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Another Thanksgiving in California

For Thanksgiving in 2020, we did our first California Thanksgiving in several years, and prior to that we did the child-free thing of just going out to fancy restaurants on Thanksgiving. But when we got the townhouse back east, we started to celebrate in Philadelphia with our extended family. The pandemic made for quite the disruptive change, and that continued this year. I didn’t expect this year to also be in California, but without the kids vaccinated, we didn’t want to take the risk of traveling. Dinner at home, it is!

In the run-up to Thanksgiving, Adam and I did some toddler art. With Hanukkah arriving the same long weekend as Thanksgiving, I also had my hands full preparing for the start of gifts on Sunday night. Our au pair decided to take the opportunity of a four day weekend to go on a road trip with some friends, so as we sat down to dinner, it was just the four of us.

Given how seamless it was last year, we went with the same diner food again, but had our family dinner at 5PM instead of the afternoon to work around the nap schedules of TWO kids this time. It was again nice to just heat up the food instead of cooking ourselves, but honestly even that was a bit of a strain on my energy. Having two kids under three continues to be an exhausting experience, especially during four-day weekends.

It was little Aaron’s first Thanksgiving, and being the I’ll-eat-anything eater he currently is, he thoroughly enjoyed every dish offered up to him. Adam is growing pickier, but we did manage to get him to eat enough healthy food before letting him go to town on the bread.

It was nice to have this experience of a dinner with just the four of us, but I’m really looking forward to next year in Philadelphia again. At our last family Thanksgiving there, Adam was the only child. Now, there are four young kids in the family! 2022 will definitely be a noisier Thanksgiving, and I can’t wait.

Trains, baby sleep, the zoo, and holiday planning

Several weeks back, Adam and I had a train day. We put on our matching train t-shirts and had a nice stroll around the local BART station. Up and down stairs, and lots of checking out the local buses. From there, we went home and unpacked our Union Pacific O-scale train set. We normally wouldn’t have done that in early November, but having a Hanukkah train is a tradition now, and Hanukkah starts at the end of November this year! That afternoon, the episode of Blue’s Clues we watched also coincidentally had a train theme, so that was fun.

One of the reasons it was just Adam and I at the train station was because Aaron has a new sleep/nap schedule. I’m told every kid has their “thing” (or more than one). For Adam, he’s a picky eater, for Aaron it seems to be that he’s not a great sleeper. So in August I found myself with an increasingly busy work schedule and a 9 month old who still wasn’t sleeping through the night. With work reaching peak busy in September, MJ ended up taking the entire overnight “shift” each night and we started looking into a sleep consultant. It took a few weeks to get an appointment, but in mid-October we were able to do an introductory call, and started taking detailed notes about his sleep. Her advice got us on the path to sleep. He now sleeps through the night, and we’re just fine-tuning some of the details of his new schedule. For one, he still wakes up earlier than I’d like. He’s also not taking long enough naps, so we’re continually tweaking things based on her advice.

As someone who is an avid reader and got 80% of my parenthood skills from reading books, hiring a consultant may have seemed like a strange move. The trouble we had was that there are always weird corner cases that not even the most comprehensive sleep system book could cover. Even if one did, I WAS SO TIRED. I’d rather just call someone and ask what we should do then spend an hour scouring a reference book – and then still not even knowing if what we’re doing is hurting or helping the process. A lot of poor sleep baby stuff is also counter-intuitive, so having someone to walk us through the most difficult parts has been really valuable to our success. We also wanted someone who would listen to us and help us be flexible in methods. In spite of advice from our pediatrician, we knew just letting him cry wasn’t for us, so we used a slightly different tactic that was more palatable to us. It was also nice to be reminded that even if he spends a little time crying as he learned how to self-sooth, ultimately the best thing for him and his developing brain was mastering sleep.

With the current schedule, on weekends Adam and I now get some alone time while Aaron naps in the morning. We’ll go to the outdoor farmer’s market, or over to the donut shop (the pandemic means we’re still not regularly bringing the kids inside stores, but we’ll go into the donut shop if it’s just us – and it often is!). On Sundays we usually go to the library too, which is closed on Sunday but has a nice little climbing playground, a bridge Adam likes running across, and a car-free parking lot that he likes to push the stroller around. He’s almost three years old, so his energy is on the high end, and it’s nice to give him the opportunity to burn some of it off. Plus, getting to walk outside is one of his favorite things.

Walking outside is so much one of his favorite things, that when we went to the San Francisco Zoo recently, he told us that his favorite part was getting to run around. I felt a little bad about this, because I worry we don’t give him enough time and space to do that, but the zoo really is a special place in this regard. It’s largely safe, and has large stretches where he can just let loose. We don’t live in the city anymore, but our area is still pretty densely populated, and busy streets are never very far, and our back yard isn’t very large. With all of this in mind, we’ve started exploring the local parks a bit more. There are a lot of them, and with the weather being pretty mild all year around here, we can go to them most weekends. It’s also been really nice for us adults to get out of the house and enjoy some nature too, and getting some activity is definitely helpful to my health!

We did do other fun things at the zoo though, including the zoo train! It’s a historic miniature steam train that just does a quick loop, but I love it and having kids gives me that many more opportunities to ride it. Adam loved it, and Aaron seemed to not have a bad time. We also brought along my zoo key that worked various information boxes throughout the zoo, and the process of turning the key to make something happen was a lot of fun for Adam. It was a bit of a long trip for two little ones, and Aaron didn’t get his afternoon nap so we’ve learned a little for our next adventure out to the zoo, but it was also nice to stop for lunch (and for me to grab a zoo brew!).

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. On Monday Hanukkah begins. On Thursday Aaron turns one year old. A week after that, my father-in-law and his wife are coming into town for a visit. Now, this isn’t quite as chaotic as actually giving birth at this time last year, but with work and family keeping me so busy, all of this came quickly and I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting it all is. I’ve been staying up late to wrap Hanukkah presents and make holiday and birthday plans.

We’re not cooking for Thanksgiving, but we did need to sit down and get our catering order from a local restaurant sorted. Same for our Hanukkah dinner. For birthdays, we’re celebrating Aaron’s first birthday on his actual birthday, and then a week and a half later we’re doing a big joint birthday party at a park for MJ, Adam, and Aaron while my father-in-law is in town. For that we had to visit the park and decide what space we wanted, and then reserve the space. Even with an outdoor event, our guest list is modest (pandemic!) but we still need to sort out catering for the party, probably a tray of sandwiches that will be easy to grab without spreading germs. I’m excited about all of these things, but I finally understand why parents are so exhausted around the holidays, and grateful for a quiet January.

Hanukkah presents we have so far wrapped? Done!

I’m going for my COVID-19 booster next week too. Here in the bay area getting an appointment took some planning since I was looking at 2+ weeks out for all the local pharmacies. It’s not like this in all of the US, but the demand is high here and distribution hasn’t been as good as I’d like to see. It’s still nice that the boosters came out in time for the most vulnerable in our population to get them before the holidays. I’ve really enjoyed seeing families get reunited, and seeing people start to get back to their normal lives. As I’ve mentioned before, it won’t happen for us until the kids are vaccinated, and they’re not eligible yet, but it does give us hope. Our goal is to get back to see family in Philadelphia as soon as the kids are fully vaccinated, and to spend Thanksgiving next year there.

Finally, I discovered that I had some vacation time to use. I’ve taken a couple Fridays off, and today (yay! I can write in my blog!), and am taking a week off in mid-December. During the week of I hope to get a little rest, get some things done around the house, and hopefully eke out a little time for some personal projects. It’s not quite the fancy vacation in an exotic location that I’d love to have, but it’s probably the vacation I need, and I’m looking forward to it.

Holiday cards 2021!

Every year I send out a big batch of winter-themed holiday cards to friends, acquaintances, and anyone who made there way to this blog post somehow.

Reading this? That means you!

Even if you’re outside the United States!

Even if we’ve never met!

Send me an email at lyz@princessleia.com with your postal mailing address and put “Holiday Card” in the subject so I can filter it appropriately. Please do this even if I’ve sent you a card in the past, I won’t be reusing lists from previous years.

Disclaimer: My family is Jewish and we celebrate Hanukkah, but the cards are non-religious, with some variation of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” on them.

Exclusively Pumping: Round 2

As I began preparing for motherhood three and a half years ago, breastfeeding wasn’t really on my radar. It’s natural, it’s what is best for our child, so I’d do it, close the book. I had no idea how challenging it could be or how emotional I’d be about all of it. I guess I also never thought much about the fact that we’re lactating mammals, and so I also didn’t fully digest that until it was upon me (and it’s still kinda weird!).

Still, a friend of mine suggested I order a breast pump (currently available for free to expectant mothers through the ACA) before he was born and suggested a model, so I got one, because hey – free! Imagine my shock when I struggled with nursing and ended up exclusively pumping. I wrote about here when I was at the seven month milestone. My goal was to pump for a year, but due to travel schedules and other things that interrupted my weaning plans, I pumped for nearly 14 months.

With my second child, my plan was similar, but I had more experience this time, so I was able to be more successful at it and start winding down around month 11 (it takes some time to wean).

My experience was definitely a lot different with my second. Since I knew I was planning to EP, I was able to start everything in the hospital while I was recovering, and really set myself up for success by pumping frequently from the beginning. This gave me a much better supply of milk, but I also think that as a second time mother my body kinda knew what to do. This additional supply allowed me to freeze a lot of milk in the first four months and so I was actually able to start weaning just shy of my little one’s first birthday, and still have enough to get him through.

Supply is a huge topic in the realm of breastfeeding. It’s a major source of stress and desperation. I put on about 30 pounds after my first pregnancy because I was incredibly hungry all the time, and I tried to cut back on how much I was eating, I’d have a drop in supply. Turns out, there is an entire mother-driven (yay!) industry around products designed to boost supply. Cookies, brownies, both fresh and packaged, and lots of herbal supplements in various forms. As a skeptic who is a big supporter of the science-driven medical community, I’d never tried herbal supplements that didn’t have studies to back up their effectiveness. This changed while breastfeeding the first time. I didn’t go overboard, but I did order things from a handful of small companies because I really wanted a magic bullet to boost supply. Alas, for me, there was no magic. None of the brownies or herbal fixes did anything for my supply. The answer was always “take in more calories, drink more water, and pump more frequently.”

Since I knew all of this for my second time around, I skipped all the supply-boosting stuff, and actually packaged everything I had left over that wasn’t expired and sent it to another new mother who was struggling (with the giant caveat, “nothing worked for me, but maybe it will for you!”). Thankfully, I wasn’t as hungry this time around, so my weight gain was limited, but around month nine I did have a dip in supply that caused me to start eating more, and ultimately put on 15 pounds. Fortunately I had lost 50 pounds since my highest weight after my first child, so gaining a few back hasn’t been catastrophic, and while I’m not happy about it, I have a plan to lose it again.

Another big difference this time around? Thanks to the pandemic, there has been no travel. I didn’t pump on any airplanes, or my office, or in cars, or in public restrooms. No putting in requests to have a mini-fridge brought to my hotel room, or tedious packaging of milk to ship home every day when I was at a conference. No careful planning of breaks during events so I could pump, or emailing event coordinators ahead of time to make sure there was a place to pump and store my milk. We were pretty much home all the time, and this made things significantly easier in this respect. Still, it’s not easy to be sole source of food for another person, and to give your body to this whole process.

Which brings me to that fact that when a person gets pregnant, they effectively surrender their body to the small embryo growing inside of them. Diet has to change (no alcohol, but also no deli turkey!), and even some self-care regimes have to be adjusted (love long, hot baths? You’ll need to pause them!). In some cases, like with my second pregnancy, you even have the added load of complications that impact your life. I had severe pelvic pain that began in the second trimester, limiting my mobility, and then gestational diabetes, which required a total overhaul of my diet in the last two months of my pregnancy. Even with daytime blood sugar in check, I ultimately had to start injecting myself with insulin during the last month.

When you’re breastfeeding, the journey is even longer. If I want to have a beer (AND I DO!) I have to time it properly. There are still foods that are off-limits, either because they cause a dip in supply (good bye, peppermint!) or have things that can be passed along in the breast milk (though, admittedly, none of us should be eating fish that’s high in mercury). A lot of medication is unsafe while breastfeeding because it can be passed to baby. And even though I exclusively pumped, strapping myself to a machine multiple times a day to extract breast milk is not something that makes me feel like I have much autonomy.

I had about a month between when I stopped breastfeeding my first child, and became pregnant with my second. Which means my body hasn’t really been my own for over three and a half years.

It’s taken a toll.

I mentioned the weight gain in both breastfeeding journeys, and I felt like I was sacrificing my health (weight gain) for the benefit of breastfeeding. Every time I reduced calories to where I want to be, or exercised more, I saw a drop in supply. As I saw that number creeping up on the scale, I kind of just gave in and did what I needed to do to produce the amount of milk we needed. Constantly thinking of pumping schedules, getting out of bed to pump at night or early in the morning, all added to my mental load, especially as we struggled with sleep problems with our second child. Cleaning pump parts all the time and making sure I had other supplies was also always top of mind. It’s a lot.

I’m grateful that I could naturally carry both my children through 37 weeks of pregnancy, and then provide enough breast milk to last until a little past their first birthdays. But breastfeeding is definitely something that causes me to pause as I reflect on this particular component of motherhood. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: as natural as breastfeeding is, it’s not easy. None of this is. Part of what allowed me to succeed was a fair amount of privilege that allows me to work from home during the pandemic, and the mental health and support to cope with the emotional toll it can take.

Finally concluding pumping this month has been a big deal for me. This won’t be a panacea for everything I’m struggling with, but it does help me get back on my path. I can get my diet back into check, I can see my neurologist about finding a treatment plan for my migraines, and I can even see about antidepressants again if I find that I need them.

Being a parent can be so much fun, and I’m looking forward to being able to fully embrace it all, but with my body being my own again.

Halloween 2021

Halloween is certainly different when you have kids in your life. And different again during a pandemic!

First, there’s decorations. I am not a crafty person and decorating for holidays was never really my thing. But I now have a toddler who loves making art, and holidays are the perfect inspiration. Plus, when I was a kid I remember how much of a positive impact celebrating the holidays had on me. Every year my mother would put our much-loved paperboard cutouts in our windows. I had my favorites, and it really helped set the tone for a memorable season. So, decorations, it is!

With decorations in mind, Adam and I put together a couple creations, one with some typewritten lyrics incorporated. I also brought out some Halloween-y toys and a dish for candy, and our au pair spent time with Adam putting up plastic toy bats and spiders around the family room.

We also carved pumpkins again this year. It’s not something we did while living in San Francisco, partially because living in a high rise didn’t exactly make it easy to showcase our beautifully carved pumpkins, but mostly due to my travel schedule. For years, October was a busy travel month, and most years I was traveling for conferences on Halloween. I had Halloween in Hamburg, Copenhagen, and while pregnant with Adam, in Nashville. With kids, it’s a holiday I’ll definitely be spending at home for the foreseeable future.

Up until the morning before the pumpkin carving I still wasn’t sure what I’d carve. It’s such a magnificent opportunity just once a year, I don’t want to waste it! But given our Star Wars theme costume-wise, I finally settled on creating an R2-D2 pumpkin. I spent a few minutes scouring the internet for a design, and all of them seemed too complicated for someone who is not artistically inclined. I searched for some other Star Wars options, but finally came back to designing one on my own. I think it came out nicely, so I’ll create a template when I can make some time.

Nearly 11 month old baby Aaron came close to the pumpkins to check them out, but mostly sat in his high chair, watching with fascination as we carved.

Adam is currently going through a “ew, yucky” phase where anything messy is subject to rejection. That means pumpkin carving was not on his to-do list. I encouraged him to help, but he wasn’t super keen on “getting yucky” by helping me yank the guts out of a pumpkin. Naturally, he was totally into it when we got out the knives, hah! But since we aren’t horrible parents, we kept his collaboration knife-wise to a minimum.

Our au pair from Brazil joined us in the fun, and had never carved a pumpkin. She went with a conservative choice of Jack Skellington, and knocked it out of the park. She later expressed regret at not selecting something more difficult!

Adam’s first Halloween he was about 10 months old, which wasn’t really old enough to do trick-or-treating (he didn’t eat candy yet!) so the primary celebration we had was going to the village and walking around with all the other families and seeing their costumes, and we sported our own costumes and took pictures. In 2020 there was a pandemic, which drastically limited options, we stuck to setting out candy and just taking some pictures, since going door to door was still pretty unsafe.

This year, we started feeling a little safer at outdoor events. On Saturday we went to a truck-or-treat put on by a local real estate agency. It was within walking distance of home, at a park we’re familiar with, so we figured if it was too busy, we could easily come home. It turned out to be nice. Adam got to get candies from a half dozen cars parked there, and they were giving away pizza and popcorn, two of his favorite things!

Paused on our walk home from the truck-or-treat

Sunday we went to another event in a park. This time was with a local mom group that I’m part of. The event had been rescheduled from the weekend before due to rain, so it was more than I planned to do in one weekend, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. The four of us hopped into the truck and drove out to the park in Hayward to meet up with other families. This park had a couple playgrounds and so we got to enjoy snacks with the boys. MJ mostly carried little Grogu (Aaron) around, while Princess Leia (me) followed The Mandalorian (Adam) all around the park.

Grogu also got to check out the swings.

While The Mandalorian stopped for a snack.

Things were still a little uncertain for trick-or-treating. We put out a table where people could freely retrieve their own candy.

Our neighborhood was a mix of people not participating, people putting out unattended tables, and a few giving out candy at their door while masked. Our au pair joined us (dressed as Rey!) and we did a 30 minute walk up and down our street. It was short, but Adam is still not really old enough to have much candy, and even that far for a not-even-three year old took quite a bit of wrangling! It was a lot of fun to take him out for his first proper trick-or-treating, once he started understanding it, he really got into it.

Finally, as the evening wound down I got to have a bit of fun re-enacting a Star Wars scene with my costume and my pumpkin.

In all, it was a tiring Halloween, but one full of great memories! I suspect this year may be the last we’ll be able to dress up Adam how we want to, he may actually have opinions about his costume next year. We still have a couple of years for little Aaron though.

Punch Card Wreath

A few weeks ago I mentioned my punch card earrings, and someone on Twitter mentioned punch card wreaths. Wreaths? It turns out they really are a thing. In a little booklet called “Make It with Punched Cards” published in 1971 it goes through about a dozen things you can make with punch cards, and one of them is a wreath. I snapped up a copy on Etsy for $8.76 shipped, and hit eBay to get some punch cards.

The first step was creating a “cardboard doughnut” and that meant waiting for a box that had a flat space big enough to make a 14 inch circle. I ended up going with one with a flap, which worked out fine because it wasn’t very creased. I used a sharpie, tack, and string to make the circles and then scissors for the outer edge, and an exacto knife for the inside hole. It took a few minutes, but went well. I am not much of a crafter, so I take nothing for granted!

Then it took me a couple weeks to start the actual wreath. You see, I have two very small children, and not a lot of free time! I was able to create the 50 punch card petals required for this project during some meetings at work (don’t tell!). I did quickly discover that each petal only really takes half a card, so my 53 punch cards went twice as far as I expected! I still have plenty left for my next project.

The stapling and decorating really had to be done when I could focus on it, meaning carving time out of my precious evenings. I really wanted it to be done by Halloween, so I stepped things up last week and got 20 petals stapled around the edge.

And eventually another 20 petals….

And then I got there with the final 10 on the inside circle!

Toss some silver garland on there, and a store-bought Halloween accent, and voila! My office door was ready for Halloween!

I have another store-bought accent queued up for Thanksgiving, but I may need to make my own for Hanukkah. As someone who is not very crafty, it’s been really fun to have and share.

Autumn harvest, a hammock, and a radio

Last weekend we had one of the biggest rain storms I’ve ever seen here in northern California. Admittedly, the bar is pretty low. Even on “rainy” days the rain tends to be little more than a drizzle, and sporadic at that. This storm brought winds and about three inches of rain, which meant we spent a lovely day indoors doing crafts in preparation for Halloween and watching movies.

But that rainy day was an anomaly in an otherwise beautiful autumn here. The weather has started to cool some, but I’m still going out to parks with the kids every weekend. On Saturday mornings we go to the farmer’s market, and it turned out to be very eventful one morning when a bee kept landing on Adam’s hand, and then stung him! I didn’t see the moment it happened, but I think curiosity got the better of him and he must have tried touching it while it was on him. The good news is that he doesn’t seem to be allergic, but he did cry for two hours while I went through a whole list of home remedies to ease his pain. Thankfully, he was fine after a nap, and when we went to the park the next day he noted the bees, and mentioned his wound, but didn’t seem to have an irrational fear of them.

We’ve also been doing some seasonal activities. There’s an apple tree in our back yard that we don’t pay much attention to, but Adam has taken a shine to it and has been eating apples while he’s out there. So the other day I took the boys out back to pick a few to bring inside.

We also made our way to a local pumpkin patch and mini carnival. There were a handful of little rides for kids and snacks, along with a whole area where you could pick out pumpkins. I shifted my work schedule some that day so our au pair could join us to get a real US Halloween + autumn experience. It was also nice for me to be able to bring the boys out to such a place. Growing up, I could see my family going but only to take some pictures. We didn’t have a lot of money, and something like this would have been quite the extravagance. My parents worked hard and kept us clothed and fed, but I’m grateful that we have the means to do more than that. We went on several little rides and Adam and I made our way through a fun house. Having a toddler to run around with really is a lot of fun. The tantrums and boundary-testing is a challenge for sure, but I’m really loving this age.

I’ve also spent a little time outside on my own here and there. I was taking out the trash one night and thought about how I just wanted to sleep outside. I haven’t actually slept outside yet, but I did buy a hammock so I could steal away some moments with a book or podcast in a cozy, relaxing spot.

With the pandemic waning some, I’ve also done some working brunches and lunches out on my own lately. I had pizza in an empty outdoor seating area in the village recently, and going to brunch on Friday mornings when I am meeting-free and can catch up on some reading for work has started to become a thing.

We also decided to go over to the back yard of one of my colleagues for Navaratri celebrations. The outdoor nature of our visit was both in observance of the pandemic, but also because Adam doesn’t have any experience in other peoples’ homes, let alone one that’s not child-proofed! He was still a little tornado in the back yard, but at least the damage he could do was limited. We’re not going to throw open our social calendar now, but we really have been isolated these past 18 months, and a single visit with a fully vaccinated family finally seemed within the realm of safety for us.

In hobby news, I got a couple ham radios! A local acquaintance repairs them and offered to give me one, along with related equipment, I could use to get started. So one morning last month I drove up to Oakland to pick them up. The next step is actually operating. This has been a bigger challenge than I anticipated. We’re working through some sleep issues with Aaron and I’ve been feeling a little too overwhelmed to set everything up and make time to say hello. Hopefully that will change soon, and I’ll have the tools I need for when it does!

DIY Automan Autocar

Last month I wrote about my “The Computer’s Voice” Movie Marathon that I did, and that led to an acquaintance pointing out the Automan TV show from 1983-84. The show is ridiculous. The premise is a computer scientist cop who creates a physical hologram who helps him fight crime. The technology doesn’t make sense, the plots are overly complicated, and it’s simply not a very good show. But it’s fun. As silly it is sometimes, it really broke my heart when I loaded up the final DVD and finished watching the series.

Plus, I had company! The Continuum Drag podcast was watching them too. A few days after each pair of episodes I watched, I would load up the next podcast on my walk or run, and voila! Some folks to enjoy the pain and laughs with. They were definitely harsher on it than I was, but I think I’ve come to be more comfortable with camp and older shows as I’ve gotten older. I also deeply appreciated how bad all the computer scenes were, so I had a fondness for the show that I think is hard for someone who doesn’t work full time in tech to appreciate.

But my favorite thing about the show? The Autocar. It’s instantly recognizable as a Lamborghini Countach LP400, the car that, to this day, I think of when I think of “the car of the future.” I don’t know why the Countach landed in my head like that, but it probably is the most iconic car of the 1980s.

The car graces the DVD cover:

And Shout! Factory (who was responsible for the DVD release) put a lovely clip up on YouTube:

Cool. But then, our friends at Continuum Drag tweeted about Automan merchandise and made me want an Autocar of my own! At first, I publicly mused about 3-D printing one, but after looking into designs and pricing, I started looking at toy cars that already exist and could be repurposed, so that’s what I decided to do.

First stop, eBay! I picked up a Matchbox 1982 Lamborghini Countach LP500 for about $10, shipped.

A few things about this model for this project:

  • It’s green. Looking at the listing again, you can tell from the photos, but I guess I wasn’t looking that closely
  • It has “Lamborghini” scrolled across the sides
  • It has a spoiler
  • Technically it’s the LP500 rather than the LP400, but I am pretty sure the exteriors are the same

My first decision had to be whether I wanted to repaint the whole thing black. I decided against it. I’m not very good at painting (as you will see), and I worried that I’d botch it, and it would just end up looking awful. Plus, this toy is the most fun when the lights are off anyway! And the spoiler? I’ll just have to live with it.

So, paint. I learned from my baby mainframes the best paints to use for this kind of work were acrylics, and I went with Golden Artist Colors.

In the baby mainframe project I learned that putting on a coat of white paint over the black did wonders for having the subsequent color put on. Now, this is also true of the glow-in-the-dark paint, but it turns out the Light Ultramarine Blue I was using doesn’t need a white base coat. I could have saved myself a lot of time and ugliness if I had skipped the white base coat. Oh, well.

But as I said, a base on the green was important for the Spacebeams Aquaris glow-in-the-dark paint. When I put the glowing paint on without a base, it barely showed up. So the good news is, if you could put the blue coat on nicely, you could afford to be a little sloppy with the glowing paint. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at any of it, so my Autocar is a cute hobby craft, rather than a work of art. The glowing paint also is mostly transparent over the blue, but not totally, so it did make for a slightly toned down blue in the light.

But once the lights were off, I was totally in love! The colors were perfect!

It’s my very own toy Autocar!

Oh, yeah, I also got a t-shirt.

Once this was all complete, I felt a bit silly about it all. I’m a 40 year old woman with two small kids, and very little time to myself. This is what I spend it on? But this project is so very me that I kept me entertained and grounded through a transformative time in my life. It’s silly, but it’s mine, and right now I need more that’s just mine.

My 40th Birthday

I turned 40 last month.

I’ve never been super bothered by getting older, and have found that in general, I’ve enjoyed life more as time has gone on. Still, it is a mid-life milestone, and I had few things pegged to it. I wanted to be done having children by the time I was 40 (success!) and I wanted to be in a satisfying, but still growing, place in my career (success!). I also wanted to be a published author, so it was nice to get one of my now rare royalty checks just a few days before my birthday.

My life right now is not without challenges, especially with two small children at home and a continuing pandemic outside, but I have a lot to be proud of and grateful for. Every challenge we’re facing today does have a long term solution, and on hard days I just need to remember to focus on that.

Nice dinners or long weekend trips have been our traditional go-to things for birthdays. Both of these were difficult or impossible during the pandemic, but we knew of something that wasn’t: renting a suite at the A’s baseball stadium! We did it in early August, and while it’s not a relaxing time with two little ones, it is a fun thing we knew we could enjoy safely as a family. We did decide to keep the windows closed this time though. It was a shame not to be able to hear the game and fans as directly as having the nice breeze come in would allow, but the last game we went to proved that Adam wouldn’t shy away from trying to throw things, or himself, out the window if given a few seconds of chance. Much less stress with the windows closed!

MJ really outdid himself with it too. He printed a custom banner to decorate the suite!

Knowing how much I love kitsch and sugary grocery store cake, he got me the BEST baseball cake! Truly, I am totally a child when it comes to birthday cake.

He even rented a spot on the huge game board to wish me a happy 40th birthday during the 4th inning!

To top it off, the A’s won. It was a tiring afternoon for all of us, especially since Aaron is a bit more mobile now, but it was a lot of fun.

On my actual birthday I took the day off from work and took the morning to myself.

First, I ran/walked a 5K so I could award myself a medal I had laying around in my desk.

When that was complete, I treated myself to some pancakes at the local outdoor brunch place, and rounded out the morning by reading in my hammock out back.

For lunch, MJ and I drove out to Dublin where I stopped at a craft store to pick up an order (toddler art stuff!) and made a side stop at a book store. We then picked up pizza (for me) and BBQ (for the rest of the family).

That afternoon I was surprised by our former au pair coming over and doing a little celebration together with balloons and cupcakes, a lovely surprise. Our current au pair also gave me a present “from her and the boys” that was a super cute framed photo of the boys that they helped her paint.

So here I am, 40 years old. Not so bad so far! And the one big thing I learned from my day off is that I need to do some of this stuff more often. I am being worn super thin with my commitments to work and family right now, but I need to take care of myself too. I’m not getting any younger, and I’m a much better wife, mother, and friend when I’ve had time to recharge.

Typecast from my 1938 L C Smith & Corona

“A typecast (blogging) (a.k.a. typecasting or typecasting blog) is a form of blogging by media type and publishing in the format of a blog, but differentiated by the predominant use of and focus on text created with a typewriter and then scanned rather than text entered directly into a computer.” via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typecasting_(blogging)

Before and after the refurbish by Berkeley Typewriter

1938 L C Smith & Corona Super Speed on my desk!