A trip to King’s Dominion (367 days ago)

The subject of King’s Dominion theme park came up this morning in conversation at work and so, as I do, I went to my blog to illustrate the conversation with photos, and *gasp* I realized I hadn’t really blogged about our trip that day! And it was a really fun day! I posted a bunch of pictures on social media, but that’s not good enough. So I hope you don’t mind a little trip down memory lane. Kristina and the boys might have to fill in some gaps for me later, though.

(I know it was 1 year and 2 days ago, thanks to FB reminding me Saturday.)

So let’s see…we were visiting Kiki at that point in our trip to Virginia, so we left Woodbridge and headed to wherever King’s Dominion is. I remember we stopped at a rest area and saw something on the news. Oh yeah, the flooding in New Orleans. 😦 Anyway, we got there and it was pretty empty, which was awesome! I think it was some day in the middle of the week, I guess that’s why.

I was excited to see that King’s Dominion was basically Peanut-themed! SO MANY LINUS PICTURES!

Anyway, we rode lots of roller coasters…that’s a lie. Kiki and the boys got me on ONE roller coaster and after that evil ride, I was like NO THANKS and stuck to things like the swings that go in slow circles and kid rides instead. Much better.

Later, we headed to the water park area, where Linus impressed the hell out of me by going on this terrifying water slide where you stand on a platform and the floor drops out from under you and you fall down this tube and well no thanks, but I can’t believe one of MY children did that. (Also Kiki did, but she is super brave and makes me sit in the back car of roller coasters so I’m not surprised.)

Also there was a water slide where we all sat in a huge round tube together and that was really fun but sadly, no pics from the water park because my phone was in the locker and I didn’t bring my waterproof camera. DANGIT.

Anyway, we rode more rides after, and there was a cute part later where the kids got to drive around a tiny little town with roads and traffic lights and stuff. And then they got their caricatures, and then Miles kept falling down, and was getting really pissed, so we decided it was probably time to go, so we did. But it was a great day! Yay! And I’m glad it’s now been recorded on my blog.

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Summer of sewing and soccer

Don’t you just love an alliterative title?

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Fancy soccer training jacket

I haven’t blogged much this summer. Mostly because we just haven’t done that much. I feel bad for the boys – they keep asking if we’re going to go somewhere. And then I keep reminding them that they’re playing soccer, remember? And soccer is very expensive. (Guilt trip much? I learned from the best!)

But don’t feel too bad for them. We are going on another big ol’ family cruise at Thanksgiving, and thanks to soccer, we’ll have a few small trips to soccer tournaments throughout the year. In fact, the first one is already on the calendar.

Unfortunately for me, it’s also the weekend I’m supposed to come back from this year’s Grand Meetup for work, so I had to get permission from work to leave a day early. Get this: the GM is in Orlando this year. So I’ll fly home Friday afternoon, load everyone in the van and drive BACK to Florida that very same evening for the tournament. Ha! At least the tournament isn’t also in Orlando – it’s in Pensacola which is just a few hours away.

So what have we been up to this summer? The boys went to camp for about six weeks. They didn’t love having to go to camp, but it got them out of the house at least. And they went to a few days here and there of soccer camp as well, which they enjoyed. Of course, nothing was close to home so I feel like I spent the entire summer in my van, and not in a fun road-trip kind of way.

They also participated in summer soccer, which was two evenings a week for seven weeks. I think it was good for them – it was their first experience playing “elite” soccer, not just recreational. At first, they were kind of disheartened, but as the weeks went on, they enjoyed it more. It was mostly drills and scrimmages, so they learned a lot. Of course, thanks to our summer afternoon thunderstorms, there weren’t seven weeks worth of soccer, but whatever.

Another highlight was Aunt Jenny and Emily and Andrew and Uncle Rob coming to Baton Rouge to visit. We spent a few days at Grandee’s hanging out, visiting with my cousin Sara’s baby, and as a bonus, the boys got a haircut, which was sorely needed.

There were also playdates and me breaking a tooth and having to get it pulled (so now I have two gaps in my mouth which makes me extra classy) and hanging out with coworkers in town with their family, and saving the world, and going to visit a giant mural of a French soccer star.

I’ve been sewing a lot when I haven’t been working. I took a class at a local sewing store (blog post to come) which was amazing, but have been mostly working on sewing up household goods to sell to help pay for soccer. It’s a win-win – sewing relaxes me and hopefully, it’ll ease the stress of the endless costs of competitive soccer. (If you’re interested, you can check those out here and here.)

Movies, murals, sewing

I have a few little things I want to blog about, so I guess I should do that before too much time passes!

Last Friday, George and I went to go see the documentary Three Identical Strangers that was briefly playing at a local movie theater here. I had been hearing about it for a while, ever since it was making the rounds of film festivals earlier this year, thanks to the Google notifications I get for “identical triplets.”

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In a nutshell, the movie is about a set of identical triplets that were separated at birth and reunited, just by sheer happenstance, 19 years later. It’s heart-wrenching and emotional and funny and sad and tears rolled down my face for the first thirty minutes and then I pulled myself together. It was just so good and so thought-provoking and if you can see it, you should. If only I could have worn a shirt that said “Mom of Identical Triplets” so I could have gotten free popcorn or something. Or a free daiquiri. The movie theater had daiquiris. I could have used one.

Later that day, I went to the first day of a sewing class at a local store, which was so amazing and exhausting. The goal was to make a box-pleated skirt. By the end of the weekend I had spent 11 hours in the store, and I still didn’t have a finished skirt. I still don’t. Still have some work to do on it. Heh. But it’s going to be amazing. And I learned so much! I will have an in-depth blog post about it later, once the skirt is all finished, but I have about 20 feet of hem to hand-sew so it might be a little bit.

Sneak peek:

And then the other day, my friend Jenn told me about a mural that a local artist painted last month on the side of a building of a French soccer star. Well, obviously I had to take the boys, so we went yesterday on the way to soccer. It was pretty cool! Oliver was less than thrilled, as this guy, Paul Pogba plays for Manchester United (when he’s not playing for the French national team) and Oliver is a Manchester City fan. Kids.

 

Sewing project: Helen’s Closet York Pinafore

I went back and forth for a long, long time about this pattern* by Helen’s Closet (one of the hosts of the excellent Love to Sew podcast.) It was cute! But it wouldn’t suit my particular shape. But it was so cute! But not for me. I mean, it’s fine – not everything flatters everyone. But I kept going back to it. And there were two different views, one shorter with a higher scoop, and I thought that would work on me. I wasn’t sure about the “cocoon” shape of the skirt, but that could be modified easily enough. I also wasn’t sure if the width of the top would work with the width of me. Would it accentuate my width in a good way or a bad way?

Finally, I just went ahead and bought it (the day before it went on sale for 15% off, naturally – so if you like it go buy it now!) and got two yards of linen at Joann since they were having a sale.

Short version: I love it!

OH HI AREN’T I CUTE?

Long story: I cut out the XXL size, lengthened the upper bit 3/4″ to accommodate my bosoms (according to the excellent pattern instructions), and added 2″ to the bottom bit (not the hem but the lengthen line) to accommodate my height. (I mean, I wanted the short length but not THAT short.)

I went with the kangaroo pocket because it’s cute, and bought gold topstitching thread. I used it around the pocket curves and started to use it everywhere there was topstitching but then I realized it was starting to look more like a butcher’s apron or something industrial and that wasn’t exactly the look I was going for. But I like the little accent it gives. I also used navy bias tape so it blends in pretty well. It’s all on the inside anyway, but next time I plan to use something contrasting because it would peek out from the armholes especially. (Yes, there will most definitely be a next time.

After it was fully made, I ended up straightening the curve in the hips quite a bit – I’m not sure if it was the “cocoon” curve that didn’t suit me, or if the size was too big in the hips, but I think I like the straighter skirt anyway, so I think I may just modify the pattern itself. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m super excited about this. I love that I can wear fitted tops with it and not feel self-conscious about them. I love the pocket! And the length! I can’t wait to make some for winter to wear with tights and boots! This is going to be my new uniform! I’m just going to make a dozen of them and just wear them every day!

MOM WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE????

* naturally it went on sale the day after I bought it. So buy it right now while it is on sale! Sale ends July 22nd at midnight PST.

Tiny triplets

The other night I was looking for a specific old video clip and I was shocked to come across some old videos of the boys as newborns that I had never seen before. Well, obviously I had seen them at some point because I was the one recording them, but I have absolutely no recollection of them.

This is a video of George holding Oliver the night we roomed in with him at the hospital, the night before we brought him home. He came home two days before his brothers. The most special part of this video for me is the very end. I was always very sad that I didn’t have any “going home” photos of me holding the boys as they wheeled me out of the hospital. I still don’t, but this little shot of Oliver in his carseat as George jingles the keys to get the car made me cry a little, I’m not going to lie.

And I love this because it’s a video version of this photo that I’ve looked at a zillion times. It’s the first day they were all home together, December 17, 2007.

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This is why I’m a digital hoarder!

 

SD Expo 2018 recap

This may come as a surprise, but I didn’t go to Portland solely to shop for fabric. The main reason I went was to give a workshop at SD Expo, a conference for support professionals.

My former coworker and current friend Andrea Badgley now works for Support Driven, the company that puts on SD Expo, and I was excited to hear that our flights arrived at about the same time. We took the train from the airport into the city together, and then met up with Denise, another Automattician for lunch at Deschutes Brewery. It was so great to see them again!

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Later, we went to the AirBNB offices and met up with some of the conference attendees and also toured the offices. Sounds weird, right? I was a bit skeptical about touring offices, but they were actually pretty cool.

The next day, we were up bright and early for the expo, which was held at an arena on the campus of Portland State University. Automattic was also a sponsor, so we set up our booth and I freaked out about my workshop, which was that morning.

My workshop was meant to help customer support agents get to the bottom of confusing questions from users. It happens. It was charmingly titled “I’m sorry, can you repeat the question? Getting to the bottom of what the customer is really asking”.

I didn’t finish polishing it until the night before I left for Portland. I work best on a deadline, and I know this, but nevertheless, I probably could have done without the stress. And I was also determined to tailor a couple of WordPress t-shirts to wear, but they weren’t getting delivered until that day. So yeah. Time management skills are definitely not my forte.

Since I was running a workshop and not just giving a talk, I needed an activity. I had a basic idea of what I was going to do (use low-tech scenarios to have people role-play customer and support agent) but I wasn’t sure how to execute it. I just couldn’t make it gel. But finally, about a week before, it came to me in a flash.

Fast forward to Thursday at about 10:45am. I’m walking towards the workshop room with my colleague Ainslie, who volunteered to help me demonstrate and keep things moving. There was a crowd of people waiting outside the room.

No, surely these people weren’t waiting to get into the room for my talk. Surely they were just…waiting in line for the bathroom? Or just chatting? Or were lost? Alas, my dream of having a half-full room for my workshop (just enough to not feel pathetic, but not too many to be overwhelmed) was shot down when all 48 seats at the tables were taken and another dozen or so people sat in chairs along the walls.

I nervously confidently got started, and fortunately, only had to talk for about ten minutes before the fun part started – the activity.

Looking nervous confident in the shirt I tailored (I can’t not talk about sewing a little.)

And also looking just like the nerd emoji. 🤓

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Uncanny.

The workshop part went like this…everyone divided into pairs. One person was the customer, and the other was the support agent. They were given an envelope with two sealed cards. The customer’s card detailed a problem they were having with a company’s product. The support agent’s card only said what the company was. The agent had to guess what the problem was, using techniques I’d discussed in my talk.

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In the demo, I was the customer, and Ainslie was the support agent.

Her card simply said “You are a support agent for ACME BOOKSELLERS”

I started out saying “I got a book to read to my kid, but I can’t read it!” She asked, “is there anything wrong with the book?” I clarified that no, the book itself was fine, the pages weren’t torn or anything. But I just couldn’t read the words. And YES, I can read.

After a few probing questions, she thought to ask me to spell a few of the words to her.

“B-O-N J-O-U-R”, I said. And voila! She figured out the problem.

Here’s what my card said.

The rest of the scenarios were similar, and you can download the set here, if you like.

The discussion was lively, and people ran through several scenarios in the time we had. The room got loud! So loud we had to borrow one of the participants to whistle for us.

There were still about ten minutes left, so I opened the floor to let people talk about their experiences either at the workshop or in real life, or if they had questions. Naturally I expected dead silence, but I was happy that we had a lively discussion with people asking questions and hands being raised and I got to call on people and pretend like I was a teacher and everything. It was fantastic.

But the best part of all was after. The people who came up to me to tell me how great it was, and how much they got out of it. It really made all of the stress worth it. But maybe next time I’ll start earlier. (Yeah right.)

I can’t talk about SD Expo, though, without talking about my colleagues’ talks. Denise gave a workshop on weekend scheduling that gave me a profound respect for the work she does at Automattic. Maureen talked about the concierge support we give to our Business-level users, and we got to do a fun Mad Libs activity. And Kathryn talked about her experiences in the WordPress community forums, which she’s been involved with for many years.

I also got to talk to potential Happiness Engineer candidates (you know we’re hiring, right?), pick the brains of other people who hire support teams for their companies, eat amazing doughnuts, meet some famous cats, and fly home first class. Not bad!

 

10 years on WordPress!

It’s hard to explain how the decision I made on July 10, 2001 to document my marathon training literally changed my life. WordPress didn’t even exist yet. In the beginning, this blog was just an HTML page that I updated and each month I’d start a new page. (Not to worry, you can read all those posts here – I copied them into blog posts a while back.)

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Hand coded HTML
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Every website needed a splash page in 2003!

But ten years ago today, on July 11, 2008, I moved my blog to WordPress.com – for several years before that, it was hosted, uh, elsewhere. But once I met WordPress, it was love at first site sight.

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Finally on WordPress.com in 2008!

And of course, in 2013 it led to me working at Automattic. My dream job!

I don’t blog for a big audience. I blog to document my life, so I can go back and read it later. (I’m hopelessly nostalgic.) I blog because there was no way I was going to be able to keep three baby books going. I blog because I love photography. And I love to photograph my kids. I blog because I like to keep in touch with old friends.

And if it weren’t for WordPress, I surely would have given up long ago. And I wouldn’t have the amazing colleagues and friends I’ve made over the past four and a half years. I wouldn’t have a job I love, that constantly challenges me. I wouldn’t have Ziggy!

This is post 3,808.

Here’s to 3,808 more.