The post where I catch up on 2013.

I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself today.

Today was supposed to be the first day of my holiday vacation. My mom was going to come and spend a few days before the rest of the family came, and we were going to shop, eat sushi, and get up to our elbows in sugar and flour and bake until our wrists and feet ached. We’d been planning for months.

But I’ve got the flu.

Last year, we had strep throat over Christmas, and missed out on a lot of revelry. This year, I’m the third in the house to get influenza in the span of two weeks, and we’re holding our breath (literally and figuratively) that Peanut and Panda don’t get it.

So instead of a day of baking and Bing Crosby and much needed time with my mama, I’m having a sick day. I have a hard time being idle, so I tried to think of something low-key that I can do that is both restful and mentally stimulating. I decided to make this post.

I haven’t really blogged regularly since May of 2013, when I was still pregnant with Panda. I never blogged about his birth, I didn’t blog about our massive, impulsive, practically-instantaneous move from South Carolina to Ohio, and none of the minutiae in between. The supreme irony of it all is that I work every day supporting bloggers, and barely do it myself. My resolutions for 2015 are to be less busy, get back to photographing my family more, and blog more.

In this post, I’m going to catch up on 2013, in photos. Let’s start with Panda’s birth on July 27, 2013.

I was almost 42 weeks pregnant, and my labor started around 2:00 am, with my contractions only about two and a half minutes apart. We got to the hospital just before 5:00 am, and my water broke around 8:30. I joked that he was going to be born before 9:00 am, and he made his entrance after five pushes, at 8:59, at 8 pounds, 3 ounces. Almost seven hours to the minute, after my active labor started. He had to spend a few hours in the NICU because of meconium, and I didn’t get my hands on him until around 11:00 am. I don’t remember many times I’d felt so bereft in my entire life. I pumped eight milliliters of colostrum for him while he was in the NICU, and obsessed about it affecting his nursing. My worries were unfounded; he was still at his birthweight when we left the hospital two days later. He was our smallest newborn, but now, he’s enormous, just a few pounds lighter than his three-year-old sister.

The girls settled right into life as big sisters once we were all home on Minstrels Way.

Two Little Monkeys Photography did an amazing newborn photo session for us.

My sweet boy even slept for mama for some photos at twenty days old.

Days at home alone with the kids were long, but looking back, I realize that the time was incredibly short. This feels like a lifetime ago.

Peanut turned two (covered with bruises from daycare tumbles) and Panda turned one month old on the same day – August 27th.

At the end of August, we took what we didn’t know at the time would be our last trip to Myrtle Beach as residents of South Carolina. We decided about a week after we got home that we were going to try to move to Ohio. I’m so glad the kids got to see their Great-Grandmother Rose.

The only photos I have from most of September and October are iPhone photos. The first POD arrived at our house in South Carolina on September 13th, five days after we officially decided that we were going to move. Before our house was officially on the market. Before either of us had jobs or house prospects in Ohio. And a nine week old. Wow.

The only photo that I can find of Pumpkin’s birthday was an iPhone photo, taken the morning before she went to daycare. You can see the air mattress on the floor of our bedroom behind her; we were two days away from moving. I’d posted the following message on Facebook along with the photo:

“Today, she is four. Frazzle haired, her face sporting scratches from her baby sister’s fingernails and a scraped nose from a fall at the park, she’s my feisty, mighty little girl.

We’re going to have cake and balloons on Saturday at grandma and grandpa’s. Today will be her last day at “school”, so they’ll sing her happy birthday there. She is so excited to be a big girl now.

Happy birthday to my firstborn!”


We stayed with my mom and dad for about a week before finding a one-bedroom suite at the StayBridge extended stay hotel in Dublin. It was close to the zoo, which we got a membership for immediately. It was a very hectic time, with house hunting, job hunting for Keith, and the beginning of my Happiness Engineer Trial with Automattic. It was also blessedly simple; breakfast was made for us every morning, and three days a week, dinner was included with our stay. There was no cleaning to be done, we were close to family, we lucked out and found a great daycare that was close, Keith found a job very soon after we moved, and I loved every second of my trial with Automattic. The realtor we started working with was a dream, and she helped us find our dream house, within just a few weeks.

I didn’t take many photos of the kids or of our new house for the first few weeks of being there, but I did get my camera out to take some photos of my handsome fellow on November 16, when he was just shy of four months old.

By Thanksgiving, we still had boxes everywhere, and weren’t even remotely settled in. I got my camera out for a few snaps throughout the day, but it wasn’t near a comprehensive story of the day. We had snow on the ground, but despite that, we stuck with our fledgling tradition of grilling out on Thanksgiving. None of us are big fans of turkey, so The Captain grilled baby back ribs, and I made some yummy Brussels sprouts, dressing with cranberries and sausage, and sweet potatoes.

December 2nd was my first day as a full-time Automattician, Peanut discovered my beloved old teddy bear Theodore, and Panda discovered video games with daddy.

On December 7th, my parents came over, and my mom and I did our annual holiday baking. Panda loved playing peekaboo with his cousin.

On December 15, the kids’ grandma “GeGe”, and great-aunt came for a visit from South Carolina, and Ohio treated them to some even more frigid weather than usual. A good time was had by all, though I’m fairly sure that the sharing of the joke teeth is when we all dosed each other with the strep throat that held us hostage over the holidays.

Christmas morning 2013. I can’t believe it is seven days until Christmas 2014, and I’ve just now gotten around to editing and sharing these.

Finally, the last two photos I took in 2013, snuggles with my two littlest after Christmas morning revelry. Here’s to a less busy, more photographed, healthier, bloggier 2015.

Field Notes: BlogHer PRO 2014

Featured Image -- 2335

Jen H.:

I went to BlogHer PRO 2014, and it was super neat. My colleague Cheri wrote about it. Read more here!

Originally posted on News:

Automatticians, the people who build, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do when not in front of a computer — from talking about making great products to using design to tackle social challenges.

Recently, Story Wrangler Cheri Lucas Rowlands and Happiness Engineers Carolyn Sonnek, Deborah Beckett, and Jen Hooks attended the third annual BlogHer PRO ’14 conference, an event for professionally minded bloggers looking to take their blogs, brands, and businesses to the next level.

A conference is a great way to dive deeper into your passion of blogging. You invest in specific skills you want to hone and get inspired by big ideas, and also take a break from that glowing screen. It’s fun to immerse yourself in an inspiring setting where avatars become faces and Twitter handles become real people.

2014_dec_jenhooks_blogherpro-130 Image by Jen Hooks

BlogHer PRO ’14 was a…

View original 338 more words

BlogHer Pro 2014, Silicon Valley


I was fortunate to get to go to BlogHer PRO 2014 to represent Automattic,, and our awesome services for self-hosted blogs, like Jetpack, VaultPress, and Akismet. I met so many phenomenal people there, and I took lots of photos! Feel free to save and share if you find one of you, I’d just appreciate attribution to Jen Hooks, and a link back here.

Keep on making the web a better place, BlogHer bloggers.

Winter is here.

Snowy home in Ohio.

It is easy to love the snow when you work from home, and your children’s daycare is only five minutes away.


I’m still working from my dining room table on the days I don’t work at the cafe or Starbucks. My new desk should arrive this week. I really look forward to being back in my office with my space heater, but the view here in my dining room is undeniably lovely right now.

This will be our second winter since we moved from South Carolina to Ohio last September. It seems a bit surreal that it is snowing again, as it feels like we just made it through last winter. Spring and summer are a blur to me. Are we really back to weeks and weeks of snow already?

This past year, I’ve felt mostly like we were just visitors here, despite having my friends and family close(r), and the familiarity of Ohio, my home state. But now that we’ve come full circle on the seasons, I finally feel my roots sinking in. I have memories now of things we did here as a family last winter. I know now that in spite of the cold, gray days and early dusk, that there is love and light and warmth in this home. I know where the bulbs will be sprouting in my yard in the spring. I know that the flowering trees in my yard are hawthorns, and their berries will feed sparrows outside of my office window through the cold months, and they will burst into flower petal confetti in the spring.

I am home.


Today’s Office


Today, my office is my dining room, at my grandparents’ dining room table. It just got here this weekend. My office is full of other things of theirs that my mom and dad brought over the weekend, so this morning I worked at a cafe, and this afternoon, I’m home. My productivity isn’t great when there is clutter in my office, so I need to head to other places.

Working from home, I can eat pie whenever I want. How did I get so lucky?


Kingmakers Board Game Parlour


It is my goal to start regularly blogging again, and I realized a few things that served as roadblocks for me to do so regularly. One, is that I’m focused on having high-quality photos in my blog posts, taken with my DSLR and edited to my particular standards. The second is that I don’t often feel like I have anything interesting to share.

I’ve since realized that I can take some pretty nice photos with my iPhone, and photo editing capabilities on the phone have been greatly expanded. And there’s the idea that the best camera is the one you have with you. The other thing I realized is that I will frequently post images to Facebook from an outing or something that the kids are doing, and they are almost like little photo essays; they are blog posts waiting to happen.

Combine both of these points with the fact that I can post to my blog with a fantastic app on my phone, what excuse do I have to not be blogging more?

So, this Sunday, The Captain and I had a date day for my birthday, and it was wonderful. We started at The Crest gastropub at 2855 Indianola Avenue.


We got two things from the Appetizers menu; Honey Glazed Cheese Balls, which were balls of local goat cheese, flash-fried and rolled in almonds, topped with local honey and placed on little rounds of toasted bread. I don’t remember the name of the second appetizer, but it was just as decadent. Thick-cut, wonderfully yeasty, toasted bread, spread with local goat cheese, then topped with fresh figs, a sprinkling of micro-greens, and a liberal drizzle of Ohio honey. Probably one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.



Thank you, goats. Your cheese is the bee’s knees.

The Captain got a falafel sandwich, and I got a grilled cheese with some other fancy variety of cheese, more figs, prosciutto, and pears. Truffle fries, too; house-cut French fries tossed in truffle oil and topped with rosemary, parmesan, and garlic.

At this point, I was food-blissing too hard to remember to take photos. Food like this seriously make me wonder why people don’t pray after meals.

The rest of our afternoon was spent at Kingmakers Board Game Parlour, at 17 Buttles Avenue. This place is a game-nerd’s paradise.


The gist is this; you walk in (down some stairs, giving you the distinct feeling that you’re descending down into some secret club, or at the very least, your cool friend’s nicely-appointed basement.) You see tables as you come down. You see a bar, with local craft beers and locally made mead on tap.




A boardgame sommelier seats you at a table, and for $5 per person, you may play as many games in their library as you have time for. We don’t generally have time for more than one, since we’re in a rush to get home in time to let the babysitter off the clock.




This time, we played Stone Age, an easy-to-learn worker placement game. At least, after playing Caverna at Gen Con this year, it seemed easy!


Kingmakers is really a gem of a place for all folks, not just seasoned gamers. The board game sommeliers will actually come to help you learn a game, so it is the perfect place to discover a new hobby, enrich your love of gaming, or learn a new game you’ve been wanting to learn.

Can’t wait to go back.

A Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer

On the wall in my office, right above the light switch, so I see it every day.

Every morning, my day begins with a bit of a lie.

I wake up and get my three kids ready for daycare, and I throw some respectable “outside” clothes on; usually jeans and a decent shirt. At the very least, it is a shirt that I hadn’t worn to bed the night before. littlelie

My hair usually goes up into a messy bun, held back by a pretty headband. I rinse my face with some water, and maybe dab a bit of concealer on the dark circles of sleep deprivation rimming my eyes. If I’m feeling fancy, or maybe need to chat with a teacher that day, I may reach for the lip gloss.

I take my kiddos to school, and I usually encounter a half-a-dozen or so other parents as they are also dropping off their children. Most are professionals of some sort; the men are usually dressed in sharp suits or khakis with nice polo shirts, and the women are usually perfectly coiffed (certainly not sporting a messy bun of maybe-washed hair), wearing pretty dresses or slacks and designer heels. I can usually smell their lovely perfume as they whisk their little ones into the building. Did I remember to put deodorant on before I walked out the door?

The little lie of my morning is that I actually go right back home after I drop off my kids, and most days I’ll get back into my pajamas before starting my work day. Some days, they’re even clean pajamas.

Today, I’m wearing a pair of gray sweatpants that I’ve had for two decades. That’s twenty years, you guys. They’re probably one of my favorite items of clothing. And I’m doing my job in these sweatpants. I’ll be putting the jeans and respectable shirt back on before picking my kids up at school this evening, but for now, I’m in the most comfortable clothes I own, doing my job.

I work for Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. My job is to make customers happy, and I get to do it from my cozy home office, in any clothes I want to wear. My officemates are my dogs. I can take coffee breaks whenever I want need to.

I currently work as a Guided Transfer Happiness Engineer. We migrate sites from to a self-hosted instance of WordPress, then provide support for them afterward.

Some of my colleagues and I are blogging about what a day is like for a Happiness Engineer, and for me, this represents a re-entry into the blogging world. I started blogging over ten years ago, and my faithfulness to it has waxed and waned over the years. I find it deliciously ironic that I’m now working for Automattic, and I haven’t carved out the time to do any personal blogging. Hopefully with this post, that will change. The last time I blogged, I was seven months pregnant with my son. He’s fourteen months old now.

I'm lucky to have a nice large office all to myself, though it frequently becomes knee-deep in kid-clutter, and when it is untidy, I find that I stay more focused when I work out of my house.
I’m lucky to have a nice large office all to myself, though it frequently becomes knee-deep in kid-clutter, and when it is untidy, I find that I stay more focused when I work out of my house.

Monday morning, I dropped my kids off at daycare, and I actually didn’t go home to change back into sweatpants/yoga pants/pajamas. I went to a local breakfast and lunch cafe called First Watch, a place that I frequently go to work when I need a change in scenery or I’m feeling unproductive or distractable at home. Here’s my day, though note that I didn’t record breaks in my schedule. I take frequent fifteen-minute breaks to stretch, give my wrists and hands a break, and most importantly, to reduce the likelihood of an eyestrain headache, which I’m prone to. I’ve also purposefully left out the specifics of my day that involve the kids, because nobody wants to read about how my three year old screamed in my face and cried for fifteen minutes because I made her put on pants for school that morning.

7:57 Arrive at First Watch. There aren’t many people here. I head to my usual booth in the back of the restaurant. Three servers that I recognize greet me. I’m like Norm on Cheers.

8:03 Greet my team in our Slack channel. The channel is pretty quiet, because half of the team is on the West Coast. My Team Lead is in Budapest, so it is midafternoon for him, and he’s always the first to greet me each day.

Coffee whenever I want or need it. Mug from my first Automattic meetup this past April, in Cardiff, Wales.
Coffee whenever I want or need it. Mug from my first Automattic meetup this past April, in Cardiff, Wales.

8:06 I dive right into a Guided Transfer for a customer. I’d been in touch with her most of last week, answering questions and addressing concerns. She and her partner run a popular cycling site in Australia, and I wanted to get the transfer done for them as quickly as possible. I actually hit a snag with this particular transfer, so I had to ping a developer teammate to take a look at it for me.

8:40 Check-in chat with my Team Lead. Within Automattic, we believe that communication is oxygen. We chat about how I’m doing work-wise, and he asks about my kiddos, because he knows we’ve been sick all week.

9:05 I head to my team’s P2, the internal communication hub for us, and all of the other teams within Automattic. This week, I’m in charge of writing our Daily Post, which outlines where we may need to focus support for the day. Throughout the day, as my teammates come online, they’ll check there and declare where they’re going to focus for the day.

9:30 I work through some low-traffic ticket queues, among them, the queue for questions about Gravatar. This is actually the first time I’d done them, and I didn’t really receive any formal training on managing these tickets. I use our internal documentation and get help from a colleague when I’m stumped. “I will never stop learning.”

9:45 I log into Guided Transfer’s Live Chat portal, to wait for questions from customers that are still within their post-transfer support period.

9:55 I find some internal documentation that needs to be updated, as well as some information that would be beneficial to add to my team’s P2. I do it.

My office for a few hours at the local Starbucks.
My office for a few hours at the local Starbucks.

10:00 First Watch has started to get busy with the brunch and early lunch crowd. I hate to be “that person” that takes up a table on a laptop when there is a line of folks waiting to eat, so I pack up my stuff and relocate to Starbucks, which is just a few storefronts down from First Watch. Over the next two hours, I continue working on tickets, run some Guided Transfers, and had a chat with a Terms of Service team member about a user reporting harassment.

12:00 I take a break to chat on the phone with my husband, who calls around noon every day to say hi.

12:35 I’m done with my sweep of low-population ticket queues, so I catch up on emails.

12:48 I head to lunch. I’m craving a burger, so I go to Steak n’ Shake, and it is wonderful. Why is it so delicious if it is bad for you?

2:00 I’m home after lunch, and I take a minute to throw some laundry in the washer. Then, I take some time to catch up on various internal P2s that I follow.

2:40 Troubleshooting some Guided Transfers, chatting with a teammate about possible reasons for some issues I’m having with one.

Starbucks selfie. You can't dress like this in a corporate office job, y'all!
Starbucks selfie. You can’t dress like this in a corporate office job, y’all!

3:41 I train a teammate on scheduling Guided Transfer purchases.

4:35 Help out a Happiness Engineer on another team that has a customer in Live Chat with a question about Guided Transfer.

4:50 Head out to get my kiddos from daycare.

7:50 Pop back on to Slack to check in one last time for the day.

Does this kind of flexibility, collaboration with awesome and brilliant people, and unique culture appeal to you? Automattic is always hiring world-class folks.

You can read more A Day in the Life posts by my colleagues by checking out the #a8cday Tag in the Reader.

Cody, my everpresent office companion. She really hates having her photo taken, and seconds after I snapped this, she ran and hid.
Cody, my everpresent office companion. She really hates having her photo taken, and seconds after I snapped this, she ran and hid.
On the wall in my office, right above the light switch, so I see it every day.
On the wall in my office, right above the light switch, so I see it every day.