binary girl: the secret blog



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.)

one more fancy eye thing

January 19th, 2015

Everyone knows I’m seriously blind (my glasses are -12.25 diopters or so, my contacts -10.50). But now, I will be part of the small contingent of folk who get to wear contacts (to correct my high myopia) AND glasses (because now I see double!).

My dad told me he didn’t have prism lenses until he was in is 50s. I feel some weird sense of accomplishment having overtaken all of his eye weirdness (other than cataracts) before I hit 40. BAM!

The sad thing is that this has become a huge problem for me over a series of months (which feels pretty fast, actually). I liken it to trying to look at stuff while constantly being drunk (except for all the fun side-effects of drunkenness); I’ve been driving and typing with one eye closed to try to ease out of the constant nausea I’m getting. I hope, though, that the glasses mean that I don’t get so motion sick!

Yahoo acquires BrightRoll

January 19th, 2015

At Levi's stadium!

On Fri Yahoo gave us onesies and I just realized it is hooded. OMG.

That seems awfully official!

I'm imagining myself... as a bunny.

my opinion on Jamberry nails

January 10th, 2015

I’m not a nail blogger. I’m not even a nail art aficionado — I am just a nail polish enthusiast, with a collection of over 375 polishes (approximating from the spreadsheet I have). So, it’s natural that a lot of my friends who are not “into” nail polish have asked me my opinion on Jamberry nails.

Jamberry is essentially a MLM company where people/representatives sell sheets of nail wraps that use heat for application and can stay on upwards of a week or more. They cost around $15 a sheet (not including deals or special orders).

I have a number of sheets that either were given to me, or which I purchased myself. After repeated experiences, here are some reasons why I dislike Jamberry and would not purchase from them in the future (outside of a charity fundraiser or the like):

Most nail wraps that I’ve tried are either polish (OPI, Sally Hansen, Inoco) or stickers (Kiss). OPI no longer sells theirs, but in general, most of these sets run under $10 — around the same price as a high-end polish (I consider Chanel to be luxury, if that is helpful in understanding what I consider high-end). If Jamberry were somehow much easier to apply than normal nail strips, I wouldn’t find the $15 outlandish. (To be clear: you can typically get 2-3 applications out of any wraps, including Jamberry. A bottle of nail polish would net you at least 10 applications.)

To apply Jamberry, you do essentially what you would do with any other nail wrap: find the right size, cut it down slightly to fit your nail, stick it on, and smooth it out. Jamberry throws in one additional step: using a hairdryer to increase the pliability of the vinyl and “help” it adhere to your nail. (Protip: really, the second application of heat allows the wrap to relax again so you can try to get a better fit.) However, these are not EASY to apply by any means right out of the gate, and paired with the cost, this makes them a no-go for me. I’ve worn many sets of wraps and still, the second application of Jamberry for me was as terrible as if I’d never tried any wrap before: they are hard to line up with the cuticle when they are warm (because they’re soft and floppy), and filing them at the top for a clean edge also isn’t the easiest (read: I have yet to be able to do it, and the fact that I see YouTube videos out there for hacks to get them to apply better means I’m not the only one). Knowing that this application cost about $4-5 hurts, mentally.

However, to be fair: they do look good at a distance.

Now, in terms of wearability, I have never had an entire application last me a week. I’ve had certain nails last that long, for sure, but I’ve lost a complete nail within 1-2 days and I’ve also had them start to peel up around the edges in days, getting caught on hair and the like.

And can we get over the “no time to polish” bit? Seche Vite and other quick-dry topcoats mean that you can get your nails dry in 30s flat. I’ve been able to polish my nails with my kids bugging me well before the invent of no-dry applications.

Nail Damage
The other big selling point for these wraps is that they do not cause nail damage. I am here to tell you: my nails peel. And when I remove Jamberry, using heat (the way that you’re supposed to), they’ve caused peeling damage in the middle of my nail plate each and every time I’ve used them. Since I polish regularly, I fill this with a ridge-filler or another protein coat to protect as well as I can until it grows out, but it’s something to note.

Recently, I participated in a Jamberry party where the hostess told people that the “proper” way to remove them is with coconut oil, and that using the heat/peel method would damage your nails. Considering the fact that the Jamberry website and the back of the packages tout the heat or acetone methods, this is terrible and hacky.

I love that the internet is allowing my SAHM friends to find a source of income for themselves while allowing them to raise their children the way that they believe best. I think that is actually a reason TO like Jamberry — they’ve found another niche in this market (Scentsy and Partylite, anyone?), the women who sell with them strongly believe in the company, and they see real benefit from representing Jamberry. However, I dislike MLM in general, and the way that people tend to behave so much like… salespeople when repping. I dislike it even more when this behavior comes from people who I consider myself friendly with, because it becomes a relationship strain, in my opinion, when my friends start to look to me to help them supplement their income.

So, now when you ask me about Jamberry, I can just point you here, to explain my views on them. If you like them and they work for you, however, I’m thrilled — buy what you like!

My new desk lamp, courtesy of Brandon!

January 8th, 2015

My new desk lamp, courtesy of Brandon!

I’m a huge love of Tetris, and always have been. This was my Christmas present from Brandon — the pieces all separate and light up when they touch. It’s awesome!

work birthday shenanigans

January 8th, 2015

Best office ever!

This stuff is awesome.

We, without fail, get celebratory food items for people’s birthdays, but since mine was on the Friday of a five-day weekend (because of NYE), I didn’t expect that I would be covered! I was truly touched and surprised, even more so when one of the engineers on my team presented me with some delicious Polish vodka he got for me in Chicago when visiting his family. My BrightRoll family is really awesome. <3

And then this happened outside Slider Bar…

January 5th, 2015

And then this happened outside Slider Bar...

I met the vmware office mascot and he is FUZZY (and named Georgie).

An old Alison letter

January 5th, 2015

I really have no excuse other than "lack of ritalin".

Elyssa brought this to my birthday dinner and it was hilarious and awesome to see it — I really had no idea that the letters I wrote at that time (I was 14) were so fragmented, but I definitely still have an affinity for Rick Astley (and I have all of my old albums). I believe the “Chris” in question was Chris Mills, who I met through Sari when I was in middle school.

I probably wore out my exclamation point on that typewriter.

old photo catch-up

January 5th, 2015

Breakfast of champions.

Super strong!

Birthday shenanigans: expanding the portrait wall

The dogs do not trust the selfie stick.

Max selfie

Katie selfie

things no one asks you if you’re a male engineer, 1 of a series

December 30th, 2014

Since I joined BrightRoll, I’ve been hosting our bi-weekly all-hands engineering demos, where each of our five engineering teams presents their demos for the last sprint to the rest of the department plus anyone else in the company who is interested. (I was actually tasked with re-imagining them, since everyone involved hated how they were going… I think they’re in a really good place now, from the feedback I’ve gotten!) That means that each week I work with our A/V techs on setting up the presentation itself, the remote sharing, etc.

So, at the holiday party, one of the newer techs who I’ve been working with for a few months asks me: “Are you like, the [admin] of the Palo Alto office?”


My response: “No, I’m the [eng manager guy 1] or [eng manager guy 2] of Palo Alto.”

He looked stunned. But someone please explain to me the rationale behind thinking that an admin runs engineering demos?


December 29th, 2014

I don’t think we’ve had a really good staycation in a while, so this holiday break was definitely welcome. and unexpectedly wonderful. I appreciated the opportunity to not really have things planned out with the kids — even their TKD, swim, and gymnastics classes were canceled for the most part, so having unscheduled time with them was great.

Things we did included:

– Brandon and Katie took their TKD belt tests. They’re both yellow-white now, and Brandon was invited to the Black Belt Club (provided that his parents approve of this). Hee. Katie is actually doing much better in class now that Brandon is there with her, and he has an opportunity to work out himself with either a coach or another dad, so he’s not stuck to her side the whole time.
– Katie and I went to The Nutcracker with my mom, sister, and Riley. The Nutcracker itself was fun. The stuff that came afterwards is covered in a post that barely anyone can read because it’s locked down, yo.
– Random nighttime drives around to look at lights, with hot chocolate and cookies, in PJs. The first time, we came across a street dubbed Candy Cane Lane (Dewey St. in RWC) and we ended up going there purposefully a second time! (It’s a smaller version of the insanity that happens in San Carlos on Eucalyptus.)
– We went to Happy Hollow with Casey. The kids were totally amazing that day and it was a super fun time. :D The kids totally adore Casey, and I loved having time to catch up with her.
– We took the kids on the Niles Canyon holiday train, because our friends Carolyn and Peter were amazing enough to coordinate it so we could all sit together in a caboose! Both of them really enjoyed it, even though they were pretty maxed out by the end.
– Jordan, Elyssa, and Lexi came over; having a day with old friends is always wonderful.

Christmas itself was awesome. The kids were amazing about the presents they gave each other, and us, and the ones they received; it was a little more difficult when we went to my parents’ house later, because having all four cousins together made it a little more grabby-grabby (but not awfully so).

Overall, I think the best gift we gave each other was being together for the week; I got to learn more about their personalities and I finally settled into a more adept version of myself as a parent by the time that it ended. It’s hard sometimes to realize just how big they’ve gotten, because they still feel very little to me, and having time to “turn no into yes” and experience more of what makes them individuals is rewarding.

The world’s nicest mom said she’d color this.

December 29th, 2014

The world's nicest mom said she'd color this.

He REALLY likes what we got for Tyler.

December 29th, 2014

He REALLY likes what we got for Tyler.

Feeling too hot, literally. :(

December 29th, 2014

Feeling too hot, literally. :(

A day out!

December 29th, 2014

A day out!

Holiday party goodness!

December 19th, 2014

Holiday party goodness!


December 19th, 2014