Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bittersweet

I've just wrapped up a four-year consulting project. It's hard to believe the assignment went four years and also that those years passed so quickly.

I had lunch today with Heather, my client bookend. We worked on the project together, each having different stakeholders. I left lunch sad, having conveniently forgotten that the end of a client engagement also means saying goodbye to the people at the client. She became my real friend. We have a lot in common outside of work (same age, same twins plus one, same candor, same work experience) so I'm sure we'll stay in touch.

Next up is digging in on Triumph Dining, the company Dave, Bobby and I bought together. Triumph Dining is the publisher of restaurant and grocery guides for people who are gluten free, either by lifestyle choice or by allergy. It's an interesting, growing market with a loyal following. Let me know what you think. Read our blog, subscribe to our newsletter and tell your gluten-free friends about us.

I'll also do some general tech consulting. I really do love my work and am fortunate to be able to make a living at it.

In the meantime I'm waist high in laundry and starting to think seriously about packing for Italy.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My vacation is beginning without me. Again.

Lynn just emailed me, asking why it's been a week since I blogged. No good reason really. I'm just busy juggling the kids, the husband and work.

We're heading out of town soon. But some of our vacation peeps have already left. This happened two years ago, too! The first family left the Bay today. Two more leave Saturday. The fourth leaves Tuesday and then we finally leave.

Neeracha did a post about all the electronics they are taking. I then challenged my Facebook friends to guess how many Internet-enabled devices five families will have in total. Even though neither Dave nor I are taking computers, it's going to be a healthy number as a few of our friends have jobs that don't lend themselves to unplugging or are doing business trips before or after this vacation. That's one of the reasons we always rent a house with reliable wifi. Eldest Daughter may bring her netbook, which will be good for looking up random phone numbers, mapping, modifying travel plans, banking.

Here are some of the things I need to do before we depart:

1. Mani/pedi
2. Laundry, pack
3. Arrange transport to and from SFO
4. Buy children's Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl
5. Buy snacks for plane
6. Pack carryons for 9-year-olds
7. Take 9-year-olds to dollar store to let them buy $5 in in-flight entertainment
8. Narrow down books to bring, both travel and general reading
9. Load up iPhones, iTouch and Nano with movies, music and books on tape
10. Call credit card companies and make sure they know we are leaving the country
11. Eat everything perishable in the fridge
12. Finish editing childhood friend's book and mail the manuscript back to him

Anyone have an opinion on offering the 13-year-old Tylenol PM to help her adjust to the time change?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Skiing and Swimming

We went swimming at a local country club with some friends. There we ran into our Tahoe neighbor, John. Our twins are friends with their twins; we know the parents quite well.

I was wearing a sundress and a big floppy hat with sunglasses. John looked at me blankly for a few seconds after I greeted him. Finally he figured out who I was. I look very different decked out for downhill or apres ski in long johns than I do in the summer. It was context.

The kids happily picked up where they left off last winter while I caught up with John.

This got me thinking about the similarities between skiing and swimming.

1. It's a great physical outlet. In the water the kids race, play games, get wild with acrobatics. They do the same on the mountain.
2. There's a good dose of freedom involved. At the pool the kids run around without close adult supervision, just like they do in our development at Tahoe. Their age provides us all with this luxury.
3. They eat. A lot. At the country club they belly on up to the snack bar. At Tahoe they raid one of our fridges.

There is the same parenting high that comes from hearing your children laugh, taking in every last drop of the pleasures of childhood.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A very Special Olympics

Not much sleep was to be had last weekend between the riding, the graduation parties (two, not our kids) and The Olympic Club Ski Team Awards Dinner.

Late Saturday we decided to volunteer at the Northern California Special Olympics Bike the Bridges ride on Sunday morning. Handing out t shirts and checking in registrants was no big deal; getting to the ride, 30 minutes from our house, at 7am, was. This involved getting up at 5:45a and doing a Peet's run then meeting up with the friends we recruited to volunteer with us en route to the ride. It was so worth it.

Apparently this was a police department sponsored event. There riders were mainly police officers of many different types: UC Berkeley, BART, El Cerrito, Oakland, Hercules, Martinez. There were also a few fire fighters there including my dad's (horse) riding friend, Peter, who I barely recognized in his biking gear. Usually I see Peter in leather and more leather.

I've spent the last three years working with technologies used for public safety. So when the emergency response vehicles showed up I was very excited in the nerdiest of ways.

After our gig was up we had breakfast at a local greasy spoon, Victoria's Cafe. It was exactly what we expected and just what I needed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sam & Leslie & Prince & Dad

I did something last weekend that I don't do often enough: ride with my dad.

He took me on a six-mile loop on the most glorious of early summer days. The ground squirrels came out of their tunnels and stood tall on their hind legs checking us out. Dozens of them. Peering at us with their beady little eyes.

Sam and Prince carried us to the top of a nearby ridge and the 360 degree view was spectacular. The weather was perfect for riding, too, upper 60s and sunny. This meant we could ride without jackets and it wasn't misery for the horses.

Sam is very good to me. Yes, Sam the horse. He knows I'm an occasional rider and he lets me think I'm in charge even though we both know he is. I give him conflicting riding commands and he does nothing, just waiting for me to get it right so he knows what I mean. You can see what a novice I am from the picture: I'm wearing a helmet.

My dad has been an active camper, hiker and backpacker since we moved to California in 1969. He enjoys the horses because they take him places not easily reached by foot. After the peacefulness of the ride I see his point. I still do not understand, however, why I was so sore the next day when Sam did all the work.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Parent Trap

How many books do you think have been written on parenting? Lots. In fact, there are 62,604 listed on Amazon right now.

I've read my share of parenting books: 123 Magic, How to Potty Train your Child in Less than a Day, Parenting the Highly Spirited Child, Listen so Your Child will Speak and Speak so your Child will Listen. Parenting with Love and Logic, Playful Parenting, Connection Parenting, The Attachment Parenting Bible. On and on.

It's much more interesting to see how other parents do it, though.

As you know from this post, we were down south over the holiday weekend. There I observed one aspect of my SIL and BIL's parenting style during a large BBQ to celebrate my BIL's birthday.

A refresher: my nieces are 14 and 15. Their daughters' friends call them by their first names. It wasn't just the children of longtime family friends; it was all of the friends in their daughters' peer group. Not once during the weekend did I hear any reference to Dr. or Mrs. Conwisar.

I asked them about it.

Phil told me that their approach is to make their home a comfortable place where the girls want to hang out. Part of that is familiarity with the parents. They made a conscious decision to go this route and I applaud them for it.

Do we think this decision has geographic roots? I can hardly imagine my friend Kim, in Georgia, being called anything except for Mrs. Drew.

Dave and I are generally called Mr and Mrs. Morris. Unless the child is part of the European vacation clan, I've known their parents since before they were born or I've bathed them, I'm Mrs. Morris. We were up at Tahoe last summer at a restaurant with my brother's family and some of their friends. The friends' six-year-old addressed me by my first name. I said to her: Please call me Mrs. Morris. She gave me a funny look. C'est la vie.

The rabbi of the synagogue we have belonged to for the last eight years is my cousin. I went through a very short period of calling him by his first name. But then I reconsidered and went back to calling him rabbi as I think it's a sign of respect.

What do you think? Is it a personal decision? A geographically trended one?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Looking to our summer

Summer's here and our summer vacation is not far off.

We just bought our airline tickets, which was an ordeal in and of itself. The fares have been quite high this year so we took our chances and waited until fairly close to our departure. The thing is: we were flexible. Very flexible. We didn't much care which of 20 or cities we flew in and out of. We were happy to sightsee wherever we might land and work our way to Northern Italy.

So the tickets are now ours and I begin reading in earnest. What do we want to see? Where do we want to eat? Where are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

And then there are the logistics: arrange house sitter, stop mail, alert credit card companies, rent car, decide which books to bring, download movies on iPods/iPhones/iTouch, arrange for ride to airport, enable international calling on our cell phones, gather travel plans of families who will be joining us, send last payment to Italian homeowner, get Euros.

Jill and Wally were over for dinner tonight and they asked what part of our vacation we like best. Eldest Daughter likes shopping. Thing 2 likes the gelato rule: once a day, sometimes twice. I like seeing things through other people's eyes; I like the conversations we have at the end of a day of sightseeing. Everyone has a different takeaway. I am still in awe that Thing 1 fell in love with the Malaga Picasso Museum. I like seeing the kids belly laugh and smile big like Thing 2 is doing here on Las Rambas in Barcelona.

The past two years have flown by; it seems like just last summer we were in Spain. We started doing this when our twins were 3 1/2. It's much easier to travel with them now although it didn't seem all that much work back then. It was simply a matter of schlepping them where we wanted to go. Now they're 9 1/2. We don't even have to entertain them when they wake up in the middle of the night while adjusting to the time change.

This year is a little different, too. I am wrapping up a four-year-long client engagement before we leave. I'm excited and also looking forward to a new mental challenge or two when we return to the states.

Back to my books.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shalom uvracha Rabbi Rick

I went to services at the synagogue last night. There are services every Friday night but I rarely go; I'd rather tuck our kids into bed then climb into our bed with my book and unwind from a busy week.

Last night was different: it was Rabbi Rick's last Friday night service on our bimah. There were more people there than I've ever before seen at the temple at one time and this includes Yom Kippur, when even the barely Jewish Jews show up. Joining him was the contemporary Jewish singer / songwriter Julie Silver. Wow. It was a beautiful, moving, musical service complete with drumming by a professional musician member of our congregation, Kelly Fasman. In all the hours I've spent at services, I've never heard a drum beat. It was not at all out of place.

Rabbis Laura and Rick are moving to Fresno, in California's Central Valley, where he will lead a congregation there. Laura has a rabbinical job within the Union of Reform Judaism that she can do from anywhere. Last night brought lots of tears and lots of laughs. I was sad more than anything else and had to keep reminding myself to breathe. He has been a wonderful rabbi for our young family. We will miss him.

I'm scared now. I fear that the temple, without Rabbi Rick, will no longer feel like home to our family. I'm fear that the melodies of my childhood, which this rabbi has brought into the Three Pinks lives, will be forgotten.

I don't want to be a wandering Jew.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Phil's Phabulous and Phifty!

We're just back from a phun Memorial Day weekend in LA with my sister-in-law and her phamily.

Her husband turned phifty and we celebrated in style!

Dave and I had this great idea to break up the phive-hour drive with a stop at Six Phlags Magic Kingdom. This was brilliant: phour hours of well-behaved children in the car and happy for an early departure then three hours of LA sun and phun on the roller coasters. We arrived at the Conwisar Resort & Spa in time for dinner.

On Saturday Dave golfed with the birthday boy and his entourage, Thing 2 swam and swam and swam and I took Eldest Daughter and Thing 1 to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We walked from Hollywood and Vine to Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Kodak Theater (with attached shopping complex) and back. It was the phirst time I'd ever done it. There were many, many stars I did not recognize. The first eight stars were set in terrazzo there in 1958. Today there are nearly 2,500 stars. As a sidebar and in case you were wondering: the Vine end of Hollywood Blvd. is rather seedy. Who knew there was an entire store of pole-dancing shoes?!

Dinner that night was phive couples at Boa in Beverly Hills. Khristina got her picture popped with the TMZ boys out phront. Dinner was very good -- steak and traditional sides. The people watching was even better. See and be seen anyone?! In LA people aren't even subtle; they just walk around the restaurant staring at the tables to see who is there.

Sunday we did the extended phamily and phriends birthday celebration - about 100 for a swim party. My SIL is such a seemingly effortless entertainer and we actually talked about it. As she put it: You work. My full-time job is my family. I plan our social life. This explains why her house really is like a resort and spa, and why every dang party she throws is noteworthy. She had Mexican phood brought in and even Thing 1, who is notoriously picky, woofed down a few tacos.

Thing 2 had been in the pool for the better part of two days at this point and lost it toward the end of the evening. Her phingers and toes were raw and waterlogged and she managed to get a sunburn in an odd place even thought she was thoroughly coated in SPF 30 all weekend. She slept like a rock.

I'd like to tell you that I had three very hard workouts in their home gym. But I didn't. We were having too much phun.

I did try their new TRX suspension system, though. I really enjoy their phriends. They are mostly Jewish, unlike ours, and a lot of those who work do so in entertainment. It's a great crowd to be with and act like a phly on the wall.

Michelle and Phil have a different relationship with their daughters' phriends than we do with our daughters' phriends. I love observing different parenting styles and will blog about that another time. We're all bumbling through this together!

Our present to Phil was the completion of his daughter's book, the latest in the My Friend Paris series. How do you like the birthday cake? Phil's been very serious about his personal training these last few years. Even the party phavors kept with the theme.

I was a little sad to leave Monday morning but not that sad knowing we'll be back in August. And if we're lucky, a phew of the more distant cousins will join us in Verona this summer.