Tuesday, April 30, 2013

California (Not Disneyland) Babymoon, Part the First: The Work Outing

For the last few months we've been trying to somehow plan a babymoon of some kind before The Speck arrives.  The obvious solution is Disneyland, of course (which is also what everyone expected when we said we were planning a little trip), and Julie was even down with the idea of not being able to ride some of her favorite attractions and spend a little more time relaxing and sitting than our usual practice of running around filling every possible second.  We know how to make the most of a couple of days at Disneyland, and we thought it might be fun for baby's first Disneyland vacation to have been in utero, but we also thought it might be nice to do something different for our last traveling hurrah as a party of two.  So we tried to think of various alternatives too (I've been trying to plan a Hawaii trip for a couple years too), but we just couldn't seem to find the right weekend for this to take place, whatever we decided.

THEN one day, my manager in northern California called and said that, after three years of my having worked remotely, she thought it was a good time, before the baby comes, to visit the office in Rancho Cordova!  This was a very exciting prospect, and as The Wife was still itching for some nice not-working time (not to mention that coincidentally she actually grew up very close by Rancho!), we decided we should extend the half-week work trip to a full week and spend a few days on vacation!  So that's just what we did!  And I didn't have to take that many days off work, and we were able to have a somewhat different CA experience.  It was very relaxing and fun and comparatively laid-back, which is just perfect for a 34-weeks along couple like we happen to be.  (Not to mention that at least half of the bill was covered by work!  Money well spent, work.)

So in mid-April, we hopped on a plane and headed to the Sacramento airport, rented a car and drove to Rancho Cordova, and spent the next four days living and working and playing and eating and visiting in the Sacramento area.
Heyyyy, rental car!  It was a bit like a mission car.  Maybe that's why I loved it so.

After we checked into our hotel, we spent Sunday afternoon driving around nearby El Dorado Hills, where Julie lived for several of her formative childhood years.  It was a delightful area, though of course much more developed than she remembered it being, and we had a great time visiting her old house and schools and parks and neighborhood haunts.  She was so excited to see the old places, and I had a great time hearing stories and imagining her younger self and younger family living in this very nice town.  On the way back we stopped by the newish Sacramento temple (which is pretty well out of the way, unless you know where you're going, which the GPS, our beloved Vicki, did).
Hey, it's us!  You know, like we do.
This was SO delicious.  Best fast Mexican food ever!
That's the house!
School!  It was outdoor.  Neat.
These kids questioned what I was doing up there.  "I wanted to give it a try, to have fun!"
The Speck already loves the playground.
:(  I don't know why.  I didn't quite fit.
Still here!  She remembers it fondly!

A perfect spot for pictures!  It's almost like it was planned that way...  I played the role of the blushing bride.  And the groom too, I guess.
A li'l snake sneaking onto the grounds!!!  Is there a more appropriate Garden of Eden parallel??  I think not!!!
The majority of the days in Rancho were spent working (me) and lounging (Julie).  It was really great to meet my coworkers, most of whom I have known for years, but only as voices on a conference call or still photos on the team blog.  It was fun to be actually present in the meetings (though I still managed to show up a few minutes late, HA) and to interact and communicate with these people face to face (including the new HR rep so I could talk to her about getting things straightened out for family leave in a few weeks).
Oh, li'l picture of the office!
They set me up in a little cubicle all my own for the few days I would be in town, and when we weren't in meetings or team development sessions or projects, I was more or less doing the same things I do here at my home office, just in a more sociable fashion, I guess.  It was very different to hear other voices and look around and remember I'm not sitting at my desk at home.  It was fun to go out to work lunches with everyone and experience the workplace environment for a few days.  We three artists also executed an Epic Picnic event that turned out to be a great success.
Sidewalk art by yours truly.  My best work ever?  Could be.
Julie and Terrie, the bosslady
Working remotely has its perks, but it was refreshing and fun to be in a workplace for a while too, and I can definitely see the perks of that too.  The office is great and fun and professional and overall I'm just really glad that I had this chance to see and live the workplace life for a while so I can picture my workmates and their locale a little better in the future, and already our communication and work relationships are better, so yay.  It's a good place to work, and I'm really glad it came along when it did and has remained so great after these years.
Team o' artists!  Together at last!  Chelsea, me, Matt
My little cube!  It was sparsely decorated.  There were some leftover Halloween decorations on the desk though.
Whaddup, Terrie?
*thumbs up*
As for Julie, she occasionally joined me for work lunches and I took her on a tour of the office, but as I said, most of her time was spent in blissful languidness.  She sat by the pool and did a lot of reading and worked on projects for The Speck and watched TV and in general had a few days of the exact doing-nothing that she had been so craving after the long weeks of full-time employment.
It's a little colder than in looks, but it was snowing at home, so a little pool time, even if it's chilly, was a welcome change.  People kept apologizing that the weather wasn't better for our visit, but we can handle a little wind with our sunshine!
And then, to close, this other super exciting (to me) thing happened.  Perhaps it requires a little backstory.  About, oh, eight or so years ago I started to get interested in podcasts and listened to a lot of them about various subject every week.  Over the years my playlist was whittled down (returning from serving a mission was a real help in deciding which podcasts I didn't really care about spending my life listening to), but one that has remained constant and consistently in my weekly line-up over the years is the Survivor Fans Podcast, run by the delightful wife-and-husband team, Jo Ann and Stacy.  Besides their entertaining recaps of each episode and insightful interviews with each cast-off, part of the reason I've stuck with this podcast was because, due to the unique nature of their weekly shows, they invite listener contributions to each episode in a separate listener feedback show, which I've been participating in almost as long as they've been doing their show.  I knew they lived pretty close to Sacramento (we wrote back and forth a few times when I was in Wisconsin), so when I knew I was heading in that direction I just had to reach out and see if we could meet up!  In the end it worked out, and we shared a delicious dinner at a small local Vietnamese restaurant, and then, on Wednesday night, they even invited us to join them to watch Survivor with them!  Without going into too many gushy details, it was the PERFECT episode to watch with the hosts of everyone's favorite Survivor podcast.  And then, as the icing on the cake, we were invited to join them for their recap podcast!  XD  Survivor dream come true!!!  It was great to be able to contribute a little more than the usual allowed three minutes of listener feedback, ha ha.  Julie was a bit shy of the idea of putting her voice on a podcast, but she did just great and is of course a very insightful Survivor fan, and the listeners seemed to enjoy the surprise of a couple of guest co-hosts.  You can listen to the show here.  They were great hosts, both so friendly and fun and sassy and entertaining, my face hurt from smiling the whole time (the episode especially added to that) and I was so glad we were able to get together.
In the studio
So then on Thursday morning, after four days very well spent, we enjoyed the hotel's exercise equipment and/or deluxe breakfast, packed up our things and headed to our vacation destination!  Details to follow.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


A couple of weeks ago I turned the big three-two.  In the last year I was sure I was barely 30, and then just a few months ago I was positive I was about to turn 33, so I guess I ended up somewhere (exactly) in the middle.  I had a great birthday!  The Wife is so very great at making me feel especially special on such days, and this one was no exception!  Our festivities were split into three events:

1)  We started out with a fun local 5K.  We saw a flyer for it at our last race, and we thought since my birthday was on a Saturday this year, it would be a fun way to start the day (if the weather would cooperate, which it certainly did).  We invited everyone, but Mom and Dad were the sole parties who joined us, and we were glad to see them.  It was the Luck of the Irish put on by the Vineyard Elementary PTA, and as such, it was a smaller race with lots of families and little kids, but it was a great course and beautiful springish weather, and we had a great time.  I was just outside of the top 10 (11th overall, about 22:03, 6:57/mile, though it was actually 3.17), and I'm thinking probably top three in my division, but they didn't give awards except for the first place and I don't recall seeing posted results, so who can know?  It wasn't my best or most energetic race, but for an early spring 5K it wasn't bad at all.  And it was only ten dollars too.  And the best part is that Julie did the race too!  Well, she wasn't exactly racing, as she participated in the walking part of the run/walk, but she walked the whole entire thing and did just great!  The Speck's first 5K!  Afterward, Mom and Dad took us to Sammy's to take advantage of a coupon they had for foods there.  It was delicious and fun, but the fries were really very greasy.
Baby's first 5K!
This was an awesome birthday present from The Wife.  It's a medal/ribbon rack!  She's so creative with presents and such.
2)  The next event of the day was going to see Oz: The Great and Powerful.  As I have said on Facebook, I actually rather liked it! I maybe wouldn't call it Great and Powerful, but I might say it was Pretty Good and Fairly Potent.  Though I'm still not sure why it's a Disney movie, and also, James Franco can be a real goober sometimes.  Anyway, this is the second item of the day that we invited many, many people to, and not one single person joined us.  But we still had a good time!  After this, we met Mom and Dad again for a most delicious dinner at Brick Oven.  I just can't believe they have a buffet option that includes pizza now.  That's just perfect.

3)  Then we went home so Julie could put the finishing touches on THIS:
The cake mistress.  She is such a pro.
See how excited I am??
It's the most amazing cake ever!  I just can't believe how amazing it is.  So amazing that I had to post like six pictures of it.  I'm so glad I had the presence of mind to request that one this year.  What other cake could anyone need or want ever?  And it turned out perfectly, Wife!  So we sat and waited patiently for any of our many, many invited (and even RSVPed) guests to arrive, and... none did.  We were glad Mom and Dad were still around after dinner and could help us eat the delicious cake, but we were quite surprised that not a single of the other friends and family we invited came.  (Yes, yes, I know, people had reasons, etc. etc., I'm just saying...  When we get invited to things, we usually go.  Especially if we say we're going to.  Do I sound bitter?  I'm not, really.  Well, I sort of am...  It was just hard to get call after call and message after message from people saying they couldn't make it...  those that did, that is, ha.  Anyway, that's that.  More cake for us!!!  Suckahz who missed out totally, well, missed out.)  I don't know what it is.  Maybe we're just not meant to throw parties.  This has happened waaaayyyy too many times to be one of those things that just sometimes happens.  Maybe we're doing it wrong?  Anyway, luckily we are great company for each other!  OH, and I should say that a couple of friends and their baby did come over after to have some cake, and so that we could be the decoy for HIS party that was happening on the same night, since our birthday is on the very same day.  So then after they left, we went over to THEIR house to participate in HIS party, which was very well-attended and we enjoyed mocktails and pie and YouTube videos.

Happy birthday to me!!!  I sound kind of whiny, and I was quite upset (and might have vowed never to try to throw another party, especially when I remembered the miserable failure that was when I tried to throw a surprise party for The Wife's birthday last year), but overall I had such a great birthday, and I'm so glad I was able to spend it with my beloved and the Speck.  My last birthday as a non-dad! XD

P.S. The day after I wrote this blogpost I had this dream where I had an EPIC birthday party at my old elementary school, and seriously THOUSANDS of people were there.  It was pretty amazing, though of course I don't think I require that many guests at a birthday party of mine ever.