We’re off to see the wizard!

A few weeks ago Sarah and Adriannah got invited to an Ohlone College performance of The Wizard of Oz as part of their drama team from church. This was something that they have looked forward to for a while now and I was glad they got to do something as part of their teamwork with the drama team.

Unfortunately Sarah has not been feeling well the last few days so she was not able to attend. But Rebekah, being the team player that she is, took her sister’s place and attended the performance for her. What a sport.

So late Saturday night Rebekah and Adriannah had the privilege of going to see the Wizard of Oz featuring Callie Garrett as Dorothy. They not only got to see the performance but hang out backstage afterward and meet the cast, get autographs and generally have a blockbuster of a night with their friends and the cast of the play. Adriannah loved it. Bekah did too.

My heart has to go out to Sarah though, who was really looking forward to going and who couldn’t go because she was sick. I hope she gets to attend something at some point to redeem this event. It meant a lot to her and it saddened me that she was sad because she couldn’t go.

But thanks to the Jubilee Christian Center Drama Team leadership the kids were able to experience something that not a lot of kids get to do. And they enjoyed it. And I enjoyed putting my three remaining kids to bed, one each in their own room, without a lot of fuss. I so need more nights like that.

Meeting up with some local MySQL users

This past Monday I had the fortune of attending my very first meetup. I had set a goal for myself a few weeks ago that I would attend one before the end of the year. It happened way sooner that I thought it would and resulted in me being able to mix it up with a few fine folks at the Silicon Valley MySQL Meetup.

There was a business need for me hitting this thing up. Firstly, I am a web developer. I am not a DBA and I am certainly not a MySQL guru. I can write queries but the extent of my MySQL knowledge ends right about there. Secondly, I am responsible for management and maintenance of all of our MySQL servers at work. There is one chief DBA who is a Sybase queen, another two or three folks that know their way around a Sybase server (and to a lesser extent a general database server) and then there is me and my colleague who write web apps and MySQL queries. Thirdly, I am an administrator for a very popular PHP developers forum and knowing how to get myself out of the stupid ass scraped I have gotten us into when it comes to MySQL would be darn handy.

So I set out to hit this meetup. It was held at the Sun Microsystems complex in Palo Alto (or Redwood City or wherever you are when you come off the Dumbarton Bridge on the Peninsula side). I was looking forward to finally meeting a man that I have been communicating with for some time now (yes, you Don) and to networking with other MySQL/PHP/Web developers in my local geographic region. And I was not disappointed.

The talk itself was a little boring to be honest. But that is because I am not at all interested in database shards and the whatnot. However I was very interested in meeting Don Ravey, a fellow moderator on our forums, Mr. Tish Wood, a very prominent member of the PHP Meetup community and one of the coordinators of the meetup Eric Bergen from Proven Scaling. Not only that, but there were a host of other people there that provided excellent commentary, questions and challenges for the speaker of the evening.

I love being in the mixed company of brilliant people like that. It is humbling, exciting and gives me something to look forward to. I so enjoyed being there, connecting, talking with people, meeting a few folks and hopefully being able to glean something from someone somewhere. I just hope that I can, at some point, make it to another meetup. Perhaps a LAMP meetup or a PHP meetup. After this last meetup Tish asked me if I would at all be interested in speaking to a group at the Greater SF Bay Area LAMP meetup. I think I would love to do that.

If I can find an evening to get away for a while longer than this last evening. And if we can find a way to not have a meetup in San Francisco. Because as much as I like socializing and hanging with other technology professionals, I cannot fathom the thought of heading to The City for a 7:00 PM meeting on a weekday evening. Until then though, I can start thinking about what I would talk about if I were to ever talk.

And hopefully I will be a little more relevant to a n00B than that fella at the MySQL meetup was to me. He was good and he knew his stuff for the most part. But it was not my cup of tea so I sort of lost interest a little in the subject matter. That was ok though, because I met people, got numbers and had a free coke. In the end, what could be better than that?

You mean married people can date each other?

I am just about to head out the door to take my wife to a wedding of one of our mutual friends. And I am freaking excited as all get out because of it.

You should see her. She is stunning. She is wearing a dress and jewelry and make up… she is so womanly looking. I love it. And we are all by ourselves (hopefully for the night, but we’ll see how that goes). I so can’t wait to leave the house. This is going to be a blast.

We haven’t done this in such a long time. I hope I remember how. 😳 I am actually looking forward to dancing, drinking, singing and spending time with her. Lord knows we need it now more than ever before.

Finding things to do with your children outside the home

One of the most challenging aspects of parenting, in my opinion, is occupying your children with cool experiences that enrich them and you while at the same time building the parent/child bond that is so necessary in our families of today. For the past few years I have made it a point to get my kids out as much as possible, taking them to places like Tilden Park, the Lindsey Wildlife Museum, the Oakland Zoo, the Tech Museum of Innovation and a few others. I think it is important to get them out of the house while allowing them to experience things they enjoy and letting them learn at the same time.

In keeping with the theme this week, I am continually challenged to find things to do with the kids that will meet all of the things I want for them but still allow me to take care of them and the house as needed. With weekends being so short nowadays I am finding that my free time to take outings with the kids has been dramatically reduced in favor of cleaning the house and other domestic chores that are absolutely necessary to keeping our house running at least somewhat smoothly. Which brings me to my next question.

At what point do you forgo domestic duties to enjoy time with your family? I have always been of the mindset that family comes first. But I can see how that undermined my wife’s attempt at order in the house are when I look at how terribly behind I get when I take the kids out when I should be home handling home related business. And the more I do this the more worn out I get, which leads me to cut back on some of this and spend more time at home, which ends up in me feeling guilty that I am damaging my kids by not getting them out of the house more.

Is there a way to have the best of both worlds? I want a clean and orderly home. I want a haven for my children to be able to live, grow, learn and experience in. But I also want for my children to be able to experience life beyond the borders of our front and back yards. I want my kids to not just read about stuff but to be able to experience them and learn firsthand what the thing they are learning is really all about.

To that end I have though that there are things we can do that will not require a whole lot of time outside of the home but will still allow for a fun experience for all of us. Some of the things I am thinking are:

Of course we cannot always do everything around cleaning the house, right? At least that is what I am aiming for. Some of the other things that I have thought about that might require a little more time outside of the house, but would be incredibly fun:

Now my only contention is with how I go about doing all of these things with a sick wife at home and a home that needs desperate maintenance almost every day. But I suppose that is why I write. Because I so do not have all the answers. In fact, I don’t think I have any answers. I just have a strong desire to take care of my family and provide for them as best I can.

How to be lonely even though you are married

Most anyone that knows me knows that I go to church. I am there on Sundays with the family and I am there Wednesdays with at least Sarah and Adrianna (drama team meets on Wednesday). And I am usually pretty happy about going.

Recently though I have noticed a growing dissatisfaction with attending church. Please don’t misunderstand me. It has nothing to do with the church. It has everything to do with the fact that I am going to church, for the most part, alone.

I have been married for 13 years now. And it has only been lately that I have been doing things pretty much in a single fashion. By single, I mean as a person who is not espoused in any way may be.

I go to church by myself and sit alone on Wednesdays. On Sundays I usually sit with my sister-in-law Katie. It is getting to a point now where folks think Katie and I are married.

I go to the grocery store with all my kids. I take them to dinner. I take them for walks. I take them to the park. And mom, because of her physical condition at the moment, is nowhere to be found.

I know this sounds a bit like I am whining. If it comes across that way to you, so be it. Maybe I am. I am married and have been for 13 frickin’ years. I should be living a single man’s lifestyle. But I digress…

I love my children and being able to spend time with them means the world to me. But I love my wife too and being able to spend time with her means more than anything to me. I just wish I could spend more time with her and less time taking care of the things that need taking care of (because that necessarily means less time with her AND the kids).

I am happy though. At least she is alive and my kids are healthy. And I have enough energy to still have fun with my children.

Like today for example, I took all five kids for a walk to 7-11 to go get slushies. Since Sandi was out at a birthday party for a friend of hers I had all the children and no stroller (seeing as it was in the Suburban and Sandi took that).

So I got the kids dressed warm enough for a walk and we hit the streets. Even my two year old was walking. We made the (normally 15 minute) walk to 7-11 in about 25 minutes where we grabbed a small colony of slushies and a bag of Doritos (it has to be chips… it is normally Funyons, but it has to be something in a bag). We then hit the sidewalk outside 7-11 like a family of vagrants that were asking for money and we sat and communed and had drinks and made merry with our family.

The kids scarfing down slushies and Doritos

After this little pit stop we walked home together, taking a slight detour along the way. We got home and the kids lazed on the couch for a bit. Aaron fell asleep H-A-R-D and we just chilled until mom came home.

And therein lies my one issue with the day. Mom was not with us. I was, again, feeling like a single father out for the day with his kids.

I had a great time. I just wish these types of things could included mom more. And I especially wish that she would at least be able to attend church with me.

Until then however, Katie and I will continue to chuckle as more and more people either confuse her with Sandi or think that she and I are married.

Livin’ la vida soccer mom

Today was a day to end all days of soccer momming, driving, taxiing and shuttling. Wow. Did I ever drive today!

It started out not driving, but still having some responsibility to get things done for the kids. Blueberry pancakes was the order of the day and as is usually the case when pancakes are called for it falls on daddy to do. So I did. And they were you-uh-me. Or so I was told.

There was not enough blueberries for a full batch of pancakes to be made with blueberries. In fact, I was only able to make half the pancakes with blueberries. So I did. 22 total pancakes, 11 of which has the little blue orbs of goodness and juiciness that is the blueberry.

And with five kids in my house, two of whom are blueberry fanatics, you can imagine that 11 blueberry pancakes do not get very good mileage. So I had the regular ones.

After that it was time to start working on some technical stuff I needed to do for my clients. I was able to spend all of five minutes on that if I remember correctly. From there it was time to get the kids ready for their events of the day.

My two oldest daughters had a party in San Jose they were invited to. And I had to get them there by 1:00 just after stopping by the pharmacy for some meds for mom. I was a little late.

My two younger daughters had a party at 2:00 that they were invited to. Lucky for me I was a little earlier for that one. I dropped the two girls off and headed home by way of McDonald’s.

This is the part of the show where things get a little interesting. I had about four weeks of work to do today. My wife had a few hours of sleep to catch up and some preparing to do for a party she was going to tonight. My son was supposed to have slept during this time so both my wife and I could get done what we needed to get done (and no, we didn’t “do” that).

AJ decided to sleep earlier in the afternoon so the plans we had were shot straight to heck. But neither my wife nor I ever talked about what we were really planning on doing. To that end she decided to put AJ in the bedroom with me while I worked so she could go sleep on the couch. Except I did know she was sleeping on the couch. So I kicked AJ out of our room. Sandi called me out loudly and I knew it was time to leave.

I grabbed AJ and we headed out the door. I didn’t know where we were going to go but I knew Sandi needed sleep so I left. We ended up hitting up Big 5 and playing with boy toys for a little while. Then we left to go get the two younger girls whose party ended at 5:00.

Luckily we got home in time for the three youngest kids to say goodbye and goodnight to mom. She left a few minutes after we got home (looking hotter than ever I might add 😉 ).

It was just a few moments of quiet then it was time to head out to get the older girls from their party. It was about 7:20 when we left San Jose and one of the girls mentioned she was hungry. After a quick vote we decided that it was time to hit up Claim Jumper.

The events that unfolded at dinner tonight are totally for another post at another time. In fact, this is a great place to end this days recap since it only gets worse from here.

I will say that I had an awesome day with my kids today. It was busier than crud, but still awesome. Plus they got to get out of the house and see some friends. And I got to spend some boy time with my son.

Yep, everything today was awesome.

Discovering new discoveries close to home

Sandi had a therapy appointment yesterday in San Jose and I, with kids in tow, had an hour to kill. What better use of an hour than to find undicovered roads and learn a little bit at the same time?

It started out innocently enough. I took a right turn where I would normally take a left. It very quickly got exciting from there.

We were on North 1st street heading North. That takes you right into the heart of Alviso, a tiny little, almost forgotten town at the northern most end of San Jose and Milpitas. As we drove we were captivated by the style of the homes in the area. They were very turn-of-the-century, Southern Victorian style homes in the style of a hurricane infested residential area.

As we continued I noticed a few very old abandoned buildings. Then something caught my eye. It was a sign for the Alviso Yacht Club. Yacht Club? How could this be? There is not really a place to yacht around here. To prove myself correct, I drive just a little bit further.

I came to a court that had what appeared to be an entrance to a parking lot jutting out from it. Being in the mood for new discoveries I let my curiosity get the better of me and drove in. I am so glad I did that.

What we came across was the Alviso Marina County Park. Now I have known about Alviso all my life. I grew up in Newark and have lived in Fremont for quite a while. But I did not know that Alviso was this cool. And I specifically did not know that Alviso had this cool county park.

Since I had an hour I decided that the kids and I would get out and check this place out. And we were not disappointed. Though it is still a little early in Spring the poppies were out. The animals (squirrels, herons, pidgeons, lizards, etc) were out. The sun was out. It was perfect.

We hit the path and started looking, reading and snapping photos. There was a lot to look at and, even though it was a little warm, we managed to pretty much take the entire loop in about 45 minutes.

Here are some of the pictures we fetched while we were there.

A little history on the Alviso Marina County Park

Park Plaque

Hey girls, wucha find?

Two little curious girls

A view of the salt flats, the marsh and the mountains

A great view

Benny, the no tail having bearded dragon

Cool lizard

I wonder what the rent is on a place like this?


As you can see we had a great big old time in this little park. I am amazed that I have never heard of this place before. The kids already want to go back. So do I. And I would love to take Sandi with us next time.

I would also like to spend a few minutes wandering around old town Alviso. I think it would be neat to see the little town and eat at some of their very cool looking, small town type restaurants.

A day at the Tech Museum of Innovation

I had the wonderful opportunity to join my wife and children on a homeschooler’s field trip today. We went to the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.

Getting there was rather uneventful (save for us almost running out of gas AND not finding validated parking). However, once we got in the first thing I could think of was “Why had I not been here before?”. The place is amazing. It is family friendly, homeschool friendly, group friendly. It is just a plain friendly place to go.

It is also very rich with technological history. There are references to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard on the exterior walls of the building. There is mention of IBM, Adobe Systems, Apple and Microsoft everywhere and there are historical relics all over the place.

We stayed there for about two and a half hours and even at that there was almost another two hours that we could have stayed there. It was a great field trip.

On a side note, Sandi and I did notice that there were a lot of other kids there. I believe it was a “free” day where the museum does not charge admission fees. This meant that there were a whole lot of public school kids there along with us. What made them especially noticeable was their complete lack of courtesy and respect for others.

The homeschool kids we run with are remarkably well behaved and courteous. They use their manners, they respect their elders, the consider others first. The other kids… not so much. Which kind of makes me wonder what the benefit of public schooling really is?

Anyway, I have no desire to launch another debate on homeschooling versus public education. I know the details that make my decision very clear.

And besides, we get to go on some outrageous field trips. 🙂

Today was a good day

Today was kinda a big deal. My family is in the throws of a long battle with Sandi’s depression, a savage fight with a variety of head lice that does not die, ever, and a work schedule that not only includes my normal work but also a few side jobs I have taken on recently. Needless to say, things have been a bit tumultuous as of late in the Gonzalez house.

But today was really quite a bit different. We have put all things social on the back burner for a bit while we try, as a family, to annihilate this freakish species of head lice we have somehow acquired. This includes both Sunday and Wednesday church, our homeshool coop meetings, our homeshool PE classes, Friday gymnastics and just about everything else that puts our friends and colleagues at risk of being invaded, er, infested with this crazy, undead, zombie like lice bug. However, today we decided to get out of the house as a family and try to hit up Whole Foods Market in San Ramon.

It was quite an undertaking. We had to get five children ready to leave the house (this by itself is a massive project not unlike building the Empire State building or herding cats across the Pacific Ocean) while trying to straighten up the house a bit and prepare for bringing groceries home. After all was said and done, we hit the road at about 12:15 and got to San Ramon about 15 minutes later.

Shopping with our kids is always an adventure, no matter the store. Costco is one of the trips I like making with the kids because there is invariably going to be quite an excellent offering of samples to feed them (and occupy their mouths at the same time – Oh My Goodness, thank you Costco for that) along with several cool toys out in the open for them to play with like refrigerators, paper shredders, wine glass sets stacked pallets of soda. So Costco is more like a field trip/Wildlife adventure as opposed to shopping. Whole Foods? Not so much.

I think Whole Foods was made for people that are about 12 inches wide, have no kids or pets and can literally shop in four minutes. Considering how fat I am just by myself, you have to know that when my family shops there, we are rolling with two shopping carts lined up single with Mom at the front and I at the back with our five kids somewhere in between us like a middle eastern caravan trotting through the desert. We literally take up entire store aisles. And a two year old boy that is sitting in the cart, though he is sitting in the cart and the cart is in the middle of the aisle, can easily grab what he wants on the shelves from either side of the aisle because the aisles are so skinny. That was fun.

Anyway, two hours and $265 later, we had shopped. And done pretty well by my estimates. Mom was a little tired but doing OK. The kids were all OK and things were cool. So Mom and Sarah decided to hit up the Target that is in the same complex as Whole Foods because there were some things they had to do together in preparation for Sarah’s upcoming birthday party. They were at Target for about 30 minutes before they came out and we went home and put the groceries away.

Thinking that this day had not nearly come close enough to wearing my wife out I decided that I would like to go to the park for a bit with the kids. I asked Sandi if she wanted to come with us and she said yes. SHE SAID YES! Now that is a victory in and of itself. I was amazed and inspired so I got the kids ready to go as fast as I could and we hit the door headed to Irvington park to play on the new FieldTurf artificial turf football/baseball/soccer field that was just recently completed.

After playing on that field for a little while Sarah, Rebekah and I caught up with Mom and the three younger kids at the little playground areas where we spent the better part of a half hour swinging, climbing and having a blast. And yes, Mom was enjoying all of this as well.

Now the reason I began with the statement that today was kinda a big deal is that we have not done something like this as a family in about four months. Mom actually spent a regular day with her family and our entire family enjoyed the entire day. It was amazing. I was so blessed that I had to write about it. It was an awesome experience and it certainly gives me hope that we are making progress against this foe known as depression and anxiety.

Head in the clouds

Yesterday I took the family (minus my wife) to a family gathering at my aunt’s house in San Leandro. It was an awesome experience that was prefaced by some rather cool cloud shapes spotted along the way.

I’d like to show you pictures of what we saw because I really doubt that you’d believe me if I just tell you. But my camera (er, phone) was dying at the time and I wasn’t able to take any pictures so you are going to have to take my word for it this time, ok?

It started with “Free”
While driving along the freeway, being frustrated at the thought of early afternoon traffic making my drive a 40 MPH crawl, my oldest daughter Sarah mentioned that she saw the word “Free” written across the sky in the clouds. As I looked closely I could almost make out FREE, though to my Linux based OS of a brain, I could barely see FREE but was able to clearly see RHEL.

As we continued to look skyward we saw quite a few things present themselves. My four year old, Alaynah, saw an arrow. When I looked, I saw a very clear white cloud arrow, sweeping downward toward the Earth. In fact, the entire car saw it. It was plain as day and stayed that way almost the entire trip.

Sarah also saw what appeared to be a baby elephant laying down on its belly with its trunk straight out. I saw that, too. So did one of my other kids.

Then Sarah saw a car with no wheels. It looked like something out of an illustration. I could see the windshield, the driver side front window, the “A” pillar, the hood of the car and the wheel wells missing their wheels. It was uncanny.

Soon after that I saw as plain as the nose on my face the number “3”. My kids saw that one too.

Then, as we got off the freeway, Rebekah saw a hippo playing with our baby elephant from earlier.

So all in all we saw more stuff in the clouds than a lot of people would see at a trip to the zoo. It was awesome, imaginative and fun. And it was a great way to spend some time on the road.

I will post a little bit about the family gathering tomorrow perhaps. That was actually quite a bit better than the drive to it. But I want to post more on that when I have the time to, and right now, I don’t have that kind of time.