2013 in review

2013 was rough–stressful in both good and bad ways, and looking back I’m floored at the amount of stuff our family has been through. There’s been travel, moving, new additions, injuries, and work–we’ve run the gamut, and I’m proud of all of us for making it through with relative good humor and patience. Hopefully 2014 will go a little easier on us.

A rough timeline of events:

  • A work trip to Hawaii in January made for a picture perfect start to the year
  • In April, we adopted Atticus. I had no idea one puppy could be so much work! But he is a sweetheart, and he’s calmed down quite a bit since we first brought him home. He likes to lay on my feet on the couch at night while I write or work.
  • In May, I traveled to Italy for work. Our team stayed in a rustic countryside villa in the hills outside of Florence, which was as amazing as it sounds.
  • We sold our condo in central Maine and moved north (the nearest Starbucks is in Canada, if that tells you how far north we are), back to my childhood home, to be closer to family. Easily one of the best decisions we could have made. The girls are thriving, and we’re loving all this space.
  • Gwen turned two in September, and boy, did she ever turn two. She owns her two-ness. She climbs, she runs, she’s maniacally happy and sad in one breath, she’s persistent and driven, and she wants to do everything by herself. Yep, definitely two.
  • Speaking of Gwen, we had that burn accident in September, which landed her in the hospital for three days and scared us all pretty badly. Thankfully everything turned out OK, we held it together, and she came out mostly unscathed. Though now she likes to tell everyone, “Mama spill hot coffee on my monkey shirt! Hurt. I cry.”
  • Another trip, this time to San Francisco and Santa Cruz for the Automattic company meetup.
  • We were without regular internet access until November, which made things difficult for working at home, but we managed. Got pretty familiar with the very few free wi-fi spots in town, and drank a lot of Tim Horton’s coffee.
  • I wrote not one but two novel-length pieces of X-Files fanfic, completing my first NaNoWriMo! Woohoo! I’m in the process of publishing the first novel here.
  • November also marked my second European trip of the year, this time to London, and I really want to go back; I feel like I could have spent weeks there.
  • I worked a lot. I may have spent more time in pajamas than is considered socially acceptable. I continue to marvel at how lucky I am to work with the people I do, and to get paid to do the stuff I do. From home. In my pajamas with the Ninja Turtles on them. Yeah. I love my job.
  • I struggled with depression, and it took a lot of time and convincing for me to acknowledge it, but with help from an SSRI and therapy, I’m ending the year from a happier, more balanced place.
  • Ellie turned five in December, which feels like a personal milestone for me. When she was a newborn, I remember thinking of five as some magical, mystical age in the distant future, and now it’s here, and I am so proud of my smart, funny, beautiful little girl. She drives me crazy, but I love her to pieces and I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.

Upcoming in 2014? More travel. Potty training (redux). More fanfic writing. Working. Family. And hopefully a happier, more positive outlook on the whole.

just keep swimming, there’s land ahead

We are roughly three weeks post-move and still trying to recover some semblance of a normal routine. The overall theme of the last month has been “Please, just let me keep my head above water.” Between moving, travel, selling our condo, finding childcare, and figuring out the logistics of working for an internet-based company without a stable internet connection, I’m feeling pretty ragged around the edges.

We’re getting there. My to-do list is reproducing at a rate that would make rabbits jealous, but I’m checking things off every day, so that’s something. And thankfully we have help now, in the form of my parents, who are adjusting to having two “spirited” little girls running around.

Speaking of running around, both the puppy and the kids appreciate the extra space. Atticus has already explored the property’s boundaries, found every stinky mud puddle, and rolled in each one thoroughly. We’ve introduced him to the hose. Likewise, the kids are covered in bug bites and constantly asking to go outside (or, in Gwen’s case, “Ah-sy?”) or to visit Gramma and Grampy. Ellie hasn’t mentioned missing the old place since we moved, which I take as a good sign, although I think she does miss her school. We’ve hired a part-time nanny for the summer, and she’ll start Pre-K or Kindergarden (or a combination of the two) in the fall.

The girls are also sharing a room for the first time, and I have just one thing to say about that: Why didn’t we do this sooner?!? If Gwen cries, Ellie soothes her, sings to her, and tells her stories until they both fall asleep. Instead of fussing, we hear singing and babbling over the baby monitor. It’s incredible. All that time spent going in and out of Gwen’s room, tiptoeing around her crib, waiting and biting our nails, in hopes she’d fall asleep without a fight… and we could have just thrown her in a room with her big sis and saved ourselves the trouble.

Despite the anxieties of the last month, I’m happy to be here, and I think my family is too. This place fits, and with time (and money, and maybe faster internet access), it will continue to fit even better.

I’d forgotten what it’s like to wake up where the air smells like summer. It’s good to be home.

who says you can’t go home?

This month we put our condo on the market, and so begins the tedious and stress-inducing process of sorting through our junk and packing up our junk and hauling our junk to our new home.

If you’ve listed a property in the last five years, you probably know what we’re experiencing right now. The gut-wrenching reality that we have no hope of making up what we originally spent on what is otherwise a conveniently located, affordable home. And we have exceptional timing in that we bought just before the bubble popped. Of course.

We could rent the property and wait to sell, but given the collective amount of stuff we’re trying to juggle right now, neither of us is excited about the prospect of becoming landlords in a college town. And so, onto the market it goes, and we cross our fingers.

It could be so much worse, and I’m doing my best to count our gains, which are many, rather than our losses, which are manageable.

But moving? Moving, no matter the market, will always suck. In times like this, I’m tempted to say “burn it all” and start fresh, but… I also like my stuff. So much so that I’m willing to cover it in bubble wrap and put it in boxes and transport it from point A to point B, all the while feeling uprooted and overly anxious. That’s just how I roll.

So instead of focusing on the seemingly endless black hole that is packing up this house, I’ll instead talk about our new home! Which is actually my parents’ home, gifted to us for a number of reasons–they’re retired and don’t need a large property to maintain, we need more space for two very active young kids (and a puppy) to run, it makes good financial sense, and one thing we’ve learned over the last four years is it’s harder to raise kids when you live apart from family.

It’s a little strange to be moving “back home” after so many years, but I’m excited for the change, and we’re grateful for the opportunity. I think it will help the kids feel more secure, especially where Tim and I travel semi-regularly now.

The property itself is pretty awesome, too. The main part is an old farm house, rustic post-and-beam construction. My parents built an addition with an office, two bedrooms, and a second bathroom in the early 90’s, and last summer they added a second addition with an apartment for themselves and a new bedroom for us. It’s a bit of a Franken-house in that regard, but the slightly odd layout and exterior is not a concern, since we’re easily doubling the amount of square-footage.

Over the next few months and years we’ll be repairing and updating the place. We have a laundry list of things to work on:

  • Upgrade kitchen counters from laminate to soapstone
  • Insulate and re-shingle front wall of the house
  • Geothermal heating system, to replace the oil furnace
  • Replace front and side decks
  • Remodel the second floor of the old house as a home office for Tim and I
  • Open the wall between two smaller bedrooms to make a shared bedroom/playroom for Ellie and Gwen
  • Replace worn linoleum in the girls’ rooms
  • Upgrade from linoleum to oak hardwood in the hallways
  • Figure out if we’ll need a separate laundry area (right now the only one is in my parents’ apartment) — I suspect we will, especially as the kids get older

There’s probably more I’m forgetting. We’re hiring out most of this to local contractors and talented neighbors who are, thankfully, way more adept with a hammer than me. And my parents have already had a lot of work done to the house in the last six months — the hardwood floors have been refinished, the 20-something-years-old “temporary” staircase has finally been finished, and there’s fresh paint all around.

No longer will we be confined to a bathroom that could barely pass for a closet; we’ll finally have a big ol’ clawfoot tub to soak in:

… and hardwood floors that will actually stand up to my kids’ abuse:

… and a wall-o’-closet in our future bedroom that gives me chills:

All on an acre or two, surrounded by forest and fields:

Very quiet and peaceful, exactly what we need as we move into the otherwise chaotic family-rearing phase of our lives.

Yes, we have a lot of good coming up, we just have to trudge through the next few weeks of packing and sorting to get to it. Lots of work, lots of stress, but in the end I know it will be totally worth it. Onward!

i’m not crazy, i’m just a little unwell

I started composing a post about two months ago and never finished it. I kept coming back to update it, tacking on bits and pieces here and there, until I realized I’d built a schizophrenic Franken-post. So in an effort to condense this summer into something someone might actually read, I put Frankie out of his misery, and here’s an only-slightly-incoherent bulleted list:

  • I joined the ranks of Automattic in May.
  • Las Vegas trip was Las Vegasy!
  • Work. Work, work, work work worky work work.
  • “Vacation” to New York to visit extended family. (I put “vacation” in quotes because a twelve-hour road trip with two young children hardly qualifies, but it was a surprisingly good time nonetheless.)
  • Germany, Tim was in you! I was home with a sick baby and a three-year-old. Guess who had the better time.
  • Winnipeg, I was in you! You were fun and only slightly haunted. Also, my co-workers are brilliant.
  • The baby is finally sleeping through the night! In other fantastical news, unicorns are real, and if that wasn’t awesome enough, they poop Skittles! Life is AMAZING!
  • The baby is going to be 1 (ONE) next month. Life is horribly continuous, what with time and the going forward-ish-ness of it all! Make it stop!
  • Overuse of exclamation points? Don’t mind if I do!
  • Ellie graduated from pre-pre-school today. She’s going to pre-school. I am feeling pre-nostalgic and pre-grumpy about this whole babies-growing-up business.
  • Tim and I were married five years ago today. We’re celebrating in true parents-to-two fashion — he fell asleep on the couch at quarter to ten, I am writing this disjointed post. Oh yeah, it’s business time.
  • Themes. Themes, themes, and more themes.
  • We’re moving in the next year, but that’s a whole post in and of itself. Construction! Renovations! Secret mystery destination! Stay tuned!

automattically awesome

The big news–starting next week, I’ll join the crew at Automattic as a Theme Wrangler!

(I’m not doing my own excitement justice with so few exclamation points, I know, but I’m trying not to look as dorky as I feel. ;))

When Tim was hired by Automattic last summer, it was an eye-opener. I was about to have our second child and didn’t have much time to focus on a career shift at the time, but I knew my position at UMaine had stagnated and it was clear I needed a change. I’d spent the last three years working with WordPress, and I have a long history with web design and development, so that seemed the natural place to direct my efforts.

While on maternity leave, I focused on learning more about advanced WordPress development, particularly theme development, and I started applying to jobs, including a few at Automattic. In an effort to get better at code review, I joined the WPTRT (WordPress Theme Review Team). I also knew my portfolio was weak, so I set to creating and polishing. I built the kind of themes I would use–cute, illustrated, simple–and was thoroughly surprised when people actually liked them!

Tim encouraged me to apply as a Theme Wrangler, but I distinctly recall telling him, “Pssh. I don’t have that level of skill. I just draw pretty things and make them into themes, I’m not a theme developer.”

Several months later, Ian contacted me after seeing some of my themes and asked if I was interested in designing a premium theme for WordPress.com. I sent in another application around that time, thinking the extra visibility couldn’t hurt. When I finished the premium theme, I (tentatively, wincing all the while because I’m terrible a putting myself out there) followed up with Ian about my application, asking for some pointers… and was surprised when the response was positive. Not even three hours later I had a friendly chat/interview with Lance and started a trial contract that day!

I’m thrilled to be joining the Theme Team. Like I said in my previous post, I’ve worked at the same office for about nine years so this is a huge change. But I’m in a unique position because Tim is also an Automattician, and I’ve seen first-hand what’s involved with this type of job. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with my new colleagues for the last few weeks and that’s reinforced the fact that I’m in really good company. The work will be challenging, but that’s what makes this transition so appealing to me–new things to learn, new experiences, and a chance to work on some really cool projects with some equally cool people.

This means Tim and I will both be working from home. Some people look at me with raised eyebrows when I say that, but we’re not worried about this arrangement–we have separate offices (mine in our bedroom, his in the guest bedroom) in case we get sick of each other (haha) and we’ve worked together before. In fact, I imagine we’ll collaborate less at Automattic than we did at UMaine because we’re on separate teams. And I think it will make working almost entirely from home less isolating for both of us, while allowing more flexibility for our family.

And if all that wasn’t exciting enough, this time next week I’ll be on my way to Las Vegas for my first team meetup. I still don’t believe it. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and I’m eager to meet my colleagues in person, then hopefully get into some semblance of a routine and start the real work of learning the ropes. Wish me luck. 😀