the daily empties out all the contents. It’s maddening. Should someone put him on our bed, he first move is to push any electronics off of Michael’s bed side table and sit on the table. The good thing about this situation is that once he’s sitting on the table, he’s stuck. He can’t get off by himself. Now that I have figured this out. I first clear off the table then I let him think he’d doing something he’s not supposed and put him on the bed. A few times in a row now it has bought me enough time to quickly get dressed and ready. He’ll tire of this game soon I’m sure. He’s loud, really loud. Sometimes for no reason at all he’ll just give a quick few screams. In the middle of the night his cry still freaks me out. I have no idea how the girls sleep through his cry at night but thankfully they do. He is an extremely light sleeper, but only in the morning and while napping not at night. He loves to be chased around the house, I’ll say “I’m gonna get you” and he takes off running and laughing. He likes to play hide and seek with the girls too. Both girls are horrible at hiding so much so that Enzo has no problem walking in to a room and spotting them right away. He loves it, he thinks he’s a big shot when he walks over to their hiding place and removes the cover. Its amazing to watch too because every time they go to hide it sets of spurts of uncontrollable giggles and they roll around laughing with each round for several minutes at a time. Enzo thinks it’s so funny to stand back and watch them. He has a fascination with balls and cars, go figure, it seems to be such a typical boy thing. He loves to take one or two cars at a time and carry them from room to room rolling them over the different floors. He has recently attached to a lovie of sorts, we call her Foxy, it’s a pacifier with a baby fox hanging from it. It took him a lot longer to attach to something than it did either of the girls. I have my reservations about him using a binkie but it does the job in helping to soothe him so thats what we were hoping for. He’s a sweet, adventurous little boy. He still loves to put his head in the crook of my neck when he’s tired or rub his face with a soft blanket. He likes belly and cheek kisses. He does a great job keeping up with his sisters but every so often he’ll wander off and play on his own. I assume thats his way of taking a break and I get it.

They are all changing before my eyes daily. Toady this is how they are, tomorrow will no doubt bring something new.