Friday, September 28, 2018

In Lieu of Links

I don't have a weekend reading post in me this week. I had thought maybe I'd write about why I'm so angry instead, but it turns out I don't have that in me, either.

I've spent time this week on the hobbies that make me happier: I updated the mapping plugin on my Adjusted Latitudes site and figured out how to create a KML file to show the route of our Redondo Beach weekend getaway and put that on the map. I worked on promo pitches for the upcoming Annorlunda Books release The Inconvenient God. (Note: I'm running a promo for people who buy it before the end of October.)

I've read a lot of news, too, but I don't feel up to parsing through it and finding the truly useful things to share. My kids are still too young to be following this mess, so at least I didn't have to try to explain it all to them. (This time is coming to an end. My older daughter is 11, and starting to pay attention to wider events. Her journalism class had an assignment about the Kavanaugh nomination before the sexual assault allegations hit. They've switched to tamer topics now, and she has shown no interest in following up on it on her own. But in another year or two that won't be the case.)

I do have to try to keep myself together for our usual routines, though, and last night, in particular, that was difficult. I made it, but only by writing postcards during the kids' snack time. Writing postcards makes me feel like I'm doing something, so it calms the impotent fury a bit. (If you want to join me: PostcardstoVoters has switched to the midterms now, and there is also the Postcards4VA effort underway.)

My younger daughter turns 9 next week. She is so excited about her birthday and the upcoming party. I want to be excited with her, and to do that, I need to tune out a little bit. I'll be back soon, though.

Let's make our country truly worthy of this girl's rendition of our anthem:

Friday, September 21, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Too Busy and Reading a Book to Avoid the News Edition

It would have been a beautiful day for a rollerblade today, but instead I am picking Pumpkin up early and we are going to an event downtown. The nice thing about San Diego is that I'm pretty confident that next Friday will be a beautiful day for a rollerblade, too!

Anyway, some links:

The Inconvenient God is now available for pre-order. You can also still sign up to be an advance reader. I just re-read this story for the umpteenth time because I was proofing the paperback edition, and I still love it. You should get a copy!

In less happy links:

Just when I thought the Kavanaugh confirmation story couldn't get any worse... I happened to be on Twitter when the Ed Whelan tweets were coming out and it was weird to watch even via the responses (I don't follow Whelan). I agree that this needs to be investigated. For one thing, how did he know who the other girl at the party was? That has not been made public.

And now McConnell is promising Kavanaugh will get confirmed without even pretending he'll weigh what Dr. Ford or any other witness in the hearings that are being negotiating. That is just insulting.

I do not understand why they need this particular man to be confirmed when there plenty of other well-qualified judges out there who would also vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and meet their other judicial opinion criteria. It is disheartening. It is like they are taking Dr. Ford's accusation personally, and makes you wonder what things some of these men did when they were teenagers. Or older.

Alexandra Petri's post this week was a gut punch.

Elizabeth Breunig's article about the girl in her hometown who reported her rape and was vilified for it is also a gut punch, but the follow up offers a little sliver of redemption.

Another side of "listen to women" - this is a heartbreaking story about a young woman who died of cancer and maybe wouldn't have if doctors had listened to her symptoms earlier.

I don't have any other links to share because frankly, I was reading a book instead of the news most of the week. Partly that was because I wanted to avoid the news, but partly that was because it was a really good book: The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, by Nora Gallagher. It is the story of developing a mysterious ailment, the attempt to find a diagnosis, and the toll that this all takes on the author's life, relationships, and faith. I found it an engrossing read, and will definitely write a full post about it at some point.

That's all I have this week. Have a good weekend!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Delicate Balance Between Informed and Full of Despair Edition

Wow, today had a lot of news. But I guess that's true of a lot of days right now. As usual, I am trying to find the right balance between staying informed and getting lost in all the distressing news. So I went rollerblading even though I had to stop work earlier than usual to fit in the rollerblade and also getting my kids to their haircut appointment... so I'll be doing a little work this weekend to compensate. It feels like a good trade to me.

Of course, when I pulled up to the parking lot at my usual rollerblading spot, I found it blocked off for thunderboat races. Grrrr. I drove over to my backup spot and had a rollerblade, but I wish they'd post warnings about this event a couple of weeks in advance so that I wouldn't waste the time driving into Pacific Beach to get to my favorite spot, only to have to turn around and drive back out to the other spot, which is closer to my house but not quite as good for rollerblading. OH WELL. The sad thing is this happens every year and I never remember ahead of time.

On the bright side, I can save my husband a similarly disappointing experience when he heads out for his Saturday morning kayak! His usual launch spot will be closed so he'll have to find another location.

On to the links:

First, the self-promotion links:

I posted the cover reveal for the next Annorlunda Books release, The Inconvenient God, by Francesca Forrest. There were some delays in getting the cover finalized, so I'm running a shortened release process for this book - pre-orders will start to go up over the weekend, and be available at all of the online retailers by Sept. 18. You can watch for links to appear on the book's home page. If you want to be an advance reader, sign up here and I'll send you the eARC next week.

Also... you may have noticed my tweet announcing that I've finally built the travel website I've wanted to build for 10 years. (I'm not exaggerating on that time frame: I have a notebook with notes about this site, and one of the pieces of scratch paper I'd shoved in there with ideas for a site name was one of the day care reports we got when Pumpkin was one year old.)

Anyway, I had been letting the perfect be the enemy of the good on this idea, not wanting to build anything until I could build the best thing. WordPress plugins have advanced quite a bit in 10 years, and I realized that I could actually build something pretty close to my original idea with an off-the-shelf  WordPress and a couple of plugins.

So I've been writing up one of each type of post I want to have, and tinkering with different themes and options... and Adjusted Latitudes is finally ready for people to see it! I still have some more tinkering to do - I need to create a favicon, I'm going to upgrade the maps plugin to make the maps on the itineraries cooler and perhaps add some sort of multiple choice quiz option on the Where in the World posts. But it is far enough along that I decided I could share it. I haven't decided what will go there and what will stay here yet, but if I write something there I'll probably at least link to it here, so maybe that doesn't matter so much.

I almost decided to move Wandering Scientist to a self-hosted WordPress site and then add the travel stuff on here. Afterall, travel was what I originally thought this blog would be about (hence the "wandering" in the name). But I decided I wanted to be able to show things on the travel site to people I wouldn't send to this blog and I also like having a place to writing about parenting, life, politics and the other topics this site has wandered to. So in the end, I made a new site.

OK, enough about me. Here are the other links I have for you:

If you read just one thing this week: Alexandra Petri's essay on the people lost in Puerto Rico is what I'd pick.

But this amazing essay from Dr. Katherine Crocker is a close second. (Thank you to the multiple people who sent it to me!)

And Zack Beauchamp's report on the demise of democracy in Hungary and its lessons for us here in America is a close third.

I link to Talking Points Memo a lot because I find Josh Marshall's political analysis really useful. So here he is on Manafort's plea deal and the primary election results in New York. Both are worth your time, but if you only read one, read the one about the election results because I think elections are the way we actually get out of our current mess.

Speaking of elections being the way out... Jamelle Bouie wrote about something like that, and that's really worth your time, too.

Noah Smith wrote about why diversity is a strength for America.

Derek Lowe's write up of the latest generic drug price outrage is very useful, particularly if you want an insider's look at how the system is screwed up.

In recommended listening: I really enjoyed Laura Vanderkam and Sara Hart-Unger's discussion with KJ Dell'Antonia about being a happier parent. The bit about chores was really interesting.

Some good news from my state:


If I could get moderate/reasonable (even if quite right-leaning) Republicans/conservatives to understand one thing about our current political moment, it would probably be this:

Basically, everyone worries about how Republican voters will react to what Democrats do. I see a lot less attention paid to how Democrat voters are reacting to what Republicans have been doing, and let me tell you, Bouie's point rings really, really true in my life - for my own views and for the views of center-left folks I talk to. 

Huh. Interesting.

Yes, yes, yes to everything in this thread:

(If any of my male readers also find it hard to identify with female protagonists... maybe try reading more books with them? I've read lots of books with male protagonists, and I identify with some and find others really hard to understand, and honestly, I consider that part of the point of reading fiction.)


Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Updated Logistics Post

I am finally going to write the long promised post about our current household logistics. But first, an announcement:

For some reason, Blogger has stopped emailing me when I get a comment. I'll have to figure out why
at some point. In the meantime, I'm just trying to remember to check in on my comments every now and then. If I'm super slow answering your comment, chances are I forgot to go check my comments!

And second, a caveat:

We made it through the week of back-to-school events, and I was starting to feel like I had a handle on things. Then on Saturday, Petunia came out from her gymnastics class and announced she was bored with gymnastics and wants to do soccer instead. Or baseball. Or basketball. But preferably soccer. Now, Petunia only got routed into gymnastics because Pumpkin was already doing it, and it is true that Petunia is surprisingly good at all the "ball sports" she's tried.

I don't think it is fair to make Petunia do gymnastics just because that's what Pumpkin likes, so I will look for a soccer team for her to join. But damn, this is going to mess up our schedule. So this post will be out of date in about a month. (I'd already paid for September gymnastics, so I told Petunia she has to finish out this month.)

And now, the current state of our household logistics. It looks like I last updated these in 2012, so uh... a lot has changed since then. (Oops - Blogger helpfully reminded me of the 2014 update after I published this!) Pumpkin is now in 6th grade, and Petunia is in 3rd grade. They walk (!!!) to school in the morning and go to after care in the afternoons.

I'm back to full time regular employee status at a job that is about a 15-20 minute drive from our house, maybe as much as 30 minutes if I leave work late and hit more traffic. Mr. Snarky has been a full time regular employee all along. I think his commute is currently 30 minutes in the morning and 30-60 minutes in the evening, depending on the whims of traffic.

The Base Weekday Schedule

Our alarm goes off at 6:20 a.m. Most Mondays, I get up at 6 and go for a short run/walk in the neighborhood. I have been waking up at 6 on other days, too, and I wish I could say I did something useful with that time, but most days at least one kid wakes up before me or not long after me, so that time tends to just get swallowed into getting the kids breakfast and getting Petunia ready for school (Pumpkin mostly gets herself ready these days).

I still have to get the kids breakfast. If I would get around to rearranging our cupboard so the bowls Pumpkin likes are lower, she could get her own cereal. But Petunia likes toast with sugar after her Cheerios, and that I still have to make.

We all get ready. Mr. Snarky makes the kids' lunches, I help Petunia pick clothes, brush her hair, and put on sunscreen. I shower and get dressed. If I have an early morning teleconference (my company is international, so these happen - and in fact I have a standing 7:30 a.m. meeting every Monday), my routine often stalls here while I go sit at my desk and take the teleconference. Since so much of my work involves distributed teams, no one cares if I dial in to meetings from home or the office. In fact, I work from home every Friday, which is awesome, and I can work from home other days if I need/want to. Mostly, I go into the office, though, because I am still new enough that it helps to be able to catch people in person.

If I don't have an early meeting and I'm not working from home, I leave for work by 8:10, and sometimes as early as 7:45. Mr. Snarky tends to leave around 8. The kids hang out at home until ~8:30 and then walk to school. This is usually really great, except for the one time so far that it started really raining and Pumpkin's friend didn't call to offer to pick them up. I had to drop off a teleconference and drive them to school, because they are San Diego kids and they might melt in the rain. (More seriously, because we don't really have proper rain gear since it almost never really rains here.)

Since both my kids are early risers, they have time to do some homework before school, and they both also usually practice the piano in the mornings.

We work/go to school all day. My new work office is more social, and so I find I spend more time at lunch than I used to. But sometimes the conversation turns to work-related things it is useful to know, so I try not to worry about that. I try to go out for a walk after lunch most days, but my meeting schedule on Thursdays makes it likely that I'll skip the walk that day.

On Fridays, I am working from home. I start work early (by 7:30 if all goes well) and take a short lunch. Then, if nothing has gotten scheduled in the late afternoon/early evening (like a back-to-school bonfire, or haircut appointments for the kids, etc...) I can go for a rollerblade in the afternoon. I try to protect that time, but it isn't always possible.

Now that the kids are back at school, Mr. Snarky likes to pick two consecutive days and bike home from work one day and in to work the following day. During the summer, the camp drop off/pick up schedule made that hard for him to do. Also, it was unusually hot here this summer and he does not like to exercise in the heat.

The kids go to aftercare every day, but on Mondays, Mr. Snarky picks them up early and takes them to piano lesson. On Tuesdays, I pick Petunia up early and take her to art class. Mr. Snarky picks Pumpkin up later. I pick the kids up from aftercare between 5:30 and 6 on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Mr. Snarky works during piano lessons. I go shopping for the groceries we can only get at a "regular" grocery store during art class. Our local store is now a Sprouts, which is good for about 80% of what we need. I buy the remaining 20% at the Vons in the same shopping center as the art class on Tuesdays. I generally have about 20 minutes between finishing grocery shopping and Petunia's art class ending. Sometimes I read, sometimes I write or sketch out ideas for one of my projects, sometimes there is something I need to chat with my colleague in Australia about and I do that via our work chat client on my phone, and sometimes I just waste time on Twitter. It depends on what's going on with work and my projects, if I have a book club book I'm trying to finish, and how fried I feel.

Dinner is at about 6 p.m. I cook dinner every weeknight except Tuesday, when Mr. Snarky heats up leftovers and makes a salad for our dinner (since he's home before me).

After dinner, the kids do homework or play and the adults do work, projects, chores, or waste time on their phones. I am trying to do less phone-based time wasting and more reading or projects. The kids rarely need our attention during homework time, but Petunia does like it if someone snuggles with her while she does her reading (she's supposed to ready 15 minutes a day in both Spanish and English). I will always say yes to snuggles and read, too.

At about 7:15, it is shower time. This now happens mostly without our involvement.

At about 8, we offer evening snack. The kids usually have something small (tonight Pumpkin had a banana and Petunia had a yogurt drink). While they have that, I assemble the snack portion of their lunches and the non-refrigerated portion of my lunch. On Monday nights, I also pack up snacks for on the way to art and make sure I have my shopping list in the snack bag.

At about 8:20, the kids get ready for bed. Mr. Snarky helps Petunia floss her teeth (she has to use a special floss threader because of her braces, and my old repetitive strain injury has degraded my fine motor control enough that it is much better if Mr. Snarky does this step). The kids do the rest of their bedtime routine on their own. Mr. Snarky often plays piano while the kids get ready for bed, and sometimes also while they are showering. I usually putter around during these times, finishing off quick tasks. Sometimes (like tonight), I start a blog post.

After the kids are ready for bed, we read stories. We alternate nights: one night I read to Petunia and Mr. Snarky reads to Pumpkin, the next night we switch. We know our days of reading aloud to Pumpkin are probably numbered, but so far, she still likes it.

Lights go out at about 9. Whoever was reading to Pumpkin just says good-night, turns off her light, and leaves her room. And then goes and does the dishes. Whoever was reading to Petunia usually stays and snuggles for 15-30 minutes.

Then we work (if needed), or do other things until bedtime. I try to be in bed by 10:30, and have my lights out by 11. Mr. Snarky stays up much later, usually watching TV.

The Base Weekend Schedule

We still have our Friday night beers most weeks, and plan out our weekend.

I get up at 7 on Saturday mornings, get the kids their breakfast, and then get them (and me) ready for gymnastics. That runs from 8:45 - 10:15. (Petunia's class finishes at 9:45, but Pumpkin is in a higher level class that goes for 1.5 hours.) I crochet and chat with my friend whose kid is in Petunia's class. We're home by a little after 10:30.

Mr. Snarky gets up a little bit after me, and gets the laundry started. Then he goes out for his Saturday morning exercise. This used to be a run, but right now he is going out kayaking on the bay instead. He usually gets one load of laundry on the line before he leaves, and I hang up the second load and start the third when I get home. Three loads gets us through our regular clothes laundry.

Every other Saturday, we also have our low key Chinese lessons. Sometimes, Mr. Snarky takes the kids to the library, too.

I can sleep in on Sunday mornings if I want, but it is rare for me to sleep past 8. I am usually up by 7:30. The kids watch TV, Mr. Snarky does more laundry - sheets and towels on Sundays. I work on my projects on Sunday mornings, and I try to protect this time, with reasonable success. I usually finish up by about 10 and shower and start in on my Sunday chores: menu planning and grocery shopping. I usually squeeze in a load or two of delicate laundry sometime on Sunday, too. If I forget, I can do these on a weeknight, though.

We now have Lego team meetings on Sunday afternoons, too. They last for about an hour, and I let the team play for another 30 minutes, and then the other parents collect their kids.

Mr. Snarky often does yard work or house maintenance type things on one or both of the weekend days. I often have other errands to run (e.g., back to school shopping, our occasional Target run, that sort of thing).

There's a lot of free time in the weekends. We often do something fun together as a family. Some weekends, though, get filled up (like next weekend - we have two kid birthday parties to go to). I can also usually grab some downtime for myself if I want it. Last Sunday, I spent about an hour in my hammock reading. Weekends are also when I write most of my political postcards.

Variations and Other Things

If a kid gets sick, the parent with the least need to be physically in the office that day works from home.

I'm in charge of haircuts and most doctor's appointments. Mr. Snarky is in charge of dentist (and orthodontist) appointments and eye doctor appointments.

When Pumpkin was little, she really needed her routines. She still likes routines, but can roll with changes more now. So dinner can be late if I want to try a new recipe or we decide to go out after piano lessons. We can go out and do things on a weeknight if we need/want to. This is nice, and I think this sort of thing is just going to continue to get easier.


The Monday night piano lessons are new. Petunia used to have swim lessons on Monday, and Pumpkin had piano on Tuesday while Petunia went to art. I'm thinking about what I might want to do with the time that Monday piano lessons opens up: I could maybe go to the gym after work, but then dinner would be late. Or maybe I'll leave my workout schedule as is (although it is currently short a workout) and just work on my projects on Monday.

I'm also considering a Wednesday evening yoga class. It would be after dinner, which feels weird, but I'm sure I'd get used to it. There's a studio in our neighborhood, so I could go after dinner and be home in time for bedtime.

Petunia's request for soccer is going to require some schedule adjustments. This may be what finally leads us to hire someone to help with the kid shuttling. But maybe not - Mr. Snarky is strangely resistant to the idea, and he has a flexible schedule and can perhaps handle soccer practices. I don't know. I've told Petunia that she'll probably have to come with me and Pumpkin to gymnastics at least some weeks, but she may get to go out kayaking with Mr. Snarky some weeks, too. It would have been so much easier if she'd kept liking gymnastics! But she should get to follow her own interests.

The kids do a lot of their homework at aftercare, and are also generally good about staying on top of their own homework. We'll see how Pumpkin handles the transition to middle school, which has more homework and a less regular homework schedule. However, I know from talking to friends that we're extremely lucky not to have to really watch them on their homework, and I'm grateful for that.

So that's the logistics these days. I really should find a time for another workout, but I'm dithering about the yoga class, so I just haven't done anything. I'm trying to make conscious choices about how to use the pockets of time that are opening up, and not let them get filled with mindless time on Twitter or things like that. But there are also things I find useful about Twitter, so I still show up there from time to time.

If I skipped over something you think would be interesting to know about, ask in the comments! I promise to check in on them this week.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Little and Late Edition

This week was a mess of back to school events, including a picnic at the bay yesterday evening. Between that and an afternoon work meeting onsite at one of our customers... I didn't get this post written on time. Oh well.

And I don't have a lot to share, because of all the back to school events. Some weeks are like that!

Here's what I do have:

If you read only one thing on my list this week, make it this essay by Mollie Tibbits' father.

Here's a good comparison of how we treat women stars who do things like shoplift or react to winning an award or get sexually harassed by men vs. men stars who do things like sexually harass and/or assault women. Surprise! The women come off worse.

I guess I'm glad Barack Obama agrees that these upcoming midterms are the most important election of our lives. If you want to read his full speech, here it is. Then please, find a way to help win the midterms.

I agree with this assessment of what is at stake:

This xkcd cartoon made me laugh.

In recommended listening:

The On Being podcast episode with Mahzarin Banaji is wonderful.

That's all I have. Except... Bunny!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Reclaiming Space

Last week, I replied to a tweet about the difficulty of putting in extra hours after the kids are in bed with this honest observation: This has gotten soooo much easier for me now that my children are a little older.

When my kids were babies, toddlers, or even preschoolers, my evenings were exhausting. The pick up the kids-make dinner-try not to feel hurt when the kids refuse my lovingly crafted dinner-playtime-bathtime-bedtime gauntlet was punishing. This was compounded by having a low sleep needs kid (how I envied people with 7 p.m. bedtimes for their toddlers!) and a kid who took awhile to get good at self-soothing. I would occasionally do some work after the kids were asleep, but only if I had a deadline looming. Mostly, I either collapsed into bed or wrote a blog post (which at the time was an outlet for me like Mr. Snarky currently uses TV: a way to unwind and remind myself that I still had things I enjoyed to do that were just for me). There is a reason that this is timeframe in which I fell for short ebooks.

Now, though, I often come into our home office after the kids are in bed and do something that qualifies as work. In fact I often come into the office while my kids are still awake and do work. My day job is no longer as "big" as earlier jobs were, so that evening work is not necessarily for the day job. Instead, it might be for Annorlunda Books, which involves things like accounting and querying reviewers that definitely feel like work in addition to things I find more fun.

It isn't that parenting has gotten easier. There are still problems to solve and times when I feel like I'm in over my head. But there is more space between the demands now. Some evenings, my kids need me, perhaps to help with homework or perhaps just to go on a walk or play a round of birdie and reconnect and hear about whatever is on their minds. Other evenings, they'd rather be off playing with the neighbors or reading their books. Space has opened up after dinner, and I am trying to make sure I claim some of it for myself.

Even on the nights when my after dinner time is claimed by the family, I can usually do something after bedtime if I am so inclined. Bedtimes have gotten easier. At long last, Pumpkin just wants a good night kiss and the lights turned out after story time. Soon, I know, she won't even want story time, preferring instead to read to herself. Petunia still likes snuggles, but she doesn't need them as long (most nights). And aside from the bedtime routine, the entire evening is just easier, with more reminding a kid to go do something (e.g., take a shower) and less hands-on wrangling. I often have energy for my own pursuits after bedtime is done.

And weekends have more space, too. We still usually do one fun outing as a family, and there's still gymnastics to go to on Saturday mornings. Next Sunday, Lego team starts and I'm coaching Petunia's team again. But that leaves a surprising amount of time, and the kids no longer expect me to help fill it. Some weekends still get busier than I'd like, but to be honest, that is often Mr. Snarky's fault. I'm a high energy person, but he's even higher energy. I have to remember that I should tell him I need more downtime now and then.

So if you're in the midst of the baby/toddler/preschooler years and wondering where all these other parents are finding time to do work or serious hobbies in the evenings, take heart. In a few years, it will probably all be different. The change started for us when Petunia hit kindergarten, but it was really in her 2nd grade year (last year) that I noticed how much space I had reclaimed for my own interests.

You have to be careful, though: There are all sorts of school activities and committees that can steal the time right back from you, and it can be hard to ignore the signals our society sends that mothers should be more active in their kids' schools. I am choosy, and pick just a couple school things to get involved in, and say no to the others. I also have to keep an eye out for the way schools tend to default to communicating with only one parent, and the way that social event scheduling also tends to default to one parent. I don't think there is any magic answer to this problem. We can usually manage to get the teachers to add Mr. Snarky to their email list, so he takes the lead on monitoring homework and the like. We have absolutely given up on getting people to communicate with him for scheduling play dates, birthday parties, or any of the other social events that find their way onto our kids' schedules. There is one other dad among my kids' friends who schedules play dates, and so for that particular friend, the scheduling is handled by Mr. Snarky. For all others, it comes to me. I don't love that, but have made peace with it. We explicitly recognize it as a chore, and balance it with other chores that Mr. Snarky takes on.

This is why I want to do an updated household logistics post - I think it would be interesting to see where the space actually is, and whether it is distributed evenly between me and Mr. Snarky. But that exciting post will have to wait for another night. I did the work I needed to do after dinner, but I'm reading a good book and I want to go to bed so I can read another chapter or two!