Sunday, August 26, 2018

Election meddling at it’s best

This is one of those long past due blog posts. It is probably best this way as it has some time to mellow, and because it was a sensitive thing that happened with my oldest in school last spring. We didn’t discuss it much with our friends because... because I am not sure why. We had enough conversation at home about it and weren’t terribly interested in every one else’s opinions of what we needed to do.  Maybe critical reviews of where we weren’t doing enough? I don’t know. 
This fall starts the second year of our middle school. Last year was ROUGH at the school. I heard many times, “it’s our first year and we are trying our best”. I told the staff at the school after this last incident that I was really looking forward to this fall because they could no longer use that as an excuse. 
Leif ended up in Leadership in the spring semester. He didn’t end up in most of the classes he requested and we had trouble even getting him into the classes he qualified for (hello Algebra?). He wasn’t enthused about Leadership to start, but his Advisory teacher was the instructor and Leif really liked him. Slowly, Leif came around with the class and even started talking about volunteering at the school (SO not Leif), participating in community events (he participated in the women’s march), and was volunteering in the cafeteria after lunch. And he had a solid A, which his GPA needed. 
One day he came home and told me that we needed to go to an evening meeting at the school because he was going to run for ASB - Associated Student Body (I think). I was actually really surprised and we discussed the really big commitments that he was going to have to make. Like being at the school nearly every single day at 7am(zero hour bus), and being available A LOT. He was game. 
We went to the meeting where the teacher in charge gave us a HUGE packet of paperwork to complete, and a signature sheet. Leif filled out the schedule sheet so that she could contact each of his teachers to get approval for Leif to run for student body treasurer. A formality. Paperwork isn’t Leif’s big thing, but he worked really hard on this, I edited his packet (not with a heavy hand mind you) and it was good. He got 50 student signatures including signatures from several staff members at the school. He worked freaking hard. We wrote a speech that would be recorded and played for the kids. And since I was going to be on travel, we bought the materials (correctly sized huge paper, paints, markers) and we assembled a group of his friends to help with posters and campaigning. Phew. It was a busy few weeks of work. 
Everything was filled out and completed on time. We practiced the speech. I went on travel. After my first day at the meeting I called Leif to find out how his speech recording went?
“They didn’t do it,” he said. 
“What do you mean, are they doing it tomorrow?” I asked.
“No. I got there and lined up and they came up to me in line and told me that I didn’t have the teacher approval,” he was upset. 
“What do you mean?” I asked. 
“You know how they e-mailed the teachers?” He asked me.“ They didn’t approve me to run and they told me when I was in the line to record my speech.”

I was livid. I phoned Hans, we talked. He called the counselor - who, of course, didn’t phone him back (par for the course at the school). I e-mailed the teacher in charge and the counselor. 

I received a semi-snarky email back from the teacher indicating that she told us about the teacher permissions required and that his didn’t meet minimum standards to run. I got this - I truly did - but she missed the point completely. Honestly I know my kid and I know the reasons why the teachers probably didn’t feel that he had what he took. But I am always seeking opportunities for him to rise to the challenge, to be and do more because I know he can. 

The counselor e-mailed a simple one liner to me and the teacher, “excellent explanation Mrs X”. That is the only communication I have EVER received from his counselor and it’s not for not trying. 

I sat down and responded that we well understood this going in as she had explained, and I also know my son and could guess probably why the teachers didn’t approve, however, I was very upset with HOW he was told as I had described. 
He was told he didn’t qualify in front of his peers, at the last minute, after preparing for the speech and completing ALL the other requirements.

They had embarrassed and humiliated my son through their lack of organization and communication.

At that, the teacher backed way way down. Suddenly she was very apologetic, told me that his packet was actually one of the best, the writing was excellent, etc. She, not knowing Leif, was surprised he was rejected by the teachers. REJECTED by his teachers. 

Let that sink in. 

Then she promised to phone me in the morning. (Spoiler? She didn’t.) 

In parallel efforts, AB called the counselor who told him that she didn’t have anything to do with the election process and all was up to the teacher in charge and that she supported the teacher in charge.

The counselor didn’t care, he was “rejected” by his teachers, but the teacher in charge did offer a commitment to help Leif advertise his chess club and be more of a leader at the school. Nothing was really resolved, but I believed that maybe I had been heard, that she got it, and that the process might be improved. Or at least that’s what I tell myself? 

Or, I believed that until this fall when Leif picked up his schedule. Last spring after the election debacle the kids selected their classes for fall. Leif, always determined and not deterred from his difficulties previously, selected Leadership as his number one choice. Shortly after that they sent out the SAME exact packet used for the election to the students who had selected Leadership, along with a letter informing everyone that Leadership was now a one year course with very high demand. They asked the kids to fill out the packet and they would be soliciting teacher recommendations in order to get into the class. Sigh. 

I contacted the teacher in charge (same one as the election) and asked her if it was even worth it or if we were just in for round two of misery when his same teachers said the same things? She reassured me that was not the case, and that if we signed the release, she would pull his previous packet and he didn’t need to do anything, and instead, he would just get in since he has worked so hard towards this.

I kind of felt vindicated. Some kind of success? 

Flash forward to last week when Leif got his schedule. Leadership? 


We talked about what to do - do we go make a stink and pull the email from last spring where he was guaranteed a slot? Do we simply inquire about what happened, is it by chance that they decided to make it a semester class after all?

I don’t know what it is, what is the reason? But Leif agreed that we not pursue it. He was actually, way more interested in getting Debate class lately anyways he said. And if he had Leadership his chances for debate dropped. And frankly we were happy with his current schedule. 

This summer AB and I spent most weekend nights after Skadi and Silas went to bed watching “Thirteen Reasons Why” with Leif. Probably one of the best things we did all summer was watch the two seasons with him. (I had previously watched Season 1 on my own. I knew it was gritty.) He was hooked at the first episode and pressed for it at every opportunity. He got off the computer and came and sat on the couch with us. He loved the show. We talked about nearly every episode in depth - whose choices were wrong, right, who did we side with, who do we behave like, what did AB and I see happen in high school ourselves that was similar. It was a great experience despite the very difficult to talk about topics. I told AB at one painful point in the show that I needed to prove that I could sit with him through a difficult topic TV show as an example at this early age that I will always sit beside him in any difficult topics. 

Aside from the examples of how the kids behaved poorly, there were huge examples of how the school district, the teachers, the counselors fell short too. 

I don’t like to put more on our already overworked and underpaid teachers, but there is a responsibility put on these teachers, counselors, and administrators to provide opportunities to all students, not just the popular ones. What we saw from the teachers and counselors last spring was pure evidence that in reality, they pick the student body leadership and that if a child doesn’t fit the mold, that there isn’t even a real chance to run for an office. 

I resent the amount of time that they let us be led down the path of belief that he actually had a chance TO RUN FOR OFFICE. We put in several hours and money into the effort to fulfill his wishes to run for the student body treasurer. And he didn’t need to win - actually we all, Leif included, suspected he would have been a long shot in reality - but to have a teacher callously tell him in front of others that he didn’t get the teacher approvals when so much effort had already been put in, was just wrong. He should have been told one on one and before weeks of effort had been put in. 

This is not going to be the only time when we will be rallying beside our kids. I have repeated to my kids that popularity is overrated - for some of these kids, this is their only time to shine; give it to them and move on knowing that you have your entire future to shine. 

Friday, July 27, 2018


I know that everybody has their own cringeworthy comments said to them as parents. And I know I have more often than not gotten it wrong - said things good intentioned and then realized later that my comment was received in an unintended manner.

As a regular Caucasian mom of three, I don’t have a lot of these directed at me. I am not easily offended personally or at work. But I do have a trigger point... some strange expectation from parents of only children that because I have more than one, that one or more are expendable in some strange way. I have had a couple recent instances where someone said something along the lines of, “since I only have one, I have to make sure I get it right” or “well you have three so it’s easier to _____ “.


I don’t view any of my kids as the one I get to f up on and I will finally get it right with number 2 or 3. None of my kids are expendable from a personal development or physical perspective.

I suppose in a way it is akin to that feeling you have after you have your first child, and second is on its way and you wonder if you can ever love/do enough/do right by your 2nd child. But then your heart expands and the space is exponential. If you haven’t experienced that then maybe  it is easier to see subsequent children as being somehow lesser, or more?

Actually that’s about my only theory as to why someone would say these types of things to parents with more than one child. I honestly don’t know why it would occur to someone that I can let slide the transgressions of one because I have more kids.

So there. I have said my peace on this topic that has been rattling around in my head for a few months.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

I have failed as a mother

Someday I will probably look back on this day and laugh. Right now I am just shaking my head and wondering what in the world? How have I failed them so completely??

This is my kids’ first summer at home alone. At least the older two. Silas is still at daycare. It is only day 2 and them negotiating the world is just frightening.

Thursday is housecleaner day. I don’t really want my two underfoot while they try to clean the house, so I suggested that they take some money (that I gave them) and walk down to Yokes and get some breakfast - a couple donuts and something to drink.

Skadi texted me and asked if they could please ride their bikes. I caved and reminded them to wear helmets. Then I didn’t hear anything else. I went into work, spent the majority of the morning locked in a video teleconference. But when I got out AB started telling me a story. And all day, little things have embellished the story here and there.

So the kids rode their bikes down to Yokes. They went in and decided on which donuts they wanted. But no one came to serve them! Apparently, it isn’t like the Spudnut shop where they get you the donuts. They waited for about 30 minutes before finding someone to ask for help with the donuts and whoever they found told them that you help yourself.

My oldest, being the frugal child that he is (ha), noted that you could buy ONE DOZEN donuts for less than they could buy four donuts. So they got the box out and each carefully selected 6 donuts. The donuts were so big that they needed a second box. So two donut boxes full, they got their drinks and headed to their bikes.

Yeah problem. How are they supposed to ride their bikes back, uphill, and carry all those donuts?

At this point Leif calls AB and asks him to come and pick them up and take them and the donuts home. AB and I both work about 15 miles from home - by highways. Hans tells them to go pound sand. Nicely. As in, “Leif go in and get some bags, hook them on your handlebars and ride home. Figure it out for yourself.”

Apparently at this time some unknown person comes up, knows the kids’ names, tells them she works with me (brown hair, with a young blonde daughter) and asks if they need help. She yelled in the phone “hey Hans!” (I still have no idea who this person was.) She tagged another woman that apparently we know and asked her, “hey can you run them home?” This unknown person says she is going the opposite way.

To be honest, this whole exchange kind of freaks me out. Skadi admitted that it made her very nervous that some woman she didn’t know was going to put them in her car and drive them home. I am glad it made her nervous.

Ok, so this couple of people I supposedly know (yes, I live in a small town) leaves and the kids are still standing there with the statement from their dad to “figure it out”.

At this point my recommendation would have been to, sit on one of the picnic tables, eat your donuts, throw the rest away, ride home. Lesson learned.


Figure it out to my oldest meant to call his best friend’s mom and tell her they needed help. SIGH. Of course she leaves and heads out with her minivan and shows up at the grocery store for the kids. Plops their box of smushed up donuts into the car, loads up their bikes and hauls them home.

So after hearing this, I am mortified. I immediately messaged her with apologies galore and she reassured me that she was just glad that the kids knew to contact her when they needed something. We listed off the life lessons (you can’t buy in bulk if you have no means to carry or store the bulk items), and we have moved on.

Leif’s version of all this is that it is Skadi’s fault because she decided they should ride bikes.

Skadi’s version of all this has her arguing against every point of failure, “we don’t need 12 donuts”, “we can’t call your friend’s mom, that’s rude”.

I will never really know. I kind of want to forget it all right now! But I am guessing like so many stories out there, I will never hear the end of this one!!

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Wanderlust, or something else

I have had various versions of this post rolling around on paper, in my journal, and in my head. None of them seem just right. And I have moaned about it previously here. And if I checked, I would probably realize that those moanings are getting closer and closer in time, becoming more frequent.

This place. I like very little about this place. I have come far enough down this thought process that we know that it is the physical location and amenities associated with this place. It is separate from all that we do love about our lives. We love our friends here, we love our family so very much. I (for the most part) love the schools - ok, maybe one of them I am really fed up with now and very much looking forward to summer break and strong hopes that they figure their shit out for next year when I have two kids there. I love my job and the flexibility it offers. I really like where I am, what I am doing, and I have a great group of people I am working with now and lots of opportunities available to me. I have even had a few recent opportunities to leave for 2 year appointments with other organizations.

Those are hard because AB also needs a job. And it is hard to embed oneself in a job that would be short term. We have talked more seriously about Vienna - that maybe we would go as a one job family. But the logistics start becoming heavy - dogs, kids, and the logistics of switching my work focus for that role. But it is tempting.

I have friends recently who are moving and I am finding myself a wee bit jealous. A woman I have only just started to know at work has announced she and her family are moving to Seattle for her husband’s new position - and that started me dreaming.

The other day AB mentioned that he is just about done with this area. Yeah. I get it.

I keep telling myself that if I was able to renovate the house to create my personal paradise whereby I would not be coming home everyday and feeling the weight of my dissatisfaction with our residence that maybe our issues would be solved. Maybe if I didn’t worry daily about what new things the neighbors are going to complain about? Maybe if I didn’t find this neighborhood and my house so stifling, it would be ok? I need to uninstall Zillow...

My list of places I would leave here to move permanently is quite small. You couldn’t pay me to go back to Colorado. Large cities make me claustrophobic. Traffic makes me nuts. I need beauty. I need the outdoors. I loved Reno, but the job situation there would be abysmal. I crave Alaska and so does my Alaska Boy. But that isn’t as simple either. We have never ever lived near family and only moderately tolerate having our family (that we love very much) visit us. How would we really do living in the same city as family?

For now, here we are. And we are committing to ourselves (in the absence of any extenuating circumstances, or fantastic opportunities) that we are here until Skadi graduates. At that point all bets are off. We are lucky in that our kids don’t seem to have a particular attachment here and if we mention moving they ask excitedly, when and where? I don’t have any notions of having this house for my kids to return to - and am more of the opinion that if I could rid myself of this place right now I probably would... but it requires too much work that needs to be put in - and I have zero time right now.

Ok, so I have put this post here. It is rambley and not terribly well organized. But out there.

My kids were born here, all delivered by a fabulous doctor, all attended a wonderful daycare (in the larger scheme), are working their way through teachers that, by in large, we adore and have enriched our kids’ lives. We have friends we can rely on and call on. We have food. We can travel nearly anywhere we may want to. I get my kids on the bus and can be home at the end of the day (most days) to watch them get off. AB has Friday’s off. Life is good. Just why can’t this place be the community we would love to love?

Monday, May 14, 2018

The next phase

I felt this first coming on about 6 years ago. Skadi was ready to go to Kindergarten and suddenly, she needed less. I would wander the house waiting for someone to need me. And time would drip by. I was paralyzed to start something because any minute, any instant, she would need me. Or maybe Leif would need me. And I wouldn’t get what I started accomplished. So why try? It was a kind of lost feeling.

A few months later that feeling went by the wayside when suddenly I had a new life inside me to focus on. All the things that needed to be done for a new baby! Organizing the house, moving the bedrooms, painting, sorting clothes, setting up things, figuring out what needs to be bought. My free time went away.

And here I am again. All of a sudden my house has that somewhat familiar quiet. Or maybe it’s not quiet, but a dull roar? But this time, whatever it is, it’s not going away. No new babies for us (HA! Funny to even think about.). And Leif is even more independent then he was 6 years ago at 7. (And Skadi was 5.) Leif just wants to be left alone or dropped off places. Skadi hides in her bedroom and does Lego set after Lego set. Oh, but if she isn’t there she is binging on Netflix, riding laps around the neighborhood on her bike (14 the other day), or reading whatever the book series of the minute is (Lumberjanes right now).

Silas entertains himself by playing, watching Netflix with Skadi, riding any “mobile” up and down the driveway, doing laps with the backyard zip line.

All of a sudden none of them need me. Ok, they need me. They need me to make dinner, check homework, do their laundry, mediate the occasional fight (when they associate with each other). But no one is hanging off my legs every waking hour. No one is begging to be carried. They go to bed on their own (we still read to Silas - though he is just starting to favor chapter books and I do still read Harry Potter to Skadi when I can). On weekends? They sleep in. Even when I sleep in, I am usually up before Leif and Skadi. Silas has typically gotten up and turned on the TV.

So my goal for this work trip is a list. A list of what I can do. I feel like I can kind of reinvent myself! What do I like? What do I want to do with my time? What are my goals? What are the things I can do when I have an hour of spare time? What if I have two? What can I pick up easily when I have a few minutes? What am I going to make an effort to devote time to?

It’s somewhat melancholy, but exciting as well!

Sunday, February 04, 2018

What if?

Sometimes I sit and wonder what it would be like to be a stay at home mom? To have the time to plan and fix a healthy dinner, to volunteer at some organization that could use my help, to volunteer at my kids’ school (!!), to be able to go on every field trip and not have to apologize, “I am sorry honey, I am supposed to be in Florida that week”. To be able to participate in all the car pools. To not have to tap friends for childcare and figure out who it is that I haven’t asked in awhile.

I mentioned this to AB the other day and he laughed at me. “You couldn’t stand it. It would drive you absolutely insane. And you wouldn’t have any miles and points to track. We wouldn’t have four free tickets to Hawaii because of all your miles.” 

I’m not sure he is right, I think I could do it. I think I could immerse myself in something - my kids’ middle school is brand new and having issues - maybe I would actually understand better what the issues are and have some role in defining the future. Maybe I would be one of those moms that I presently roll my eyes at who is always posting on the middle school’s Facebook page with inane little observations or problems? 

Work is busy, and complicated, and sometimes scary right now. There is a lot of pressure for big wins and successes in nuclear R&D right now. We are already very applied in our research, but now more than ever. Deliver what we need in the field. 

The other day one of my colleagues asked how I was doing with everything going on? She admitted to me that the current events in the world have her questioning her work. That some days she just wants to say, “don’t tell me” and walk off. I told her I got it. Some days I want to come home and tell my husband to start packing, we are moving to the mountains of Alaska where no one can find us! Ok, so some days I do say something similar this this and he tells me not to tempt him. 

Travel tomorrow. I was here last week, but not the week before. 

Sometimes I long for a simpler life. But when it comes down to it, I like traveling with my coworkers most of the time. I like feeling like I am making a difference. I like negotiating paths forward with clients, other labs, etc. I like strategizing who I need to talk to. And I get off on the fact that lately I am on the receiving end of this. “Nuclear Mom, I was hoping to chat with you a bit...” I like sitting in the car with a coworker who asks me if I would be willing to move to DC for a few years to support his program - even though I know (and he knows too) that I will still say no... right now. Right now, I tell him, let’s talk again in a year or two. 

History, it’s being made. And I dream that someday my grandkids will read about events and my kids will say, “your grandma worked on building that capability for the United States”. 

So for today, this week, I’ll keep on trucking. But if I disappear to the mountains, it’s because I want something simpler. 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Silas 4.5

The things that Silas says. Oh my. Where do I even start?

“Puke Brothers”
Silas is prone to exaggeration with his health. A microscopic scratch renders him paralyzed. Hypochondriac at all? But with this one, Leif had been pukey feeling, so I wasn’t taking my chances.

Silas: “MOM! I need water or I am going to puke!”
Me: “Silas we are in the car I don’t think I have anything.”
(I found a random water bottle with old water, it was the closest I could get.)
Silas (after guzzling it): “Oh that’s better. The puke brothers said, ‘come on, let’s go back to the stomach, we don’t need to leave his throat now’.”

Ever since Silas was a baby he has been a sweaty kid. He would wake up from nap, drenched. He could never wear fleece footy jammies because he would get too hot. But he doesn’t say “I am sweaty.” He says, “I am sweat”. Like this.

Silas: “Mom, I am so sweat.”
Me: “Well you should take your jacket off at school and not wear it in class. Then you wouldn’t get sweaty.”
Silas: “No, I didn’t say I was sweaty, I said I AM sweat.”

Me: “Silas, I love you to the moon and back!”
Silas: “Oh yeah, well I love you 159.”
(That would be the highest number he knows, so it is the most in the world... it used to be 23 just a few weeks ago.)

Me: “Silas, would you please quiet down, you are being SO loud!”
Silas: “What? You want me to be loud? Let me go get a friend and I will be even more loud,” (Suddenly increasing his voice volume.)
This kid doesn’t miss a beat. I guess you would have to know that this is from Mouse Soup. One of his favorite books. But I cannot tell him he is being too loud anymore as we get into this long routine whereby he just keeps getting louder.

Silas wants Siri to NOT call him April when he talks to her on my phone. So he tells her to call him (me, really), something new.
Silas: “Siri, call me ‘Silas again’.”
Siri changes my name to “Silas again” - everything says “Silas again”.
Yesterday Skadi changed it to her name. Well that was short lived. Silas snatched my phone and changed it again.

Except this morning I woke up to learn that I am now “Starlord”. Leif officially believes that Silas is a genius.