binary girl: the secret blog



the rare public post

January 27th, 2016

Looking back over my recent forays into bloggery, it occurs to me that most of this stuff is locked down (with friends-only copies going to Livejournal, which I can’t believe I still use, although the flow of posts there is ridiculously diminished compared to the days of yore pre-Facebook). So, boom! A public post!

I have, as usual, been concentrating on myself as a parent, and the quality of my interactions with both K and M, as well as B. We’ve made some changes at home (mainly between Brandon and Katie’s interactions) which have had the side-effect of mellowing K out a bit — she’s been better across the board in staggering ways. I can’t decide if part of it is that my commute is so much less intensive (seriously, I went from a ~45 min drive to 10 min, it’s amazing in nearly every way) so I’m present to support B more or what, and I am probably jinxing things in every possible way, but I went from such abject panic about our situation at the beginning of the month to satisfaction that it’s making my head spin.

Here’s a little quizlet from FB I gave the kids over the last two days:

1. What is something I always say to you?
“Sweetie bean, you’re my sweetie bean.”
2. What makes me happy?
I’ve got a good one, “I care if you die!”
3. What makes me sad?
“I don’t care if you die!”
4. How do I make you laugh?
Saying “Maxie is a sweetie bean” and then you tickle me!
5. What was I like as a child?
I don’t know!
6. How old am I?
I don’t know? 20?
7. How tall am I?
30 inches tall.
8. What is my favorite thing to do?
Play video games! I mean, make your children happy!
9. What do I do when you’re not around?
Punch your nipple, that’s what I think!
10. What am I really good at?
You are really good at work!
11. What is something I’m not good at?
Saying “nipple”.
12. What do I do for a job?
Work. You sit at your desk and look at stuff on your computer.
13. What is my favorite food?
Holy Toledos! Tacquitos!
14. What do you enjoy doing with me?
Get Legos!
Answers by: Max; 5

1. What is something I always say to you?
“I love you.”
2. What makes me happy?
Seeing me and Max getting along and brother and sister stuff.
3. What makes me sad?
When me and Max fight.
4. How do I make you laugh?
By tickling us and doing silly jokes.
5. What was I like as a child?
I think you had glasses and dark long hair, clothes, shoes, books, and a school.
6. How old am I?
7. How tall am I?
You never told me this! Thirty inches?
8. What is my favorite thing to do?
Be with your family and do stuff with them and play games with them and tickling them and cuddling with them and loving on them.
9. What do I do when you’re not around?
Go to work.
10. What am I really good at?
Making people happy.
11. What is something I’m not good at?
12. What do I do for a job?
13. What is my favorite food?
Mint chocolate chip.
14. What do you enjoy doing with me?
Cuddling with you.
Answers by: Katie; 7

When I talked to them, I found it weirdly satisfying that they replied in ways that make me think that they think I’m not so bad. I spend so much time teeth-gnashing about whether or not we’re totally messing them up that it’s good to know that in their minds, we’re not totally the worst. :P

new jobbery!

January 3rd, 2016

Starting tomorrow, I will no longer be a BrightRoller/Yahoo; I decided to abdicate the throne and am moving to a small biotech that is in the same city I live in. I’m nervous and excited! WOO!

I am hoping not commuting 45m+ each way every day will leave me more time for ponderings that aren’t just “here’s shit my kids did”. But who knows. :D

In other news, I just turned a year older yesterday, and it began with me taking my littlest to get an emergency root canal. In my defense, though, that’s what he gets for getting to go to Legoland and Universal Studios (oh, and his grandparents’ house) with his sister for two weeks. So ha on him! HA! SILVER TOOTH FOR YOU, BUDDY.


December 14th, 2015

So much going on over here…

Work: I’ve been writing up a post of some of the things I’ve learned about Yahoo as a company over the past year. Having a nuanced view of this company makes me reflect deeply about the Microsoft acquisition of Danger, and how much I missed going on behind the scenes as a side effect of both being an IC, as opposed to a manager, as well as being a part of a non-transparent engineering organization. It certainly makes me feel strongly about how I want to run engineering orgs in the future — where I’ve seen people on my team succeed, and the kind of management style which I deeply believe in (servant leadership).

Pets: For a brief moment, we thought Ash had cancer. Thankfully, he doesn’t, but he does have high cholesterol (normal for his breed) and a problem with bladder stones (also normal for his breed). He’s calmed on the bitey front — although I now muzzle him at the drop of a hat — and since Sadie’s short-lived appearance in our house, he won’t sleep on our bed (partially because he can’t get there without help). Nicky is mostly blind and deaf but totally recovered from the IMHA he suffered from when Max was wee.

Kids: The best. I adore them.

Brandon: My best guy.

this day is fucking awful

November 13th, 2015

super shitty morning parent fail
work awful beyond comparison
killings in paris
college friend has third recurrence of cancer
ash’s blood results come back indicating cancer or carcinoma of some type

more vision blargh

October 20th, 2015

In January I got prism lenses because I was seeing double (yay adult strab). They were 2 prism diopters, but I noticed at the kids’ appointment at August that I’d gone from wearing them when I was tired to needing them all the time, and then still having issues, so I asked the doc if there were exercises I could do to increase the strength of my eye muscles. She was concerned that things had gotten so much worse so quickly, so she asked me to make an appointment with her.

Today I found out that I’ve increased from 2 to 8 prism diopters since January. (Still holding steady at -12.25, though!) The doctor found that my eyes respond to the program that they use to train kids with this issue (usually adult brains have a problem seeing the… square thing that would train you to diverge) so I’m going to start using that, but I also have to have some blood tests to make sure I don’t have a deeper underlying issue, and she prepared me for the fact that I’ll most likely need surgery later on as it becomes harder and harder to correct the problem with prisms (being old means that the combo of needing separate glasses for near+far, my terrible myopia, and strab will become uncorrectable without surgery at some point… and I’m not yet 40, as opposed to being in my 80s, so my eyes have got a lot of crap yet to do).

All my senses are falling apart :/

so big! (inevitable passage of time edition)

August 7th, 2015

Max started pre-k on July 13. Originally, we had wanted him to go to the same school that Katie did for pre-k, but getting into that place is nigh impossible even for people who have been on the wait-list for multiple years (us) and who have priority through work and sibling (us). They give first priority to city employees no matter when they apply, so that, combined with the fact that they’ve pushed back the starting date of kindergarten a month over the past two years, means that there hasn’t been space for him, and we weren’t willing to wait anymore.

The place where we ended up sending him has been amazing so far — he really enjoys being one of the big kids, but not the biggest, and he’s soaking up information like a sponge. Right know he’s smack in the midst of obsession with Jurassic World (the lego version mainly), as well, so everything is about dinosaurs and Jurassic Park and the like. (He and Katie have been playing through the Lego Jurassic World video game and it’s spawned two of his worst tantrums to date, because he loves it so much but also gets SO incredibly frustrated by it.)

He is not a baby anymore, which I am having a weird time coping with — like, I like it, but I also sort of abhor thinking about his age because I feel like he’s still a baby and he’s very nearly 5. That is firmly NOT a baby. When I went to Maine over the 4th of July weekend to visit userinfosilsbycarr (B made me), Brandon took him to get his first not-by-Grammy haircut and they did the sort of cut which made him look like a full-grown young man as opposed to my little beeble. However, he is still my most physically affectionate and cuddly human, and for that, I am hugely grateful.

Katie is almost through the bulk of summer camps! We made the critical error of having her do different camps every week, so on Mondays she’s having some adjustment issues. Happily, we’re almost through them, though, and she has learned so much. She is reading at a fairly good clip, and worked on things like programming, flying a drone, and going to a marine biology camp and coming home with mud from the bottom of the bay painted on her face like she’s a warrior.

She is a lot more focused in her normal activities, as well — she was awarded a patch for perfecting Form #3 (Greenfields) in taekwondo, and is doing well in gymnastics, too. She can kick-turn and do all of the strokes for swimming, and we can take her to a pool without floatation and know that she won’t immediately perish, which is exciting :D I also can depend on her for a lot more at home, including getting herself ready for things in the day without totally getting distracted (especially if I give her a good reason for doing so — dessert, or screen time, or whatever), and she is trending towards being a driver of positivity in her relationship with Max (except when she’s really tired, and then all bets are off).

Yahoo is pretty demanding, but the kids really are my port-in-a-storm. I’m working hard on being patient with them and in general, I am rewarded. I am happy to be a mom to such awesomesauce little folk.

i gave a speech!

July 22nd, 2015

I gave my speech to the whole of Yahoo as part of the weekly all-hands, and it went REALLY well, imo. Not sure how many people were motivated by it, but strangers are still stopping me to tell me how much they enjoyed it.

Then, today, I noticed someone giving a tour to a bunch of kids through our office and I stepped out of the meeting I was about to start with the management team to talk to them briefly and tell them who were are (as former BrightRoll employees). I told them that if they ever wanted to talk to a woman in software engineering that I was always happy to do so, and later that afternoon someone from their program at Stanford emailed me to talk to them — they are part of a program that is a free college prep program for underrepresented students of color. How awesome would it be to be able to positively influence these kids?!

So, plugging along. I’m working more than ever, and trying to change Yahoo for the better. My team continues to be amazing. :D

work… is insane

July 8th, 2015

This week is insane. Not only are we doing QPRs (trying to represent a year for the BR folk at the same time that we calibrate everyone, etc), and mid-year promotions, and quarterly planning, and kicking off a new hiring process, but I’m presenting at the Yahoo all-hands on Friday, at my own accord, talking about myself and disruption. YIKES.

Today in sprint planning my team awarded me “the Sparklepony award” as a sign that I was most representative of our cultural values over the last sprint. They talked about why they nominated me and I almost cried, because I’m a sap.

i hate zoos

June 29th, 2015

For Father’s Day, we went to the SF Zoo, which was a great day — we parked far away because we got there when the parking lot was full, but had a good walk there and enjoyed the park, doing things that we hadn’t done before (the carousel and the train) and spending a lot of time using the play structure. Which was preferable to me, actually, because I generally hate zoos, and hate watching wild animals in enclosures of any types. (The petting zoo and the bunnies/guinea pigs, etc, I’m cool with, because those enclosures are like their real life places o’ housing… but man, lions? Elephants? Bears? Barf.)

However, there was one moment which sticks out for me because to me, it was fairly horrifying. You know those videos that people take and post online of their child at a zoo (or other place) where they are laughing as an animal lunges as their child through the glass partition? We were all standing at the grizzly enclosure, watching the bears through the thick glass walk towards the water for a dip, and Katie was standing at the very far edge, close to the glass, holding a closed container of cotton candy. Where she was standing was where the edge of the land and the beginning of the water connect, and one bear was walking that way, looked up as it approached, and then tried to just… bite her face off. It hit the glass instead, and didn’t make a sound (that we could hear), and the response of Katie and Max was laughter, but I was completely dumbfoundedly horrified.

I hate zoos.

electric car, on verdant green

June 10th, 2015

I got an electric car a week and a half ago, and I LOVE IT.

When Yahoo bought BrightRoll, one side-effect for me was changing my commute, as we relocated the Palo Alto office to Sunnyvale. In the beginning, it wasn’t too problematic, and it gave me time to listen to podcasts, etc. However, I’ve realized that the drive (especially at night) back home is taking me over an hour because I have to do it during peak rush hour, because of the kids’ tae kwon do schedule, and other after-school activities. (I guess I’m not alone in this, hence… rush hour!) Yahoo has a number of electric car chargers that it provides the employees for free, and electric cars in California are eligible for HOV lane stickers because of their “green” status, so Brandon and I idly had a conversation about getting an electric car for commuting purposes and eventually retiring the minivan for a larger electric car when those are available. One of the people on my team is an electric car enthusiast/hobbyist, so he had a lot of information about what was available, the tax credits, and he knows a lot of people who have hacked their cars, so having him as a resource is super useful.

If you’re a geek, an electric car is pretty much right up your alley. I’ve started gaming the system in some ways over the past week to see how much mileage I can eek out; today I went so far as to not charge it overnight to see if it was possible to do all my charging at work, and got here with over 50% charge to spare (between driving from Sunnyvale to Belmont, back to Sunnyvale the next day, which is the longest single-day commute I have generally). So, that means that not only am I currently not buying any gas, I’m also able to not pay for any electricity for my commute, if I so choose… which is a huge benefit, imo.

I’ve used the HOV lane a couple of times (although I’m not supposed to, because I don’t have plates yet, so I don’t have the sticker) and shaved over 20min off my commute. I could more aggressively use the HOV lane if I felt less guilty about doing it, and do better. That is also a huge benefit.

Finally, the car is a) adorable and b) zippy! It has pickup totally and completely unlike my minivan (duh), and is super fun to drive. It looks like Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls so I’ve gotten it a personalized plate: EBUBBLZ :)

It’s big enough that I have two backed boosters in the back for the kids, who like to drive around in it… but I feel sketchy putting them in such a small vehicle, when one of the main drivers for buying the Odyssey is the obscene number of air bags and protections it has in place for my little people. I prefer to have them in five-point harnesses, as well, even though Katie is already fighting me to just be in a normal booster (because that is what she uses for field trips and the like). However, the other option I was considering to ease my commute was a motorcycle, and I sold mine purposefully because I wouldn’t feel safe enough as a mom driving around on one (after The Great Accident Of Pre-Katie Days), so I think that this is a good compromise in that fashion. :)

hearing aids and tinnitus

June 5th, 2015

I have had increasing problems with tinnitus over the past four years. I figured that I’d write out some of my experiences for people who are in a similar situation looking to habituate, because I definitely ran into a lot of issues finding a solution that could work for me.

There are a number of different types of tinnitus, caused by a number of things. (How’s that for generic?) Generally, people experience one of two types of tinnitus — subjective, which means that has no apparent physical cause, and objective, which generally is caused by something physiological (like spasming muscles in the middle ear or altered blood flow to the ear). Subjective tinnitus is something most of us have experienced at one time or another — think about your ears ringing for a time after exposure to loud music. In some people, this ringing never fades… in some people, it’s not even ringing, but hissing, or other tones.

My Tinnitus Backstory

My initial issue was with a high-pitched tone reminiscent of the sound of a fluorescent light. In January 2014, after suffering from what is called a “spike” (when the perceived loudness of the tone increases or changes) for a number of months, I finally got around to getting an ENT referral to determine if my issues were physiological, or instead caused by something else. I underwent an audiogram to test my hearing, because for many people, tinnitus is the brain’s reaction to hearing loss in a certain range, and when they correct that loss, their brain no longer looks to fill the silence. However, my audiogram was really good — my hearing is better than average, in fact. It was at this time that we realized I suffer from a secondary issue called hyperacusis, where sounds in a certain range are painful to hear. Unfortunately for me, this range is around the area where little kid voices fall, so when I was around a number of children talking excitedly, I would have a very negative physical and emotional reaction.

Since I had no recent exposure to loud noises, had started no medications that can cause tinnitus, and had no apparent physiological issues (my tones at the time were constant), the doctor told me that essentially my options were:
– deal with it until I habituated (I’ll describe that in a sec)
– mask with white/blue/purple noise
– undergo TRT (Tinnitus Retraining Therapy), which required going to San Francisco and is expensive and doesn’t always work

Habituation is essentially something we’ve all done — because if we hadn’t, you’d sit there listening to your pulse rush through your ears and never be able to focus on something else. It’s when your brain gets used to a noise and essentially begins to filter it into the background, so it isn’t a constant disruption. (You CAN still hear the noise when you focus, though — like when you go into a quiet room and can still hear your heart.)

At this point, for me, my tinnitus was causing a number of issues. It was making me constantly agitated, because I was receiving far more mental stimulation from the tone that I was always hearing than I could handle. By the end of the day, my shoulders would be up around my ears because my body was essentially in defense mode against further stimulation, and then I’d go home, where my kids’ voices would key me up further because of the hyperacusis. (I remember one time Katie yelped something while sitting in my lap — she’s pretty much always on high-volume — and I had a physical reaction as if someone was actually hurting me, and stood up abruptly to get her off and away from me.) I was short-tempered at work, which I could, for the most part, overcome by just being aware of my mental state, but worse at home, where I would be snappy with the kids instead of patient.

So, I decided to go the white noise route, and started using a white noise generator on my phone. I noticed the first time I started using it that I felt instant relief. My field of hearing felt like it opened up significantly when I put the earbuds in, because I wasn’t just focusing on the noise. I found that blue noise (which has a slightly altered increase in db across each frequency range) was what masked best, and learned that the key to this kind of habituation technique is to keep the sound of the color noise slightly lower than the tinnitus so your brain gets an opportunity to get used to it.

So, that worked for a while. Then, in May 2014, I changed jobs, to one that was purely managerial as opposed to slightly. I’d already had the problem at work where I couldn’t really wear earbuds to meetings, but if I describe to the people in the meeting what was going on, they were generally accepting. Even then, however, the impression was left to them that I wasn’t fully engaged. And, of course, outside of work, my kids would yank out the earbuds, or I would get caught on things, etc. They were a sub-optimal solution at best. So, I decided to start investigating hearing aids.

Things To Know About Getting Hearing Aids For Tinnitus

Especially if you have better-than-average hearing, or no hearing loss, know right now that you will be unlikely to see a hearing aid specialist who has any experience treating tinnitus with hearing aids. I started working with a local store in Palo Alto in October of 2014, and while it our relationship began fairly amiably, at the end he was so frustrated with me (I kept pointing out issues) that we essentially stopped working together. (This is not a great outcome considering how much these things cost!)

The first problem I found is that most hearing aid professionals do not understand that they need to MUTE THE MICROPHONE ON THE AID. I went through a month of testing a pair of aids where I simply could not convince the guy that even though he lowered the amplification, they were still picking up noise via the mics. His way of checking was to repeatedly just pop them in and try to use them himself, but he was in his 60s so when he put the aid in he couldn’t hear the mic. (The first time I noticed it was when I was wearing them and giving Max a piggyback ride, then he talked forward and it BLEW MY GODDAMN EARS OUT.)

I tried a number of devices:
Resound Verso 9 TS RIC
Resound Verso 7 TS RIC
Resound Verso 5 TS BTE

Generally, I preferred the RIC because of the size and the feel of the earpiece. I ultimately found that the syncing between programs was a feature I wanted, which is why I would have gone with the 7, but since the guy couldn’t figure out how to make that work for the 7s with the mics turned off so I got 9s discounted to the 7 price. Also, even though these are nice aids, he broke the battery tabs off of one pair, which is why I was trying out aids all the way through December.

My Current Tinnitus Status

My tinnitus has developed into three tones, and my right ear is worse than my left:
– constant, high-pitched (like a fluorescent light)
– constant, low hiss (like white noise)
– constant, fractal (I don’t know how else to describe it — extremely high-pitched and constantly changing tones throughout octaves); this is also reactive, meaning it can be made louder by something touching my face/neck

I went for three months having mostly habituated, which took a long time to get to — I just found that I needed my little blue hearing aids less and less. It’s back now, though, so I am using them again, and they are as helpful as they were before.

The worst time of day is night, because it’s quiet and I don’t sleep with the aids in. I remember being frustrated just a number of months ago that I felt I’d never get to a point where I would not be constantly bothered by my tinnitus — and that feeling deepened when I developed that third tone, because I couldn’t see how one would get used to something that’s constantly changing. I can tell you, though, that if you can find a comfortable coping mechanism that works for you, habituation is within your grasp — our brains are pretty freaking amazing. And knowing that I got used to it last time it spiked makes it easy to not freak out about this one!

yet another update

June 4th, 2015

I think I am pretty much terrible at blogging these days. Honestly, the issue isn’t everyone moving away from LJ, although that certainly led to me being less constant… right now my life is so dang busy that I just don’t have time. I should actually be working right now, while the kids are in tae kwon do with Brandon, but I am burnt out enough that I figure taking a break isn’t such a bad thing. :)

My commute now that I’m working at Yahoo has gotten significantly longer, which prompted us to get an electric car, since I can use that to sail by a lot of the commute traffic in the HOV lane. Since I just got it this weekend, I don’t have the stickers yet (you need plates first), but I was so frustrated by 101 today that I used it anyway and shaved 10 minutes off my commute — and I didn’t get in it right away or use it the whole distance because I was feeling pretty guilty about doing something that’s probably illegal (although I’m not 100% sure, since it IS an electric car). It is incredibly adorable AND super peppy, which is such a change from my minivan! I didn’t sell the minivan, though, because it’s also VERY wee (a two-door Fiat 500e), and ironically, the van broke down the day after we bought the Fiat. (It’s all fixed now, though.)

In other world news, I’m healing fabulously, and recently apparently became the co-president of Women in Technology at Yahoo, which is exciting! Woo! My team is amazing (as usual) and I’m building relationships with the engineers who are on the teams we integrated with, who are all fairly great people. Max moved into the family class at TKD so the three of them are all taking it together (I’m not allowed to do that sort of exercise yet, it’s 45 days out and I’m still restricted to “walking”).

I went to the Mama’s Night Out fundraiser for Unravel (the pediatric cancer charity that Jennifer’s mom, Libby, started), with Ava. It was fun but sobering. I feel lucky to have motivated people in my life who are trying to make change in the world so that our kids have it better than we do.


my baby! and mother’s day

May 12th, 2015

Today I have time to write a blog post because Max has officially moved up into the family class at tae kwon do, from the Mighty Monkees, where he was a white black belt. They let him start that class months early because he was so focused, and the same thing now. I am so proud, he looks adorable in his little blue uniform.

Mother’s day was pretty great, even though I was concerned going in because Katie woke up vomiting on Saturday morning. We had They Might Be Giants tickets for that night, so I stayed home with the kids and sent Brandon with his friend Greg … partially because I wanted at least one of us to get to go, and partially because he’s been so helpful, taking care of me and the kids when I was recovering. Happily, Katie was nearly fully recovered come bedtime, and better the next morning.

The kids made me breakfast (cinnamon rolls and strawberries, and coffee), and then gave me their gifts, which were mostly handmade and adorable (and they also each gave me a mini Build-a-Bear), as well as chocolates and some stuff from Lush. Then, I went to Marin and spent the afternoon with my mom and sister at the mall, where I spent too much money on a dress for the Unravel fundraiser on the 29th. Finally, I brought my mom back to our house, where she and my dad (as well as our friend Blaise and his three kids … his wife is in Korea right now) all had delicious steaks made by Brandon.

We are pretty much the most routine people ever right now… Katie knows what days are and are not TV days, Max loves Legos and asks me every day if he can have more (he can actually mostly build them himself now which is both good and bad for me ;) ), Nicky and Ash are old and annoying/jerky (in that order).


random goings on

May 3rd, 2015

I feel like now that the kids are older and doing things that I feel entitle them to more anonymity, I haven’t been posting about them as much. That, or the fact that my job has me tied up much more outside of normal working hours than I’ve been previous positions… or something.

Max and Katie have a very interesting relationship. They are close, but competitive, and he is picking up a lot of things from her on both the good and bad fronts — he can spell a lot more words at 4 than she ever could (mainly “yes” and “no” as he answers things) but he is also absolutely not willing to give in to her on many fronts and will purposefully antagonize her with a great degree of skill. For her part, Katie needs to be the constant center of attention — so if you praise Max she’ll be, “What about ME?!?!” — and often will not listen to what Max is telling her he wants (be it in regards to her using his things, or when they’re playing a game, etc). She also loves to correct him.

At the same time, when they play together, it is FABULOUS. They are very interactive and really meld girl/boy games together well.

Brandon has been taking amazing care of me and really is an awesome dad. I feel lucky to be married to someone who is constantly … trying, if that makes sense. He thinks about the things that are going on and makes efforts to improve them, instead of just sitting around being unhappy. I married a good dude.

As for me, work — I work with some of the most amazing people. My team, and the team of my “buddy”, are filled with some of the most passionate and dedicated folk I’ve ever known. Beyond that, they are WONDERFUL people. My co-managers are really neat and I am learning from each of them. The transition to Yahoo has been a huge education to me as a manager and I’m getting so much from working through all the challenges (as well as seeing my old experiences as an acquired engineer through new eyes).

And … I didn’t die two weeks ago! Although someone in the hospital swiped and duplicated my debit card, but the bank caught it. So lame. :D

obviously I lived

April 28th, 2015

And the reason you know this is because the “I am dead and I’m sorry I died” video that I literally taped in a conference room at work to my parents, sister, husband, kids, and friends did not post.

However, everyone that I know thinks it’s pretty hilarious (and very typical) that I did create such a video and scheduled a blog post with it. I will never let you guys see this video, however, because I AM STILL ALIVE! so I still have a little teeny ability to humiliate myself.

But there was one part where I told Brandon to go find another person to pair up with because raising our kids without help would probably kill him.

big surgery, no whammies!

April 16th, 2015

I have a big surgical procedure scheduled for Monday, 4/20. As it gets closer, I start to freak out more and more about the fact that I might die, which may be silly, but I’ve never had general anesthesia before or surgery on any grand scale so I think it’s totally reasonable.

Anyway! I hope to be posting something early in the week to show that I’m alive. If not, I have a morbid video post scheduled.


3 days of 3 dogs

February 24th, 2015

Nicky is 13, and Ash is 11, and they are strongly bonded, so Brandon has been worrying lately that one of them will die and the other will be horribly distraught. So, he started to look through Petfinder at what local rescues have, and found a small terrier named Jewel that I quickly dubbed “Wicket” because she looked just like an Ewok. We made our way down to an adoption event in Palo Alto on Saturday, with Nicky and Ash in the car to meet her, should we think she had the right temperament.

When we realized we couldn’t find Jewel in the outside pens, we went to talk to someone about her (since Brandon had been emailing with someone), only to find that the reason she was away is that she was highly aggressive with other dogs. Knowing Ash like we do, we decided to check her out anyway, and… yeah, no, there was no way. The rescue recommended another dog, however, named Sadie, who is a 1yo whippet/shepherd mix and was both child- and dog-tested. Brandon and the kids walked her, and that was great, and her introduction to both of our dogs went swimmingly. She is a beautiful brindle color and was really sweet with a playful personality, so we decided she would be the one for us — even after we had a long talk with the adoption coordinator about the increased exercise needs for this breed. Brandon had to take the kids to swimming, so I stayed with her to fill out the paperwork and buy the appropriate supplies. We bonded as she constantly stole treats from the boxes that the store had foolishly placed at pet-head-height :)

When everyone arrived back, we took a photo together as a family and then piled into the car. Actually, at this point, Brandon took Katie to the bathroom, I got Max to his seat opposite me on the side of the car where I was loading the dogs, and put Sadie in first, with Ash to follow. They nearly instantly got into a roaring, screaming fight. I didn’t know who caused it, so I yanked Ash back, told Max to get out of the car as quickly as he could (he was crying but he was too far for me to reach), and we waited for Brandon to come back. He ended up riding home in the back with her, and I had our other two in the front.

If I could describe the rest of the weekend that we were home with them, it would be this:
Nicky was generally cool with Sadie but she would push him and he would respond by showing teeth, growling, and removing himself. She tried to play bow to him but generally he is too old/deaf/disinterested to want to play.

Ash was territorial about everything: food, toys he had never seen before, Nicky, me. Initially he would fight with her and we’d pull them apart fast enough that it was not too bad. The fights started to ramp up, however, so that he was cowering under things and ambushing her, growling from a distance, and the like. She injured him on the first day.

Sadie was generally great but pushy. She is bigger than Ash and would not defer, nor would he, and she eventually got to the point that she was aggressively going after him as much as he was, her.

I emailed the rescue a few times:

date: Sun, Feb 22, 2015 at 8:48 AM
subject: sadie update, question
Sadie had a great first day and night with us. :) She is a really awesome pup! I do have a question, however, mainly to make sure that we’re doing the right thing with her and our pre-existing guys.

Ash, our schnauzer and resident alpha, and she, are trying to determine their pack order. (Our cockapoo is super submissive and apathetic so he’s no problem.) She is now acting more as the aggressor towards him and it has escalated enough that she’s drawn blood from him twice (shallowly). We immediately separate them when this happens, but they are often seeking each other out and circling each other growling, which has been escalating more often than not, so they are definitely not capable of being left together alone at this point (which is reasonable and something we can deal with without issue). It’s territorial for sure, because it usually arises over food or a perceived shared toy. Ash has started to figure out that he’s not going to win in these situations because he hides behind us.

So, last night, she slept up front with Brandon, the guys slept with me in the back, and this morning we’re continuing to work on it. I would love any tips you have to help them through this process so there is no more injury :)

(Example: right now Sadie is throwing a ball around to herself, and Ash is staring at her growling, which she responds to by either ignoring him or barking and leaping across the room to bite him.)

Thanks! Feel free to call us!

I called Spencer, since he’s a dog trainer, and he walked us through some exercises. She was SUPER fun to play with, and we did a lot of that.

date: Sun, Feb 22, 2015 at 8:28 PM
subject: sadie: we need help!!!!!
So to review, our current pet setup is Nicky (13 yr old cockapoo, submissive but not the point of peeing on things when he gets scared), Ash (11 yr old schanuzer, extremely territorial and definite alpha), and now Sadie.

Yesterday, things were pretty good at home but Sadie and Ash quickly started to get into it. The two triggers were food and toys, even though Ash had never been territorial about the toys in the house. Sadie easily outsizes him and drew blood twice in shallow cuts.

Our solution has been to separate them for meals (which we’ve been doing from the beginning since we knew Ash was like this about food already), sleeping them apart, and today, by removing all the toys. We’ve been separating them when either of them growls and also worked on introducing them to each other outside, doing the “two people walking, give treats if they pass well” thing.

However, they are getting worse. Sadie is trying to dominate Nicky and that would be going fine, except Ash is also territorial over Nicky, and their fighting is getting much more intense, and they are getting harder to separate. Ash has a sizeable gouge out of his shoulder now and he’s both scared of her (barking and growling from protected areas, shaking when he sees her) and reactively growling when he sees her, so we are keeping them separated. Sadie is happily uninjured and seems to be inquisitive and happy, although she’s a little barkier.

Both of our kids are fairly freaked out by the fights (our 4 yr old is bursting into tears now).

I’ll be staying home with them tomorrow but I really could use advice on either someone to bring in to help us all, or by having someone visit. If you could call myself or Brandon we would really appreciate it.

At that point I started calling trainers. On Monday I worked from home, and played with her a lot in the backyard. Ash was shaking and scared of her from the moment he woke up. Later in the morning, I had both of them outside (partially because she is so tall that she kept jumping over the gate I was putting between them), and they got into such a huge fight that I was barely able to separate them. Ash has a flank that is bruised and battered, and has 5 different bloody gouges. Finally, one of the trainers answered, and came over at 2. After talking to her, when she told me about the bite laws in CA (which are markedly different than those in WI — you are essentially required to report any bite that requires an ER visit, the dog is quarantined on-site for 10 days, etc), I instantly said that Sadie had to go back.

I called and emailed the rescue again and it turned out I had been sending my emails to .org (like their website) instead of .com. D’oh. They had a family in mind and Brandon drove Sadie to them in San Francisco while I sat there crying because Ash was so hurt, and I felt like a failure. The family has three sons and a big house in Tahoe, so that’s good.

Anyway, the trainer sent us a great email.

Hi Alison and Brandon,

I wanted to check in and see how you all are doing this morning. If you would like more feedback on what we talked about yesterday I would be happy to talk to you.

I know it’s a hard decision. If you are having second thoughts I would be happy to go over what it would take to keep Sadie. If you want me to watch the dogs together I would be happy to do that too, but that has already been done and it’s appears it’s the resource guarding, interaction styles and refusal to defer, that is increasing the tension and the problems and they now have some fear and aggression toward each other.

Sadie did not “listen” to Ash’s warning signals. (If I heard you correctly, you said he gave them) (BTW you never want to punish a growl. That does not mean you want your dog to growl, but the growl tells people and dogs to back off and if the growl is gone the dog just goes to the bite) I don’t think Sadie is used to being around a dog that resource guards and separation would be a must as well as training Ash not to guard people and objects. Also Sadie did not defer to Ash, nor Ash to Sadie. Both dogs kept up the fight until you intervene and you almost couldn’t break it up. Young children trying to take care of the situation could be quite dangerous, so the dogs would need to be separated all of the time until things can be worked out and even then, once you have see aggression there is always the possibility that you can see it again if the “right situation” occurs. Also Sadie does not respect Nicky and the signals to stop playing and leave me alone. This is not unusual for a younger dog, but she has not learned how to modulate her behavior when playing with certain dogs. (perhaps just older dogs). She was offering play behaviors that were appropriate should the other dog want to engage. Nicky and Ash get into fights occasionally but they are more like good friends arguing. While it looks serious, no dog is injured and it is over soon and life goes on as normal. You do have to be careful with treats around Nicky and Ash due to resource guarding of treats. Both of your dogs are older and need to be protected from young dog energy. Think of grandparents and young children energy. My dad always said “love to see them visit and love to see them go” The children/dogs can exhaust the older animal and the older animal does not have the same energy or need to play. The older animal exercise needs are different, play needs are different, interaction needs are different.

Breaking up a dog fight

Here are some ideas on breaking up a dog fight. BTW they usually
sound worse than they end up being.

1. You need to make sure children are safe

2. You need to make sure you and other adults are safe

3. you can toss a coat/sweater etc over them to distract them.

4. you can make a loud noise, throw water over them. Open an umbrella with eyes painted on it.

5. you can stick something between them.

6. you can bounce a tennis ball near them to get their attention – not good for a resource guarder

7. One trainer I know throws a tennis ball at the dogs.

You also don’t want to pull them away because if one dog does have a
good hold on the other the bite can become a tear and harder to fix.

What happened with the tick? [Ed: there was a tick behind her ear when she came home with us; it looked so much like a skin tag that it took me repeated inspections to realize that it was, in fact, a tick, and we removed it when she was here.]

If you have any questions please let me know,

This morning, Ash was super stiff from the pain, and shaking out of fear. He seems calmer now but we think that we’re going to probably not be able to get another dog while he’s around (and I’m okay with that).

kid-inclusive valentine’s day

February 15th, 2015

We had a little shindig at the house yesterday to celebrate Valentine’s day, by inviting a bunch of friends over with their kids and having a LOT of beef wellington. (Brandon hasn’t made it in a LONG time!) We invited my boss Jason and his wife, and their three kids; Tom, who works on my team, his wife, and their two kids; Sonya, who works with Brandon, and her husband and two kids, and Ava and Shane, our besties, and their two peanuts.

The first, most important, thing that I did for the day was to order a huge bounce house, which was (as always) a hit. Brandon took Friday off to ostensibly work on cleaning, but that turned into him spending all day hitting up all the different shops around to make his menu… smashed baked potato appetizers, filled puff pastries, cheeses, and wine; I took care of the kid appetizers; and then the tenderloin and other assorted food items that are required for making beef wellington. He also developed this special cocktail pear martini with honey liquor that was frickin’ delicious, nom nom.

We also had bubbles, and sports equipment, and the hot tub (with a huge number of small people in it), and the people that we invited all seemed to really enjoy each other’s company, so it’s definitely something I would consider doing again. It made me feel extraordinarily fortunate to have all of the fabulous people in my life that I do. <3 (Bonus: my three-day migraine finally ended by the end of the day! And the puppies, who were at the kennel overnight, were so excited to see us today that when I took a spontaneous aggressive snooze on the couch today, Ash decided to sleep on me while Nicky slept next to me. Puppy love.)

a year later

February 12th, 2015

It’s been a year since Jennifer died. I can hardly believe it — I remember that time in the typical way, where it feels simultaneously like it just happened, and that it was a lifetime ago. I remember crying at work nearly daily and trying to be not obvious about it, and feeling guilty that I couldn’t compartmentalize better. I remember promising myself that I would do better for my kids than I was, and I did circle back to that memory repeatedly in order to be more patient and try to be a better mom. I remember her funeral and her casket, impossibly small.

I have nothing deep to say about this. I might have said this before, but as I get older, I am more and more overwhelmed by the tragedy I’ve experienced, or that has affected people I hold close. It’s nearly staggering when I start to add it up in my head — how much has happened, and I’m not even 40 yet. It makes me look at, and appreciate, the experiences people who are twice my age have had, and wonder how they can stand up under the weight of that loss.

Jennifer Lynn, forever 6, we remember you.

okay, that is enough brain injury for one lifetime

January 20th, 2015

This morning at 7, Katie woke up with the classic signs of a migraine: pain in the front of her head, light/sound sensitivity, and nausea. So, I gave her some motrin, put her in our darkened bedroom with a vomit bucket, and tried to get myself and Max ready for the day while Brandon walked the dogs and then helped me with her. She nearly immediately started vomiting, though, and I called the doctor’s office to ask them if there were any rescue meds for migraines when they asked me if she’d ever been diagnosed with them.

“No,” I said, “I’ve had them since I was young and she’s showing all the signs I’d expect. But… she did have this fall yesterday…”

They told me to try giving her some tylenol since an hour had passed, and to push fluids in case she was dehydrated, but she was conked out. By 11, though, Brandon told me that she was vomiting every 30 min and he decided to call our pediatrician. He took her in and at noon they decided that she needed to get to urgent care.

After it turned out that this urgent care didn’t have a cat scan machine for kids, they sent her to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Result? Katie had a concussion from a fall that happened at around 3pm the day before, and she hadn’t shown signs at all until she woke the next day. (Before I tell you what happened, please enjoy this blog/lj post about the last time Katie decided to injure her brain, during which I believed briefly that my kid had died right in front of my eyes.)

So at Stafford Park in Redwood City, they have this thing that is essentially a fixed zipline. In order to get Katie or Max high enough to hold on, we have to almost put them on our shoulders, which we have done numerous times. Katie asked me to help her, and the first time I did, she yelled at me (Katie screams primarily via yelling) for holding on to her too long. Since she is kick-ass at monkey bars, I thought she knew what she was talking about, so I put her on, and pushed her one way (and she hit the end pretty hard, so her body sort of flew to the side, making it clear to me I needed to be less pushy). I then pushed her more softly the other way. Then I pushed her back the first way again, and she suddenly was face-down in the tanbark. She was PISSED AS HELL and also crying, because she was hurt and she told me that it was my fault she’d fallen because she’d told me to stop and I hadn’t. (This could very possibly be true, but I was behind her so if she did, I simply didn’t hear her.) So, I was holding her on the ground, she was crying and telling me she hates me, and I could see that the bridge of her nose was red, and I checked her mouth to make sure she wasn’t hurt and I even thought for a second that I should check her eyes but she was totally alert and unlike the way she was the last time she had a concussion.

We went home, and the kids hung out and played and Katie ate a great dinner (considering the fact that it was a fish dish that neither of the kids liked), and she hit the hot tub, and had a bath, and was totally normal except that I could see a little bruising on her nose and I was actually worried that Katie was going to end up with a couple of black eyes. She freaked out about that, a little, until I showed her how concealer worked and said that we could use it if we needed to. And then she went to sleep and slept all night.

So, the moral of this story is: your kid may not show signs of concussion for more than 15 hours after the injury, and that will make you feel like twice the jerkface parent because a) you were part of the reason they got hurt and then b) you jumped entirely to the wrong conclusion about why the heck they were crying and hurt.

(In other news, Max was again stellar in helping — gold star for Mr. Blondiepants. And Brandon got to take care of his most favorite patient, and go with her to two hospitals. The hardest that I had to deal with was the guilt, the guilt, helping her this morning while she was hurting, the guilt, and then trying to entertain her tonight when she wasn’t allowed screens, books, or much of any activity, to let her brain rest. Oh yeah, and the guilt.)

Also, while he’ll probably never read this, shout-out to my boss, who was trying to convince me constantly today to go to the hospital with her and B. (I declined because I wanted to be able to get out and get Max easily, and because I just started crying when I thought about how this was, ostensibly, my fault. Jewish+Catholic guilt, yo, it’s the stuff.)