Sleepover

Sometimes when I’m putting Grant to bed, he does this thing I call “sleepover.” He doesn’t do this when Bob puts him to bed, just with me.

Sleepover is a quiet sharing time. He’ll be nearly asleep, and will all but prop his little eyelids open and begin whispering. Sometimes he’ll tell me something he just remembered about his day, and other times he’ll reveal a worry he has, or ask me to remind Santa about something.

I’ve found out about his concern for stingrays this way, as well as his worry that someone will throw him into the pool when he doesn’t want them to. I’ve found out that daycare let him eat chicken wing pizza, though he assured me it doesn’t have chicken in it, just chicken wings. Related: he doesn’t believe chicken is a bird. I’ve found out who he likes to play with at daycare, and who among the staff he likes (spoiler: everyone). He’s told me about how much he enjoys water balloons (it’s a lot), and how desperate he is to pet Rudolph, and can I remind Santa of that?

I think his brain is just starting to quiet down, so he can share his thoughts. And he’s tired enough that he needs to whisper. It’s just like being at a sleepover after lights out. And I’m glad he shares this time with me.

Camp

Yesterday I dropped Eleanor off at camp, and while there was more paperwork and more check-in procedures than her first year (because: COVID), this year was extra spicy.

First of all, you should understand that Eleanor needed a rapid PCR test completed within seventy-two hours of arriving at camp (and obviously, it had to be negative). A PCR test is not an antigen test. It is a full-panel respiratory illness test, and includes between sixteen and twenty-two different tests (at least that’s how many tests the ones Eleanor took had), including testing for COVID and its variants. I set her up an appointment at our medical group for this past Friday. Mid-week, I was in the medical group picking up some other paperwork for camp, and the nurse who does the tests flagged me down and explained the pricing structure and then spent 45 minutes calling all over town to see if anywhere else did this particular test for less money. This test is particularly expensive for two reasons: it tests for everything and it’s clearly a luxury test (people most often get it for travel purposes). You don’t wait for it to get sent out; it’s complete within 2 hours and you get results in hand. You pay for the unnecessary thoroughness and the rapidity. It’s what camp required, and we have a generous HSA, so I just had the medical group run the test, to the tune of $260.

Around noon that same day, the nurse called, let me know Eleanor was negative for sixteen respiratory illnesses, and I could pick up the paperwork. I met Bob for lunch, and he took over the task of picking up the paperwork, which he did immediately after lunch. At that point, we had everything assembled, paperwork-wise. We had 5 forms that had to be dropped off with Eleanor, and like 10 others that had been uploaded directly to the site. All good.

I spent Saturday washing clothes, buying clothes and supplies, and labeling everything. I then packed it all up for Eleanor, and showed her how I’d labeled everything (with a big E.A.R., which tickled her something fierce), and where in her bag and suitcase it all was. Bob had been at the office all day Saturday finishing some drawings in AutoCAD, and things were clearly deteriorating on that front. His computer ended up bricking entirely. After the kids were in bed, we spent awhile troubleshooting (including using the command line, which is always highly energizing), and finally gave it up as a bad case. The IT people at his work will need to fix it. It was probably 10pm by this point, and Bob had to finish this work for a submission deadline on Sunday evening. We agreed to switch places for Sunday: I would drive Eleanor to camp four hours away, and he would manage the boys and get his work done / run 15 miles.

This is when he realized he’d left Eleanor’s paperwork at his office. We walked a block over to his office to pick it up, and while we were walking back, I noticed that the rapid PCR test results were missing. Fast forward to 2AM, after multiple trips back to the office, tearing the house apart, and his work car, we realize it’s just not going to magically appear. We still don’t know where it is.

We felt we had two options:

  1. Keep Eleanor home one more day, and try to get her a test at the medical group on Monday, and drive her to camp after that.
  2. Drive her towards camp, and try to get her a second rapid PCR test along the route.

Both options had drawbacks. The biggest drawback to option 1 is that Eleanor would be absolutely crushed. The second biggest drawback to option 1 is that we weren’t sure the camp would agree to this; they have extremely rigid/defined procedures for arrival/departure in order to keep all the campers and staff as safe as possible. So I was not willing to entertain option 1. The drawback to option 2 was that we’d drive 3 or 4 hours and wouldn’t be able to get an appointment within a reasonable time that would allow us to arrive at camp during the window we were given. This felt like an acceptable risk, given the alternative. The drawback to both options, which was unavoidable, was that Eleanor would need to endure a second rapid PCR test. Since she had to have yet another on arrival at camp, it felt like a lesser problem (but then, I’m not Eleanor, and it wasn’t my nose).

So we decided on option 2, with the understanding that I would get up at 6AM, get Eleanor into the car, and start driving. Bob would start calling around to urgent care clinics along my route and get us a rapid PCR test appointment when we were passing.

It was a lovely drive. Eleanor was situated in the back seat of the van with her pillow, duvet, and Pink Dog, and slept until we got about 3 hours down the road. Meanwhile, Bob called a few places (including one who told him a rapid PCR test “didn’t exist”), and found one that could get us in at 10:30. We arrived at 10AM, and I called from the parking lot. They squeezed us in right then, at a cost of $400. We got the test done (poor Eleanor), and went to a nearby Sheetz for lunch, which we took to a local Staples. After we ate in the car, Eleanor and I walked around the Staples, picked out stationery so she could write home (they’re required to write home twice a week; it’s a no-technology camp), and tried out every single office chair they had until the test results landed in my inbox. We printed them out and rushed off to camp. We arrived with 20 minutes to spare in the drop-off window (the camp staff was incredibly warm and welcoming, and I’m sure it would have been fine if we were late).

Once at camp, we checked in, filled up Eleanor’s Camp Bank (last time she spent her money on presents for Henry), and then it was time for Eleanor to get her … rapid PCR test. She was just delighted. At each station we visited, the staff could not decipher our last name on the forms, because Bob filled them in. “Ray?” “No, Ring, like you wear on your finger” “Ramy?” “No, Ring, like you wear on your finger” etc. I finally explained that Bob’s handwriting is interpretive, and it tells you a lot about yourself, depending on what you see. She got her test, like a champ, and we moved on to the nurse station to get checked for foot fungus and head lice. With a negative for both, we were free to flag down staff to carry her bags to her cabin (talk about luxury!).

The camp is run by a couple, Matt and Rose. Rose checked is in at Camp Bank, and Matt brought a golf cart to take Eleanor’s stuff to her cabin. It’s a pretty big camp, and gets kids from all across the northeast. Matt has been in camping since he was born: his parents also have run kids camps in several states, and he inherited this one. Some of the campers are legacies! Their grown kids are counselors at the camp, and the whole place just has this very warm, homey feel to it. So Matt and his son (also Matt, but he apparently goes by Junior) put Eleanor’s stuff in the back of the cart, and asked if we wanted a ride (there’s a big hill) and Eleanor was almost coming out of her skin, she was so excited to be at camp! So she wanted to RUN there, and run she did.

We arrived at her cabin (Parakeets), which is an octagon (how cool), and she immediately ditched me to run inside (parents weren’t allowed in). I stood outside in the rain and watched her through the window. I met her cabin counselors through the window, and watched as they helped her make her bed. She was the last girl to get there, so she didn’t get to pick her bed. But it was the only top bunk in the cabin, and I think she was pleased. She got right up there and tested it out. She yelled out the window “bye mom!” and I had to make her come to the door to hug me goodbye.

Everything leading up to getting her to camp was 100% worth it. Seeing her in her cabin talking Harry Potter with the other girls, and hearing her talk about the art studio and the stables, and how she described the lake to a new camper in line (“like coca cola, but don’t drink it”), it all made it really worth it. She’s so happy, and that made me happy, all the way home. That and a stop at Wegmans for some poke. I checked for photos online but camp hasn’t uploaded any from this weekend yet, so I’ll just have to wait. I’m picking her up in two weeks, and I can just imagine the non-stop chatter on our way home!

Slow thinking

I’m a slow-thinker. It took me a long time to realize this. That’s partially because I am a slow-thinker, but mostly because I assumed that some of my other innate traits were dichotomies. For example, I’m quick-witted; if you want a zinger, I’m here for it. I can lead and shape conversations. One-liners, puns, quick recall from five minutes ago — all of that is stuff I’m pretty adept at. And yet, I think fairly slowly.

For years, it’s driven my husband a little bit bonkers that I won’t respond right away when we start discussing weighty subjects. Sometimes not even the same day. And I get it; that’s really a frustrating trait. I’ve gotten marginally better at engaging and talking through my stilted thought process. But I’m still really bad at it.

I’ve also spent a lot of time alternating with struggling with impostor syndrome or outright ignoring my impostor syndrome because sometimes I see a wall of text (say a P2 post at work) and I just think “What.” I cannot cognitively absorb it. I keep posts open for several days and re-read them (often in different order, like going over a particular section more often one day, vs top-to-bottom reading). But once I’ve absorbed it, I’ve got it. And, counterintuitively, big concepts I grasp right away. I see the big concept, I get the reasoning, the direction, the expected effects, etc. I can extrapolate a lot of that from a high-level concept, even if it’s just a couple of lines long.

I think my slow thinking ways have prepared me to engage in high-touch but brief sessions. The length of a conversation. A townhall lasting 60 minutes. A presentation, a workshop. I can be 100% there and contribute to a particular depth. And then I need to shut down for a little bit and do rote work or sit silently so I can recharge my brain. The depth of understanding that I think I am able to reach by slow thinking, routinely, enables these much shorter flashes of wit. Also, once I have adequately prepared, I can merge more effectively the quick-witted and slow-thinking parts of my brain. So in a presentation, I can speak off the cuff with substance and in a meaningful way, because it’s not actually off the cuff; it’s just that I’ve aligned all the thinking I’ve done on a particular topic temporarily.

I think my impostor syndrome at not being able to cognitively recognize and begin analyzing a post or longer, more detail-studded store of knowledge is misplaced. I’m not geared to shallow understanding, and I’m not incapable of insight. I can think critically and I can do it well. It just takes me time. I used to feel sheepish if I commented on an important P2 post long after most other people, especially when others said much, much faster the things I wish I had thought of. But I’d still take the effort to comment, to help break myself out of that cycle. My peers’ quick thinking is wonderful, we’re lucky to have it as a company, and I don’t resent it. I also no longer envy it. I’m a slow-thinker, and dredging through a long, weighty post is useful for me, in the long run. Perhaps it’s related to having a different brain wiring due to dyslexia, but maybe it’s not. Likely that would be impossible to determine categorically, so we won’t worry about it, but I think it a little bit.

I recently changed my Twitter follows to be mostly animals, paintings, and literary accounts. The slow-thinking taxation of being confronted by incredibly complex, multi-faceted world problems in a daily tidal wave got damaging. It’s not just that there are big problems out there that I think we have to confront and fix, it’s that I couldn’t stop the slow molasses wheels in my brain from puzzling over all these various problems, with little useful effect. I care deeply about these problems. But via Twitter isn’t how I’ll contribute, so I deliberately moderated that information input. Now it’s a mostly joyful place for me to visit, though I still follow enough other accounts to be aware of the trajectory of some of these problems, but without the unceasing echos.

I’ve long been in the habit of saying “I don’t know, let me get back to you.” And sometimes I actually do know, but I haven’t finished thinking about it yet. That’s something that has taken me a long time to realize as well. I don’t always need fresh input to come to a conclusion, just because I don’t have an answer in the moment. Of course, the reverse is true: sometimes I do need additional input, but until I’ve had a chance to wade to a certain depth, I can’t tell if I’m going to need a boat or can swim on through. If I haven’t had adequate pre-thinking time, I can get flustered in the moment (I’m sure this is true of many people), and I’ve allowed myself to give poor answers in the past because an instant answer is demanded; or so it seemed. Now, though, I’m ostensibly a grown-up. I can ask for more time, and more time is available. This is different from knowing that something is required of you and under-preparing. I’ve also done that, and I do not recommend. The best offense is a good defense; my mantra is “if being asked something makes me nervous, know that thing better.”

All this to say, slow-thinking is a fine way to exist. It’s not bad; it’s just the way that I cognitively, systematically address my ignorance and figure out my own alignment on any given concept. Just… gimme a minute.

Grant W. Ring v5

Five years ago yesterday, Grant charged into the world. It hasn’t been quite what he’s expected at each step, but he faces each moment with enthusiasm and his own agenda.

Grant, moments after birth.

The last couple years, we’ve been in the Adirondacks for his birthday. In the morning of his birthday, we gather around and tell stories about the day he was born, then about the day the twins were born. We talk about the surprising things about his birth (like how fast he came, and how he was born in caul), and about funny things he would do as a baby, then toddler.

Grant a few days old

He loves these stories about him as a baby, and he’s fascinated by the whole pregnancy/birth thing. In fact, he’s deeply jealous of the fact that he won’t have a period, and he’s slowly letting go of his resentment that he can’t have a baby in his belly. He very sweetly asked me if I would have another baby so he “could see” when it was born. When I said no, he got mad. He asked if Eleanor would kindly have a baby and he could watch it being born. Very unsurprisingly, he got an immediate rejection. While he melted down, Henry tried to console him by telling him that he might want to have a wife someday, and then she could have babies and he could be there for that. So then Grant asked Eleanor if she would be his wife, so it’s very clear there’s a lot he does not understand. I have the feeling he’s still thinking about this.

Grant celebrating his first birthday

Grant was a very easy baby. He was fun and smiley, and if he’d been my first, I would have had 10 more immediately.

Grant at 2

When he first started crawling, he was too impatient to actually crawl, so he pulled himself by his arms. He got really adept at it, and he looked like he was swimming across the ground. We’d set him down wherever we were and he’d swim all over the place. He also would waggle his legs whenever he was being held and saw the big kids running around. He’s definitely a mobile first baby.

Grant v3

Once he got going, he has thus far proven impossible to stop. He is busy. He’s constantly simultaneously out of sight and underfoot. He causes trouble with a winning grin. The boy has charisma.

Four for Grant

We’ve made it a tradition to climb Mt Jo in the Adirondacks on his birthday (so everyone can feel the struggle I felt on the day of his birth, I like to tell him, but he does not believe me). He summited last year on his fourth birthday, and he did so again this year.

As good as it gets when wrangling five sweaty humans for a fifth birthday mountain climbing selfie.

This year, we gave him presents over the course of our trip, so he had something new to occupy him most days. He loved his archery set (suction cups), and used his explorer kit non-stop. But he also read the two new books he got first over and over (or had Eleanor read them to him). He asked for “the rest of the books” so much I started to get worried (but I did have two more books for him, and I’m not sure how he knew).

Grant is someone with a lot of attitude. He knows what he wants, and reality is not an acceptable blocker. For example, the day before his birthday, we were driving up Whiteface and he was VERY UPSET that we “weren’t letting” him hike it. Hike up Whiteface. By himself. Mad at us about that.

The panorama from the castle on Whiteface

Grant saw the stairs leading from the castle to the summit (very dangerous, exposed stairs, a lot of open rock), and charged right up them. I hared after him, and about 20 yards from the summit, I stopped him. We took some photos, but we absolutely had to go back down at that point — it was very windy and I was sure he would be blown off the ridge. He was pleased enough with his little adventure, and I aged 20 years in 20 minutes!

Grant and Henry “climbing Whiteface” — they are about 5 feet off the ground.

Most nights on our trip, we wrapped up the same way. Grant cuddled with one of us for stories, and then we’d lie down with him until he drifted off — usually very quickly. He’s always been a pretty insistent sleeper. “Put me to bed!” he’ll march up to us and demand; at that point, it is usually only about 15 minutes until he’s snoring gently.

Reading Mighty Mighty Construction Site

Grant and I spent an afternoon playing together while Bob was running. We went for a walk and found a giant rock and a throne. So he decided the rock was a castle and we played kings and princesses.

It’s the Henry Van Hoevenberg rock.

As an aside, the chipmunks and squirrels at the ADK Loj are not shy at all. I doubt that they were so brazen because of my innate Disney Princessness, even though Grant believes I am a princess.

We spent days lounging and hanging out in Heart Lake. We also spent a great morning at Mirror Lake (which is actually the lake in downtown Lake Placid — fun fact, the lake in downtown Saranac Lake is … Flower Lake). The water was cold, but not as icy as the water higher up, which Henry discovered when he fell in a mountain stream while he and Bob hiked Phelps. We met a group of ladies in their 60s who were having a girls weekend together. The eight of them had booked the top floor of the Loj (it’s bunk style) and they were practicing swimming in cold water. They’ve known each other for 40 years, and they get together often. Several of them had climbed all 46, and some had “only” climbed 20 or so. Makes my four seem a little paltry (Marcy, Algonquin, Cascade, and Jo, not that anyone has asked).

We packed up from the Adirondacks a day early. Thunderstorms kept rolling through (indeed, Eleanor and I descended Jo in a downpour), and we were told we couldn’t have a tent on site (?), so we decided it was as good a time as any to make a change in plans. Bob booked us a hotel in Syracuse as a waypoint, and we met up with the kids’ former nanny, Naomi, for a really fun day the today at the Museum of Play in Rochester. Grant just cannonballed around, and thank goodness we did meet up with Naomi, because we had to play man-to-man with these three. Zone defense doesn’t work at the funnest museum in the world.

Grant has launched into being 5 with his usual recklessness and style. It’s hard not to root for him. He got a long birthday trip where he took center stage for much of it (as is right and good), and while he might be several bug bites richer tonight, he also has a full charge on his adventure meter. Look out world, he’s five!

11 years with WordPress

This weekend marked my 11th year blogging on WordPress. It doesn’t feel like more than a decade of tapping the keys about my stuff, but here we are.

There have been a lot of changes to WordPress.com in the past eleven years, and that’s a great thing. It’s constantly evolving to be better, faster, smarter, and more useful. Not every incremental change has done all of those things (and indeed, sometimes there are some steps backwards in order to move forward). Working in Happiness for much of that time has given me a front-row seat to the changes that draw the most confusion and/or ire from customers, as well as how hard and rapidly our developers work to overcome those setbacks.

In those eleven years, I’ve published 2,202 posts (this will be 2,203), earning 61,903 views, and a hair over 32,000 visitors. Kindly readers have left nearly 1,000 comments (though some of those are my own replies; maybe as many as half?) Using my handy dandy built-in Jetpack stats, I can review my annual stats, which I will now bore you all with:

2010: 53 posts; 2011: 9 posts (a tragedy; the year the twins were born); 2012: 71 (the year I joined Automattic); 2013: 13 posts; 2014: 141 posts (getting better); 2015: 424 posts (now we’re talking); 2016: 338 posts (the year Grant was born); 2017: 437 posts; 2018: 379 posts; 2019: 212 posts (uh-oh, significant decline); 2020: 73 posts (oh shit); 2021: 33 posts so far.

I used to post every single day, sometimes more often. I found that a really fun and useful exercise for a few years, but when I felt I was not adding any kind of value I readjusted that pace. In 2020 everything fell apart, and I couldn’t muster up the energy or a modicum of creativity. As May snowfall turns to June heat, I’m finding more creativity again, and my latest stream of posts seems to agree with that. Blogging feels natural, and the barrier is low as far as the tool (WordPress) goes. I’ve used it so long, the friction is gone. But my own internal friction is far harder to overcome.

In these eleven years, I’ve spread just over 252,000 words across 2,203 posts; or just over 114 words a post. Many of my daily posts are just a title and a photo. In fact, 2011 (the year of 9 posts) is also my year of the highest average word count per post: 655. Frequency doesn’t necessarily beget depth. Perhaps it is telling that 2020 (73 posts) has a higher average word count than the previous 6 years per post, at 230. Like ink drops scattered across a page; few, but significant. My year of the lowest average word count is 2015 (424 posts), with an average word count of 53. Just fifty-three words on average that entire year. I suppose WordPress doesn’t count each image as a thousand words 😛

I’m very excited by the prospect of a further 11 years pecking away at the keyboard using WordPress. We recently brought Day One into the Automattic family, and I’m very intrigued by the idea of not just… spewing at the world. I know I can’t predict the next 11 years of growth and change within Automattic and with WordPress.com, but I’m confident that this space on the web that I’ve carved out will continue to grow and change with me. Thank you to my loyal readers, my inconstant readers, and my one time visitors. You are all very, very, ridiculously good looking.

Thanks! It has pockets!

Three times today, I’ve been able to say “thanks! it has pockets!” which is a real gift. The first time, I was meeting Bob for lunch at the Old Library, and our hostess said “ooh, I love your dress!” And we talked about how valuable pockets are in a dress.

The second time, I was walking home from lunch and a woman leaned out of her car to yell “I like your dress!” and when I told her about the pockets, both her and the fella in the car with her said “yessss!” which was gratifying, as if I had invented pockets in dresses myself.

The third time was on a work call, when the person I was talking with said “I like your shirt” and I explained how it was a pocketed dress. Again, I felt as if I had originated the entire idea of pockets for dress-wearers.

I should remind us all (for my ego’s sake) that of course I did not. But I was savvy enough to see a dress covered in wiener dogs, some wearing collars, some wearing pearl necklaces, some wearing NOTHING LIKE HEATHENS, discover that it had pockets, and then purchase it. And of course, wear it proudly.

Stone-faced

I don’t know how they managed to keep such straight faces.

They were really back there saying “cheese!”

My dad made these low-relief carvings of all three kids. He started with Grant, then Henry, then Eleanor. They’re all wonderful pieces that I’ll cherish, but I can’t get over the depth that he achieved around Ele’s neck.