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spacebaby2 is 3

Olive turned three last week. We had a nice little party with a few families over for lunch and cake. It was simple. Each kid got a toy but not a whole goody bag, I'm trying to scale back. We didn't buy decorations. The cake was homemade.

I kept trying to interview Olive throughout the week about what goes on at birthdays, her 3-year-old thoughts were pretty random. Conversations like...

Me: Olive what should we have for your birthday?
Olive: What?
Me: No, I mean... should we have cake? And what else?
Olive: Um... forks!

Day of the party she did pick out a nice dress to wear "because my friends are coming to my house!" she said, it was cute. After lunch we had her sit in her chair and she blew out her three candles by herself. Then Marc took the cake to cut her a piece and everyone was smiling at her saying she did such a good job and she burst into tears. Maybe because she didn't like everyone looking at her, maybe because she didn't understand that she was definitely about to get cake, but I picked her up and held her on the couch and asked her why she was crying and she said "because I'm sad!" and I asked if she wanted to go back to her party and she said "no, I just want to sleep."

my kid.

Marc and I were running around to events every evening that weekend, including day of her birthday, and I felt bad about that so I took a vacation day so we could have some special time. We went to the mall so she could jump around on the indoor playground, and we went to the library. It doesn't take much to have a very special day with a three year old. Olive was thrilled. We got home and I asked what we should play next and she said "let's just snuggle up!" so we did, I put on a slow movie and we napped together.

I'd say she's growing up so fast but the truth is she's not really growing, I'm a little nervous about this, the doctor says she's fine and official shortness doesn't start until you're in the bottom 3% but she's in the bottom 10%, at 35 inches tall. We feed her, give her water, let her in the sunshine, she just doesn't grow. Her marks on the wall were all six months behind Josie, but this birthday she wasn't even to Josie's 2.5 year old mark.

All the rest of her milestones are totally on point. She colors almost in the lines, she's got an adorably perfect pencil grasp, she can draw circles and faces. Three year olds are supposed to be able to carry on a conversation... she's there. She doesn't even need anyone around to carry on a conversation, it just goes. She can count and keep track of objects up to 8 or so, she can count pure numbers up to 13 or 14, then it gets a little random but the numbers generally go up. She knows all kinds of songs. We can understand almost everything she says, even though she has trouble with s sounds. Ask her what a snake says she correctly answers "sssss!" but ask her to say snake and she says "nake". she calls unicorns "waycorns" and tomatoes "buh-matoes". she loves clifford books, cutting with scissors, very long baths, playing outside, dressing herself several times a day, soft blankets and looking out the window. that's olive at 3.


how thermostats work

I mentioned to someone that our house was awfully cold this week but we were powering through it on principle. The last week of April, we had a string of really hot humid days, so we caved and turned on the air conditioner for the first time. We tried just opening lots of windows but were generally miserable and we knew we had a party and houseguests coming so might as well make the switch, no point in making them all sweaty.

Then the next week the temperature dropped into the 40-60°f range and things cooled off FAST, you'd wake up in the morning and the house was 63. But with the forecast calling for 80s a few days later, I was not going to flip the heat on. We got the sweaters out. Our meal ideas all involved some long baking times.

Talking to friends I got a lot of "oh you're not part of the modern world?" type comments about my week. Most people have thermostats now that do the heat/AC flipping for them. If you want your house constantly between 68-73, it'll do it... heat in the morning! AC in the afternoon! Just always using whatever energy it takes, never taking advantage of what nature is doing, never being aware of the fact that tomorrow's forecast will call for AC so why not cut back on the heat, let the house get colder to prepare for it? Everyone just rolled their eyes at me for not figuring this out and for my house not being "smart".

I was proud of us for suffering through a few days with blankets and sweaters, in the name of energy efficiency and thriftiness... apparently that is not a source of pride if you've got technology.

So I guess I won't talk about my old house temperature woes since it gets me laughed at. And I won't talk about my gas or electric bill being close to nothing this month, most people just auto-pay that so who cares anyway.

I am curious to know if there are smart thermostats that are really MY kind of smart, that can anticipate the craziness of a Kansas springtime and open up the temperature variation in response to the forecast? If it's going to be 110 out, cool extra in the morning to prepare. If it's 50 today but 80 tomorrow, don't heat to 68? Smart thermostats for very cheap people, that do more than just hold to a single range for all seasons. I'd invent it but something tells me it wouldn't sell at all... people would complain. They would have to be uncomfortable sometimes.

Let's get Mother's Day back to its roots

Mother's Day is upon us again. It's a day when we honor mothers for everything they sacrifice for us by taking them out to brunch. Does that do it?

The original intention was very very different. What started was a Mothers Day of Peace, when activists took to the streets to say "We gave up everything for our babies, please stop sending them to war!"

What started was a Mother's Day Work Club, because children were dying from poor sanitation conditions. Women went out to improve public health and educate each other in preventing infant mortality so they wouldn't lose any more babies.

Any mother will tell you that motherhood is not passive and not easy. It requires some fight in you - strength for yourself, strength for your babies, and that's what Mother's Day was supposed to be about. I'm asking you today: when did we give up the fight? When did it become about flowers and tea?

If we lived in an age when infant mortality was as low as possible and nobody's son or daughter was being sent off to war I'd say great, bring on the brunch. We can move on, sit back, and be glad mothers have it so great now. But when you look around do you really think we can move on and reduce Mother's Day to a greeting card and flowers? Or do we still have work to do?

I say shame on you marketers who tell women to play nice and go shopping when the enormous sacrifices of mothers are still being wasted. When there are mothers losing children to needless gun violence, when there are mothers whose babies drown in the ocean trying to escape a war-torn country, when there are mothers whose children die because we still can't get food or medicine to the right places, how can you sleep at night thinking that what mothers need is the "perfect gift for her?!"

We don't need brunch. What we need is to know that our mothering efforts will not be in vain. Treat EVERY life as if someone made sacrifices for it. Long pregnancies, long labor, long fights with adoption bureaucracy, long nights without sleep, long hours at work, long conversations with teachers... if you throw any woman's sacrifice away by taking her baby's chance for a meaningful life, you have failed Mother's Day.

It has nothing to do with flowers or jewelry. it's about bringing back respect for Mothering. It is still time to take to the streets. Not to not move on.

also posted to facebook

zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

I always wanted to read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values"
by Robert M. Pirsig. I first learned about it in college from a technical writing professor I had, she said it was about a writer who saw beauty and truths of life in the mechanical and technical challenges of the world. Then I tried reading it in my 20s, got about halfway through, got distracted. Picked it up again this year because I'm reading so much that a long book isn't so intimidating.

Truth be told, the book is exhausting. This guy is riding a motorcycle across the country thinking about philosophy and his former life. He's obsessed with philosophy, logic, quality... but gets so far out there on these issues that it loses its connection to the practical world. All I could think was "man, you've got a lot of time on your hands."

amazon reviewers love this book in droves, and say that if you don't "get it" then you're a "tweeter" who should just go back to reading john grisham. so if you want to think that about me, fine. I don't think I have an attention span issue though, I think it's more that I'd like to think about other things and little steps to move forward. This book is about a man living a simple life, sure, life on the road camping out with his son, eating cheese and sausage, appreciating little things, and fixating on a tiny question like "what is quality?" for 50 pages. People who love this book think this is a perfect way to live as a human. But for me, if I was going to shun the complexities of this world and live on the road, I'd do more listening and less personal pondering. I'd simplify so I could help other people and be part of the world, the character of this book is so not-part of the world he goes totally insane and has to be hospitalized and treated with electric shocks.

I mean you ever talk to a guy who's just so out there and ungrounded all you can do is shake your head and say "you should get a girlfriend"? that's how I felt. he's harping on how he challenges university professors of philosophy and just nabbing them because he doesn't like Aristotle or whatever and I just can't find it in myself to care all that much.

To further insult the fans of this book, I'm going to recommend to all my friends here to read quotes from it, not the whole thing. There are lots of great quotes! Yes, I'm reducing it.

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.”

“You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge.”

“The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.”

“You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.”

“Did Einstein really mean to state that truth was a function of time? To state that would annihilate the most basic presumption of all science!”

I'm not saying you shouldn't read the book. Just saying, if you see a quote and love, if you think to yourself "wow I wish I could read 20 more pages just on this idea!" well then pick up the book. And if you love it, then come back and thank me for introducing it to you while you hate me for not being smart, patient, or tiresome enough to appreciate it as a whole.

I would have liked more motorcycle maintenance.


For spacekid's third birthday in 2013, I bought her the squinkies aquarium gumball machine playset. It was adorable, she loved it, I thought the little animals were cute. This was 2013, long enough into the squinkies fad that I was no longer seeing totally sold out store displays, they were just part of the collections in the aisles of toys r us and target. The gumball machine was inexpensive - $10-15 if memory serves, and came with these cute squishy figures in round eggs.

Flash forward to 2016. I found one of the little round eggs and one little mermaid squinkie and knew where the machine was so I got it out for Olive to play with it. I got to wondering what happened to these things... so I looked online. Not at Target, not at Toys R Us, scattered amazon sellers, the sets in their entirety were shipping from Ebay from hong kong retailers. The company's twitter account says they're "taking a break" and their "new" website is coming soon.

I feel like there's a great story here, I know there's got to be an expert who was there for the rise and fall. From the 2011 stories about how this was the hottest toy on the shelf to this year's backstock in the storehouses of hong kong.

I tried explaining this to Josie and... ready for this? She just told me, "I like Shopkins better." Why? "Because they're funner to play with." Josie does love shopkins, she asks for them at every holiday, arranges them on her playset, takes pictures of them, makes youtube inspired videos of surprise eggs with shopkins inside.

But looking at squinkies, I feel like I now know the future of shopkins.

I tried to explain to Josie what a fad is. I brought up the Thneed from the Lorax - sudden rise, everyone has to have them, soon to be replaced by the next cool thing. I brought up the "try BLUE!" billboard in the cruise ship from wall-e. She didn't get it. She just said shopkins are obviously cool and therefore different.

Although - I have to give some kudos to Littlest Pet Shop, a franchise that has somehow stayed around and relevant since the mid-90s.

When I was little cabbage patch kids were the toy of the season one Christmas. Then decades later, Tickle Me Elmo... right when ebay and the internet were getting big. Oh and beanie babies! I had a gorilla beanie baby in college, I cut the tags off just to spite people because good god who would really think these are an "investment"? Even today articles will come out about someone finding a limited edition princess diana beanie baby worth $100,000 and sure enough you go to ebay and find people listing their purple bears for $250,000 but nobody is buying. People don't understand how "worth" is defined. When you look for ones that are actually selling, they are $15.

I don't think anyone ever bought squinkies as an investment, I just wonder what's the defining line that gives some toy fads the ability to live in the public eye for more than five years. Is there a lesson to be learned here about making your toy too much of a "because it's cool" and not thinking about how to make it really fun to play with? Or was there some political/supply chain issue that messed up the squinkies?

I ordered a 16-pack from the hong kong ebay seller, partially because I want some to go with our gumball machine, Olive really likes it now. I also figured I'd reward the seller for not dumpstering the whole lot. I paid $11.99. They ship for free.


raffle ticket door prize hell

I haven't ranted about raffle tickets in 2-3 years, time to rerun this topic. Poorly run raffle ticket events are a pet peeve of mine. I just got to thinking about it AGAIN this week because... I obsess.

Prize raffles work well at events where everyone comes in, sits down, has a table to set their ticket so it doesn't get lost, and has nothing else to pay attention to except someone calling out a number.

Prize raffles work miserably at come and go events where people are milling about losing their tickets in the bag they're using to carry 800 other handouts.

It's very annoying to be at an otherwise fun event when someone is yelling over a speaker at you, "This is the third time we're calling for 1000892137! If you have ticket 1000892137 please come get your prize! That's 1000892137! Does anyone have 1000892137? Check your pockets people! 1000892137! Someone has to have 1000892137! Who has 1000892137? Okay, well... 1000892137 I guess you're out of luck. We're going to draw a new number! Ready everyone? Ready? 1... zero zero zero... 892... 093! Okay now who's got 1000892093! 1000892093? 1000892093? Surely someone has 1000892093... Dammit people this is for a MINI SAILBOAT, and we have 35 to give out!"

I've always thought it'd be fun to just call out one or two digits and play the odds on multiples. I've never had a chance to test this out, but if you give out 1000 tickets, do the math... 10 people will have 37 as their last two digits. 100 people will have 7 as their last digit. Just say "the first person to make it up here with 7 as their last digit gets this prize!" and see what happens. This might make the come-and-go event work somewhat okay because you'd hope that the last 100 or so people haven't totally lost their ticket, maybe? I've suggested this at several events but the speaker always doesn't get what I'm saying, they're blankly staring out in the crowd for 1000892093 to come through for them after all.



you guys I'm so mad I'm leaving livejournal forever.

just kidding.

real topic for this entry: what do people expect when they join an online community? and why do they post dramatic "you all suck I'm leaving!" posts when they don't get it?

This year I've gotten sucked into a few facebook groups, and the people there are, like, new to the internet or something. Maybe it's because facebook has such a huge swath of the normal population? You have to admit that livejournal, even in its heyday, was a tiny minority of the world. We had some real life friends here but that's only because most of our friends were nerds. Your average grandmother at the supermarket never had a livejournal. But she does have facebook, now! So she gets added to, like, a decorating your house group, and ohmigod we're talking to people three states away! what's going to happen!

I'm reminded frequently in these groups that the internet is apparently new to some people even in 2016. So I'm really amused when these newbies get mad when groups have...

1) Any drama. There's always these group rules about "no name calling! must be nice!" and apparently the newbies see these rules and expect nothing but HUGS. it's worst in the mommy groups. Someone will post up a photo of their kid in a kitchen eating an organic apple sauce and the topic is "we found a healthy brand!", in the background there's some gummy snacks, someone comments that they've found a brand of gummy snacks that are made without high-fructose corn syrup and WHOH GET OUT THE BIG GUNS it's drama time! Pile on the mommy judger! I figure we're all here to improve, right? And if you make a post asking for advice, should you really be trying to control 100.000% of the comments?

these guys wouldn't make it on lj for ten minutes.

2) Anyone going overboard. Posts are most likely to be made by the most excited people, right? This concept is lost on what I call "the lurker flouncer" - their leaving post says they're not like all us other girls they just came here for a few tips but want to keep it simple and can't believe how we take this SO SERIOUSLY. Even if the group has 1000 people and only 30 really active posters... they assume they are one in the 1000 that's the cool "low maintenance" chick.

yes, we know, we know, you're not like other girls.

3) Any change. It was all so cool at first! I was so excited to get to know you all! I joined and posted an intro about myself! Everyone was "so happy to have found this group!" Then we got to know each other and realized we had slight differences and that is SHOCKING, let's start a splitoff group that's going to be COOL like this group USED to be. The idea of every group going through a honeymoon - norming phase is lost on these people. Their new cool group will be totally different.

I bet everyone will be so happy to find it.

When will the whole world, from the high schoolers to the nursing home patients, understand how internet groups work?

This is why I like livejournal. We are over that learning curve.

I think.

Somebody will angrily unfriend me for being too judgy now and prove me wrong.
I work on airplanes and a term we use a lot is "hazardously misleading" - and like all work terms I end up applying it to life.

For example, let's say a warning pops up that says you've got an airplane at your 3:00 on a collision course with you. And you really don't. So, crisis averted, right? Wrong! The pilot could try and pull some quick hero move and get into an even more dangerous situation. It distracts him from good airplane flying. He trusts the traffic system less once he realizes it's not always right - so the next warning he might not take as seriously but it might be real.

In other words it's very bad.

In life it's usually less bad. I saw a stapler sitting on a table and I had papers to staple but when I went to use it, I stapled it and nothing came out, it was out of staples. Hazardously misleading stapler! Wasted my time, sitting there and not being able to deliver, so if we don't have staples at least hide it away (or, as in airplanes, disable and placard!)

And I totally thought about it this week with the stories going around about facebook's "other other" message box -

There Is An Even More Hidden Facebook Messages Folder

Most people are angry that facebook shoves messages back into this "hidden" folder, behind the "message requests" even.

I got burned by this - a really interesting request by a special company wanting me to taste test some cookies, for real, I never got the message. Don't get me started.

What really makes me mad is the fact that you can look up any Tom, Dick or Harry on facebook, and on their profile page there will be a "message" button, just like all your friends! You click it, you type the message, you think the person will get your message, you're never told that since you're not friends your messages get pushed down into an unreachable basement. They never respond to you and you think what a jerk, after I reached out so kindly.

It's misleading! Either don't put the button there, or warn people how it works, so they keep searching for real ways to contact you!

Usability, people. Think about it.

my 4pm list

I read an interesting productivity tip someplace: save your mindless, menial tasks for late in the day when your energy is low and mindpower is spent. Similar to the "don't check email in the morning" philosophy - morning should be reserved for your most challenging projects that require really thinking through things.

I've always used my calendar for some boring scheduled tasks - I moved those reminders to 3pm on Fridays. I also made a list of things to do when I hit that 3 or 4pm "ugh I feel like doing nothing" mental state, which definitely happens. My list is:

1) Read all memos that we've gotten from suppliers lately. Since they get saved in special folders by people I have a habit of being like well they're saved forever, I can read them any time in forever... but that didn't always happen.

2) Check inbox for things waiting on my signature

3) Clean desk

4) Clean computer desktop, "my documents", and download folders where files just seem to seep

5) Revisit top priorities list

6) Spot-check personnel files to make sure folks are documenting recent accomplishments

7) Erase whiteboards. I hate when the marks get left there for months and don't erase. Plus people should be using them to think, and clean whiteboards encourage thinking - especially in those fighting meetings where everyone is stating and re-stating their opinions, I learned this from an IT guy, the second a fight starts go to the whiteboard and start writing down what people are saying. When they see their opinion up there, they drop the need to re-state it.

8) Catch up on industry and competitor news

9) Set up 1x1 meetings with random people - this was a goal from 2014 or something, if you're constantly calling people into your office to talk about improvement, they don't get scared on days when you HAVE to say "Come see me in my office".

DONE. That's enough things to keep me plenty busy and moving even if my brain is tired.


The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

Last time I wrote about spacebaby2 learning to talk randomdreams recommended that I read Steven Pinker's, "The Language Instinct". So I went to the library and picked it up and it's a 494 page academic journey through every exhausting DETAIL of how we learn language and I was like "DAMMIT livejournal friends are such a pain in the ass this is huge there is no way I'm reading this!"

But I took it home anyway and have to admit, it was awesome. Okay so I scanned some chapters. But most of the book I was pulled in and had to read every word because it's just so darn cool reading about how the brain works, how languages work, how magical it all is.

It's all about how unique humans are in our ability to learn, invent, reinvent language. And it is a REALLY cool read if you're around a toddler learning to talk. Grammar and language are these shrubs we've grown in complexity for tens of thousands of years, and our tiny brains dedicate a huge chunk to figuring it all out.

It's instinctive to communicate with each other however we can do it. Years ago deaf kids would be sent away to schools where the parents and teachers wanted them to learn to talk and read lips and that was IT. Instead since the kids were together all the time, they invented their own sign language. They needed flexible, complicated ways to communicate and lip reading wasn't going to do it for them. Sign language is an entire language in and of itself- with inflections and particular idiosyncracies. Years ago some researchers claimed they taught it to gorillas. People who were fluent in sign language disagreed. (So did lots of other researchers and whistleblowers on the studies... but for more info, read the book)

He calls three year olds "gramatical geniuses". In one section he writes down example sentences spoken by a toddler at 18 months through the kids third birthday, to demonstrate how the complexity of grammar is too fast for researchers to even keep up with, and it is amazing. He explains why it's so hard for computers to speak like us.

I had an earlier entry written up before I read the book, of a conversation we had about dinner guests, little almost-3yo Olive wondered why we weren't having friends over for dinner one night, she pointed outside and said

"Just knock them on the door!"

Which was hysterical to us but think about it... that sentence is gramatically correct, even if the words are a bit out of order, you get the idea. And that's all language needs to do, share our ideas.

And I started testing her while I was reading this book, about how their brains absorb weird little grammar rules like a sponge, we had this conversation:

Me: Olive what's that animal?
Her: It's a cat! A cat go, "meow meow meow!"
Me: That's right! The cat goes meow! What about a cow, how does the cow go?
Her: The cow goes MOOOOO.

According to the book, the little grammar "mistakes" toddlers make are mostly very logical... after all, why do we say "held" instead of "holded"? And why would the verb "go" in a question change to "goes" in the answer? So give the kids some credit! But they still absorb our subtle corrections... as Olive demonstrated, quickly.

Baby brains are learning machines, adult brains actually are not so good. Babies can tell the difference between languages that us adults would not be able to detect, our brains are wired for one thing, we've lost our ability to pick those up. The early years are crucial.

I loved his comparison to other animals. Our learning machine brains transform into reasoning/deduction machines. Nature also makes eating machines - caterpillars that turn into goo and emerge as breeding machines - butterflies.

He also talks about the dexterity of an elephant's trunk as being so amazing to us, but that's what elephants do, they evolved to have amazing trunks. We evolved to have amazing language-learning brains. Somewhere along the line good talkers were more likely to survive and more likely to create babies and that's how it works. Language is like our quirk. Humans have been around for 200,000 years or so, we split off about 100,000 years ago and spread around and made it to isolated islands all over the world and eventually rediscovered each other through exploration, and never found a mute tribe. We couldn't understand each other - but then again, it takes an expert to understand old english written just 1000 years ago. I was surprised to learn that it's unrecognizable compared to what we write today.

Two more takeaways from the book: first, he's very sad at the idea that we are losing languages. 300 years ago, a few thousand people could have a community and their own language and do just great. Now everybody moves around so much and there's so much technology, the big langauges rule out. The problem with that is that it's harder to study the interesting quirks that separate or thread through languages when you start whittling them down. If we spoke only english, we wouldn't know anything at all about how babies detect subtle language differences.

He's also very non-judgemental about diversity in speaking. So what if there's some style guide that says you can't end a sentence with a preposition? Who gets to be "right" and call other people stupid, or lazy? A society of lazy talkers would be made up of hard-working listeners, anyway... laziness all around doesn't work in communication. Let's sit back and accept changes and quit the snobbery of what's "proper" English, quit worrying about future generations butchering the language. It's an instinct. Ideas will not go away. Birds will not forget how to make nests.

So thanks, livejournal friends. I loved this book.

The Little Library Locator site

You all know I'm way into little free libraries ever since we built our first one in 2012? We the man and I had this idea for a locator app sort of thing. Little Free Library hosts a world map of all the libraries, but it doesn't show where they are relative to you and you can't copy/paste the addresses to get directions from a map software.

We wanted something fast, a simple list view that just said "here's the closest libraries to you" from where ever you're at.

Luckily LFL data is public (yay!) in the form of a PDF, so we were able to get the data into a format where we could build this up:

Little Library Locator

It can use your location, or an alternate zip code, and show the closest libraries with their addresses linked to google maps so you can get directions and go leave some books. It's been a lot of fun and helped ME even find some more libraries in Wichita, where I swear I had seen them all but our fair city is up to like 20 now. I have a permanent "car library" with me at all times these days, a milk crate full of books with little free library labels on them ready to stock empty libraries.

Happy reading, random book lovers!

well that was awkward...

I'm in this training class with guys from work and as an icebreaker, we're supposed to say where we grew up, what we liked to do as a kid, and one challenge we faced growing up. The challenge question is cool. One guy said he partied too much, another said he was accident-prone and hurt himself a lot, that sort of thing.

My turn comes up and I'm like, "Well I can talk about it now, but when I was a kid I really a nerd. I got made fun of a lot. I didn't fit in."

I get see these supportive nods back, until these replies, "hey spacefem, I think this is an activity to get to know each other? You're supposed to say something kind of surprising."

"yeah, something we wouldn't just know."



storing the kids clothes

I started to write up a comment in mrs_dragon's lj about storing kids clothes but it turned into an entry so here it is.

Baby clothes! They come from the AIR, I promise, I have no idea how our kids got so many clothes.

When Josie started outgrowing clothes, the week after she got home from the hospital I think, I started putting them in big storage bins in the basement. We have a room with shelves that we bought a ton of clear bins for... our favorites are at lowes. I'm a big believer in clear bins. I'd sort the sizes, label per the season, and every size got a dedicated 66 quart storage tote measuring 24-in W x 16.8-in H x 13.1-in D. Newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months summer, 6-12 months winter, 18 months winter, we saved it all because we were definitely having another kid.

Then other kid showed up and I got out the newborn tote and realized... why did I save all this?

I don't know if I was thrifty, sentimental, or just sleep-deprived, but I had everything in there, even outfits we didn't even like, dresses with weird bibs, grimy onesies with stains from very bad days, pants with bizarre height-width ratios, stuff we GOT handed down to us so here I was asking if it was up for a fifth kid. Some clothes I loved! But some I didn't.

And on top of that, Olive got clothes because all babies GET clothes, and some of her sizes were off... she was our tiny baby, whereas Josie beat all growth charts she could find. Olive was born small and just never has put a big priority on growing, so when the seasons hit I was like "How come we have hardly any 18 month winter clothes?!" It's because by the time josie turned one in the summer she was in 2Ts. So even having two girls with early summer birthdays, we had to buy clothes.

My sister had a baby as Olive was outgrowing clothes so I started giving her the bags but I realized... it was too much. So I told her straight out to go through them, and if they go straight to the thrift shop, so be it. I have no sadness.

Reading Marie Kondo got me to realize it again - I was storing too much.

So here's what I started doing. First, I changed to smaller bins - no more 66-quart megatotes. Every size+season combo now gets a 29 quart tote measuring 13-in W x 16.8-in H x 13.1-in D. I like this size because it fits in the tops of closets, too.

I use a big tote for "clothes to sort". I'll go through a kids drawer and sort out everything that's the wrong size or seasonally inappropriate and they go in a big "to sort" tote.

Josie helps with this now. We'll dump out her drawers and I'll have her count out, like, 12 favorite shirts. I tell her we're putting the rest away, not tossing them forever, so the decision doesn't feel too final, she can change her mind if she thinks of a shirt later that she wishes was still available. She actually surprised me with how good she was at sacrificing - mostly because she likes SPACE, even with her toys, she just loves having an empty open room or drawers where she can see everything.

Then I go through when I sort and make categories. 2T short sleeve shirts... how many does any kid need? There's not a hard limit, but I don't think you need 30 if you do laundry every other week or so and have a habit of wearing the same few very loved shirts several days in that cycle. Everything I keep I have to love. And it has to fit in the box. The rest goes to the DAV down the street in big bags.

I've slowed down on buying, too. Less clearance racks. More wardrobe items that mix and match and go together. I saw the Primary ads on facebook, ordered some from there, I like them, they're not cheap but they're sturdy with re-enforced seams. hand me down worthy.

I only buy kids socks 3-4 packs at a time. Kids socks have this curse that they'll be all different colors, every pair. So you're always losing one sock and the pair is doomed. Having several identical packs means you've got 4 or 6 of the same sock, not just two, so they're easier to sort.

I think my sister will be happy, because the 18 month size is the last huge garbage bag of clothes that I sent her, after this it's very scaled back.

This scaling down of the storage is something I'd do whether or not I was personally planning on having another baby - I'm not, for the record. But if I was I'd be really happy to find a small tote of good newborn clothes that I loved, instead of the giant mess I opened before Olive was born.

I've been joking with my friends about the flaws in the "keep only what sparks joy" philosophy... so, no toilet plunger in the house? But when it comes to kids clothes that you're storing for future kids, whether yours or someone else's, I'm really happy to be storing less.


Several years ago as a senior engineer on the single engines, I'd be seen storming into my supervisors office to tell him, "Okay sorry BAD NEWS, I told you my config instructions were released but I just got a call from filing group and they're all angry that I used the version of the form with the page numbers on the LEFT SIDE when they updated it last month to have the numbers on the RIGHT SIDE, they're really upset and cc-ing you on an email about how I used the wrong form so I probably got the the entire team in trouble."

And he'd look up and ask, "Is it going to make the airplanes fall out of the sky?"

And I'd say, "Uh... nope."

And he'd reply, "Reply back and say we'll do it correctly next time, thanks for the pointer, ask if there's anything else the new form asks that they need us to send. I'm not going to respond."

He asked this question for every sort of bureaucratic crisis and gradually I got into this habit of working it into all areas of life, not just work. Is my kid's library book late because we forgot that library day is thursday? are we out of bread and having to use hot dog buns for toast? did I open the resealable cheese bag wrong so now there's a gap between the zip-lock part and the bag part so it's not really resealable?

life goes on, aka don't sweat the small stuff, aka...

airplanes are not falling out of the sky.



It's a cliche, I know, and I've read that if someone actually asks you about your greatest weakness in an interview, you should say "this company is obviously boring and unable to think outside the box, you can't even ask unique questions! This is no place for me!" and storm out.

But I got to thinking about another good answer, if I were to answer this question, or ask someone this question.

I think a good answer would start with the words "There's a guy..."

"There's a guy on my team who, if you gave him a 1000 page report to go through, he will calmly just sit down and pick up page 1 and a month later report back with the most detailed, thorough review. I wish I had that patience. I have worked hard on being detail-oriented, and when I have to be, I've got strategies now... focus for four hours, then give myself a reward of going out to check out the production line is going. Summarize what I'm doing in a powerpoint to imagine that I get to give someone else a high level review. But it hasn't come naturally to me."

I would like hearing an answer like this because it shows that the person 1) pays attention to people 2) thinks about how to leverage the strengths of others 3) is trying to correct for their own shortfalls - all good things.

"There's a guy on my team who can sit through the most boring meeting, and stay totally focused, just looks at the speaker with the upmost respect even if they're droning on and on and everyone else is tearing out their eyes. I wish I could maintain that focus. I'm more likely the person who stands up and says WE NEED TO TAKE THIS TOPIC OFFLINE and when I say that, 8 out of the 10 in the room thank me, but I know that's not always appropriate so I've learned to hold back and really feel out for what's appropriate."

Answers like that.

I got to thinking about this, and googled it, and interview experts agree that the best thing to bring to this questions is a story about your growth - a mistake you've made that you course-corrected on so now it's cool. So they're with me. But the team thing is so important and so overlooked in engineers. I really like asking college students about their senior design teams and how everyone got along - the answers are always facinating. People always come in with this technical story, and that's okay, but we keep digging, because getting along with people is a bigger deal than they think.

the perks of being a wallflower

Book 4 on the Frequently Challenged Book List was the perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

Wouldn't recommend it. It's a high school drama that reads like everything that could possibly happen in an after school special. It reminded me of the family guy parody... "Everything important is happening in front of THESE LOCKERS!" I found the main character to be vague and totally unrelatable, maybe because he's a 14 year old kid who, in an attempt to be a great writer, really dances around everything he's trying to say. It's written as a sort of journal and it's interesting to see his writing style improve throughout the book but starting out? Painful!

In the book, there's a very nice teacher who encourages him. In my experience this is a great way to make a bestseller - write your teacher characters as life-saving, because high school reading lists are chosen by teachers. I accused Catcher in the Rye of doing the same thing and I'm pretty sure the "good teacher" is a prime reason why we're all listening to these whiny oppressed high school boys as main characters in our english classes.

There's a movie version of the book so we rented the movie and Marc really liked it, and I had to admit the movie was an improvement over the book. The main character was NOTHING like the whiny twerp I pictured in my head... that's when I did some math and realized that when the main actor, Logan Lerman, starred in this movie he was 20 years old. I realize this happens all the time... nobody wants to put real teenagers on TV, apparently? But there is a huge difference between 14 and 20! The movie, released in 2012, did a decent enough job with the early 90s soundtracks and references to cassette tapes, but it still didn't feel like it was set in the 90s, the clothes weren't grunge enough, it was like a 2012 movie with mix tapes.

Back to the book... the teacher wants the kid to read The Fountainhead. That right there should tell you something awful.

It's also littered with song references, which I think is kind of lazy - using tons of song and book references feels to me like co-opting a vibe that other artists created.

The book is frequently challenged in high school classes because it has gay characters, sex, drugs, and alcohol. After school special!

So that was my weekend read, 4th on this book list but it's the only book I'd say I was disappointed with. 2 to go.
It's common knowledge that the term "paperless office" is a running joke, right? Back in the 70s, with the advent of computers, futurists predicted that electronic information would drive the end of our need for paper. Everybody believed it. Xerox totally freaked out.

But in 2016 there's still paper everywhere. One IT guy I worked with joked that "electronic routing just means everyone prints out his own copy". I've seen it. It's just too hard to think on a computer screen. I even do it myself. I consider myself a tech savvy, internet generation kinda gal, but when I am faced with a technical problem that I feel stunned by, I have a go-to move: start printing shit out.

The part specs, the manuals, the email with the description of the problem. Then I get out my highligher and colored pencils, I write notes, I NEED that paper. It makes the information clear in my head and I can find a next step.

A month after the problem is solved, I encounter that pile of paper and remember the fabulous conclusion that I summed up in my email response. And all the paper goes into a recycle bin.

You know what we are getting away from?

Filed papers.

We still love paper, but we don't store it, at least from what I'm seeing. For reading, thinking and reviewing, we love paper. For searching, storing and retaining, computers are winning the battle.

This has lead to the file-less office. We file very few things. We used to file everything.

So you know what our supply rooms are full of?

File folders.

Those dark green ones with the metal tabs so you can hang them. Sometimes new colorful ones. Sometimes black.

Usually dark green.

In every stage of wear and tear, or brand new, there are drawers and drawers of empty file folders from the days long ago when we filed things.

And so this leads me to the purpose of this post: if there's one thing that you should not buy new, it's file folders. I can't believe manufacturers are still making them. It's offensive that you can go to staples and find evidence that we just killed another tree for these things. They are everywhere.

If you want to file something, and don't have an office worker in your life, go to ebay. People are selling used file folders by the 100s. I am not alone in encountering the drawers full of them.

If we stopped making file folders now, we'd have enough to last us the next 200 years, at least, until they decay. I bet the ones I'm finding are from the 1950s and they're holding up just fine.

There are just so many - where can they all go?

the life-changing magic of tidying up

I finally got a copy of this 2014 best seller by Marie Kondo: the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. I read it in two days. It was interesting... at times, a little crazy. The author is definitely genetically different from the rest of the population of the world, in some way. She is OBSESSED with organization. But like many eccentric people, she brings something important into the lives of the rest of us. A decluttered living space where everything has a purpose and designated spot makes you feel peaceful and relaxed, just like this book - spend a weekend reading it, and you will be very chilled out.

I see myself as an above-average organized person anyway so I probably won't have my life changed by this book but I did note a few very good moments from the book I wanted to note. Here are my top 3.

1) Storage solutions. Marie Kondo does NOT approve of storage solutions! A million bins and boxes to tuck everything away? Bad idea, you can't see what you have and your stuff is harder to get to. When it's harder to get to you don't use it, and if you don't use it that's a sign you don't need it, so why store it? When she does need an extra bin or tray to keep things straight in a drawer, she uses simple shoeboxes, and lids. She actually devotes several pages in praise of shoeboxes. Everything else "clever" that we buy to maximize every weird space in our houses to store more stuff? NO.

2) Gifts. The theme of the book is that you should get rid of anything that doesn't spark joy within you. Gather the things you own by category - and she does carefully describe every category - touch each object, evaluate it, keep or discard. A lot of clients feel obligated to keep things that are gifts. I can see it. "It was a wedding present from my favorite aunt..." Kondo says that the purpose of gifts are to convey a feeling - once that's done, their job is done. This makes total sense to me and it's something I've talked about before in gift-receiving, when people are like "Why can't I just tell everyone coming to my wedding to give me cash?" or "Why can't I tell each baby shower attendant EXACTLY what gift THEY should give so I know the necessities are covered?" Because they're not giving the gifts just for you! They want part of their unique personality to be part of your marriage/baby/new house. If you can use the item, great. If not, send it on and don't feel bad, now I've got Kondo's words to add to my philosophy... "It did its job."

3) Parents. Several weeks ago Josie and I did a stuffed animal audit. We bagged up two huge bags of stuffed animals that she didn't love anymore, to send to the thrift store for other kids. I was really proud of Josie for being willing to send so many away. Then what happened? Marc saw the bags and did the, "But you're not getting rid of the squid/fish/buffalo/walrus!" thing. Kondo says parents have to be OUT of the "what to keep" equation, even as adults, they can be very oversentimental about the little kid part of your life. Your life has to be about your future, not your past... parents are sad to hear that. Marc's parents kept way too many of his art projects and gave them to us and I wanted to scream. But instead, after reading this book, I'm realizing I should have said, "Thank you for keeping these, you did a great thing, you're wonderful people, that was a great time for your family when he was winning this 6th place ribbons for paper mache." and then quietly recycled all of it... as Kondo says, that art project had a job to do, it did it for his parents, and now it is done.


I lately purged my podcasts because I was listening to too many that were about dealing with STRESS and they mostly start with the podcasters harping about how STRESSFUL life is... Stuff Mom Never Told You, Note To Self, Harvard Business Review, etc. The worst was Note To Self. It's a really popular one, but they did this special series on information overload that had its own special STRESSFUL THEME to show just how crazy full and busy our lives are before they'd issue these challenges to, say, turn your phone off for an hour or something revolutionary like that.

Marie Kondo's book is positive. It does not describe disasters, it goes straight to describing the beauty of folding everything in your sweater drawer. Simple. Possibly life-changing, probably not "revolutionary" unless you really can't handle the world outside your house. It's a self-help book that proposes cleaning and going through your stuff as a way to get to a better mental state. If you need that sort of thing, you will like her story.


the roof over my head

Oh, home ownership. Have I ever mentioned how much I miss renting?

I wrote before that my house leaks - mainly over a window in the back part. When it rains, water comes down through the wall, paint is peeling off at the top. When the water hits this window it escapes out onto our carpet and rots all the window around the wood while it's at it. This has been going on for a while.

So I call Roofer A, off Angie's list. Roofer A comes out and says, "Well this is bad news... you know you have a spanish tile roof, and those tiles will last forever. But the stuff UNDER the tiles is not always built to last forever, and that's what you've got... those materials, it's just bad, this will be terrible, we'll need to remove all the tiles, maybe work out a multi-year plan to do one face at a time since it's going to be so expensive, maybe get a structural engineer, I'm sorry, it's just so bad. I'm going to take a tile and see if we can find a match."

Then he doesn't get back with me for a long time. I call him back and he's like, "Well we couldn't find a matching tile" and I say "well can you re-use the existing tile maybe?" and he's like, "Yeah, we need to come back and do an estimate..."

And honestly, he's not real persistant. Kinda deer in the headlights. Every time I talk with him he's telling me that the roof just has to be all replaced and I'm like okay, tell me what it'll cost and I don't hear back.

So we call roofer B. Roofer B is a friend of a friend and is personally recommended - which is supposed to be what Angie's List does, but not always apparently. Roofer B is still from a large roofing company, really the second runner up in the competition.

This guy comes out and looks at the roof, then goes up there with a hose. He moves some tiles and sprays water and nothing happens. Then about 20 minutes into the investigation, BAM, all this water comes in over the window and he's like, "Oh that's the spot! Looks like somebody tried to do a crappy patch job... well we can fix this, we'll have to remove tiles over this whole area but can definitely stop the leak."

This guy is not so deer-in-the-headlights, he's keeping the project moving.

But the first guy, roofer A, has me freaked out still... is it true that my entire roof was built with horrible materials and my whole house is going to fall down one day? He wants to do BIG THINGS. Roofer B wants to do SMALLER THINGS.

Who do I trust?


parenting and feelings

What's a nice way to teach your child that...

1) Feelings are valid. I don't want you to keep your emotions bottled up. You should use your words to let people know how honestly you feel. Sometimes it can take some time to deal with something bad that's happened, it's normal and natural to process and good people will support you through whatever you're experiencing.


2) Your life is not over because you couldn't find your green socks and were forced to wear white ones today. Please get the fuck over it and stop whining or else I will pull this car over and leave you on the side of the road and you can tell the lady at the gas station "safe place" sign all about your socks and maybe they will care, I SOMEHOW DOUBT IT THOUGH.

I swear I can't go ten minutes without tumbling headfirst into contradiction land, it's everywhere.


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