Archive for October, 2013

Forgive me, I’ve had a bit of an adrenaline crash after moving, defending and starting a new job. My intention was to be completely unpacked before starting work on Monday (ha! We’re still no where near unpacked), and finished my final version of my thesis (also didn’t happen, but I’m still waiting on feedback from one member). I think I managed one box since Monday.

These were taken at the beginning of October, before our house and apartment both started resembling something out of hoarders.


Supergirl stands for Truth, Justice, and the rights of toddlers everywhere to refuse naps


We purchased the shoes thinking they would double as holiday shoes. The photos here are out of order, the last one was actually taken first. Nicki was having a hard time walking in the shoes on the backdrop, so we nixed them.

Normally Nicki loves her dress-up for a photo time. The skirt and pearls she couldn’t get enough of! This time she wasn’t as into it. I think it was the tulle skirt she didn’t like. In the past she’s loved the skirts that were soft and flowy. The tulle doesn’t move the same way; it’s scratchy.

We had a fairly good idea that she’d like the fan (super girl needs a breeze in the hair and the cape!) and we got quite a few smiles with it. Once the novelty of the fan wore off, we were done with picture time. There weren’t as many cute photos this time around. I am tempted to get another super girl custom, one without a tulle skirt, in an after Halloween sale and take a few more photos. I can be forgiven for doing ‘Halloween’ photos in November, given everything that’s going on, right? Of course, with the holiday’s coming up, I’m sure there will be no shortage of photo opportunities!

Material Costs
Shoes (Target) – $10, originally $12.95
Outfit (Target) – $18.00
Backdrop (Joann’s) – $9 (50% off!)
Ribbon for Hair – $3.25
Total Cost: $40.25, but we can reuse the outfit for pretend play and the shoes are pretty basic and can do with just about anything.

October 23, 2013


Exhausted, Relieved, Elated, Happy, Drained, Ecstatic. Defended. De-Fend-Ed.

At 4:11 PM my dissertation committee wrapped up their discussion. I had passed with “flying colors”. It was surreal hearing those words. I expected to pass as all grad students who finish their theses are conditioned to expect. What I wasn’t sure on was how my thesis stacked up against the expectation, or how much work my committee would request I do before signing off on it. I was not expecting to walk out, title page in hand, with two signatures already and a third (remote) member ready to sign once it arrived to him. I was hoping, but not daring to expect.

My plan for the day was to go to bed early – no later than 11 pm. I’d drop off Nicki at daycare, then Domingo and I would drive down to Santa Cruz two to three hours before my actual defense at 2 pm. I’d have time to pay the filing fee when I arrived, do a full run through of my presentation before my defense.

The actual day turned out very different.

I’m a believer that impressions matter, and wanted to wanted to project a professional image so I decided to dress “business casual.” I had read everything from full suits required, to not to worry about appearances. Computer science tends to be a very causal field as far as attire goes, so I opted for the “dress one step above your interviewers” (or in this case committee members) rule. When we were packing last week for our move, I made sure I had an outfit I liked, that I could feel confident in. The trouble is, I didn’t set it aside. I expected to be unpacked by now (ha!). That outfit? Buried in one of my suitcases. So at around 11:30 I was madly searching for anything that fit the bill and wasn’t too wrinkled. Luckily I found a pale pink shirt and dark gray sweater that were relatively wrinkle free.

The last step before bed was to print my thesis. I had read that the committee may have specific questions about specific figures, and having a hard copy makes things easier. (My committee did have such questions.)

Last time I tried to print my dissertation it took 54 minutes, 25.9 seconds. Yes, I timed it. I’m a PhD, we do weird things like that. That was back when it was 172 pages, these days it’s 200 pages. That’s a rate of about one page per 18 seconds. At the time I thought the problem was my cheapie printer running out of buffering space. It turns out it’s my laptop and my laptop is dying. It’s having memory corruption errors. I know this because it blue screened of death on me TWICE while trying to print, and hung once and required a full disk check on boot up. After trying for over an hour I abandoned the idea of having a printed copy. But I couldn’t just go to bed at that point. I had no other presentation device. I needed to know whether my laptop would boot or I would be making an emergency run to BestBuy in the morning. That meant I had to wait through the full check disc process. It turned out that as long as I didn’t attempt to print, or open up a web browser, my computer had enough memory to give my presentation. I went to bed a little after 1.

Then Nick decided it was time to get up at 4. And again at 5:30. And finally at 6:30.

Daycare drop off went a little longer than expected. Nicki is handling the switch like a boss. The recommendation was four visit days. The second day she was content to play by herself away from me for twenty minute intervals. The third day she was good for a few hours. Her teachers have been so impressed by how quickly she’s been adapting. No Tears! Still I wanted to wait until snack time to leave, since she’s usually sufficiently distracted by tasty goodness that she doesn’t notice my exit. Snack time was a little delayed, and apparently I have been a little too consistent in my exit. Nicki noticed the pattern. She started to walk off in the direction of snack, but then changed her mind and came flying back into my arms. Little kids are excellent at deducing patterns when they want to be!

Back at home Domingo had not only managed to print my thesis in under five minutes, but had swung by target and picked up brownies and cookies for my committee. Have I mentioned before how absolutely amazing and what a life saver he is?

I finally found the phone number to order coffee for my committee members, a quick shower, and it was time to leave. Despite everything we were still making good time and would be on campus two hours early.

About 15 minutes into the journey to campus traffic stopped. There is exactly one route through the mountains to UC Santa Cruz – highway 17. There was a brush fire and the right lane was closed. Traffic was backed up for miles. We arrived at campus with less than an hour to go. A quick bite of lunch, a few minutes to set-up and it was go time.

October 20, 2013

A Better than Expected Home

I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t super in love with our new apartment. I didn’t want to dwell on the fact that I viewed the apartment as the best in a set of not great options. After all there are a lot of really awesome positives going on for us now: graduating, starting an awesome job, even selling our home in a (localized) good market. Domingo even graciously volunteered to take the long commute. Focusing on the negative just feels ungrateful.

I’m happy to report that the new place has been growing on me. All four of us are enjoying it here (feline and toddler polled.)

When we first brought Nicki into the new place, she ran around in circles. Even with all our boxes crowding the living room she had so much more carpeted space at her disposal here than back in the house. The only carpeting in our old house was the second floor, and the only ‘runway’, so to speak, was the hallway landing near the stairs. Not exactly a safe space to run. One of her favorite activities is chasing Lily. After reading the Tickle Monster book, she chased Lily around saying “tickle, tickle, tickle!” She’s also tried several times to catch and hug Lily.

Lily’s enjoying the new place as well. We plugged in the Feliway diffuser before picking her up from the kennel. I’m not sure if it actually works, or is just placebo. Regardless, we’ve used it every move and Lily always seems to adjust very quickly. After just thirty minutes timid investigation she was already showing signs of being happy with her new digs. She even came out and curled up next to me on the couch for a nap. Maybe she too enjoys the carpet over hardwood floors as well, but whatever the reason she seems to prefer the new home too.

One thing I’m surprisingly happy about is the closet space. The closet spaces are a little larger than they initially appeared. Our apartment is a little irregularly shaped, and the builder extended the closets into the empty spaces. It wasn’t until I was putting stuff away that I noticed it. I actually think we will be able to store everything without needing external storage! I won’t know for sure until we’re unpacked, and we’re not even half way there, but so far so good.

Another thing I am smitten about the apartment is our fireplace. It has a eyeball light pointed to where one might mount a wedding/family photo. Love! If the next place we own doesn’t have one, it’ll be on the short list for home improvement upgrades.

Our wedding photo as a painting. This was a Micheal’s brushstrokes portrait.

Speaking of mounting photos, I decided to move our wedding photo to the master bedroom. The wedding photo is in a great spot (although I admit that was coincidental) and you can see it from the hallway, and the master bath. All entrance way and kitchen photos/wall decor are also mounted. I’m a bit frustrated with myself because I broke one of our wall shelf pillars. I was just a little too tired, and a little too frustrated, and I forced it when I shouldn’t have. Since little cracks have a way of turning into big cracks, especially in earthquake country, I’m contemplating buying another one and keeping it in the box – as a backup. Isn’t it funny how much perspectives change? I remember when I bought it five years ago, $25 seemed like a lot for something that was just decorative. Now I’m willing to spend that much on something that’s going to sit in my closet without a second thought! I’d love to buy a second wine glass wall art. I will be crushed to lose them. But it looks like they have been discontinued.

I haven’t mounted the wall decorations for the office or nursery yet. They’re also the least unpacked rooms. We needed to order new furniture for both rooms (a desk and bureau) and util they arrive we’re not sure what the ultimate layout of the rooms will be. I also know I went a family photo for over the fireplace, but am not settled on which one. Or even whether to use an existing photo, or try and take a new family photo.

Decisions, Decisions.

October 17, 2013


It’s finally here – Moving Day!


We started the day by sending the under 28″ crowd to their respective care providers. I dropped Nicki off to daycare and Lily to “kitty camp” (our euphemism for the kennel). Boarding Lily for the day was a lesson’s learned from a few moves back. I had six of my friends help me move apartments, and in the hustle we noticed Lily was missing. She turned up under the kitchen sink – a hiding place she had never explored before, and that I almost didn’t think to look – after several moments of sheer panic and near tears thinking my indoor-only, can’t-fend-for-herself kitty was gone forever. While I wasn’t worried about Nicki running off into the wild blue yonder if a door was accidentally left open, I thought the transition would be easier for her if the day was as normal as possible.

Drop offs went longer than usual for obvious reasons. There were hugs, and near tears, and more hugs. Nicki has really bounded with her teachers, especially the ones that have been with her from just two months old! They’re her second (and third, and forth) mommies! Linda over at the boarders also takes amazing care of Lily – so much so that she actually sends us Christmas cards of our own cat!

When I arrived back at the house the movers were already there. They got the house packed up in just over two hours. The only hiccup was the crib. It wouldn’t fit through the door assembled and they weren’t willing to unassailable them. No problem, I’m handy with tools, right? Unpacking went just as smoothly.

Side note: I highly recommend Jericho Moving and Storage. I’ve hired professional movers three times and these guys are hand’s down the best. Everyone was great, courteous and extremely professional. The final bill came out to be 16% less than the quote, and that’s after we purchased insurance!

After the last of the boxes were in the apartment it was time to pick up Nicki. Lily got an overnight stay since there wasn’t time to get them both, and daycare highly frowns on overnight stays. The plan was for Domingo to make her dinner while I assembled the crib when we got back. That’s when we hit our first and only major snag.

The movers did dissemble other furniture. (I’m sure they just didn’t want to disassemble the crib for liability reasons.) They taped up all hardware components to the respective furniture to make reassembly easier. When they brought the furniture in, I noticed a cam connector on the floor near the entrance way. I set it aside figuring we’d eventually discover what it belonged to.

When I tried to assemble the crib I noticed that not one, but five of the eight connectors were missing. I had managed to keep track of the screws, but had somehow failed to notice the connectors and five had fallen out of the crib posts in transit. Panic. We didn’t exactly have a plan B sleeping option.

Luckily I had friends in the area who could come over and lend a hand with Nicki while Domingo and I tried to solve our crib fiasco. While I waited for our friends to arrive, Domingo went to the hardware store armed with what we thought was one of the missing five connectors. I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this. When he got home we realized the cam connector didn’t fit in the slot. Not even close. It must have come from a different piece of furniture. I pried out one of the remaining three connectors and realized it was actually a cross dowel. Back to the hardware store Domingo went.

Success. And only two and a half hours behind schedule.

Another side note: Baby Bargains recommends never buying a crib second hand because of the risk of missing parts/hardware. The guy at the hardware store kept referring to these times of items as “assemble once”. After this experience I’m inclined to agree.

October 8, 2013

Difficult Transitions

Things are looking up. We signed a lease on a place to live, and have a new day care for Nicki (2 of my 3 goals for October). We’ll even be moving in time to give us a few visit days giving Nicki a chance to adjust before she has to start at the new place. Win! And the fact that we will be all moved in shortly before Black Friday and just in time to take advantage of sales to buy anything extra we need for the new place? Extra bonus win.

When I first started searching for daycares I couldn’t find anything with an opening. I kid you not, one place didn’t have an opening for the toddler room until 2015. There are toddlers on the waiting list not even born yet. And houses? The average house rental on zillow gets 300+ views in the first day they’re listed. One place had an open house that lasted for just 10 minutes. Seriously, that’s not an exaggeration. Complicating the search was the fact that we really wanted to have the daycare and new living arrangements lined up and somewhat co-located. So I didn’t feel comfortable acting fast. I didn’t want to sign on the dotted line until we had workable options for both figured out. Needless to say, the last couple weeks were not fun.

With my thesis turned in to my committee, I actually had free time so I was able to do most of the leg work. Once I had a short list Domingo took off work and saw the final choices before we committed. We now have both a daycare and a place to live.

We both really like the new daycare. It’s not perfect, but neither is her current daycare. The new daycare’s strength is the toddler room whereas the old daycare’s strength was the infant room. They have so many different kinds of toys, and do so many stimulating activities. We both can see Nicki thriving there. We’re a little worried about the transition, but hopefully the visit days will help familiarize her with the new teachers.

We’re not as keen on the living situation. It’s a fine place, but it feels a little like we’ve settled on something that works rather than found an ideal place. Given the difficulties of finding a house rental (and the horror stories we’ve been told by friends) we opted to do an apartment. The new place has 13% less living space than the current one, and very little storage, which means we will have to part with some things. I’m tend to create emotional attachments to everything (even the baby gear that’s busted – that’s Pooky’s broken stroller that we used when she was just a tiny newborn!) so I’m not looking forward to that process. I’m already feeling a little emotional over a recent trip to good will and it was all stuff I had forgotten about in the garage!

Of course the new place has it’s positives. One benefit of the new place is it has a lot of natural light. After struggling with the lack of light in our current house this past year, I’m very much looking forward to that! It’s a convenient location, close to day care. We even found a really nice local park, far better than the one we’ve been going to! I’m hoping that once we transition to our new lives, and the stress of moving is behind us, we’ll start to enjoy it more.

That just leaves selling our current house on our to-do list. We’re feeling optimistic about that as well (although I don’t think we’ll be ready to sell for a bit). After watching our neighbors’ houses sell we’re fairly confident that we can get back what we paid. I think we might even end up a little ahead. Of course this depends on the government shutdown ending soon and the economy not melting down. I’m hopeful for that too.

October 3, 2013

My One Baby Purchase Regret

Everyone’s bound to have at least one baby gear regret. Domingo and I were doing so well at first. Sure we had some products we didn’t use often (the sleep sheep and moby wrap come to mine) but we did use them a couple of times. They were useful even if briefly, and there really isn’t a cheaper comparable object that would have done well by us.

There’s one purchase I really do regret, even though we use it frequently.

The high chair.

I was so excited about it. It was pretty and pink and girlie, but not too girlie, and soft. So so soft. At first I was worried the seat cushion would be difficult to clean. They most coat the seat cushion in scotch guard because even tomato sauce came out with just a damp towel at first.

So why do I regret it? Because all the extra ‘features’ ended up being way more of a nuisance than a feature.

It started with the straps. They got grimy easily between the creases, and were difficult to clean. The straps seemed superfluous anyway. It’s not like Nicki could fall out through a foot hole, or would stand up and tilt over the side since she was barely sitting at the time. The straps were the first thing to go.

The now empty strap slots were new places to pocket grime. When we moved on to table food for evening meals, (and more and tomato sauce), the seat cushion was in a constant state of mess. It needed to be washed nightly, and the tomato sauce was getting harder and harder to get out completely, especially in the fabric edging. After a couple nights of forgetting to move the cushion from the washer to the drier (and thus Nicki had parked her bottom in the high chair sans cushion several times already) I decided to forgo the cushion during ‘saucy meals’. But after a couple days, I simply stopped putting the seat cushion back on all together.

That lead to a new problem. The seat cushion blocked food particles from the grooves of the various plastic and metal pieces that formed the seat. The high chair was fully adjustable, which meant many parts that could collect food between them. In theory an adjustable high chair is an excellent idea, but in practice we never changed any of the settings. We needed it to be table height, that’s it. I traded washing the seat cover every night, to trying to knock out dried pasta sauce in the foot panel.

This week we were shopping for new furniture and it finally dawned on me. I had effectively turned my $100 high chair into a $20 one. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who will get great use out of a high chair like this one. Evidently, we are not them.